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If I go for a phd afterwards, what kind of master programs should I choose?

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Since my GPA is not high enough to be competitive for the best phd programs and I haven't really decided my research interest, I think I will enter a master program first.


My undergrad major is theoretical and applied mechanics,and I want my master in applied math, and then my phd (most probably in the US) doing interdisiplinary research like brain science.


If this is the case, should I choose the shorter programs or longer ones? Is it better to write a thesis? Maybe longer programs will enable me to do summer research with profs from other universities? Will I be more privileged in applying for a phd in the US if my master is in the US? I am considering Canada, Ecole polytechnique in france and Berlin mathematical school as well.


Welcome any comments! THX!

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If possible, you should definitely do a thesis-based Masters program, NOT a course-based with research on the side. A one-year program won't be very helpful because by the time you need to apply to PhD programs, you would have just started your Masters and you won't get strong LORs or connections or research experience from your masters yet. So, you won't have any advantage in doing a Masters! I would go for a 2-year masters program.


Whether or not you are able to work with profs from other schools depend on the Masters program. In Canada, this isn't very common in science programs -- your supervisor is paying you all year so you're expected to work with them all year. But, I know that the French masters programs involve 2 research "internships" which often take place in US and Canadian schools (at all schools I've been to, we've had many visiting grad students from the Ecole Normale Superior). 


The biggest downside and restriction, I think, of a Masters program is that most of them are unfunded so it will cost a bunch of money. Canadian masters programs are usually funded though, because in Canada, we usually do a Masters first then a PhD (so the Masters is really the first two years of a US PhD). However, this also makes application to masters programs much more competitive than unfunded programs in the US! On the plus side though, there are far fewer people in Canada than the US so the competition pool is probably smaller.

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