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I am currently an European undergraduate Senior waiting on results for various Master's applications. I have applied to programs in both the US and Europe, my goal following my Master is to pursue a PhD in the US in said field hopefully in a top school (MIT,Stanford,Caltech,...). For such purpose do you believe I would be favoured by getting my Master in the US, at Georgia Tech, or by getting it at a top European school, such as ETH Zurich or EPFL ? Or do you believe it would not make much of a difference ?

I really like programs at all these three schools, thus one of the main factors guiding my decision would be how much getting my Master's there would increase my chance of being admitted for a PhD in a top school in the US.

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It is unlikely to make a difference at that level (GT vs ETHZ).

But note that a MS isn't required for entrance into a doctoral program in the US. I'd guess that if you can get into a masters at Georgia Tech you could probably also enter their doctoral program directly. There is lots of competition, though and most of it is from highly recommended and well educated people.

Because of that competition, your probability of getting accepted into one of those three schools is very low even with a good masters, unless something really stands out.

I won't discourage you from applying to such places, but you should broaden your search to assure success. Your career will depend more on what you do than on the name of the school you attend.

In fact, you should probably be looking at doctoral admissions rather than masters if that is really your goal.

Most good doctoral programs in US will grant you a masters along the way. Some of them, just for asking. Others require a thesis of sorts, less than a doctoral thesis.

And note that the US undergraduate program is typically not very specialized. Approximately half of the required courses are not in the major field of study. This is, then, what a US student enters doctoral studies with - even at very good schools.

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  • Thanks for your answer, I have decided to go for a Master's before applying to Doctoral programs to strengthen my profile. I am getting my Bachelor's degree in a country where undergraduate studies are just three years long, thus I will be graduating very young, at just 21 years old, and I thought that having two extra years to get research experience could really help me. Especially because given my short undergraduate degree I did not have many opportunities to research out of my Bachelor thesis. – Rio33 Feb 10 at 23:33
  • I will of course broaden the group of universities to which I will apply for Doctoral studies, the ones I cited are just my dream schools, I know they are very long shots with very fierce competition to get into. – Rio33 Feb 10 at 23:35
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    You have some misunderstandings. In the US, undergrad is 4 years but it has lots (and lots) of courses outside the specialty. A 3 year European (for example) bachelors probably has at least as much in the major field as a 4 year US degree. 21 is the typical age for US students to start doctoral studies. Most US students have little real research experience. The systems are very different. Don't make assumptions that cost you time. – Buffy Feb 10 at 23:37
  • Thanks for your clarifications, I may have underestimated my profile, I thought that having little to no research experience would be a big point against me in Doctoral applications, and would outweigh my good grades and test scores, especially for schools as good as those. Anyway I believe surely a Master will help me get a better understanding of what I want to specialise in and enjoy most about my field of study. Another perk of getting a Master is having the opportunity to apply to both European and American PhD programs later, at least there are some positives. – Rio33 Feb 11 at 0:02
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For the reason you mention in your comments to Buffy's answer, I suggest European masters. Some additional points.

  1. US masters are rarely funded and are very expensive, EU citizens are privy to very low masters tuition in Europe. Consider applying to the Fulbright if you're dead-set on US programs to help finance you.
  2. Masters in Europe usually require a masters thesis. Which is a huge plus for your application to a PhD. This thesis also gives you a great opportunity to decide if research is right for you.

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