Deciding between programs: please help

goodtimes
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Joined: Fri Jul 04, 2008 10:33 am

Deciding between programs: please help

Postby goodtimes » Fri Jul 04, 2008 11:05 am

I'm in a particular dilemma. A couple years ago I finished my M.A. in political science and I decided that i really wanted to do a PhD in physics towards a teaching career. I have worked towards improving my portfolio, but still wasn't planning on originally applying this year since my GRE scores were a little low--710quantitative, 680 verbal. My GPA is 3.2 from a top 15 school in the Northeast, physics minor. Here is my dilemma: I applied after the deadlines to a number of graduate programs and am currently accepted to a PhD physics program at a 200 ranked university and to a PhD physics program at a 50 ranked university. Neither of the programs offered me funding, and at the second 50 ranked program I'm officially a masters student unless I get funding but I take classes with the funded phd students. I have heard that the 200 ranked university is pretty easy so I'm likely to pass the comps and move straight ahead to the dissertation in a year or two, but the 50 ranked university is harder and flunks a number of student from its program, so they leave with masters degrees. Some of these students likely transfer to other doctoral programs with the master's degree.

Given the significant gap between the rankings and quality of the programs, is it better to take the risk that I will flunk out of the higher ranked program with a master's or should I get moving in the lower ranked program immediately towards my doctorate, which is definitely my goal? The doctorate is definitely my goal, and I'm not wealthy but can hack one or two unfunded years.

rohan
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Joined: Fri Nov 09, 2007 3:05 am

Re: Deciding between programs: please help

Postby rohan » Fri Jul 04, 2008 2:02 pm

go for it. you might be better of with a masters from a better university than a phd from nowhere. besides theres nothing stopping you from studying further

VT
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Joined: Fri Nov 09, 2007 12:30 pm

Re: Deciding between programs: please help

Postby VT » Fri Jul 04, 2008 5:17 pm

plz do not hate me for saying this, but I wonder what exactly people from top 200 universities( I mean the ones that are at the bottom of the list of the US News ranking) in physics do after they get their PhDs. please do not get me wrong here. I am not questioning the ability of students of such universities. Physics is universal. I am just asking how marketable these students are who get their PhDs from very low ranked universities.

goodtimes
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Joined: Fri Jul 04, 2008 10:33 am

Re: Deciding between programs: please help

Postby goodtimes » Fri Jul 04, 2008 5:42 pm

VT wrote:plz do not hate me for saying this, but I wonder what exactly people from top 200 universities( I mean the ones that are at the bottom of the list of the US News ranking) in physics do after they get their PhDs. please do not get me wrong here. I am not questioning the ability of students of such universities. Physics is universal. I am just asking how marketable these students are who get their PhDs from very low ranked universities.


You're viewing this in absolute rather than relative terms. Absolutely, it is better to attend the first ranked program against the 50th ranked program. But my question is posed relatively. Relative to my other option, i.e. attending a PhD program at 200 ranking, is attending a M.A. program at 50th ranking marginally better or worse?

Do you get the difference between relative and absolute comparisons?

VT
Posts: 314
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Re: Deciding between programs: please help

Postby VT » Fri Jul 04, 2008 6:13 pm

It does not matter whether I get the difference betn relative or absolute comparison and neither does it matter whether you understood what I was trying to say. What matters the most is where you end up doing your PhD. You should definitely try for top 50 even if the top 200 place is going to make you a king of their department.

rohan
Posts: 26
Joined: Fri Nov 09, 2007 3:05 am

Re: Deciding between programs: please help

Postby rohan » Fri Jul 04, 2008 8:23 pm

hehe.... wonder whats that like

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will
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Re: Deciding between programs: please help

Postby will » Fri Jul 04, 2008 9:23 pm

I would imagine that people with Ph.D.s from schools that aren't in the top (10 | 50 | whatever) go on to have productive careers at private industrial labs, low profile colleges, or high school teaching (where a Ph.D. holder can, in some places, make as much as a professor).

Sure they probably won't develop amazing research programs or win the nobel prize or teach at Harvard, but neither do most Harvard grads.

excel
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Joined: Tue Feb 19, 2008 2:33 am

Re: Deciding between programs: please help

Postby excel » Fri Jul 04, 2008 11:48 pm

I wonder if you are asking all the right questions.

If you go to the low-ranked university, I would imagine that you will have to get a job locally. So, are there high schools, community colleges etc. near that university where you can get a teaching job after graduating or maybe even as a part-time during your PhD? Also, at which university will you have a higher chance of getting funding after the first year either directly from the department or by teaching part-time at a local community college? Would it be better to spend this year working at whatever job you have right now and spending some time studying college-level physics and reapplying next year, so that you are more confident of your physics abilities?

goodtimes
Posts: 4
Joined: Fri Jul 04, 2008 10:33 am

Re: Deciding between programs: please help

Postby goodtimes » Sat Jul 05, 2008 9:30 am

excel wrote:I wonder if you are asking all the right questions.

If you go to the low-ranked university, I would imagine that you will have to get a job locally. So, are there high schools, community colleges etc. near that university where you can get a teaching job after graduating or maybe even as a part-time during your PhD? Also, at which university will you have a higher chance of getting funding after the first year either directly from the department or by teaching part-time at a local community college? Would it be better to spend this year working at whatever job you have right now and spending some time studying college-level physics and reapplying next year, so that you are more confident of your physics abilities?


I'm not certain which program I will have the better chance of getting funding next year. Since I applied late this year, I didn't get a good handle on that. Given my options, I am wondering whether going to the higher ranked program and leaving with a master's degree will damage or help my academic credibility as a PhD student. The next school might be impressed by the master's degree or they might assume that I flunked out of the higher ranked program and am not ready for their PhD program either. Do you think the master's degree would help or hurt my admissions profile, given that I already have a master's in a different subject area? If I go through the lower ranked program a year faster and get my PhD in 4 years but the higher ranked transfer to a different PhD program takes 5 years, will the extra year or two of time seriously damage my tenure track bid in the eyes of hiring committees? As far as liking the local areas, I know I prefer the higher ranked program's area to the other area.

excel
Posts: 257
Joined: Tue Feb 19, 2008 2:33 am

Re: Deciding between programs: please help

Postby excel » Sat Jul 05, 2008 10:47 am

I can answer one question definitely. 5-6 years to get a PhD is not at all considered abnormal. By the way, you have your MS in a different field altogether, so that should not count towards the time to get a physics PhD. The crucial thing in the hiring decision may be the quality and nature of your research. The higher ranked program will probably give you a better chance to do a quality project. Regarding academic credibility, I know of several science students who entered top programs after doing MS from somewhere else.




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