The background story

I am a PhD student where I have been all by myself without much chance of being able to sit face to face with my advisor and get some help as my advisor does not have time for me. I should also note that my advisor is pretty upset with my performance as I was not able to have publication so far. I understand that every advisor has her/his way of supervision. However, from my understanding, a PhD should be a way of learning how to become a researcher and hence at least 2-3 times a month meetings should be standard.


I like what I do, and I want to learn new things. Therefore I have been thinking about being able to apply for a new PhD. Maybe this time I will be able to find an advisor who is more willing to show me the path and make suggestions on my work so I can improve it.

The question

Being able to apply for a new PhD requires documents such as CV, motivation letter and references. How should I prepare these administration files to have a higher chance of being accepted?

Should I provide the information about me being a PhD student?

Is it better not to provide information about my PhD studies? If so, how would I write a cover letter? Because hiding what I have done so far will make my cover letter quite weak.

  • 2
    There are many many questions with a similar topic here that already have answers; can you maybe look through them first and see if there is still anything new in your question? (see especially the tag transfer-student)
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Mar 15, 2019 at 16:41

1 Answer 1


First, your situation isn't as rare as you might think. It is also moderately common to want to change programs, or at least advisors. Changing because you aren't getting the supervision that you want and need is also not that unusual.

It may be a bit less usual, however, if you want to change, but don't want to change "what you do" as well.

I would prepare an application package, including CV and SOP just as if you weren't already in a doctoral program. What have you done, what are your goals. Then, modify the package "just enough" so that the CV shows the current program, and the SOP indicates you are looking for a "more compatible" position that "better fits your needs". This should represent a small part of your application, not the major focus. In interviews it is enough to say that your advisor "isn't sufficiently helpful."

But I wouldn't hide the fact that you are already in a program or that you and your advisor aren't especially compatible. If it were later learned you might suffer for it. My general opinion is that you can and should be honest in all things - when possible.

You seem to be on a search for an advisor who can help you become successful. That is a worthy goal. Focus on that and don't think of the past as a failure, but just as a difficult situation.

And, before you choose another advisor, make sure that you get some information, somewhere, possible from him/her, about expectations on both sides. Sometimes other students are willing to share their perceptions, but you can also just explore it like any other thing with the person. If they aren't comfortable with this, they may not be the best choice.

But expect that any new advisor that otherwise meets your needs will want to steer you in a (slightly?) different direction. In your case it might be best to agree.

  • Great answer +1!
    – Learnmore
    Commented Mar 16, 2019 at 15:20
  • Thanks a lot. Could you please tell me how and when to indicate that I have already been in a program, after being accepted with CV and SOPs that made without indication of me being a PhD student? Wouldn't that be ruining the chance? With gratitude :)
    – faceless
    Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 13:13
  • Sorry, I forgot to complete that thought - editing.
    – Buffy
    Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 13:17

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