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Improving chances for next year


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I applied to six PhD programs in Consumer Behavior this year. I want to do research in product development enviroments. I've gotten refections from two programs at this point. I know it's still early (and honestly none of the schools I thought were good fits have responded yet.) That being said, I'm looking to how I might improve my chances for next time. My GMAT scores were adequate, I had good recommendations and I've been told by people who've been through the process that my statement of purpose was compelling. There's nothing I can do about my undergrad GPA 20 years after the fact, though my graduate GPA's have been in the 3.6 range. My graduate degrees were both professional programs (architecture and MBA) that didn't afford opportunities for working on academic research with professors.

I'm comfortable writing, but don't have experience writing for academic journals. I see a few options:

A.) write freelance articles for professional journals (these are unikely to be as rigorous as academic ones, so I don't know how this would be viewed.)

B.) try to convince a former professor to allow me to help research an article while I'm not in an academic program (this seems unlikely as their first priority would be to provide this experience to their current students, I'd think)

C.) get a third master's degree and specifically try to pad out this section of my experience. The only local school offering an M.S. in Marketing is the school where I got my MBA. It's a state university where I didn't have a very good experience.

While C seems the most logical, it puts me 2 years further along than I am now before I'm applying to PhD programs, and 3 years to entry. Add 4 years for the program and I'm seven years out from the degrere. Additionally, funding is an issue at the Masters level.

As I'm already in my early/mid 40's, I'm pushing the upper reasonable age limit to have a meaningful career even now. Any ideas on how to make myself more attractive in the next year?

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I think that getting a third master's degree might be a little much, especially if it requires you to relocate. I'm pursuing an MA to boost my chances of getting in a PhD program, but the university I'll (hopefully) be attending is where I live and one of the most affordable in the US and has a decent reputation in my field.

I think that most likely you have a good chance of getting in as it is. I've heard professors say that the longer you've been out of school, the less important that UGPA means. And it's probably difficult for most adcoms to process your old GPA because there has been a lot of grade inflation over the past few decades in some schools.

I'd definitely pursue option B before looking into a third master's. Publications are important, at least in my field, and can set you apart. Some journals allow you to publish at the MA level as well if your article is approved by their reviewers. So, your professor may even have options for you to publish something independently, even as first author, which would be most preferable.

I guess the thing that makes me hesitate in saying go for the third MA is that you don't want to end up in a situation where some committees might think you're over-qualified for a PhD and continuing to take coursework would be ad nauseum and a waste of your time and theirs. However, I don't know much about marketing as a field, so I could be wrong, but I have heard that happening to people in the humanities. However, another master's couldn't hurt, and at least it would give adcoms some more recent indication of what you're capable of.

Best of luck!

Edited by lily_
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I'm in a similar situation, maxwello, and I think if I could do it again, I would:

  • retake the prep courses that the top schools require (linear/matrix algebra, stats, etc.)
  • make sure that I aced the quant section of the GMAT
  • rekindle relationships with profs from my MBA program -- can you do any research for them?
  • above all, build relationships with profs at my top pick schools, and see what they recommend

Having said that, though, I would also take a close look at the current student body at the schools to which you applied. Some programs just may not be interested in older students, however unfair it may seem.

Good luck!

Edited by oldlady
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Add option D:

Don't do an additional master's, but do register for a couple of grad classes in your field and nurture a relationship with the profs. This way you'll A: at least have a good, solid writing sample, and B: recent LORs. Try to aim for grad classes that involve research rather than practical!!

Also, acing the GMAT is always a good idea :D. it definitely can't hurt.

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Thanks, everyone, for the feedback. Still haven't heard from the remaining programs, but had an interesting development that might offer me funding to fill out my academic deficiencies and work on a few publications. Not a ranked university in my field, but if it pans out, i would have a chance to take a few research, math and econometrics classes while working with one professor on a book (thank the powers that be for stumbling into a B.A. in English.) I would also have the option to work on other research papers, at least one of which might give me a lead author credit. This would flush out my CV in its weaker areas, beef up the math section of my transcripts, and find a few more highly targeted recommenders. I'm not certain whether I could do it as a non-degree student, or whether I might have to go the master's route to justify funding by the school. I have to believe that two years hence schools will recognize that academically-minded neophytes had to make certain compromises to stay in the game through these lean years and view positively someone who persevered and kept pushing toward that goal.

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