Long story short, I am a PhD student at a University and I want to leave and start a PhD somewhere else. I am in the process of applying right now.

I do not think it is super relevant to this question as to why I want to leave my present PhD education, but let's just say that is has economic, political and scientific reasons

economic - I am not getting paid enough to make ends meet,

political - my country is going down a dark path and I want to get out asap,

scientific - in all honesty, I am not interested in my current research to the point I am getting significant burnout from it and I don't want to risk getting stuck in this specific area (I would imagine jumping ships for PhD is easier than for post-doc since before PhD most people don't do that much actual research) + my university is not super-prestigious and I hear that a lot of post-doc applications just get thrown out if you don't have a PhD from a top university

So anyways, anyone who does a search on my name will see that I am a PhD student at my present place and I don't even want to keep it a secret, I just want to know how likely it is for this to affect my impression negatively and whether I should mention this/go over the details as to why I want to leave in my motivation letter.

On the one hand, a PhD is basically a job and people leave jobs all the time, on the other hand, one can also view this as a kind of commitment to my group that I am breaking by leaving and thus I have no idea if this is frowned upon or even a common thing or not.

  • 1
    Your mental health is much more important than anyone views quitting a phd. And, to exploit a trope, if people don't accept your decision, you don't want to work with them anyway.
    – user111388
    Dec 8, 2020 at 14:39
  • However, how people view this is really dependent on the country, the industry, the people itself (and, of course, if they really "know" what phd study is -- many non-academics don't).
    – user111388
    Dec 8, 2020 at 14:40
  • 1
    There are plenty of questions already about changing advisor, schools, whatnot.
    – Jon Custer
    Dec 8, 2020 at 15:04
  • 1
    What will the answer tell you? Would it stop you from leaving? Dec 8, 2020 at 15:49
  • @AzorAhai-him- No, but I have actually noted this in the question itself. If abandoning a PhD in the middle of it and starting anew somewhere else is a common occurrence then I wouldn't even need to mention it in my application. If this is highly unusual and raises questions about my reliability then this is something I should address heavily. On the other hand, if it is unnecessary to address it then elaborating on this in my application could be seen as weird or too personal. I am inquiring about the commonality of such a thing and how to address it to my potential future institute the best. Dec 8, 2020 at 16:30

1 Answer 1


Seeing that someone is already a PhD student during the application process, or later seeing that someone was a PhD student at two different institution always raises questions. But these questions are easy to answer in your statement of purpose or later application documents, and being in a country that "is going down a dark path and I want to get out asap" is a perfectly good reason anyone will understand.

In other words, I would not worry about it: Whatever questions anyone might have, you have a good answer for it and, moreover, your own personal happiness/mental health is more important than anything else anyway. So do it, if you can!

  • being in a country that "is going down a dark path and I want to get out asap" is a perfectly good reason anyone will understand Not everyone, apparently - academia.stackexchange.com/questions/105451/…
    – Allure
    Dec 8, 2020 at 21:20
  • @Allure -- the top answers over there seem to be accepting. What specifically are you referring to in that question/those answers? Dec 9, 2020 at 23:21
  • Well e.g. the answer I accepted says not wanting to work in the US because one disapproves of the Trump administration is "much more divisive", but your answer says it's a perfectly good reason that anyone will understand. Ben's answer also expresses skepticism about political objections on a country level, as opposed to on a university level.
    – Allure
    Dec 10, 2020 at 0:14
  • @Allure I think there is a difference between agreeing with someone's opinion about the politics of a country, and being able to understand that people often feel strongly about it. Most US faculty probably felt rather bleak about the country over the past few years, but if you're a faculty in TX and you talk to a student who wants to get out of CA because "it is just too liberal", you might get that some people feel that way even if you might personally don't agree with it. Dec 10, 2020 at 19:55

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