I'm interested in pursuing a PhD in a particular humanities field and I feel that my undergraduate GPA is strong enough for me to get into such a program at a top school. However, my path to deciding this has been somewhat circuitous. Along the way, I completed a master's degree in a completely unrelated subject which I became uninterested in and disillusioned by while I was in the program. I decided to complete it anyway and as a result of my lack of passion for the field, I didn't perform very well in my master's program and just did the minimum to complete my degree.

Now when I look at PhD applications, I see that every school's admission page says you must submit transcripts from all university level courses taken even though only a bachelor's degree is required for admission. My question is, if by omitting transcripts from my master's program, would I be violating most admission policies and/or risk having a misleading or unethical application?

  • 4
    Yes. If you don't follow the instructions then you are not following the instructions.
    – JeffE
    Jun 14, 2014 at 22:18
  • Yes, omitting your Master's degree transcript is a serious ethical violation (lying by omission) just below making stuff up (lying). The requirement also includes transcripts in cases of incomplete, withdrawals, expulsion, and non-degree program or study.
    – mctylr
    Aug 8, 2014 at 19:42

3 Answers 3


"All university level courses taken" means "all university level courses taken", so yes, you should submit it too. Otherwise, if at any point they discover that you had been enrolled in that masters, you could be in trouble for lying.

Even if they don't require you to submit it, you will have to explain what were you doing during that time. And a bad master's is far better than sitting at home doing noting.

Now, you don't want it to hurt your application, so you should consider explaining in your cover letter why you did poorly. That shouldn't be too difficult, I think a good bachelor and a bad master is still better than just a good bachelor.


If the requirements say

You must submit transcripts from all university level courses taken

Then yes, you must submit transcripts from your unrelated master's. To do otherwise would be a violation of the policy, which clearly states you must submit all university-level transcripts.


In fact completing a Masters degree is a positive aspect in your application, regardless of not being in the same (or similar) field of studies.

Since the topic of why you believe yourself to be a suitable candidate for the Ph.D. program will be part of your application at some point in the process, you should present the experience as a positive one, where you both demonstrated your ability to do graduate level work successfully, and that it lead (wholly or in part) to your realization that you were not as interested in that subject as you expected to be.

This should be followed up with some justification why you expect to remain focused and interested in the longer and more detailed Ph.D. program, but I view that as an essential requite to anyone's success in a graduate program anyhow, so you will need to figure how to make a strong and convincing argument. For own state of mind, as well as your admissions application.

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