I'm applying for research-based Masters in Oceanography. So far, I've lined up advisors at University of Massachusetts (an intercampus program), South Florida, Georgia, and New Hampshire. According to here,they are in top 150 globally for oceanography. Moreover, my current work supervisor says 3/4 are well-known.
I've also been talking to a UCSD prof. He told me he is unsure if he will be taking on students but is more inclined to accept a PhD student (since they'd be with him longer). I would really like to go to UCSD for my PhD.
Will going to a lower ranked MS have a big effect on PhD applications?
What can I do to distinguish myself in PhD application 1.5 or 2 years from now should the MS be low rank?