9

Is it better to wait a couple of years and publish in order to get to a prefered program or go to any program that would accept me? Sorry in advance for the length of this document. It is in part about writing down and refining my ideas, and inner turmoil, in writing. Thanks for your patience.

So, publish now and go to a top tier school later or go now to a lower tier school and build a reputation afterward?

I have no illusions that I could get into a good program now. I graduated top of my class at the BBA and MBA level but that was 10 years ago at a regional ranked college. I have only been self employed, doing stock-trading, so no real reference there, nor great job experience. I wrote an MBA thesis but didn’t publish it. Moreover my 2 years MBA program is apparently perceived not to be in any way precursor to PhDs and some unis I looked up even require MBA holders to re-do a “proper master” prior to applying to PhDs.

I long to attend to a top PhD program. I know it should matter less than a good fit, but I have reasons for wanting that. Since my school is virtually unknown I desire the recognition that a top ranked diploma gives. Also, if I go the academic route, I believe, maybe mistakenly, that famous names do matter. I also think that their PhD programs are much more rigorous than at lower tier schools, which would result in a better preparation to publish at leading journals. An equally important reason is that I would be seeking a full fellowship as a foreign student, and top programs tend to have the most available and accessible financial aid funds.

So I was thinking that I should try to publish several papers at solid journals. My understanding is that it would very greatly help to ensure an admission at top universities, even if it would delay my application by a year or two. If I applied now, I do not think that I am likely to get into a decent program or even to get financial help. I also find the whole application process a burocratic nightmare and an expensive one at that. Plus i would rather bother my former professors, for reference letters, only once and for a good enough school.

In order to do some research and write papers now, I will virtually need to design my own PhD program, which will be I believe similar to a lower rank school formal PhD. I have to read widely in adjacent fields, review research in my field, polish or learn new quantitative data analysis methods, learn and develop a variety of new skills.

My belief is that if I do all that properly, I would not only be accepted at a prestigious university, but my PhD years should be a breeze. This in turn would allow me to focus on producing and publishing higher quality papers during my PhD. The net result should be that I graduated from a top program with almost as many quality publications as someone who went for academia directly without a 10 year gap. This number, and quality of publications plus the degree for a top uni should fast-track me to a tenure at a top school or a least a prestigious post-doc, or research grant, or position.

Please comment and tell me what you think. I am making a lot of assumptions and I have beliefs that are grounded in my present understanding of the academic world. I would greatly appreciate to know if I am wrong or making partially faulty assumptions or totally erroneous suppositions.


Update 2014.11.4: Thank you all for your honesty. I did say that these were assumptions I was not sure that they where true. I am still rather unfamiliar with the academic world. I realize now that my post was much more naïve than it should have been. From my thesis I know that I do like research. I like the feeling of an organized world after stumbling into the dark. I like the almost physical stretching of my mind as a grapple with complex ideas. I like the sense of achievement of having written a monumental piece and being one of the world’s experts in my field. I believe that I got a similar experience with my MBA thesis which was 250 pages long though much lighter in original findings than PhD’s, I am told. For the multiple papers I thought of cannibalizing my old thesis and other old projects, but I guess that may not be realistic as they are rather outdated and maybe not that original. I hope that these answers also help others who may have had a similar strategy in mind.

  • 1
    I think this question is too narrow -- the answer depends strongly on your own values and particular situation. – David Ketcheson Nov 4 '14 at 11:44
  • 14
    You seem to take for granted that you could do research and get several papers published in top journals all on your own. I would be careful to trust into that too much. Doing some research at any kind of research facility (i.e., with proper supervision, mentors, work you can build upon, etc) might be a better idea. – Niko Nov 4 '14 at 12:24
  • 4
    @Niko has a very valid point. If good papers were just a function of time spent, why would you even care whether you are accepted at a good university? In that case, just grinding your time would be sufficient to build a great research resume. – xLeitix Nov 4 '14 at 12:55
  • Please don't add "meta" comments about voting or accepting answers to the content of your question. If you want to send a message to someone who answered your question, post a comment on the answer. – ff524 Nov 4 '14 at 19:48
  • I added his November 2014 update into the body of his question. He had added it as an answer that was (rightly) deleted, but deleted answers are only visible to people with high-enough ranking. – RoboKaren Jul 19 '15 at 15:29
18

Although @Niko and @xLeitix are spot-on that your plan is not feasible, I will try to elaborate more, so to clarify some details. Note, do not take any of this personally, since I do not know you personally nor your abilities but I need to warn you of some misconceptions you may have.

So I was thinking that I should try to publish several papers at solid journals. My understanding is that it would very greatly help to ensure an admission at top universities, even if it would delay my application by a year or two.

This is simply not feasible to borderline delusional. A good journal needs 3-12 months to review a paper AFTER submission. How will you be able to submit several papers and get them accepted in a year?

