I am done with my MS in EECS from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, and I currently working full time in a good company on OPT.

I will be defending my MS Thesis in coming December. Moreover, when I contacted one of the well-renowned Professors in my department he expressed his interest in taking me as PhD student depending if his funding is approved in next few months.

Here is the issue:

My overall GPA is 3.43 and my core GP is 3.5. I had already mentioned this to the Professor, and I straight away told that after working hard I am just a solid B+ student that too when I study with friends. I sent my transcript to him thinking he would turn me down based on my GPA, but he did not.

My question is: I don't have issues with quitting the well-paying job for the PhD program. But what scares me is the oral qualifying exam. If I don't make through the exam, and they decide to kick me out, I have no options. I will no longer be enrolled in the PhD program, and cannot go back to the industry as I have used up my OPT.

My future goal is to join academia, but if I don't pass the qualifying exam, I will put my family and me in immigration issues. So, least I can do is to work in industry and give up on joining Ph.D. At least I will not put my family at HUGE risk of getting kicked out of the US after spending so much on MS program.

Please advise. The reason I ask this question is that one must aware his limitations. When I compare myself with fellow PhD classmates, they way better than me in course work. I have never met any classmate in my graduate school who are less smarter than me.

closed as off-topic by Brian Borchers, user3209815, henning -- reinstate Monica, padawan, Cape Code May 29 '17 at 12:12

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  • 2
    I believe OPT here is Optional Practical Training: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optional_Practical_Training – BrianH May 28 '17 at 23:30
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    My future goal is to join academia -- Then you need a PhD. Period. If the PhD admissions committee doesn't think you will pass the qual, they won't admit you. – JeffE May 29 '17 at 2:35
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    Take a leap of faith, join the PhD program. I know of people who have much less gpas than you and have a PhD after their names now :) – The Guy May 29 '17 at 3:36
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    Google "impostor syndrome" – Shake Baby May 29 '17 at 3:58
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    Another question put on hold because people can't read "Should I do X" as "What are things to consider when deciding whether to do X" – sgf May 29 '17 at 14:17

Professors and admissions committees have a lot of experience in accepting students- they wouldn't offer you a position unless they were confident that you were capable of handling the program. It's just as bad a situation for your professor if you fail at the oral exam stage: they will be stuck in year 2 of a 5 year grant without an experienced student and no immediate replacement to carry on that work.

Two specific thoughts:

  1. Find out who the Graduate Program Chair or the Graduate Admissions Committee Chair is for your department and ask them the same question you asked your professor. These are people with a lot of experience handling and admitting graduate students, and they can give you an impartial opinion.

  2. See if this program has an alternative to the oral examination. My program allowed thesis-option MS students to waive the oral exam under some conditions. In some labs it was very common for students (typically international students with weaker presentation skills) to fulfill the MS requirements and write a thesis rather than doing an oral presentation.

  • +1 Excellent reference to the administration. This answer prove (for me) that this question is not off-toopic. – Emilie May 29 '17 at 13:59

While good knowledge is important - grades should not be a reason (in fact should not even be a part of the equation) you want/do not want to do a PhD.

  • Are you creative?
  • Are you really curious about something in nature? (need not be related to what you did for your master's) - or are you really really interested in building technologies that could lead to an interesting future for mankind?
  • Going back to question 2, are you curious enough to motivate yourself?
  • Again going back to question 2, Are you curious/interested enough to become an academic? i.e. spend long hours begging people for money so that you can satisfy your curiosity/interest and tell the world all about what you learn/invent.

If the answer to these questions is yes, you can consider a phd.

If you are trying to pursue a phd for industry (non-research)/management jobs - it is my belief that you will do well if you take up that job right now - it is easier to get, you will get valuable experience for the 4 to 5 years you will work on your thesis.

These are of course my opinions. you can ask the expert - yourself.

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