What would YOU do? (academic career opinions)

  • heyom

    Posts: 389

    Jul 17, 2013 10:07 AM GMT
    For any academics who been through the Master's PHD thing before, I wanted your opinion, just to see what others would do.

    So I applied at several masters programmes in [subject]. I have two possible scenario's so far:

    SCHOOL (A):
    School ranked in the twenties of the USA, not super-prestigious, but reasonably ranked. I contact the school and ask to be assigned to a professor that is specifically interested in my research field, they recommend me a professor who has about a 90% overlap with me on research interest and activity. This professor has about 100 publications, mentored several students, is directly involved in one of the biggest centres in the research field in the USA in my particular field, and most importantly, is also a professor in the best programme for that field in the foreign county where I have nationality. (and would thus be excellent to work in my field in research specifically in both the USA and my country of nationality). School will allow me to set up my own research if I want to, and go for publication. Curriculum is work-based, I will have a lot of freedom to set up my own work and pursue my own other research subjects while at school.

    DRAWBACK: the professor has not gotten back to me yet, so though the programme director said I can get that professor as supervisor, the professor has not confirmed with me personally (but the likelihood I will be assigned to this professor is still quite high). Curriculum is not as strong as in the school (Z). Nowhere near as prestigious, rigorous, and not as international (being in the twenties). Definitely does not incite the reaction of people's eyes going open and saying "wow" as when you say you're from an Oxbridge school, like school (Z).

    SCHOOL (Z)
    School ranked at the very top of the top worldwide, "Oxbridge"-fame, excellent curriculum, so great opportunities for meeting people worldwide, who are also great in their field. I get a professor who is interested in supervising me, and the professor contacts me to confirm interest, so I am sure to have supervision with this one. That professor has worked worldwide and is editor-in-chief of a scientific journal in a closely related field, and has 250 publications. Is a major consultant to both huge governmental and non-governmental agencies, (US government, UN, Pan-American organisations etc.) and holds countless extremely prestigious fellowships (Rockefeller, Fulbright). Research interests are definitely not as close as the professor in (A) but not too far, say about 40%. The pofessor says that if I do the masters, I will get a "leg up" on getting into a phd at this prestigious school afterwards. (And I mean, EXTREMELY prestigious, so much so that I could not tell my family if I turned it down, because they would say I was crazy to do so, definitely within the Oxbridge category)

    DRAWBACK: the programme does not allow for a thesis, so no publication. Without a thesis, may be a problem applying for a phd elsewhere. (I am basically stuck at that school for both Masters and PHD). Also, a "leg up" is no real guarantee of being admitted to the PHD after. Curriculum is strong, but extremely course-intensive, with practically NO time at all to pursue my present research (which will significantly delay the procural of grants which I really need.)

    Information on financial aid pending for both schools. Both are very expensive in the end, so I will need it.

    But sofar, in this scenario....

    What would YOU do????
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jul 17, 2013 10:41 AM GMT
    I'd go with (A) to pursue the current research. After all, if you don't do what you enjoy, you won't enjoy what you do. And no amount of prestige can change that.
  • heyom

    Posts: 389

    Jul 17, 2013 10:55 AM GMT
    paulflexes saidI'd go with (A) to pursue the current research. After all, if you don't do what you enjoy, you won't enjoy what you do. And no amount of prestige can change that.

    HA! Thanks. thats what I keep saying to myself.. But I admit many will say it's crazy not to take the prestigious school, haha.
  • Fable

    Posts: 3866

    Jul 17, 2013 12:51 PM GMT
    dude, just call the professor.
  • GeminiJock

    Posts: 8

    Jul 17, 2013 12:57 PM GMT
    Go to school A; it's only a Masters, after all. In grad and post-grad world, it's "publish or perish". Besides, you won't get into a credible doctoral program without publishing.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jul 17, 2013 4:47 PM GMT
    I concur with the A votes. No phd here but I worked at a university.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jul 17, 2013 8:06 PM GMT
    paulflexes saidI'd go with (A) to pursue the current research. After all, if you don't do what you enjoy, you won't enjoy what you do. And no amount of prestige can change that.

