This was originally posted on math stackexchange and I was told this would be a better fit. If this isn’t the right place to post this question, please let me know.

Question: Is it looked down upon to apply to PhD programs in the US if I’m currently enrolled in one somewhere else?

Some context: I just graduated with my Master’s in mathematics from a well-known university in Europe. I had applied to grad schools in the US, but a combination of poor GRE subject test scores and the pandemic meant that it wasn’t safe/feasible for me to go there this year. I’m currently enrolled in a math PhD program in Europe for a research project in analysis. Unfortunately, my interests are in combinatorics-adjacent fields, and while I enjoy the occasional analysis, a PhD is a huge commitment. The school has a small department and my funding situation also means there’s no way for me to change research projects. This was absolutely a last resort for me - I did not want to start a PhD only to abandon it after a year. Unfortunately, as an international student, and because of the sudden pandemic, I didn’t have any other options left. To clarify: I am of course going to give this current program a chance, but unfortunately application deadlines are much sooner than that so I have to apply if I want to keep my options open.

I feel very guilty about this whole situation, so I’d appreciate any advice.

1 Answer 1


Is it looked down upon to apply to PhD programs in the US if I’m currently enrolled in one somewhere else?

No: You've found a bad fit with your current programme, so switching is a rationale decision, just like you'd switch ill-suited jobs.

  • 2
    +1 to counteract needless unexplained downvote, but also because imo this is a good answer. Sep 5, 2020 at 10:14
  • "Transferring" between PhD programs isn't something too common, but it has happened; at my undergraduate university, we recently hired a tenure-track professor who had switched PhD programs after about two years in their old one.
    – Daveguy
    Sep 6, 2020 at 18:02

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