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.