I enrolled in a master's program in computational mathematics, I completed my courses in a year and a half and got 3.98/4.00 CGPA (ranked 1st in my batch) then, I waited for some time to find an advisor because in the country I am in - (developing country) - there are not many research/mentorship opportunities. I had a really horrible advisor who was very stubborn. He had an idea to implement methodology A to solve problem B and was expecting it to work, but it didn't work, and he kept asking me to try again and again. I wanted to change my research point, but he disagreed. I tried to change advisors and there was not an option to change advisors for me. Anyway, I got lost for a while then, took an independent approach and went to international poster sessions at well-known conferences like (SIAM and another one at MIT) to interact with others in the field, and some international summer schools which helped a bit in progressing my research and took online courses, and as a consequence changed my thesis key question and refined the methodology, and wrote the whole thing in the last 3 months by God's grace. He asked me to write a paper and put his name on it and send it to a journal. I agreed and this is why he is letting me graduate. The advisor didn't even bother to read anything I wrote.

It was a horrible experience, I know that I should have left the program very early on when I wanted to but I didn't and this is a mistake. Now it will look like this in my CV:

Program Enrollment date: Fall 2017/2018 Program Graduation date: Summer 2023

This is going to hurt my Ph.D. admission. Right? What can I do to fix it? I am feeling my dreams are getting shattered, and that I am not going to get into a good Ph.D. program with a decent advisor.

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    What is your motivation to become a PhD? Getting a tenure-track job is even more difficult than getting a PhD... or if you are going to work in industry anyway, is a PhD really needed? Also, a lot depends on your unique circumstances such as family, any pets, etc..... Commented May 15, 2023 at 14:24
  • Having written your thesis and a paper more or less on your own is a big plus. Make sure you tell this story when you apply. Phrase it carefully to highlight the positive aspects and not insult anyone. "I didn't receive support from my advisor" is good, "I had a really horrible advisor who was very stubborn" is not. :) [Also, for example, "didn't even bother to read" -> "declined to read", etc. You get my point.] Commented May 15, 2023 at 23:07

2 Answers 2


Sorry for your bad experience for your MSc.

It seems that you are looking for a PhD opportunity in the USA. I only have experience in Europe. However, what I can tell is that every CV/experience is different. As long as you can explain/justify what is your background, what you have learned from the positive but most importantly what you have taken out of the bad experiences is what matters. Not everyone reasons like that, but I am pretty sure you will find Professors, research groups that will listen to your story and will consider you a right fit for the PhD position you are looking for.

My advice would be, reflect on what you may have done wrong and/or what you could have done differently. It could be that the Professor, with whom it did not go well, and you have ways of working that are very different. Do not blame the Professor, this will not lead anywhere. Take all the positive you can from this bad experience. Once your mind is clear, find a way to explain this "longer than it is supposed to be" experience on your CV. From your explanation, I see one or two aspects that show resilience and will in your working behavior. I am sure these two qualities are not underestimated for a PhD candidate.

Good luck, I am sure the things will turn in the right direction for you!


It probably won't affect your chances of admission. The fact that you are more experienced with the research process is a plus. You are less likely to get bogged down by the usual things that do that to young graduate students. Like otters have mentioned, make sure to spin the tale on your cover letter/statement, in a positive way.

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