My advisor decided to move to Industry and it is likely that he might not come back. I do not have an option of continuing with my current PhD program or finding a co-supervisor as suggested. I am in my second year at the moment, and I think it is best to reapply to other PhD programs.

I was enrolled as a full time PhD student and our department does not offer a Masters+PhD program, so officially I was enrolled just as a 'PhD student' and not as a 'MS/PhD Student'. I might likely be given a Masters, give that I have completed the course requirements.

However, for writing Statements of Purpose and CV for my applications, I am stuck with the following:

  1. How should I describe my 'education' section? I did have a PhD topic assigned with a pending publication on the same. Should my current status be of a 'Masters' or a 'PhD' student?

  2. Does it make sense to explain my situation in my CV or Statement of Purpose to describe what exactly made me reapply to PhD programs?

  3. My advisor is less responsive these days and I am unsure if it is a good idea to give his name as my potential recommender. A fallback option is to ask my course instructors at Graduate school which would probably not guarantee a strong recommendation as compared to recommendations from people I have actually worked with during my undergraduate. If I do not have any recommenders from my current program, will that go against me?

1 Answer 1


Since every country/state/university has its own regulations on Ph.D. programs, my answer might carry little value to your concrete situation.

I dropped my first Ph.D. program last year due to some financial difficulties. It was the 4th year of my Ph.D. life. I am currently enrolled into another PhD program after a prolonged period of struggling. I think I can totally understand your situation.

  1. Put your current PhD program into your CV, mark yourself as "Ph.D. student" because you are. And this actually helps since you already know (more or less) how academia works and how to proceed with your research. You are not a Masters student, don't put "Master" there.

  2. Like in any CV or application letter, honesty is always appreciated. Explaining your situation would help them to understand you and your goal (which I assume is to continue with your research).

  3. It's really subjective. Recommendation letters don't matter THAT much for Ph.D. students compared to Master or Bachelor students. What you really need is a quality list of publications and/or projects in which you have participated.

  • 1
    I agree with #1 and #2, but think that recommendation letters do matter.
    – jakebeal
    Nov 11, 2015 at 15:02
  • 1
    Agreed with @jakebeal. I even think that not only do you need ideally strong letters documenting that you did well in your current program, but that a letter by your current adviser should be your goal. It depends on culture and their personality, but in the countries I studied and lived, almost every adviser would be appreciative of your difficult situation, and help you as their former charge. So be friendly, but insistent. Nov 11, 2015 at 17:28
  • They do matter, I agree. What I mean in my reply is that the recommendation letters have relatively less value comparing to publications or awards.
    – Z.J. Cong
    Nov 12, 2015 at 16:29

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