I am an international grad student in the US. I would like to quit the PhD program(mathematics) in where I spent 2 years without "any degree" for some reasons. I am in the status prior to the research. If I want to apply for another PhD in other universities, will leaving the fact that I dropped a PhD program without a degree off make serious problems? Does it make some legal, ethical, moral trouble in the academia?

Lastly I just wonder whether, if I am admitted to another grad-school, the department will track or check my previous academic record by inquiry VISA status, SSN, or the other ways.

According to the FERPA(Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act) act, can I control my educational records myself? I asked about this to some schools, they said, even if it's true, the school can also have the right to require the student's educational record in the case of application to the school.

If I got a degree in a school, I also think I should put the fact in the application. But should I write my all post undergraduate record in my PhD application even if I didn't get any degree and just quit?

  • 14
    FERPA says that your old school can't release your educational records to another school without your consent. It doesn't mean the school you're applying to can't require that consent as a condition of acceptance.
    – cpast
    Mar 30, 2015 at 1:46
  • Are you switching fields or going to another mathematics program? If you are switching fields dropping the math PhD field will likely not be held against you (you just say in your personal statement that while studying math you really go interested in ...) Mar 30, 2015 at 13:53

2 Answers 2


Most (all?) universities in the US require that you mention all the schools you attended on your application, regardless of whether you obtained a degree from them. Omitting any school is a violation of the rules and, if discovered, could be grounds for rescinding a potential admission offer, even long after it has been granted.

In other countries, it varies.

  • Was a one-month summer program in another university (where I took one course) included in that category?
    – John
    Mar 31, 2015 at 6:02

It's not a big deal. If they ask you why you want to change schools (programs), just say the other program wasn't a good fit, and then enthuse about the program you want to enroll in. No matter how bad things were there, resist the temptation to say anything that might display bitterness. It's okay to sound critical, as long as you don't project an image of someone who doesn't like to collaborate.

Unless your grades are embarrassing, you should submit a transcript from the institution where you studied for two years. Those two years of study make you a stronger candidate!

  • 8
    you should submit a transcript from your previous institution if it is required for your application, which it most likely will (regardless of whether your grades are embarrassing).
    – Aru Ray
    Mar 30, 2015 at 11:48

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