I'm at the cusp of selecting a MSc programme in Europe before re-applying to American PhD's and I'm at a loss how to decide which MSc position I should take.
I'm strongly convinced I want to do a PhD with a person at Columbia U., UT Texas and some elite schools. All of these people have a shared interest (narrowly defined field of research) and I'm wondering how I can improve my chances down the road to study with them.
First off, a PI's at one of the schools I've been accepted to is working in the same field; goes to the same conferences, visits the PhD PI's and, is probably on quite good terms with them. I could not verify this any further without asking too obvious questions. So to me it seems like an advantage, however this MSc programme is not well established and hence doesn't have the 'prestige' like the other programmes I applied to.
I'm tempted, perhaps because of my upbringing, to contact the PhD PI's I'm interested in and straight-up asking them if they'd recommend any of the MSc programmes. Would this seem overbearing? I can't really tell and the cultural differences make it more ambiguous.