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Not sure if I'm PhD/DBA Material...


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Hi all, 


I'm new to the site & can I just say that I'm so glad it exists! I'm reading a lot of the Business PhD posts because I've been considering it for a while now.  Unfortunately, I'm not very confident and feel like I'm holding myself back. This is sort of new to me so I'd appreciate it if anyone could give their two cents on my situation!


A bit of background: I got my undergrad in Communications and International Studies (double majored) with a minor in Chinese Studies from a small, liberal arts college. I graduated with an okay GPA above a 3.0, but not necessarily cum laude. I worked for a few months & then started grad school in Spring 2012. I decided to pursue a dual degree - MBA & M.A in Journalism/Mass Communications. This program was a PERFECT fit because it was basically the grad-school version of my undergrad double major and combined two of my passions. My concentration is Marketing/PR and I love it. Through this, I've discovered my interest in marketing analytics/research/big data---the whole shabang.


The only downside is that the university is not well-known at all, & isn't in the "top business schools" or even "top schools" ranking. At the same time, it's only 1 of 6 schools in the nation to offer the MBA/MA combination (and the only school to offer the Marketing/PR concentration). 


I worked in the corporate sector for about a year (while I was taking classes) and now I'm a marketing intern at a couple of non-profits. I'm going to finish my program this December and I'm thinking about applying to PhD programs OR DBA programs. I haven't really narrowed it down yet, but I know I'm interested in Marketing Analytics/Research or Organizational Behavior. I don't necessarily want to teach, but I want to research, and I would like to go on to school. 


My dilemma: I don't think my stats or background are good enough to get in. I'll be honest - I don't want to pursue this unless I can get into a nationally ranked school.


I will graduate with around a 3.9, will have presented a paper at a conference, and will have a diverse career background under my belt. Plus I'm pretty confident that I will do very well on the GMAT. But like I said, I didn't get my MBA/MA at a well known university and I feel like the universities I apply to will not find it.....I don't know, credible? I feel silly saying that--it's accredited and everything--but aren't rankings very important? I think my university is more interested in professional training rather than research experience. But I'm finding that most MBA programs are like this...


Any advice is appreciated. :)

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Hello Maria,


I apologize for no one replying to your comments.  It's not exactly application season yet, so most of the business phd forums aren't as active as during the academic year.


You may want to check out Urch Forums , where a lot more activity goes on for PhD in Business programs.  This site is usually mixed between MBA's and a handful of PhD's who stumble across this resource.



As for your post, do not ever sell yourself short for a PhD in business program.  First you have to decide on what exactly you would like to pursue your doctorate in.  If you enjoy research, then you might fit in here.  You need to differentiate between marketing and organizational behavior.  Both have some psych foundations, but the more you learn, the more you realize how little you know.  So at the completion of a doctorate, you have specialized into a very specific topic.  Also, I caution you that if you like analytics from the industry side, generally academic research is not data mining driven.




If you don't believe your stats and background is good enough, then take an year or so to prepare yourself so that those weaknesses aren't as bad.  The application process is like a big game of sales.  You need to emphasize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses.  Consider the perspective of the school.  In general, schools want to admit candidates that are the most likely (in their assessment) to complete the program.  Why else would they want to spend all the time and money to develop a doctoral student?  Next, out of the ones that have a relatively high probability (this is all based on what they feel are indicators of a strong student) to have a career where they will benefit the visibility of the group (i.e. the department).  This is done by publishing, successfully getting tenure, active in academic circles, etc.


Overall, there are a few key things adcoms look for:


1) GPA and GMAT (or GRE) scores.  Before a student moves on to start developing their own research areas, they have to get through coursework first.  Business PhDs may not be out to "fail" you, however you need to pass the coursework years.  Note that a great GPA cannot compensate for a low GMAT score, however a high GMAT score can help with a low GPA.


2) Letters of Rec (LOR) and Statement of Purpose (SOP).  These are invaluable.  Once the academic scores generally point in the direction of a successful student, a LOR helps portray how well your recommenders support your ability to conduct research.  Every letter is generally going to have elements such as "hard work", "has potential", "good grades", and/or "i fully support them".  Why would you get a letter from anyone else?  The trick for a great letter is your relationships with your letter writer (how well they know you, how much you have worked with them, how much you have discussed your goals and the steps you have taken to get there).


The SOP gives the adcom two pieces of information.  1) your writing ability (can you write a coherent and persuasive essay highlighting why you want to do this) and 2) a feel for how serious you are about a doctoral program.  PhDs are not to be taken lightly, and every school has experienced a number of students who thought it would be a great credential on their resume, but find out that it is VERY different then just a higher level MBA degree.


3) if you have any potential research experience that would demonstrate your interest and ability to conduct research.




To my understand, this is generally the order that adcoms consider applications.  If you cannot change an area of it (like ugrad gpa) then stop worrying about it.  If you can do others, i.e. gain some research experience, high test score, etc., then work on those to strengthen your application.


Just like in marketing, you should aim to be in the "short-stack".  If you cannot compete with those perfect GPA, perfect test scores, academic super-star students, then your application needs to stand out in a different way: perhaps you are SURE this is the career you would like.  You should focus on this and be able to eloquently communicate how you can to this decision, and why.


Prior academic success only points to a student more likely to pass the coursework years.  Of course, you have to pass the first years before you can even successfully complete a PhD.  HOWEVER, at the end of the day, it is the ability to grind it out and mentally endure the grueling journey of a doctorate that gets you to the end.  Some of the most academically capable student fall apart in the latter years.



Well, there's my essay to you. Feel free to message me if you have an other questions.  Best of luck with your decision.

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  • 1 month later...

I know it's been a couple months since you wrote your question. I haven't been logging on much at all lately even to check what's going on.


I have a similar background to yours. My undergrad degree was in Speech Communications with a minor in Business, then I completed an MBA. My undergrad GPA was slightly less than yours and my GPA during the MBA program was 3.93.


Three years ago I started working on a DBA. I won't kid you, it is hard. I've struggled at times with the work. I finished my last regular class three weeks ago and started my comprehensive exam two weeks ago and am really stressed. The rest of the classes forward are P/NP so my final GPA was a 3.97.


Expect to put in lots of time on reading and assignments. Even with one class, 40 hours studying isn't unusual. If you do decide to go forward I recommend starting with one class and gauging the work load. The second and third class I took at the same time, but it wasn't too bad as one of them was statistics. 

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  • 7 months later...

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