Kept on masters, what next?

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ayushya
Posts: 23
Joined: Tue Feb 12, 2013 7:45 pm

Kept on masters, what next?

Postby ayushya » Fri Aug 23, 2013 11:10 am

Hi guys,
Let me go through some key points here:

1) I was admitted to top 60 PhD program (undergrad background: engineering).

2) Took graduate classical mechanics class in fall (which I shouldn't have) and failed its qual. Was asked to take the upper undergrad level class in spring semester.

2) Didn't pass upper undergrad statistical mechanics class at appropriate level in spring semester (I was having a bad day or something).

3) Kept on a masters program instead after the spring semester.

4) I'll be taking core courses and plan to pass them all this year, which is by the way the only chance I will probably get.

5) I'm also working with a prof in astrophysics. Looking forward to publishing a paper or two by the end of spring semester.

6) Talked to profs about getting recommendation letter, to which they said they are happy to write for me. Because, they believe that what happened to me was unfair.

What do you guys think: do I have a shot at some good schools when I reapply for 2014 admissions? Or, do you think the present school should allow me to continue towards PhD degree, so long as I pass the quals this year? ( However, I will still need to apply to schools as I can't take that risk of whether they'll keep me or not).

Thanks!

TakeruK
Posts: 817
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Kept on masters, what next?

Postby TakeruK » Fri Aug 23, 2013 11:57 am

It's pretty hard to tell, since there are a lot of unknowns still. I would guess that whatever schools accepted you the first time around (i.e. Fall 2012?) might accept you again for Fall 2014 after you finish your Masters, especially if your profs write you strong letters! I'm not sure if the schools that rejected you in the last round would change their mind this time, since it does not sound like your profile would have changed very much since the last round. Sure, you would have completed the core courses (although at time of application, not all of them might be complete) but the classical/statistical mechanics failures would be a big flag (especially since many undergrads applying directly to PhD schools would have already passed their undergrad stat mech class at a high level).

As for staying at the same school, only your program can answer that. I'd imagine there is some departmental policy on the requirements to continue in a PhD program, so you have to talk to your profs and figure out what you can do to meet those requirements. If they allow you to stay, then, in my opinion, this might be the best way to finish your PhD, but you should definitely apply to other schools for Fall 2014 as well, to keep options open.

ayushya
Posts: 23
Joined: Tue Feb 12, 2013 7:45 pm

Re: Kept on masters, what next?

Postby ayushya » Fri Aug 23, 2013 1:35 pm

TakeruK wrote:It's pretty hard to tell, since there are a lot of unknowns still. I would guess that whatever schools accepted you the first time around (i.e. Fall 2012?) might accept you again for Fall 2014 after you finish your Masters, especially if your profs write you strong letters! I'm not sure if the schools that rejected you in the last round would change their mind this time, since it does not sound like your profile would have changed very much since the last round. Sure, you would have completed the core courses (although at time of application, not all of them might be complete) but the classical/statistical mechanics failures would be a big flag (especially since many undergrads applying directly to PhD schools would have already passed their undergrad stat mech class at a high level).

As for staying at the same school, only your program can answer that. I'd imagine there is some departmental policy on the requirements to continue in a PhD program, so you have to talk to your profs and figure out what you can do to meet those requirements. If they allow you to stay, then, in my opinion, this might be the best way to finish your PhD, but you should definitely apply to other schools for Fall 2014 as well, to keep options open.


Thanks for your reply TakeruK.

From what my profs told me, my guess is that I should be getting strong letters, in spite of what has happened. I have sort of short-listed some schools, but most of them are places where I'll be applying for the first time and so, I don't have much idea as what to expect. At the time of application, I will be done with 4/6 of the core courses. I intend to improve my GPA in the coming semester, which hopefully should help in the admission process. Classical failure will be covered soon by retaking its qual before application process, and so my guess is that it shouldn't be a problem, since I come from engineering background without having taken any physics courses! I do agree that its a shame I did bad in that course, but as I said before, I was seeing that material for first time. Anyway, as with applications, I have no idea what kind of schools would be ready to accept me, as I'm applying to whole different schools than in 2012.

And about staying at my present school, I have talked to some senior grad students and they advised me to just pass the quals and make an appeal to the department to consider me for PhD program. But, for now, I do have to be prepared for the application process!

ayushya
Posts: 23
Joined: Tue Feb 12, 2013 7:45 pm

Re: Kept on masters, what next?

Postby ayushya » Sun Aug 25, 2013 5:04 pm

So what range of schools should I be looking at? Top 20? Top 60? Top 100?
I'm confused.

hermitw
Posts: 40
Joined: Sat Mar 03, 2012 3:11 am

Re: Kept on masters, what next?

Postby hermitw » Mon Aug 26, 2013 7:49 pm

You can apply to Canadian univ for PhD, with your master degree. As my supervisor who is the graduate program chair told me, for master students, research is much more important. And you can probably finish your PhD within 4 years.

ayushya
Posts: 23
Joined: Tue Feb 12, 2013 7:45 pm

Re: Kept on masters, what next?

Postby ayushya » Mon Aug 26, 2013 7:54 pm

hermitw wrote:You can apply to Canadian univ for PhD, with your master degree. As my supervisor who is the graduate program chair told me, for master students, research is much more important. And you can probably finish your PhD within 4 years.


