Masters or PhD and PhD at a low uni?

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johnhero2010
Posts: 36
Joined: Tue Apr 24, 2012 9:25 am

Masters or PhD and PhD at a low uni?

Postby johnhero2010 » Sun Dec 08, 2013 4:38 am

I have some questions but before doing so, I thought it is better to state my profile for more accurate interactions and replies.
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Undergrad Institution: Egyptian University (among the top in nation)
Major(s): Physics and Chemistry (Double major)
Minor(s):
GPA in Major: estimated for Physics in the 3rd and 4th year: (80%-84%)
Overall GPA: 77 %
Length of Degree: 4
Position in Class: ~top
Type of Student: international

GRE Scores : (revised or old version?)
Q: 155
V: 146
W: 3.5
P: 580
TOEFL (IBT): 100
Pertinent Activities or Jobs: I am currently taking a graduate coursework year in Physics at the masters level at the same university. I have finished 4 courses. The scores are:
1-Advanced elementary particles Physics: A-
2-Advanced quantum mechanics I: C+
3-Advanced quantum mechanics II: B
4-Statistical Physics: C+
The remaining courses to be completed by end of Dec 2013: Advanced Nuclear Physics, Relativistic Electrodynamics, Mathematical Physics, Advanced Atomic Physics.
Recommendation Letters: 3 mediocre Rec Let;1 from a good professor who got his PhD and known at NE uni, the other 2 from unknown professors
Applying to Where: I am looking for:
HEP (Experimental or Theoretical)
Astrophysics (Experimental or Theoretical)
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The inquiries are somewhat diverse and on different levels so please bear with me:
1- If I got into a PhD program at a low place(e.g.,: the last of a 100), does this mean I am doomed and I can not get a post doc at a strong place and as a result does it mean that I can not secure a faculty position anywhere, especially in the US?
2- If yes to the 1st question, so this means I only need to apply to masters in Physics as a bridge to make a leap to a higher university but unfortunately most masters programs are not funded but I can manage to get the money of parents saving if only this is a worthy step. so what do you think? (I know it is my decision in this matter but I would like to hear other people's opinion if they were in my shoes)
3- Does it hurt to mention my low PGRE & GRE scores even if I applied to a low university?
4- Also is it better for me to mention the courses I've taken with the scores mentioned above? And what about the courses which I will finish after the deadline of application, should I mention them or it doesn't matter?

Finally I appreciate much frank and straight replies because that is what I need
Thanks in advance for your time and help

TakeruK
Posts: 813
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Masters or PhD and PhD at a low uni?

Postby TakeruK » Sun Dec 08, 2013 4:02 pm

johnhero2010 wrote:The inquiries are somewhat diverse and on different levels so please bear with me:
1- If I got into a PhD program at a low place(e.g.,: the last of a 100), does this mean I am doomed and I can not get a post doc at a strong place and as a result does it mean that I can not secure a faculty position anywhere, especially in the US?
2- If yes to the 1st question, so this means I only need to apply to masters in Physics as a bridge to make a leap to a higher university but unfortunately most masters programs are not funded but I can manage to get the money of parents saving if only this is a worthy step. so what do you think? (I know it is my decision in this matter but I would like to hear other people's opinion if they were in my shoes)
3- Does it hurt to mention my low PGRE & GRE scores even if I applied to a low university?
4- Also is it better for me to mention the courses I've taken with the scores mentioned above? And what about the courses which I will finish after the deadline of application, should I mention them or it doesn't matter?

Finally I appreciate much frank and straight replies because that is what I need
Thanks in advance for your time and help


Note: This is just my opinion only, based on my circumstances because as you said, this is a personal choice but you want to hear what other people think.

1. I would not go to grad school in the US (i.e. outside of my home country) if I did not get into a top 10 grad school. If I went to a lower ranked grad school, I would do that in my home country where it would be easier for things like finances, visas, etc. I don't think it's impossible to get a faculty position in the US if you have a PhD from a low ranked school. But it would definitely be harder! For me, it would be my personal decision to not attend grad school at all if I was not able to get into a top Canadian school (which rank around 30 or so worldwide). I would feel that the investment of 5+ years in grad school and who knows how many years as a postdoc is not worth the small chance of a career as a physicist. I personally would prefer to spend that time pursuing something else that is more rewarding.

2. Nope, I would not go to grad school if I had to pay for it. I also would not have gone to funded PhD programs if the stipend was not enough to support me and my spouse without having to take out loans.

3. I would not mention your score unless you had to (i.e. if non-US schools don't ask for it, then don't mention it).

4. I would not mention your courses and scores either because they will appear in your transcript. I don't think your grades in those courses are especially great so there is no need to draw extra attention to them. If you want, however, you should mention what courses you are planning to take in the next semester, which might not be listed on the transcript at this time!

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WhoaNonstop
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Re: Masters or PhD and PhD at a low uni?

Postby WhoaNonstop » Sun Dec 08, 2013 7:41 pm

TakeruK wrote:1. I would not go to grad school in the US (i.e. outside of my home country) if I did not get into a top 10 grad school. If I went to a lower ranked grad school, I would do that in my home country where it would be easier for things like finances, visas, etc. I don't think it's impossible to get a faculty position in the US if you have a PhD from a low ranked school. But it would definitely be harder!


