I am trying to get into a Ph.D. pure mathematics program in the U.S. I have a Master’s degree in mathematics. It took me a decade to figure out I do not see myself being happy without doing mathematics and teaching in a full-time job. I don’t care about getting into an Ivy League or solving famous problems. I would be perfectly fine teaching anywhere and exploring a problem no one really cares about. Given that I have already made up my mind about applying to Ph. D. programs, I have a problem I would like advice for.

My problem: I have a Master’s degree in pure mathematics, but my grad school GPA is a 3.03. It was a painful period of my life as I was diagnosed with a personality disorder and endured strong medication regiments.

Would it be detrimental to me to include my graduate school transcript in my Ph.D. applications? In this case, I would essentially be applying only showing my Bachelor’s degree (where my GPA was a 3.32).

If I do not include my graduate transcript in my applications (apply as if I only have a Bachelor’s degree), the fact I have a Master’s degree will likely be revealed in my resume/vitae, letters of recommendation, the fact it is required to teach at the level I currently teach, or somewhere else. Thus, the schools may ask me for my transcript. Or perhaps not, I do not know.

Can someone please offer me advice on what I could do?

  • From my experience, they do ask for the transcript from each applicant. But then, I'm not sure about the institutes you plan to apply to.
    – Batominovski
    Nov 20, 2017 at 18:06
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    Most grad schools require you to list transcipts from each school previously attended. If they do require it, not listing it will likely be seen as academic dishonesty and a disqualification for your application. Nov 20, 2017 at 18:14
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    Yes, you should include it. Logan said part of what I wanted to say. I've never heard of a grad program in the US that doesn't require transcripts for degrees you've completed, and I've applied to literally dozens of grad programs in math and CS. You need to be honest on your applications. If you had extenuating circumstances affecting your ability to excel in your classes then you need to carefully explain them. If you're not careful it could sound like you're trying to make excuses. 3.03 is not bad and transcripts are just one small part of a big bundle of items you submit.
    – user51076
    Nov 20, 2017 at 18:21
  • I'm sorry, I didn't mean to violate any principles. I just really needed advice.
    – Daniel
    Nov 20, 2017 at 18:21

1 Answer 1


You do need to include your Master's transcripts when applying for a PhD.
Aside from the academic dishonesty issue of not including your transcripts, having taken many of the core courses at the graduate level will make you a more attractive candidate, as they will know that you do not need to take remedial coursework before beginning doctoral-level studies. Having the Masters will also make it a lot easier to get teaching assistantships, since those often go first to those who already have Master's degrees. Your letters of recommendation, too, need to come from academic references for your PhD (not supervisors or coworkers or general character references), so you will need to get letters from your Master's degree professors that can speak to your potential/experience as both a researcher and as a graduate student. So I would say a definitive yes to including the transcripts.

The second question you need to consider is about whether to address extenuating circumstances in your application. I think it is helpful to address, but only insofar as it presents you in a more positive light; that your disability helps you to better understand the situations that your students face, that your health issues have helped to build your resilience so that you'll be capable of long term study and research, etc... This might be especially important to include if you have obvious "red flags" on your transcript like withdraws or incompletes - so that they both know there's extenuating circumstances but also know that those same circumstances are not going to wash you out of the doctorate. (Which is why you'd always want to portray those circumstances as an asset rather than a liability). So this one is a little more complicated and will require a lot of thought to deal with in your application statements.

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