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Which Master program is better for later PhD applications, 1-year or 2-year?


bonacia

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Hi all,

I applied for several PhD programs, but, unfortunately, none of them have been accepted. Instead, I got some offers for MA programs: Master in International Affairs at GPS, UC San Diego;  Master of Arts  in International Relations at GSAS, New York University; and MSc in International Relations Theory at London School of Economics. I might be admitted to MA in PoliSci at Columbia University.

Which program do you think best for my late PhD applications?

My academic interest is in IR theory and security, and I want to pursue a PhD at a top school after finishing one of the programs above. I am an international student, and given that my undergraduate GPA was not good, I consider I should enroll in a MA program in US or UK rather than staying in my country and applying next year. As usual among MA students, I have not been awarded a fellowship from each department.

In addition, more specifically, When considering later PhD admissions, which Master program is better, 1-year or 2-year? I guess this is a general question among students majoring in social science.

NYU and LSE offered me 1-year programs. I am wondering if it is quite difficult to apply for PhD programs successfully only several months after matriculation; I will have only one semester to prove my competence to professors who may write recos and to the admission committees, given that the application deadline is December. Also, I have to retake IELTS and GRE before enrollment if I choose a 1-year program.

On the other hand, if I choose a 2-year program. I may be able to prove my competence, for example, by being awarded as a Dean's fellow. Professors may write stronger recos. I can retake standardized tests next year. However, tuition double, and it takes two years.

I hope comments made in this topic are also helpful to other international applicants who face the same situation.

I look forward to your comments.

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So, I have been thinking about similar questions myself.  One important element, to me, is that the 1 year MA program is unlikely to get you into a PhD program any faster than a 2 year MA. 

Why?  Because of the structure of application deadlines.  PhD applications are due in December and January; if you are in a 1 year program then this is possibly before you even have 1 semester/quarter of grades posted and likely before you can build any significant relationships with faculty for LORs.  Most MA programs have you write a thesis, but it surely will not be done by the first winter. 

Thus, you are likely to re-apply to PhD programs -after- you have finished the 1 year degree.  If you were in a 2 year program, you would be applying in the fall of your second year, which means that the 1 year program does not offer a temporal advantage.  You might not have your thesis finished, but I imagine your letters, as well as grades, will be more useful after a full year in the program. 

 

That said, the upside of the 1 year MA is that you can get work/research experience during your gap year, and that is added value (or +EV as some of us are prone to say).

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52 minutes ago, AlphaLvSim said:

So, I have been thinking about similar questions myself.  One important element, to me, is that the 1 year MA program is unlikely to get you into a PhD program any faster than a 2 year MA. 

Why?  Because of the structure of application deadlines.  PhD applications are due in December and January; if you are in a 1 year program then this is possibly before you even have 1 semester/quarter of grades posted and likely before you can build any significant relationships with faculty for LORs.  Most MA programs have you write a thesis, but it surely will not be done by the first winter. 

Thus, you are likely to re-apply to PhD programs -after- you have finished the 1 year degree.  If you were in a 2 year program, you would be applying in the fall of your second year, which means that the 1 year program does not offer a temporal advantage.  You might not have your thesis finished, but I imagine your letters, as well as grades, will be more useful after a full year in the program. 

 

That said, the upside of the 1 year MA is that you can get work/research experience during your gap year, and that is added value (or +EV as some of us are prone to say).

Thank you for your informative comment! As you mentioned, two-year program lets students have room enough to prepare for strong applications. This is especially applicable to international applicants who got no strong LORs written by well-known scholars. I am never sure I can be well-prepared a few months after the matriculation.

But, to my surprise,  a number of DPhil students majoring in Politics in the University of Oxford obtained a MSc degree (a one-year degree), suggesting that one-year program may enable students to prepare sufficiently. Maybe, the UK one-year programme is a bit different from US, or those students may have already had great potential, such as strong recos before enrolling to the MSc.

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49 minutes ago, bonacia said:

Thank you for your informative comment! As you mentioned, two-year program lets students have room enough to prepare for strong applications. This is especially applicable to international applicants who got no strong LORs written by well-known scholars. I am never sure I can be well-prepared a few months after the matriculation.

But, to my surprise,  a number of DPhil students majoring in Politics in the University of Oxford obtained a MSc degree (a one-year degree), suggesting that one-year program may enable students to prepare sufficiently. Maybe, the UK one-year programme is a bit different from US, or those students may have already had great potential, such as strong recos before enrolling to the MSc.

Unfortunately I cannot speak to the UK experience, but I suspect that enough differences exist that it is hard to directly compare the cases.  Overall, I do not think the problem is that a 1 year program is bad; timing, with applications due in winter, is the real barrier. 

 

Regarding LORs, advice that I have gotten from multiple sources  is that making sure your letter writers know you well is far more important that getting an average letter from a well known scholar.  To make those connections takes time, and that slows down how fast you can realistically apply. 

 

 

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8 hours ago, bonacia said:

But, to my surprise,  a number of DPhil students majoring in Politics in the University of Oxford obtained a MSc degree (a one-year degree), suggesting that one-year program may enable students to prepare sufficiently. Maybe, the UK one-year programme is a bit different from US, or those students may have already had great potential, such as strong recos before enrolling to the MSc.

