As an undergraduate, I wasted a ridiculous amount of time due to a combination of being distracted by part-time work, lack of focus, not knowing what I wanted to do with my life, and just plain being stupid and lazy. Several times I tried to "get it together" but by then it was too late as my grades were ridiculously low (mostly around 0) and I could never have gotten into grad school anyway.
Eventually I dropped out as I realized I wasn't getting anywhere. I had a lot of awards from things like programming competitions, so I used that to get some decent jobs. My intention was that I would work for a few years, clear my head, save up some money, and go back later.
Well, later is here. After 5-6 years work experience doing mind-numbingly boring menial programming jobs, I applied for and got accepted into a master's program at a fairly respected university. It's only a 1-year program, but if it goes well I'd definitely consider applying for a PhD.
Obviously it's very important to me that I do things right this time around, so my main questions are:
- Will the total lack of a BSc degree be a problem when applying for a PhD program?
- I spent the last half a decade mostly doing tasks which required no creativity or deep thought. Sometimes I feel like my mind is like an ex-boxer who has been sitting on a sofa eating KFC and donuts all day for 5 years.. completely out of shape! How do I get the gears spinning smoothly again?
- I need a plan for making the transition into "research" mode. To be honest when I was at university I never paid attention to what any of my friends were doing when they were reading papers so I have no idea how the whole thing works. e.g. Do I start by making friends with some professors? Should I volunteer to be a TA?
- At what point will I be able to apply for a PhD?
Master's degree will be in Computer Science.
Several people have expressed doubts about the legitimacy of a degree program that gives you a 1-year master's degree with no undergraduate degree. I just want to clarify that it's not some "IT shop under the railway bridge" giving the degree, it is a very respected university. It's a 1-year degree because masters programs are generally one year in the UK. Also, I didn't just walk in with nothing. I demonstrated in my interview that I had knowledge in CS topics, I had a couple published papers, as well as half a dozen international awards from my time as an undergrad, and work experience from top-tier Fortune 100 companies; I just never finished my degree.