I am a third year UK student on a 4 year Integrated Master's (MSci) course looking to apply for PhDs in the US (STEM). I am on track to achieve a first class degree (apparently equivalent to a 4.0 GPA?). However, I have limited research experience during my undergrad and don't think I can get very good letters of recommendation for my PhD application as I am not particularly close with many profs in my department.
- If I apply for a PhD in the fall of my master's year my supervisor will not have too much to write about in my LOR (having only worked me with for a few months at best) and I will not have much research experience to talk about in my application.
- If I apply after completing my MSci I will have much stronger LOR and research experience (i.e thesis and maybe publication). However, this means I would have to take a year out after my degree, essentially losing a year.
So really my main question is:
How important is research experience when applying to PhD programs in the US and how negatively will a lack of solid letters of recommendation affect my application?