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Post B.A. fellowship vs. unfunded masters program


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I'm currently in the grip of what feels like a pretty big problem and any help would be appreciated.

I just found out this morning that I've been accepted to Pittsburgh's Hot Metal Bridge Program which is a new fellowship initiative that they started last year. It comes with 12 credits of tuition remission per semester plus a $19,000 stipend just for showing up. There aren't any strings attached; I'd basically be there to take classes and prepare myself for another round of PhD apps. I don't think post BA programs are even a thing for English type people, so that was surprising as well. It might look good on a CV, but on the other hand I can totally see committees reading it and thinking "What the heck is a Hot Metal Bridge?"

To further complicate matters, I've already sent my letter accepting admission to Boston College. I really like their program and some of their people are great, but I wasn't offered any funding for the first year although there is a significant possibility of funding in the second year. I can't decide what the long term effects of either choice would be; while the masters program is at a really good school that would offer amazing local opportunities, the thought of going to school debt-free and with no program obligations is super tempting. Plus, I learned so much during this application season that I'd almost like the chance to have a do-over next year, even if I only end up in an MA program again. The biggest problem with Boston, really, is how to withdraw my promise of admission without coming across like a total waste of their time.

I guess what I'm asking for is advice from anyone who may have gone through either track or who knows someone who did. I'll also take advice from people who are just good at giving it :) I don't want to look back in three years and wish I had taken the other option even though there will always be something appealing about the road not taken...

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How did they let you know? Did they send you something in the mail or did they contact you via email/phone? I applied to this program for Psychology and I have yet to receive a response. I contacted them earlier last week to see if they had sent out acceptances yet but they told me to wait till the end of the month. Just wanted to know if I should start freaking out yet.

Regardless of the path you choose, good luck! Personally, if I had the option, I would choose the Hot Metal Bridge Program because there are many people there I want to work with and I do not want to get an MA in my field (I already have one that came with my BA/MA). I applied because it was 24 free credits that I could use to take science/math classes. I want a more technical background because I'm switching subfields in psychology. My other options are unfunded post-bac programs--forget that :).

For you, however, I think doing the MA or the unfunded masters program would not make a difference course-wise. So, I think the question here is, who would you most like to work with for the next year or so and can you afford to pay the grad tuition on your own? The Hot Metal Bridge Program is a chance for you to work with the people you applied to for the PhD at Pitt without having to pay the tuition and without any strings attached. However, if the people you really want to work with are at Boston College, it might be worth your time to go there to forge those contacts. Also, how big a factor is money for you? Can you afford the MA?

The Hot Metal Bridge Program does not have a reputation yet because this is, I believe, the first cohort they are recruiting. So, I don't think anyone on an adcom committee will know what to think when he/she sees that line on a CV (unless they're at Pitt of course... but then they probably actully know you). However, maybe an MA at Boston College might have some weight to it on a CV (I don't know, it's not my field).

Also, keep in mind, you can start an MA, but you don't have to finish it. I don't know how that's looked upon in your field but everyone in my program seems to do it all the time. There is nothing keeping you from applying again next year even if you do choose the unfunded masters program.

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Thanks for the advice! And so you know, I got a letter in the mail from on Wednesday. It was dated May 9, but I don't know if they sent all of them out on the same day. At this point, I seriously can't afford to pay for school, so I'd become used to the idea of taking out student loans. When I got the offer from them I didn't want to get so excited about the money only to sabotage myself. I spoke to my department contact at Boston College and they seemed fine with it and my advisor thinks it's a pretty good idea, so I've decided to go with it. As much as I would LOVE to work with the people at Boston, I've got great people at Pitt, too. I think I'm most worried because the program is relatively unknown even though it is at Pittsburgh. Do you know how manhy applicants they had?

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I have absolutely no idea how many applications they had... and they don't have any stats on the number of past applications because it is a brand new program :( (this is THE first cohort).They only have 9 slots spread amongst the four different disciplines (CS, English, Psych, and Bio) so there is the potential for it to have been very competitive. It was also open to post-bacs who were not applying to the PhD programs also (that is what I did).

Personally, in my field, paying for an MA would definetly not have been worth it...I think you made the right decision... I only got an MA because I didn't pay for it (I think I paid like 2,000... at most... out of pocket for my undergrad degrees). I don't know if anyone is going to care about the name, just who you work with during your time at Pitt but I'm not sure if that's how your field works. The way they have set up the mentoring at this program, though, it looks like you should get a lot of personalized attention that you may not have gotten at Boston :)

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  • 2 weeks later...

Nope, still haven't heard back. I just sent them another email last night. I am sure that either I didn't get in and they forgot to tell me or that they have me on some wait list :( . Part of me just wants to know so that I can start making plans.

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  • 9 months later...
  • 1 year later...

I applied to the Hot Metal Bridge program this year, but I'm not really sure when I should expect to hear back, or when it would be appropriate to contact them to ask. Furthermore, although I've received emails letting me know when my materials have arrived, every time I've replied, sent a separate email, or called, I haven't recieved any response. The only time I have is when I contacted someone else in the Psychology office for specific application details (such as how to send them my GRE scores when they want the application through the mail and on paper). I haven't contacted them frequently for fear of coming across as a stalker, but I'm kind of getting concerned... Does anyone have any information about the process for this frustratingly close-lipped program?

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