Masters to top PhD program?

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CyberShot
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Masters to top PhD program?

Postby CyberShot » Mon Aug 08, 2011 4:22 pm

I was wondering if we could start a thread similar to "Applicant Profiles and Admission Results", but only for Masters students. I am curious to know if someone from a physics Masters program at a state school has the the same chance of admission to Harvard, Princeton, or MIT PhD program vs someone with similar stats from undergraduate. How hard is it to get into top 10 schools from Master's programs? Can the Masters program serve as a kind of clean slate for someone who messed up his/her undergrad physics GPA, and wants to do well in the Masters program to get into a top PhD program?



P.S. Please no responses like "it's unlikely you will succeed in the Master's program after you bombed your undergrad."


Thanks.

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midwestphysics
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Re: Masters to top PhD program?

Postby midwestphysics » Mon Aug 08, 2011 5:06 pm

I don't have any evidence to cite, but I definitely think it is possible. Your chances might not be the same as a stellar undergrad, but they're better than when you weren't a stellar undergrad. I think that if you're coming out of a masters the research would be the make or break part. If you have some really good grad student level research I see no reason why schools wouldn't be interested in you. Age might play a factor, but if you aren't too old I could see it working out for the best.

bfollinprm
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Re: Masters to top PhD program?

Postby bfollinprm » Tue Aug 09, 2011 1:43 am

CyberShot wrote:I am curious to know if someone from a physics Masters program at a state school has the the same chance of admission to Harvard, Princeton, or MIT PhD program vs someone with similar stats from undergraduate. How hard is it to get into top 10 schools from Master's programs?....


CyberShot wrote:P.S. Please no responses like "it's unlikely you will succeed in the Master's program after you bombed your undergrad."
Thanks.


If you're curious as to the answer, you shouldn't tell people they aren't allowed to post one of the two possibilities.

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HappyQuark
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Re: Masters to top PhD program?

Postby HappyQuark » Tue Aug 09, 2011 5:51 am

bfollinprm wrote:
CyberShot wrote:I am curious to know if someone from a physics Masters program at a state school has the the same chance of admission to Harvard, Princeton, or MIT PhD program vs someone with similar stats from undergraduate. How hard is it to get into top 10 schools from Master's programs?....


CyberShot wrote:P.S. Please no responses like "it's unlikely you will succeed in the Master's program after you bombed your undergrad."
Thanks.


If you're curious as to the answer, you shouldn't tell people they aren't allowed to post one of the two possibilities.


Do you think I'm awesome, sexy and brilliant?

P.S. please make sure all your responses answer in the affirmative.

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HappyQuark
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Re: Masters to top PhD program?

Postby HappyQuark » Tue Aug 09, 2011 6:50 am

CyberShot wrote:I was wondering if we could start a thread similar to "Applicant Profiles and Admission Results", but only for Masters students. I am curious to know if someone from a physics Masters program at a state school has the the same chance of admission to Harvard, Princeton, or MIT PhD program vs someone with similar stats from undergraduate. How hard is it to get into top 10 schools from Master's programs? Can the Masters program serve as a kind of clean slate for someone who messed up his/her undergrad physics GPA, and wants to do well in the Masters program to get into a top PhD program?



P.S. Please no responses like "it's unlikely you will succeed in the Master's program after you bombed your undergrad."


Thanks.


Here is my understanding based on previous forum topics, discussions with professors and some reasonable reasonings.

Universities and their research programs care about one thing, research. Can you do it and can you do it well? It is your responsibility to answer that question and, for the for the most part, all of the same expectations universities have for recent graduates will be expected of a Master's student. In fact (roughly in order of importance) have you done research, what kind and, if so, have you been published? What did your advisors think of you? How did you do in your classes? How well do you do on standardized tests?

The main difference a Master's student faces is precisely the one you, for some odd reason, explicitly told everyone not to talk about. How well did you do as an undergrad? There really is nothing about a Master's student that makes them necessarily less desirable than an undergrad, especially since presumably they wen't through the standard undergrad curriculum and have now completed graduate level coursework that the PhD program won't have to spend their time or money on. The down side of being a Master's student involves the question that will inevitably be asked, "Why didn't you go directly into a PhD program". I don't have any hard numbers but I'd assume, like most admission committees probably assume, that the reason is usually because you did poorly as an undergrad and/or was poorly prepared for graduate school. I'm not saying that this is the case for you specifically, just that statistically speaking it is probably true that most people that go to a Master's program either struggled in undergrad or were on the fence about post-graduate education, neither quality being particularly desireable out of a grad student.

If you want to stand any chance at any of the top 10 schools, you'll need to address this concern. Were you a *** undergrad? If so, can you demonstrate that you've done a 180 in grad school? Can you point to some legitimate reason that you did so poorly or, at the very least, can you demonstrate that whatever your faults as an undergrad were, they didn't follow you into your Master's program?

CyberShot
Posts: 23
Joined: Sat May 15, 2010 5:43 pm

Re: Masters to top PhD program?

Postby CyberShot » Tue Aug 09, 2011 1:57 pm

bfollinprm wrote:
CyberShot wrote:I am curious to know if someone from a physics Masters program at a state school has the the same chance of admission to Harvard, Princeton, or MIT PhD program vs someone with similar stats from undergraduate. How hard is it to get into top 10 schools from Master's programs?....