Thanks for reminding me about Canadian universities. I plan to apply there as well. Also, (as mentioned in my earlier post) I will be having a year's worth of research by the time I finish with my masters. So when the application season is on, I should be done with half the work. Would the admissions committee take that into account in my favor? If so, should I be aiming higher?

kangaroo
Posts: 130
Joined: Fri Jan 13, 2012 5:31 am

Re: Kept on masters, what next?

Postby kangaroo » Tue Aug 27, 2013 5:44 am

I'm surprised that you can do astrophysics research without having a decent grasp of classical mechanics. Or are you just mainly involved in the building of instruments and stuff?

Anyway, what is your authorship on the publications that you intend to put out this year?

ayushya
Posts: 23
Joined: Tue Feb 12, 2013 7:45 pm

Re: Kept on masters, what next?

Postby ayushya » Tue Aug 27, 2013 8:27 am

kangaroo wrote:I'm surprised that you can do astrophysics research without having a decent grasp of classical mechanics. Or are you just mainly involved in the building of instruments and stuff?

Anyway, what is your authorship on the publications that you intend to put out this year?


Its not about the grasp that my advisor worried about. The classical mechanics professor failed almost half the class in quals (he just loves to do that)!

Anyway, I cannot say about the authorship now, but I'm assuming 2nd or 3rd author. The work is about coding and plotting curves.

ol
Posts: 57
Joined: Thu Mar 03, 2011 5:07 pm

Re: Kept on masters, what next?

Postby ol » Tue Aug 27, 2013 8:28 am

A few things:
1) The minute you mention you didn't pass the qual in a couple sections will send off a big flag, so when you write your personal statement you need to treat this delicately. It might be better to have the profs say it in their recs if they think it was unfair - it might go better coming from them. I'm not sure how to handle this. However, do not lie and say you passed the qual when you didn't.

2) It would be helpful posting a little bit more about you, namely PGRE and GPA. It might be a good idea to retake the PGRE in an effort to show that you have improved your score and learned more physics during your master's, since those classes you want to retake will not show up on the transcript you send.

3) As far as what schools to apply to, that's going to depend. You have a very legitimate reason for not passing the qual which c an be remedied. We don't know your PGRE, but if it were to significantly improve, you may be able to apply to a better ranked school and be admitted.

4) You mentioned working for an astrophysics prof. Is it possible that you might be more interested in an astronomy phd? They are much more interested in research, and astro programs don't require that you pass a physics qual, just an astro one. This may be to your advantage, since they won't care as much about your not passing.

5) I would look at schools that have a different qual structure too. If you can find programs that don't have a written qual and just have an oral one on research then they probably won't care as much.

Hope this helps and good luck.

TakeruK
Posts: 817
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Kept on masters, what next?

Postby TakeruK » Tue Aug 27, 2013 12:26 pm

kangaroo wrote:I'm surprised that you can do astrophysics research without having a decent grasp of classical mechanics. Or are you just mainly involved in the building of instruments and stuff?

Anyway, what is your authorship on the publications that you intend to put out this year?


Graduate level classical mechanics is often not part of most astronomy/astrophysics graduate programs. I've only seen it as a requirement when the program is actually a part of the Physics department. Sometimes there will be an elective "astronomical dynamics" class which will teach classical mechanics concepts that are important to astronomy. In addition, the important concepts related to e.g. planet formation, star formation, galaxy evolution etc. would be taught as part of those classes. But, most astronomy PhDs will not have been required to learn things like Lagrangian or Hamiltonian formulation of classical mechanics, or be able to "solve" weird systems like double pulley systems etc. Obviously, if your research is in orbital dynamics or some direct form of applying classical mechanics to astronomy, then you would need to have taken these courses! But this is not the majority of astrophysics/astronomy.

ayushya
Posts: 23
Joined: Tue Feb 12, 2013 7:45 pm

Re: Kept on masters, what next?

Postby ayushya » Tue Aug 27, 2013 7:33 pm

ol wrote:A few things:
1) The minute you mention you didn't pass the qual in a couple sections will send off a big flag, so when you write your personal statement you need to treat this delicately. It might be better to have the profs say it in their recs if they think it was unfair - it might go better coming from them. I'm not sure how to handle this. However, do not lie and say you passed the qual when you didn't.

2) It would be helpful posting a little bit more about you, namely PGRE and GPA. It might be a good idea to retake the PGRE in an effort to show that you have improved your score and learned more physics during your master's, since those classes you want to retake will not show up on the transcript you send.

3) As far as what schools to apply to, that's going to depend. You have a very legitimate reason for not passing the qual which c an be remedied. We don't know your PGRE, but if it were to significantly improve, you may be able to apply to a better ranked school and be admitted.

4) You mentioned working for an astrophysics prof. Is it possible that you might be more interested in an astronomy phd? They are much more interested in research, and astro programs don't require that you pass a physics qual, just an astro one. This may be to your advantage, since they won't care as much about your not passing.

5) I would look at schools that have a different qual structure too. If you can find programs that don't have a written qual and just have an oral one on research then they probably won't care as much.

Hope this helps and good luck.


Thank you! I will keep these in mind.




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