This question is related to, but slightly different from, this one.

I'm currently in a PhD program in electrical engineering in the US. I've been in this PhD program since 2021 (3 years). After passing my qualification exam, I've decided not to continue in the current PhD program, and I'm currently applying to new PhD programs in the US starting in Spring 2025.

When applying to these programs, I will need to attach my CV/resume. My current resume includes the row "PhD student" with the dates "2021 - present", followed by a row containing "MS, Electrical Engineering" with the dates "2019 - 2021" that describes the MS degree I finished back in 2021 before starting my PhD.

I'm not sure if including the row "PhD student" with the dates "2021 - present" is a good idea, as it may confuse graduate admissions officers who do not expect to see applicants with previous PhDs. Only including the row "MS, Electrical Engineering" with the corresponding dates seems like a better idea.

On the other hand, during the past 2 summers in 2022 and 2023, I worked as a summer intern at research labs, and the experience I gained in these labs is highly relevant to my current and future research aspirations. This experience is mentioned on my resume.

So, if I don't mention that I've been a PhD student during the past 3 years, I feel that these summer intern positions will seem "out of place" on my resume (since it will look like I worked only during the summers but not the rest of the year).

I'm not sure whether to go one way or another with this, so I would appreciate any feedback I can get.


3 Answers 3


Generally in the US you are required to divulge such things and provide transcripts of all prior higher education. If the choice to withdraw was yours then there is no issue with this, just mark the program as withdrawal in your CV. Most places will make the rule explicit, actually.

If you were asked to leave then you have some explaining to do that may affect your chances or not. But even failing to pass comprehensive exams isn't an absolute block in a transfer, even to a higher rated place.

"Unforeseen circumstances" is a bit too vague, I think. Be honest.

  • Thank you for this answer. It was my choice to not continue. Since you mentioned comprehensive exams, would mentioning that I passed my qualification exam before choosing to withdraw be of any help for me in my application? I forgot to mention this in my question.
    – mhdadk
    Commented Apr 5 at 15:56
  • It can’t hurt to mention it.
    – Buffy
    Commented Apr 5 at 16:06
  • 2
    @mhdadk "I forgot to mention this in my question." You can edit your question to add whatever further information you like. Commented Apr 5 at 16:36
  • 1
    Just to add that it is not all that uncommon for students to leave a PhD program in order to enroll in another. I bet the admissions committee are familiar.
    – xuq01
    Commented Apr 7 at 16:56
  • @xuq01 thank you for the insight!
    – mhdadk
    Commented Apr 7 at 18:27

Changing PhD programs is more common than you actually think. I changed as a PhD student, and I have seen similar CVs as associate professor. On the other hand, empty spaces in your CV do raise a set of questions, and you will be asked about the reasons of the deletion.

Instead of deleting it, you can write 2021-2024 (resigned), and prepare an answer to the question why would you like to start a new PhD. Sometimes you can even benefit from having started another research, and you could see if the two projects might be complementary.

Finally, you'll be better off if you're honest. It doesn't take more than a query in Google scholar to check if you have some outputs, and the academic world is small and highly connected.


As a suggestion: Did passing the qualification examinations come with an interim award you could add to your CV instead? Could you rename the section according to any interim award or similar (i.e. MPhil rather than PhD, or postgraduate research programme, including xyz examinations)? This might make it clearer what you have got in terms of qualifications, without being misleading or missing off important information.

  • As it’s currently written, your answer is unclear. Please edit to add additional details that will help others understand how this addresses the question asked. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Commented Apr 10 at 13:53
  • Interesting suggestion. Unfortunately, I didn’t get an award due to passing the qualification exam. I just have a letter stating that I did so.
    – mhdadk
    Commented Apr 10 at 15:00

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