CyberShot wrote:P.S. Please no responses like "it's unlikely you will succeed in the Master's program after you bombed your undergrad."
Thanks.


If you're curious as to the answer, you shouldn't tell people they aren't allowed to post one of the two possibilities.



That's because I've too many times heard that as a possibility, and acknowledge it. I now would like to know the other possibility.


HappyQuark wrote:
CyberShot wrote:I was wondering if we could start a thread similar to "Applicant Profiles and Admission Results", but only for Masters students. I am curious to know if someone from a physics Masters program at a state school has the the same chance of admission to Harvard, Princeton, or MIT PhD program vs someone with similar stats from undergraduate. How hard is it to get into top 10 schools from Master's programs? Can the Masters program serve as a kind of clean slate for someone who messed up his/her undergrad physics GPA, and wants to do well in the Masters program to get into a top PhD program?



P.S. Please no responses like "it's unlikely you will succeed in the Master's program after you bombed your undergrad."


Thanks.


Here is my understanding based on previous forum topics, discussions with professors and some reasonable reasonings.

Universities and their research programs care about one thing, research. Can you do it and can you do it well? It is your responsibility to answer that question and, for the for the most part, all of the same expectations universities have for recent graduates will be expected of a Master's student. In fact (roughly in order of importance) have you done research, what kind and, if so, have you been published? What did your advisors think of you? How did you do in your classes? How well do you do on standardized tests?

The main difference a Master's student faces is precisely the one you, for some odd reason, explicitly told everyone not to talk about. How well did you do as an undergrad? There really is nothing about a Master's student that makes them necessarily less desirable than an undergrad, especially since presumably they wen't through the standard undergrad curriculum and have now completed graduate level coursework that the PhD program won't have to spend their time or money on. The down side of being a Master's student involves the question that will inevitably be asked, "Why didn't you go directly into a PhD program". I don't have any hard numbers but I'd assume, like most admission committees probably assume, that the reason is usually because you did poorly as an undergrad and/or was poorly prepared for graduate school. I'm not saying that this is the case for you specifically, just that statistically speaking it is probably true that most people that go to a Master's program either struggled in undergrad or were on the fence about post-graduate education, neither quality being particularly desireable out of a grad student.

If you want to stand any chance at any of the top 10 schools, you'll need to address this concern. Were you a *** undergrad? If so, can you demonstrate that you've done a 180 in grad school? Can you point to some legitimate reason that you did so poorly or, at the very least, can you demonstrate that whatever your faults as an undergrad were, they didn't follow you into your Master's program?


Thanks for the insightful comments.

However, my main problem is with my lack of motivation and sub-stellar GPA (around a 2.8). I have been suffering severe emotional distress of late (I have supporting documentation). Also, I haven't even begun my upper division coursework, though I am hoping that after medication, my cognitive faculties will return to me at 100%. Even if got A's in the EM, QM, CM, and Stat Mech upper div courses, that would only bring my GPA up to a 3.2. Also, I've only done one research project which hasn't turned out to be too fruitful since I haven't been giving it my full attention because of my situation. Thus, it's probably too late to get into a top tier school.

As a remedy, I'm trying to devise a plan to go to an average graduate school, complete a Master's and hopefully turn everything around with a 4.0 GPA and amazing research. Then, I'll hopefully have the resume of a strong applicant applying to a top 10 grad program.

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

Re: Masters to top PhD program?

Postby bfollinprm » Tue Aug 09, 2011 3:02 pm

Sounds like you need the time. A PhD is very stressful, and your adviser isn't going to have a lot of patience for little progress.

TheBeast
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Re: Masters to top PhD program?

Postby TheBeast » Wed Aug 10, 2011 1:10 pm

As someone who had pretty bad undergrad marks (but will soon be matriculating at a top UK school after doing a Master's in Canada), here are my suggestions:

1. Take things one step at a time. Concentrate on doing well in the remainder of your undergrad program.

2. Don't but too much emphasis on the whole notion of top 10 schools. Even for students with stellar application profiles, there's no guarantee that they will be accepted at any top 10 institution. It's important for you to figure out what kind of research you want to do and what schools excel in that field. Sometimes, the so-called top physics school aren't that great in your particular area of interest.

3. Apply to PhD programs (that are fits for your applicant profile and research interests) and Master's programs. You might find that if you have an acceptance from a PhD program, you might just want to go with that, rather than doing a Master's program and having to apply again later for a PhD program.

4. If you decide to do a Master's program, you will want to do well, academically. However, in my experience, although a 4.0 GPA in a Master's program is as good as you can do, it's not particularly impressive. Due to a variety of factors, it's easier for a grad student in a grad class to get an A than it is for an undergrad in an undergrad class (in my opinion). There's also proportionately more A distributed in grad school.

5. When starting a Master's project, pick a research project early and work on something that will give you exposure to other institutions (via collaborators, joint projects that use another school's equipment, etc.).

6. Network like you life depended on it. If you manage to make a solid enough impression on a prof at another school, that may tip the scales in your favour at being accepted at that school when you eventually apply for your PhD.

You may also consider taking a year off after your undergrad and just do research. It will give you a chance to clear your head and get back in the academic mindframe and should lead to stronger research experience and stronger letters of reference.




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