You could look at most of the top schools and come to the conclusion that only people in the top 10 get to teach at Universities. This is not the truth if you broaden your view to even the top 100 universities in the US. You will see many professors who come from lower ranked programs. Even though your school affects your ability to land a job, YOUR ability to perform is better than the school associated to your name. You are not guaranteed a spot in academia if you went to a top 10 school. No matter where you go to school, you can perform at the level needed to land a job in a university.

-Riley

TakeruK
Posts: 813
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Masters or PhD and PhD at a low uni?

Postby TakeruK » Sun Dec 08, 2013 8:44 pm

WhoaNonstop wrote:You could look at most of the top schools and come to the conclusion that only people in the top 10 get to teach at Universities. This is not the truth if you broaden your view to even the top 100 universities in the US. You will see many professors who come from lower ranked programs. Even though your school affects your ability to land a job, YOUR ability to perform is better than the school associated to your name. You are not guaranteed a spot in academia if you went to a top 10 school. No matter where you go to school, you can perform at the level needed to land a job in a university.

-Riley


Sorry if I was unclear but I actually agree with you! What I meant in my post above is that the only advantage, for my personal situation, in attending a school in the US is if I could attend a school that is better than the best schools in Canada. If I can get into a good US school that is equivalently good to Canadian schools, then I would just stay in Canada because everything would be a lot easier. I know that not everyone has the benefit of having schools in their home country having good worldwide ranking (in this case, good would mean top 100 worldwide), but johnhero did ask for our personal opinions.

So, I definitely agree that attending schools outside of the top 10 definitely can lead to tenured positions at universities in the future. There are US schools outside of the top 10 that might still provide better opportunities than the top Canadian schools, but in my opinion, at this point, it's no longer worth the extra hassle required to leave Canada for grad school. So, in my situation, I would have only attended a US school in the top 10, or a Canadian school in the top 100 worldwide (there are 3 schools at around rank 30-50 worldwide and then the rest are below 100 last I checked).

My career goals are geographically limited for personal reasons, so I would not be willing to move anywhere just to stay in academia. I realise that ultimately, the chances are very much against me getting a tenure track professorial position in the geographic area I want, and I am prepared to eventually have to make the choice between personal goals and career goals. I've looked at schools in my area of choice -- the majority of their professors have PhDs from top Canadian and US schools.

I definitely do not think attending a top 10 school guarantees anything at all after graduation, much less a professorial position! But, I do think that attending a top ranking PhD program will give me the resources to perform to my fullest potential and hopefully be competitive for the positions I want. If this doesn't work out though, I would hope the brand name of my PhD school will be helpful outside of academia. However, if I attended a lower ranked school, it would not as helpful outside of academia. My reasoning was that if I did not get into top Canadian or US PhD programs, my choices are to 1) get a PhD from a mid-ranked school in Canada or the US, or 2) use my Canadian MSc to get a job in my geographic region of choice and build up ~5 years of work experience in the same time it would have taken me to get that PhD. I would think that between these choices, option 2 would have led to better outcomes for me than option 1.

Again, all of this is only relevant to me and my personal situation and my personal preferences/goals. But it was my understanding that the original poster wanted to hear the stories and reasoning of other people on this forum (regarding the topic of attending mid- to low- ranked schools), not necessarily give direct advice to their situation.

bfollinprm
Posts: 1197
Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:44 am

Re: Masters or PhD and PhD at a low uni?

Postby bfollinprm » Sun Dec 08, 2013 10:14 pm

johnhero2010 wrote:1- If I got into a PhD program at a low place(e.g.,: the last of a 100), does this mean I am doomed and I can not get a post doc at a strong place and as a result does it mean that I can not secure a faculty position anywhere, especially in the US?
2- If yes to the 1st question, so this means I only need to apply to masters in Physics as a bridge to make a leap to a higher university but unfortunately most masters programs are not funded but I can manage to get the money of parents saving if only this is a worthy step. so what do you think? (I know it is my decision in this matter but I would like to hear other people's opinion if they were in my shoes)
3- Does it hurt to mention my low PGRE & GRE scores even if I applied to a low university?
4- Also is it better for me to mention the courses I've taken with the scores mentioned above? And what about the courses which I will finish after the deadline of application, should I mention them or it doesn't matter?

Finally I appreciate much frank and straight replies because that is what I need
Thanks in advance for your time and help


    1. No, but it probably means you'll have to think harder about where to go to apply; not every school in the 75-150 range will have quality productive faculty in your interests, even if they're somewhat broad. You may find it more difficult to get a postdoc, but not impossible.

    Also, and this isn't exactly what you asked, but I wouldn't assume that you'll get into any school in the US. Extremely high international competition means you are probably not going to get into top 50 schools (but who knows) and the further down the list you go the less money the school has to pay for international students, which are more expensive than domestic students and generally (unless your English is perfect) don't make as quality teaching assistants.

