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?


1 Answer 1


There is little advantage in taking a year out. It won't necessarily improve your chances. Note that the norm for doctoral admissions in US is from bachelor's degree holders with little if any real research experience.

But you can, in the short term, improve your application by dealing directly with the LoR issue by speaking with a few professors and letting them get to know you. Asking them for guidance in doctoral study is a good way to break the ice and show them that you are serious. They will ask some questions. Ask them in return about research ideas in their field.

If you are currently taking classes, ask questions of them about the material. I was once thought to be better than I was because I asked a lot of questions. And, if you have a question it is likely that others in the course do also, but are reluctant to ask.

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