Just to pick up on this, as someone from the UK. Here it is standard to do 1 year Master's degrees, finding a two year programme offered here would be quite rare. I personally went abroad and did a two year Master's programme, but as the poster above suggested, my time-frame wasn't any different, as I applied at the start of the second year, to begin immediately following my Master's. Had I done a one year Master's it may have been similar, but I think being in the second year applying helped me work with my LORs a little better.

I was also trying to make up for some weaker grades in my undergraduate, so more graduate courses on my transcript was helpful. If your previous academic profile is strong and you are clear on your research interests, then it wouldn't necessarily be required.

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20 hours ago, bonacia said:

Hi all,

I applied for several PhD programs, but, unfortunately, none of them have been accepted. Instead, I got some offers for MA programs: Master in International Affairs at GPS, UC San Diego;  Master of Arts  in International Relations at GSAS, New York University; and MSc in International Relations Theory at London School of Economics. I might be admitted to MA in PoliSci at Columbia University.

Which program do you think best for my late PhD applications?

My academic interest is in IR theory and security, and I want to pursue a PhD at a top school after finishing one of the programs above. I am an international student, and given that my undergraduate GPA was not good, I consider I should enroll in a MA program in US or UK rather than staying in my country and applying next year. As usual among MA students, I have not been awarded a fellowship from each department.

In addition, more specifically, When considering later PhD admissions, which Master program is better, 1-year or 2-year? I guess this is a general question among students majoring in social science.

NYU and LSE offered me 1-year programs. I am wondering if it is quite difficult to apply for PhD programs successfully only several months after matriculation; I will have only one semester to prove my competence to professors who may write recos and to the admission committees, given that the application deadline is December. Also, I have to retake IELTS and GRE before enrollment if I choose a 1-year program.

On the other hand, if I choose a 2-year program. I may be able to prove my competence, for example, by being awarded as a Dean's fellow. Professors may write stronger recos. I can retake standardized tests next year. However, tuition double, and it takes two years.

I hope comments made in this topic are also helpful to other international applicants who face the same situation.

I look forward to your comments.

I did a 2-year program before applying in this cycle. Here in the Netherlands you have both the 1-year regular master and the 2-year research master. Content differences aside, time is extremely important. In a 2-year program you get to build up your profile more. During my research master, I published a paper, attended a conference and was able to revise for the GRE during the summer without any disruption.

I'd definitely do the 2-year program if you could afford it.

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23 hours ago, AlphaLvSim said:

Unfortunately I cannot speak to the UK experience, but I suspect that enough differences exist that it is hard to directly compare the cases.  Overall, I do not think the problem is that a 1 year program is bad; timing, with applications due in winter, is the real barrier. 

Regarding LORs, advice that I have gotten from multiple sources  is that making sure your letter writers know you well is far more important that getting an average letter from a well known scholar.  To make those connections takes time, and that slows down how fast you can realistically apply. 

 

15 hours ago, RodneyTrotter said:

Just to pick up on this, as someone from the UK. Here it is standard to do 1 year Master's degrees, finding a two year programme offered here would be quite rare. I personally went abroad and did a two year Master's programme, but as the poster above suggested, my time-frame wasn't any different, as I applied at the start of the second year, to begin immediately following my Master's. Had I done a one year Master's it may have been similar, but I think being in the second year applying helped me work with my LORs a little better.

I was also trying to make up for some weaker grades in my undergraduate, so more graduate courses on my transcript was helpful. If your previous academic profile is strong and you are clear on your research interests, then it wouldn't necessarily be required.

 

6 hours ago, dr.strange said:

I did a 2-year program before applying in this cycle. Here in the Netherlands you have both the 1-year regular master and the 2-year research master. Content differences aside, time is extremely important. In a 2-year program you get to build up your profile more. During my research master, I published a paper, attended a conference and was able to revise for the GRE during the summer without any disruption.

I'd definitely do the 2-year program if you could afford it.

I am grateful to all of you. Information about the master program in the UK and Netherlands is instructive. In addition, your comments based on your experience of the two-year programs  are persuasive. Taking them into account, it is far better for me to choose a 2-year program. I will be able to compensate my Undergraduate GPA and make stronger connections with professors. Slow and steady wins the race. Thanks a lot.

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Chiming in late (because as a current student, I'm not around much). 

Aside from the additional time/research, remember that if you begin a 1-year M.A., you will be applying to Ph.D. programs at the end of your first term of the M.A. This means that your application will have little additional strength (aside from saying you're in an M.A. program). You'll be asking LOR writers from people who've known you <4 months, and who will likely need to submit your LOR before you've even submitted your final seminar papers for them. 

It's tempting to do a 1-year for cost/time considerations, but it's unlikely to be as useful as if you can apply to Ph.D. programs after 18 months in a M.A., with a good idea or head start on your thesis. 

The same logic applies to Post-doc positions on the other end of a Ph.D. A one year post-doc just means that you'll be applying to jobs with one more line on your C.V. and a completed dissertation. It's mostly just postponing the job search for a year while you finish your Ph.D. A 2-3 year postdoc means you might be applying to jobs with all of the above, plus more publications or a book manuscript. 

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