I recently completed my second master's degree, but unfortunately, I did not perform as well as I had hoped. Despite receiving a distinction in my first degree, I struggled to find motivation in my second master's program (started during COVID) and ended up with an average grade and a mediocre thesis.

While my committee criticized my poor time planning they did not have that strong opinion on my research work , I have to say that I also received little help from my supervisor, which left me feeling unmotivated and ended up being underperforming during the writing process. As a result, I now want to switch back to the field of my previous master thesis and pursue a PhD. However, I am concerned that my mediocre performance will negatively impact my chances of being accepted, and I am not confident that my professor will be willing to provide a strong recommendation letter or any at all.

Is it possible for me to get accepted into a PhD program based on my first degree's dissertation field? I excelled in that area and enjoyed it. I realised that I prefer simulations over experiments.

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    "I have to say that I also received little help from my supervisor, which left me feeling unmotivated and ended up being underperforming during the writing process." Your milege may vary, but the median person that cannot find the motivation during their master thesis should run away from a PhD.
    – EarlGrey
    Apr 24, 2023 at 10:10
  • the thing is that I mostly was passing some mental health issues due to covid and I hated my thesis which I selected based on a very bad anxious mode, disregarding my personal likes I went the experimental path that I apparently now hate, I would love going back to computational where things are to my mind pretty straightforwarrd
    – Alex
    Apr 24, 2023 at 10:21
  • Sorry being blunt: no one cares about your feelings, you are applying for positions, not for mental support. Your mental health is at first your responsibility, not of your future employer/tutor/advisor. Said this, see my answer...
    – EarlGrey
    Apr 24, 2023 at 10:34
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    yes I understand, I want to mjust pintpoint that this second degree is a small personal obstacle that I stumbled upon and nothing that I personally- not expecting any supervisor to care - cannot eventually overcome, i want to know how my chances look and maybe some suggestions how to deal, overcoming now this dark period and looking forward to do something I enjoy
    – Alex
    Apr 24, 2023 at 10:46

2 Answers 2


You have now a (kind of) strong point: experience in two fields, A and B. It is what you are, so either you cancel two years from your CV, or you make the best out of what you have.

It depends therefore on how you present your experience.

Please keep in mind the difference from the receiving side, in reading

  1. "I like A but I hate B"
  2. "I enjoyed and I was extremely productive in A, while in B I could complete the work but it was not completely suited to me and I had to overcome difficulties in B1-B2-B3".

If I am a practitioner in B looking for someone with expertise and skills in A for a PhD, to test some new path or new research ideas, I would straight reject your cv in the first case, but I would consider you a serious candidate in the second case. All other things being equal.

  • Thanks for the insightful comment! I will take it into consideration!
    – Alex
    Apr 24, 2023 at 10:47

Yes, you can still get accepted. What's more, your experience might even help if you frame it the right way. Having done two masters and realizing that your strengths lie in field A and not B tells prospective advisors that you know what you are getting into, and that you are unlikely to have second thoughts once immersed in the PhD.

Make sure not to say things like "I hated field A", because they make you sound like a teenager complaining about a flavor of ice cream. Nothing wrong with saying that you prefer one field over another: everyone does.

Also beware that a PhD can require a lot of sustained, unsupervised work, so if you are looking for a lot of supervision, prospective advisors might see it as requiring lots of hand holding, and that's always seen as a negative.

  • Thanks for the reply! Yes I understand now that saying hate etc looks bad. I am really looking forward to do the unsupervised work but only in the domain of my interest. Reading these comments I understand that I have a lot of work to do still to become more self dependant in research. Regarding the supervision thing, I was under a PhD and exxpected to be given an initial compass, a little help and was left from the first day, I don't know much about that ask others...
    – Alex
    Apr 24, 2023 at 13:16

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