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miffle

Specifics of going from MA to PhD..?

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Hello everyone!
I have a few questions about how PhD admissions may differ for those applying with a MA under their belt.
I am a first year student in a funded psychology masters program and just finished my first semester. Unfortunately, I didn't do very well in terms of my gpa (<3.5) and didn't make as much progress on my research as I would have liked (i.e. I don't have enough ready for a poster at the moment). I struggled this past semester due to several things (time management/adjusting to grad school, imposter syndrome, moving far from home), but one very salient thing is that I am completely switching research focus from what I did previously in undergrad. This change took up a lot of my time as I had to get "up to speed" on the literature/research, so I'm not getting through my research as fast as I hoped. All of this has taken a toll on my self-perception, but I feel determined to bounce back and do better from here on. I will work hard to raise my gpa up to a 3.5 this semester and get my research in a good place, hopefully to present at conferences soon.
Given that I only have 1 semester left to turn things around for the next application season, I began wondering about issues specific to applicants with a MA in social sciences:

  1.   I assume that the "bar" might be set higher for applicants with an MA compared to someone applying straight from their BA. How important are publications for students applying to PhDs with a MA? Similarly, how many posters/presentations would I be expected to have?
  2. If my performance in my MA program isn't very competitive by the time I finish (i.e. <3.5 gpa, none or very few items in my CV outside of completing my MA thesis), would I be able to take a "gap year" doing work/research to boost my application for future seasons? Or would a weak MA be a "permanent scar" on my applications, causing admissions look at me unfavorably regardless?
  3. I have heard that MA gpas are judged more critically as there tends to be grade inflation in graduate school. While I don't feel that my MA program has a severe grade inflation issue, this makes me concerned that the usual 3.5 gpa "cut off" in PhD admissions might not be applicable for graduate gpas. Does anyone have any insight on this? For reference, my undergraduate gpa is fairly strong (3.7), so I'm not concerned about the UGPA portion of my application.

Also, if anyone has any advice on how to improve myself outside of these factors, please let me know! Thank you all for your time.

P.S. Sorry if this post is misplaced! I wanted to place this in the admissions/applications section, but some details of this situation may not neatly apply for applicants outside of the social sciences, so I thought this might be a better fit.

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