    2. I said no to #1, but you should know a masters program would be a good option for you, especially on the chance you are rejected everywhere. Perhaps start in Europe (France, Great Britain, Germany), where a masters program will be considerably cheaper.

    3. I wouldn't share them unless you're asked to; and I'd consider "PGRE recommended" as them asking you to.

    4. No, I wouldn't mention those grades. I know this is probably not true in Egypt, but in the US, a C+ in a graduate course is akin to failing. That's probably how it will be interpreted, unless you make a big deal out of explaining it, and then you've spent a paragraph talking about your course load. Not what you want to be talking about in your SoP.

bfollinprm
Posts: 1197
Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:44 am

Re: Masters or PhD and PhD at a low uni?

Postby bfollinprm » Sun Dec 08, 2013 10:26 pm

WhoaNonstop wrote:
TakeruK wrote:1. I would not go to grad school in the US (i.e. outside of my home country) if I did not get into a top 10 grad school. If I went to a lower ranked grad school, I would do that in my home country where it would be easier for things like finances, visas, etc. I don't think it's impossible to get a faculty position in the US if you have a PhD from a low ranked school. But it would definitely be harder!


You could look at most of the top schools and come to the conclusion that only people in the top 10 get to teach at Universities. This is not the truth if you broaden your view to even the top 100 universities in the US. You will see many professors who come from lower ranked programs. Even though your school affects your ability to land a job, YOUR ability to perform is better than the school associated to your name. You are not guaranteed a spot in academia if you went to a top 10 school. No matter where you go to school, you can perform at the level needed to land a job in a university.

-Riley



Furthermore, there's a bias here. The quality of the schools in the 25-100 range have drastically improved in the last 30 years, while MIT et al have remained at the same level. When the professors who are now teaching got their PhD, there weren't as many programs with quality PhD programs, and so the fact that almost all top programs come from the same top schools is not unexpected, and does not imply that a PhD from a 'lower ranked' school will inhibit your chances at staying in academia.

SSM
Posts: 87
Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2010 10:57 pm

Re: Masters or PhD and PhD at a low uni?

Postby SSM » Mon Dec 09, 2013 12:28 pm

Just out of curiousity: how do you know that?


bfollinprm wrote:
WhoaNonstop wrote:
TakeruK wrote:1. I would not go to grad school in the US (i.e. outside of my home country) if I did not get into a top 10 grad school. If I went to a lower ranked grad school, I would do that in my home country where it would be easier for things like finances, visas, etc. I don't think it's impossible to get a faculty position in the US if you have a PhD from a low ranked school. But it would definitely be harder!


You could look at most of the top schools and come to the conclusion that only people in the top 10 get to teach at Universities. This is not the truth if you broaden your view to even the top 100 universities in the US. You will see many professors who come from lower ranked programs. Even though your school affects your ability to land a job, YOUR ability to perform is better than the school associated to your name. You are not guaranteed a spot in academia if you went to a top 10 school. No matter where you go to school, you can perform at the level needed to land a job in a university.

-Riley



Furthermore, there's a bias here. The quality of the schools in the 25-100 range have drastically improved in the last 30 years, while MIT et al have remained at the same level. When the professors who are now teaching got their PhD, there weren't as many programs with quality PhD programs, and so the fact that almost all top programs come from the same top schools is not unexpected, and does not imply that a PhD from a 'lower ranked' school will inhibit your chances at staying in academia.

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WhoaNonstop
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Re: Masters or PhD and PhD at a low uni?

Postby WhoaNonstop » Mon Dec 09, 2013 2:05 pm

SSM wrote:Just out of curiousity: how do you know that?


Because we both go to them so they MUST be getting better. ;)

-Riley

bfollinprm
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Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:44 am

Re: Masters or PhD and PhD at a low uni?

Postby bfollinprm » Mon Dec 09, 2013 2:27 pm

SSM wrote:Just out of curiousity: how do you know that?


It's my interpretation of the money trail. The wealth (NSF and DOE grants) is being spread more evenly.

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WhoaNonstop
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Re: Masters or PhD and PhD at a low uni?

Postby WhoaNonstop » Mon Dec 09, 2013 3:08 pm

bfollinprm wrote:
SSM wrote:Just out of curiousity: how do you know that?


It's my interpretation of the money trail. The wealth (NSF and DOE grants) is being spread more evenly.


^This.

-Riley

johnhero2010
Posts: 36
Joined: Tue Apr 24, 2012 9:25 am

Re: Masters or PhD and PhD at a low uni?

Postby johnhero2010 » Tue Dec 10, 2013 7:20 am

@Takeru
Thanks for your reply, you answered exactly what I am looking for
Last edited by johnhero2010 on Tue Dec 10, 2013 7:38 am, edited 2 times in total.

johnhero2010
Posts: 36
Joined: Tue Apr 24, 2012 9:25 am

Re: Masters or PhD and PhD at a low uni?

Postby johnhero2010 » Tue Dec 10, 2013 7:31 am

@bfollin
Thanks for your straight answer and nice remark regarding why professors from top schools teach at the top ones
@Riley
Although I wanted to hear from you but seems you dont have much to add




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