I'm a student in a "second-rate" engineering school in France (by that I mean that it offers a decent formation but has basically no appeal for employers in the kind of jobs I want). This is deeply unsatisfying to me for several reasons:
- I recently discovered (during an international exchange) that I strongly prefer the mathematical aspects of computer science to the programming side of it, and I would like to continue my career working on Machine Learning/statistics, which is not an option in my current school. I've done pure mathematics and physics in my two years of preparatory classes, which ended a year and a half ago, but haven't had a proper math course since then, except a few probabilities and boolean logic.
- The school's ranking and reputation are very disappointing to me. Whatever people can say about the uselessness of rankings and the importance of following one's passions etc., I know I could have done much better had I had a better environment (as opposed to a dysfunctional family, social isolation and as a result, mental health problems), and I feel like my studies have been stolen from me.
I'm in my first year of Master's degree (4th year after high school), and considering my options. I wonder if, by working hard enough, it's still possible to get a degree from a more reputable institution, or if it's already too late to try again and my degree's academic level is set.
I am aware that most answers will tell me to get on with it, and that the school's ranking is not a good motivation, and that I will be alright as long as I do what I like. I am doing this partly because I want the advantages that come with a reputable university (being surrounded by motivated people, having more options, having an advantage in job interviews), and partly for personal reasons. This is more than an ego problem, I want to know what I'm capable of, and I'm pretty sure that my current studies or the jobs they lead me towards cannot satisfy me.
Additionally, I would like to go finish my studies abroad at some point, and already have a few cities and universities in mind. I would like a researcher or research engineer's position in the private sector.
I am considering the following options:
- Finishing my Master's degree while catching up on maths on the side, then trying to get into a PhD programme abroad.
- Finishing my Master's, finding work in a machine learning- or statistics-related field for one year, then applying to a PhD programme. The year off would give me more time to get the required level in maths, and the professional experience could be useful when applying.
- Trying right away to get into another school's Master's programme that would be better adapted to my plans.
For all I know, all of these may be unrealistic (starting a PhD after two years without math courses would at least require a lot of work on the side, and I don't see how my application could have a chance without a math-related degree to prove I'm competent; getting into a foreign school's master's programme is probably a very selective and/or expensive transition, especially if I'm coming from a lower-ranked institution).
The ideal way would be to go back to high school and do the preparatory classes again, this time without personal problems to discourage me. Of course, this isn't possible.
My options seem pretty bad given my goals, and I'm aware that my plans seem unrealistic. This is a point in my studies (and life) where I seriously question my previous choices and start to regret the low ambitions I had a few years earlier. I am mostly trying to get an overview of what I can aspire to and what is off the table. What would be a good way to proceed from there?