1

A few years ago, I graduated with both a master's and bachelor's degree from a globally ranked top-10 university. My overall classification was an average upper-second class (UK) - which is around a 3.4-3.5 GPA for the US-based. For context, an upper-second lies in the range of 60-69 whereas a lower-second lies in the range 50-59.

I applied broadly to PhD programs a few years ago but was rejected by all. My master's thesis advisor and postdoc that I worked with both agreed to write me letters of recommendation but perhaps they were not strong enough - hence, my rejection.

I have spent the past few years as a software engineer in industry detached from academic research, yet after much reflection, I am sure that I would prefer a career of research over my existing trajectory as an SWE.

Despite this, I do not have the "raw material" to put together a competitive PhD application (as outlined by the evidence above), and so am wondering how to get into a good PhD program.

I am considering doing a second master's thesis with the aim of doing more research with new professors, and then using that as a springboard into a PhD program. The aim is to get better recommendations, a better SoP, and maybe a publication. Is this a sensible idea? Will it ultimately make little difference to admissions committees? Or is there a better way to strengthen my application?

3
  • In the US, if you have a degree, universities will generally not admit you for a similar degree, under the reasoning that it is a waste of resources (as most universities charge students in tuition less than it costs to educate them, with the difference made up in government funding or endowment funds). Are things generally different in the UK? Aug 22, 2023 at 1:27
  • By SWE, do you mean Software Engineer? Aug 22, 2023 at 8:08
  • Yes, software engineer Aug 22, 2023 at 14:22

2 Answers 2

2

I think that you are approaching this exactly right. Most rejected applicants seem to be asking "how can I get over my low credentials without doing any work?", as if there was some secret button one could press and make past mistakes go away. You are recognizing where you did wrong during your masters, and have a plan to do better next time. You seem to be correctly guessing that you didn't get great letters, and that's OK, as not every student can be above average (actually, about half are below average, ha ha). But since you will be correcting the issues, you will probably get better letters next time.

Graduate school admissions are not a test of your worth as a person nor an evaluation of the totality of your life's choices. It's just an attempt from the admissions committee (or department, or PI) to answer the simple question: is this student, as they stand now, ready to produce some research? If the answer is yes, you get admitted.

So yes, as long as you do things differently this time, doing another Master's will increase your chances of admission.

Remember that you don't have to be admitted by all the programs you apply to, but only one.

0

... I am considering doing a second master's thesis with the aim of doing more research ...
The aim is to get better recommendations, a better SoP, and maybe a publication.
Is this a sensible idea?
Will it ultimately make little difference to admissions committees?

I understand you're speaking in the UK context. In that regard, your action plan (of a second MSc) based on your aim should take you closer to your desired outcome.

In that regard, I'll recommend you give MRes and MPil a shot. If you manage to get into them, you might transition better into PhD.
All the best.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .