I am in the process of leaving a funded PhD position and apply elsewhere. There was a lot of competition for the position, and the benefits were good (being employed by the university), but things didn't work out (mainly I want to pursue research that is not being done in my first university).

Could it be useful to brag about how I got a competetive PhD position in my application to other places? My first university is not famous, but I did come in the top 5% of over hundred applicants.

  • How do you prove you did come in the top 5% of over hundred applicants after you brag about it?
    – Nobody
    May 26, 2015 at 8:45
  • @scaaahu I can imagine programs publishing this sort of info.
    – xLeitix
    May 26, 2015 at 8:58
  • @xLeitix I did see that kind of published info before. But, those published reports only include info like average or highest GPA, GRE scores of applicants. I never saw student names published, have you?
    – Nobody
    May 26, 2015 at 9:07
  • 1
    @scaaahu I was more thinking that in an acceptance letter, programmes may tell the student that they accepted only X% of applications, similarly to what many conferences do. If you have been accepted, it is fair to say that you were among the top X% of applications.
    – xLeitix
    May 26, 2015 at 9:20
  • 7
    I am not sure that leaving a competitive PHD program to go to another, is something to brag about
    – Alexandros
    May 26, 2015 at 9:46

2 Answers 2


This is just an opinion:

You will need to be very clear why you left, and you cannot leave room for the suggestion that it was just because things got a bit uninteresting. The way you have described it in your question leaves me with that presumption, and on that basis I would feel uncomfortable with working with you on a fixed term (or fixed goal) project such as a PhD.

i.e., the obvious question in the mind of the reader of your CV will be, "How do I know you won't disappear on me as soon as things get a bit boring or difficult?"

Frankly, I think you have more to lose than you have to gain by discussing it.


Research interests can sharpen or crystallise during a PhD, so it is definitively possible to realign interest. However, the case for a switch needs to be absolutely compelling.

Usually supervisors avoid taking on someone who started a PhD somewhere else, unless the case is very strong - and coming out on the top 5% is, at that stage, not anymore a very strong reason to accept a student; the main reason has now become "is the student really interested in doing what I am interested in"?

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