I dropped out of a PhD program four years ago after one semester in good standing and am now preparing an application for a master's program in an unrelated field. Obviously, I have to submit my transcripts from all universities, and my quitting will raise some questions. So, what can I say in my statement of purpose (or anywhere, I suppose) that will put my quitting in the best possible light?

Thanks in advance for all your help!

  • 5
    Was there a particular reason for leaving the earlier PhD program?
    – user70612
    Apr 28, 2017 at 12:02
  • Well, yes, there were many reasons. But mainly, here's what happened: I stupidly accepted an unfunded offer, hoping to pick up a teaching position later to offset the costs. But I soon concluded that the department had no intention of offering me a teaching position ever. I was fighting an uphill battle. So, I cut my losses and quit. But blaming the department would reflect badly on me (even though it's true). So, what should I do?
    – SJN
    Apr 28, 2017 at 16:41
  • So it sounds like the root issue was financial because if you could have afforded it, you wouldn't have needed the teaching position.
    – Michael
    Apr 28, 2017 at 17:27
  • That's right. So, I guess the question becomes how to put dropping out for financial reasons in the best possible light. How would you phrase it?
    – SJN
    Apr 28, 2017 at 23:55
  • Financial considerations prevented me from continuing in the program; in the last x years, my interest has turned sharply toward (new field), which has turned out to be a better fit for me, so in a way I'm glad things turned out the way they did. Apr 29, 2017 at 4:54

1 Answer 1


Tell the truth - whether that be it was too hard, you lost interest, you had a disagreement with the adviser, it was a financial hardship, you had personal or family issues come up, etc. etc. Whatever the reason, just tell the truth. The admissions committee have probably read enough personal statements to read between the lines. Sort of like how in a job interview if you said "I left because it wasn't a good fit", chances are you had a disagreement with your boss (or something like that).

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