Help with UIUC vs. UChicago MS-PSD

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akander
Posts: 9
Joined: Mon Feb 06, 2017 4:19 pm

Help with UIUC vs. UChicago MS-PSD

Postby akander » Sat Mar 18, 2017 10:26 pm

Hi,

I've gotten into UIUC and the UChicago Masters in physics. I'm interested in theory, but I'm not set on whether I want to do particle theory or condensed matter. Obviously for CMT, UIUC is the no-brainer, but there's about a ~60% chance I do HET. What should I do? Thanks.

metapuff
Posts: 24
Joined: Sat Aug 22, 2015 11:28 am

Re: Help with UIUC vs. UChicago MS-PSD

Postby metapuff » Sun Mar 19, 2017 2:15 am

Actually, I think Chicago is better for both. They recently got Ryu (from UIUC) who is excellent, and is famous for both CMT and holography things. Dam Son is fantastic and also does a bit of holography. Chicago is also about to open a new center for CMT / hep-th, and it sounds awesome. I'd do Chicago.

akander
Posts: 9
Joined: Mon Feb 06, 2017 4:19 pm

Re: Help with UIUC vs. UChicago MS-PSD

Postby akander » Sun Mar 19, 2017 11:04 am

I guess I didn't explicitly mention it, but I got into the UIUC PhD program (Compared to the UChicago masters). Would it look bad for me to do a masters at Chicago before applying to PhD places again?

tooterfish
Posts: 16
Joined: Mon May 16, 2016 12:05 am

Re: Help with UIUC vs. UChicago MS-PSD

Postby tooterfish » Mon Mar 20, 2017 7:41 pm

Pursue the PhD. The first two years of a PhD program is essentially a Master's program. You'd be going out of your way if you earned the MS. I can't see how it would help.

bstrekha
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Joined: Tue Feb 14, 2017 2:34 am

Re: Help with UIUC vs. UChicago MS-PSD

Postby bstrekha » Mon Mar 20, 2017 10:52 pm

tooterfish wrote:Pursue the PhD. The first two years of a PhD program is essentially a Master's program. You'd be going out of your way if you earned the MS. I can't see how it would help.


I'd imagine they are thinking of getting a Master's at Chicago and then transferring to a graduate school like Harvard instead of getting a PhD from UIUC.

akander
Posts: 9
Joined: Mon Feb 06, 2017 4:19 pm

Re: Help with UIUC vs. UChicago MS-PSD

Postby akander » Mon Mar 20, 2017 11:55 pm

bstrekha wrote:
tooterfish wrote:Pursue the PhD. The first two years of a PhD program is essentially a Master's program. You'd be going out of your way if you earned the MS. I can't see how it would help.


I'd imagine they are thinking of getting a Master's at Chicago and then transferring to a graduate school like Harvard instead of getting a PhD from UIUC.


Precisely this.

bstrekha
Posts: 17
Joined: Tue Feb 14, 2017 2:34 am

Re: Help with UIUC vs. UChicago MS-PSD

Postby bstrekha » Tue Mar 21, 2017 7:46 pm

akander wrote:
bstrekha wrote:
tooterfish wrote:Pursue the PhD. The first two years of a PhD program is essentially a Master's program. You'd be going out of your way if you earned the MS. I can't see how it would help.


I'd imagine they are thinking of getting a Master's at Chicago and then transferring to a graduate school like Harvard instead of getting a PhD from UIUC.


Precisely this.


Is your Master's funded? If yes, I think either choice is fine. However, if you need to pay out of pocket for the Master's I would probably just go straight for the PhD from UIUC.

akander
Posts: 9
Joined: Mon Feb 06, 2017 4:19 pm

Re: Help with UIUC vs. UChicago MS-PSD

Postby akander » Tue Mar 21, 2017 10:14 pm

bstrekha wrote:
Is your Master's funded? If yes, I think either choice is fine. However, if you need to pay out of pocket for the Master's I would probably just go straight for the PhD from UIUC.


Yes it is (aside from housing, which I don't mind covering), which makes this even more of a tough decision.

tooterfish
Posts: 16
Joined: Mon May 16, 2016 12:05 am

Re: Help with UIUC vs. UChicago MS-PSD

Postby tooterfish » Wed Mar 22, 2017 3:03 pm

The MS funding makes it trickier... Stipend and tuition? UChicago is a great place, so I hear. Still, I would have my reservations. Are you supposing that the MS will strengthen your application towards top ten PhD programs? It might, but I would be wary of that mindset. Ask your professors what they think about this matter... From what I've gleaned, MS applicants are held to a different bar. Without striking research, you'll be facing difficult competition. Cultivating research in a MS program can sometimes be a challenge, though, as your grad studies will be intense.

There's also the issue of classes. Entering a PhD from a MS likely means repeating a year of courses... You may be able to skip some, but I hear it is rare to bypass all the core courses, even if you've taken them. Again, the first two years of a PhD in the US is essentially a MS degree. By completing the MS first, you may be extending your number of years as a student.

All this in mind, I would be hard pressed to forfeit the PhD offer from UIUC. If you're concerned about the prestige of UIUC vs. Harvard or Princeton or whatnot, then, well, I understand. Those schools have established a brand name for themselves that carries clout. But prestige isn't the cornerstone of academia. It's research! You'll likely find some theorists whose work sparks your interest at UIUC, and you'd be advancing your career at a top institution.

Anyway, either route will likely be successful, but as far as career tactics go, I would say the MS route is less clear and more time-consuming than the PhD one. Worst case scenario: after the MS, you'll hopefully be admitted to a strong PhD program, but it may not be as highly ranked as you would have hoped. You still would have a strong MS degree under your belt in case you bail on the PhD, and you would have lived and learned in Chicago. Best case: you kick butt in the MS program and get admitted to your dream schools later. The downside is you're spending more time as a student.




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