A few weeks ago I've enrolled in a Coursera course offered by university A, without asking for a certificate. I've completed some of the work, but now my university holds a course on the same topic, to which I am enrolled for credit. Consequently, I decided to stop doing assignments from the Coursera course and focus on the course I'm enrolled in.

University A is one of the universities I am planning to apply to for my PhD studies next year, possibly in the topic of the course (or even with the professor teaching it).

How likely is it that the professor and/or the committee will check whether I've already been enrolled in something offered by them, and will get a bad impression because of me dropping the course? (e.g they might conclude that I'm not serious/committed when it comes to studying.)

Do committees generally look for academic information on applicants other than in the documents they provide in their application?

  • 32
    this seems very unlikely to matter. Oct 25, 2016 at 18:27
  • 6
    There's almost no way they would know. They could, but this is a very low-value thing to check.
    – knzhou
    Oct 25, 2016 at 19:00
  • 5
    Your identity is not verified when you take a Coursera course without a certificate. Anybody can register with any name; l could register under your name if I knew it. Even if anybody on the admissions committee cared (which they don't), they still would have no way of unambiguously connecting the PhD applicant and the MOOC dropout.
    – ff524
    Oct 26, 2016 at 7:35
  • 1
    I don't think they're going to take attendance at football games either, but you never can be too sure. Aug 6, 2017 at 22:13

3 Answers 3


Certainly not.

I highly doubt any university even has a mechanism for looking this up easily (since it isn't public info), or if they are even allowed to do so (might be against their privacy policy).

Also, MOOCS have extremely low completion rates (this says 15% on average) to begin with. These online courses, unlike traditional university courses, don't require a commitment or have any real effects from not completing it.


AFAIK Coursera is not for credit, thus should not impact your phd record in any way.

  • Is this answer based on an assumption that only things that are for credit impact a PhD application?
    – JiK
    Oct 26, 2016 at 13:55

Things happen! People drop courses all the time for various reasons. In no way should it look bad. If you weren't going for a certificate, it doesn't really matter.

  • People flunk university classes all the time for various reasons too.
    – user18072
    Oct 26, 2016 at 4:00
  • @djechlin And in many countries no-one cares. Oct 26, 2016 at 18:52

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