Papers are not just ideas. In practical sciences like finance, you need data, a theory and experiments to prove them they have any worth. Do you have any data to work with or you simply think that your ideas are so revolutionary that they deserve publication? If you believe so, you should seriously reconsider.

Another reason that your plan is not feasible is that a typical PHD student needs at least 6-12 months for literature review if he knows more-or-less what he is going to research about. That is what usually advisors can help you with. They have identified a subject / gap on a specific area and point the student (who has some common interests) and then the student has to exhaustively search for any work on this specific, tiny area of research to see what has already been done and what can be done. This process does not happen overnight, as you presume it is. Note that during the months of doing this literature review, if this is an active area, several new papers might appear which make your initial idea obsolete. And then you have to start over.

In order to do some research and write papers now, I will virtually need to design my own PhD program, which will be I believe similar to a lower rank school formal PhD. I have to read widely in adjacent fields, review research in my field, polish or learn new quantitative data analysis methods, learn and develop a variety of new skills.

So you believe that a lower-tier PHD = doing research on your own. That makes all advisors on any school (except the top-ones) obsolete. If everybody could do research on his own there would not be a need for PHD programs. And without wanting to sound mean or harsh, why do you believe you can do it on your own? You have not published anything, you do not have real industry experience or worked anywhere to remotely touch research. Also, believing that one can do research on his own is one of the characteristics of cranks. I am not suggesting that you fall into this category but keep this in mind too.

Another thing to watch is that you presume you really like research, before actually doing it. Research is not always fun as many posts on this SE site emphasize. So, make sure you like it before actually proceeding.

So, perhaps you should tone down your idea about "top-schools or nothing". You should always aim as high as possible, but within your reach. In your shoes, I would apply to as many good (but not necessarily top) places as possible and depending on their answers I would re-evaluate my plan. During this period, I would also do a literature review on the subject that really interests me, find the active people on this area and monitor their work. This will give you a headstart when / if you start a PHD and also test you if you really want to do the PHD, during this necessary, yet tedious part (literature review) for any PHD.

  • 7
    Also, even if you have excellent writing skills, an academic paper is likely very different than anything you've written before. It's very difficult to learn this on your own. That's one of the things a PhD advisor will help you learn. – mhwombat Nov 4 '14 at 17:27
  • 3
    +1 for "Another thing to watch is that you presume you really like research, before actually doing it. " – Kristof Tak Nov 4 '14 at 20:14
7

To complement Alexandros's answer, let me put this to you: if you are smart and talented enough to write a couple of papers in a year with no supervision or training and publish them in strong journals (which as he says, is fantastically unlikely; I have never in 15 years in academia encountered anyone capable of that, I would say), then you're certainly smart enough to enter an undistinguished masters or Ph.D. program, blow away all the professors there, and get letters of recommendation that will allow you to get into a top program. That's not easy, but I have seen it happen. That's a much more plausible road to success than what you've suggested.

0

Although I think you should be more realistic, but I am in favor of your ambitiousness!

It frequently happens that the weak environment has bad effects on your path in your life which can not be compensated forever! Weak people try their best to convince you that you are like them while they are wrong, not only about you, but also about themselves!Unfortunately the decision is too dynamic and complex and you have to base your decision on "expectations" of what is going to happen. It is also possible that you enter a low-level university but the people there are encouraging and you can flourish, and vice versa. You should consider some facts:

1- Ambitiousness is always good but with open eyes about what the reality is.

2- Your performance in the future is very similar to your performance in the past unless under some special changes(don't expect any revolution but some occasional improvements).

3- Put away your fears. As far as I understand, you are obsessed with somethings and they prevent you to think in a proper way. For example you are afraid of asking your professors to write for you reference letters! Ask them in an appropriate situation-time and place- and they will help you every time.

4-In reality you can not have all things together in the way you imagine. To have one thing you have to forget about the other things. The one who wants to have a peacock must deal with the hassles of going to India(Persian proverb which means: the best fish swim near the bottom)!

5-For some one like you, I suggest engaging in the process of try and error! I feel that you think more than to act! Start PhD at a university which is not top and get feedback from your environment and see if it is possible to reach what you want or not? If yes, what should be your approach in the path towards your goal(what level of concentration and hard work is needed?, should you change your environment?, etc.). Get feedback every now and then to prevent big mistakes.

6-As a last general(but useful) point: Accept that you don't have lots of things at time "t" and place "P"; This means that you can live without them! Being happy(and using what you have in the best way) or sad(and wasting what you already have) depends on your choice! Be happy with what God has given you but ask him "the best possible".

I was awake at night, so, forgive me if there are mistakes.

0

I think you should take the best PhD university you have for now to access more resources. And then you could publish much better stuff than you have for now, and then apply visiting graduate positions, PhD transfers, postdoc positions, or even AP to better university after you published very good stuffs.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.