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To what degree does the institution you earn your Masters in determine where you can go for a PhD?


maelduin
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I'm currently debating between two schools. One feels right, there's a lot about it that says so, but primarily the intimate nature of the program, the response from the POI, the project that's been introduced to me, and so far the mention of concrete funding (if only for 1 semester so far). Then there is the other school. By all accounts it's much higher ranked, and has a much stronger international reputation. The program would allow me to study in Central Asia for a few weeks, and I would be able to get a Master's in a quite well renowned institution.

 

The more renowned school is more expensive, especially the cost of living in that particular city (and I'm bringing my wife who won't be able to work right away).

 

I'm wondering, does rank  of school matter that much in the long run? Will a better known school give me a better edge in the competition if I continue on towards a PhD? Any input would be great! Thanks.

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I'm in a different field than you, but for me, the rank of the school did not matter at all. I actually sort of hate when people look at rank of school when what really will matter most in the end is who you worked under and what you publish.

 

I attended a really unknown MS program, and my experience was what showed up on my application that was asked about the most. You need to go where you feel you're going to get the best education and where you feel comfortable as a student. Please don't pick your school solely on rank. It sounds like you've already made your decision, but are sort of letting the idea of the high-ranked school confuse you. Go where you will be happy!

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The reason rank can matter is because sometimes there are more opportunities at top schools. I am at a pretty unknown school for my MS but am working with an awesome professor in my subfield who is giving me tons of opportunities and really helping me learn material that will be helpful in phd interviews and research. I actually dont think that I would get this much help or encouragement at a top school so for me, its actually turning out to be better that I chose the school that I did.

 

I think you should compare opportunitites, not rankings. Money also should definitely factor in.

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Considering that many people in the sciences go right from BS to PhD without ever earning a masters, I doubt it matters overly much.

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As I see it, there are a few advantages you get going to a "big" school. Firstly, you're more likely to work with and potentially get references from bigger names in your field, which can make a difference when applying to doctorate programs. Secondly, bigger, more renown institutions often have a broader variety of students, so you're more likely to be exposed to people and ideas from around the world, which can enhance your education and your experience while at school. Thirdly, if you decide to work for a little while before pursuing a PhD, having a big well known school at the top of your resume can help you find jobs. As bsharpe269 said, opportunities matter more than rank, but you're more likely to have more, and better, opportunities at a bigger school.

 

As an anecdote, I'm in a similar situation to you with regards to school choices, and of the half dozen professors I've spoken to, they have all been unequivocally in favour of going to the bigger school. They all felt that going to a world renowned school for a masters makes it much easier to get into a world renowned PhD program (and secure better funding for that program), and that the advantages that would afford you is even worth a sizable financial outlay on your part. Not that you should put a $30 000 tuition bill on a credit card or something like that.

 

Just thought I'd offer up an alternative view of the "funding and fit above all else" idea. Ranking, sadly, seems to matter a lot.

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I am at a complete no-name school right now doing my undergrad, and it doesn't appear to have affected my PhD applications. If anything, say there are two equally strong applicants, one from a famous school and one from a no-name, I'd favour the one from the no-name because it suggests their achievements are more self-led, and indicates strong personal motivation to work hard and become academically accomplished regardless of their environment or background.

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Everyone, thanks a ton for your responses. This helps me put myself a bit at ease. I think, first, I need to wait until I get both packages enumerated to a degree that I can weigh them against each other. One offers comfort, and likely a much more intimate approach to my schooling--the other a far more diverse school with more resources and likely more renowned professors. I'm not sure how much the renown matters in my own approach to education, but I suppose as some of you say there is some too it.

I'll keep looking into things and trying to make the right choice. It's definitely hard!

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