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I will try to describe my situation briefly. The university I'm currently studying at offers a 4-year Bachelor program in mathematics.

I am currently in my 3rd year and the program for the 4th year consists only of optional courses (which I choose). As I have taken a rather high amount of optional courses so far, I can satisfy my ECTS requirements for the whole program in 3 years. The university, in this situation, would allow me to graduate at the end of my third year. Then, I could pursue an MSc. degree at the same university for a year and graduate with an MSc at the end of my 4th year of study in the university.

I would like to note that this has been done before by other students here and I'm not fantasizing.

My intention is to apply for a PhD at a university in the USA after the 4th year. (I am not a US citizen and I haven't studied there).

My question is: would getting an earlier BSc and MSc degree affect (negatively or positively) my chances for admission in a top university in the USA? Should I just graduate with a BSc. in math? I know that sometimes having a MSc. from the same university can be a negative sign. Should I be worried about that?

Some other background: My current university is not really "elite" of any sort; it barely enters the top 600 in the world. I have a few published articles and I have participated in conferences. I am also currently pursuing an internship in a research institute in the country.

Thank you.

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Have you considered making an application for both? Apply for the masters at your school and for PhD schools in the US. If you don't get accepted in the US, you can use the MSc as a fallback. –  Jordan Mahar Feb 18 '13 at 23:01
    
@JordanMahar I am preparing for applying for the academic year 2014-2015, not 2013-2014. So the choice is rather 4 years in my local uni for BSc or 3 years in my local uni for BSci + 1 year in my local uni for MS. –  K.Steff Feb 18 '13 at 23:36

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

(I'm on the admissions committee of a top-10 US computer science department; my advice may be way off base for mathematics PhD programs.)

All else being equal, getting a master's degree in one year would probably count against you. You're far better off taking some graduate-level courses, and possibly getting some research experience, while staying in the BSc progam.

At least in my department, PhD applicants who already have master's degrees are held to a significantly higher standard than applicants who only have bachelor's degrees. While having formal research experience is an advantage for undergraduate applicants, it's a de facto requirement for applicants with an master's degree. One year is not a lot of time to get some real (meaning publishable) research experience, especially since most one-year master's programs have heavy coursework requirements. And you'll be competing with other MS applicants who've already spent two years in graduate school.

My department steers PhD-oriented undergraduates away from our 5-year BS/MS program for this precise reason.

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One issue to keep in mind is that in the US, the PhD program includes the coursework phase associated with the Master's degrees in Europe.

While this wouldn't be a negative factor in your admission, you may or am not be able to get a waiver for the coursework phase, even with a Master's already in hand. In some cases, they'll let you place out of courses, in others, they might not. Therefore, you should contact the individual schools you want to apply to and inquire about their policies.

However a Master's degree will help you if you do well; if you struggle, it probably won't be of much benefit at all.

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