    Agreed. Do what you love and it will not be a job.
  • Whipmagic

    Posts: 1481

    Jul 17, 2013 8:10 PM GMT
    It depends a bit on the field, but generally I'd say a Master's from a top-20 school with a publication record beats one form a top-three school without publications. And I would assume that you're itching to get into research and scholarly work as quickly as possible, and this again points to school A. And, if you're successful at that, your record won't look any weaker if you decide to go to school B for the PhD after you got your Master's at A.
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    Jul 17, 2013 8:19 PM GMT
    No PHD program director will care that you come from Harvard/MIT/Oxford (B) if you don't have publications and research experience. Name only gets you so far. Plus you WONT be using your teacher's numerous connections and his research interests are significantly different from yours, so he's basically useless to you.

    If you want to get into their PHD program, you can do it from the other university anyway. A leg up is only that... a leg up.

    Imo you should go to A.
  • heyom

    Posts: 389

    Jul 17, 2013 10:44 PM GMT
    Thanks guys, all my colleagues basically agree. The name is only extremely attractive, but what matters is: publish! (and professor for that matter)

    To those who said professor: yes, that is the main of the three factors
  • tidus11

    Posts: 31

    Jul 17, 2013 10:55 PM GMT
    It sounds like professor A is a better fit, though I would be a bit wary if he hasn't responded (depending on how long it's been of course). If he isn't really interested in working with you, I wouldn't recommend joining his lab, even if you share mutual research interests. But, I'd send a second email in three weeks or so just to check in, they are often quite busy during the summer and may forget about your email.

    While I can understand your concern about the curriculum, grad school largely differs from undergrad in that the majority of it is self taught or self sought out at least (at least in my field). So even if a school offers great courses, you will want to focus on research more than taking classes, assuming your interests are in a research career. For this reason also I would probably choose Prof. A over B since you wouldn't get much (if any) research experience with Prof. B and it sounds like that is of interest to you.

    Also, realize that being able to set up your own research as a masters student is a pretty big deal so I would see this as a huge draw.

    Regarding prestige, often the big wigs, as Professor B sounds like, usually have huge labs, and while they offer tons of funding, resources, and reputation, they are usually lacking in time. It depends on what you want, some people are very independent and are ok with hardly ever seeing their advisor. Alternatively, if you find you like meeting regularly with your advisor it may be better to go with someone who will have more time. Lastly, I don't think school prestige ends up being very important for graduate school. When labs are looking at you for post-docs and professorship positions, they will look at your publication record and the quality of research you've done. If university prestige is on their evaluation list, it's probably near the bottom.

    The most important thing is to learn how to conduct good research as an independent researcher, which in the best case scenario, involves studying something you love and are passionate about. I concur with the above advice and think overall, Professor A would be a better choice.

    Good luck!
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jul 18, 2013 2:25 AM GMT
    I agree with the points previously presented.

    I am currently halfway through my master's in a top 15 school for my field. I have gained a lot of research experience and work with a wonderful, well known professor in my field. I have learned much more from working with my professor than in the classroom.
    I have peers who are just now trying to get involved in research (we graduate in May) and I am light-years ahead of them.
    Research experience is MUCH more important than grades (though they are still important) for PhD programs and future work endeavors.
    In addition, as you brought up, some PhD programs will not accept students without a completed thesis. So, if you were to attend school B and dislike it, you are SOL and must stay at that school for the PhD. Sounds miserable.

    A lot of professors are out of the office during the summer, or primarily focusing on research and may not check their email often. Depending on how long it has been, send another email or better yet as previously suggested, call and leave a message.

    Good Luck Man!
  • Fireworkz

    Posts: 606

    Feb 12, 2016 3:21 PM GMT
    I think you're a bit late on this one.