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.


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. – astronat Sep 5 '20 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 '20 at 18:02

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