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Struggling with MA Decision - would appreciate advice.


charl1e
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Hi, I've never posted here before but I read these forums often. I've been really struggling over something, and I'm wondering if folks here will have any insight. I really appreciate your time and thoughts!

 

Basically, next year I will be doing a Master's at a Canadian university, after which I plan to apply to top PhD programs in the US (my top choices are University of Michigan and Princeton). Right now, I face the choice between two MA programs, and I'm not sure which will better prepare me to get accepted into top PhD Programs.

 

I have been or will be shortly accepted into the top three universities in Canada, all with funding. I've basically decided against one of them because the program is too long, so now I face a choice between "University A" and "University B." They are both fairly prestigious, as far as Canadian universities go.

 

University A is my undergrad institution. It has a smaller department, but in terms of my subfield interests, it has the best faculty for it. I already have strong relationships with several professors (two in my field, many outside of it), whom I really enjoy working with. At this program you are assigned an MA supervisor who you meet with throughout the year (which I would prefer) and there is a thesis component. On the downside, I've already taken the graduate courses in my subfield interests, there isn't very thorough methods training, and it might be distracting for me to be in my home city where I have so much going on and am a known name on campus. I haven't technically been accepted yet, but I know that I will be and I also know roughly what funding I will get - a few thousand less than University B (though cost of living is also lower), and internally administered (combo of scholarship + TAship) rather than government fellowship (because they lost my grant application).

 

University B has a larger department, slightly more prestige overall, but fewer people who share my subfield interests. You don't complete a proper thesis or have an MA supervisor. The coursework looks a lot more stimulating and would be new to me - some of it relevant to my subfield depending on what they offer. In particular, they have very thorough methods training that I could benefit a lot from. University B rarely funds students (has a reputation for being a "cash grab" MA program), but they have offered me a government fellowship which will cover all of my tuition and most of my living expenses. RAships and TAships are very difficult to come by and unlikely for me to get. I think the above sorta synthesizes the good with the bad, but another good thing is that I would probably find it easier to focus on school if I got away from my current city (though then there are the downsides of moving and having to uproot, build new relationships, etc).

 

Basically I'm pretty torn here. Part of the question, to me, is also about whether external funding (as a fellowship) carries more prestige than internal funding (as a TAship), and whether that is enough of a factor that it should matter to my decision. Also, knowing that I have such a great working relationship with my honours supervisors at University A, whether I should give that up to be just a number at University B. 

 

Overall, I realize this is a good dilemma to have. But I'd really appreciate input because I have no idea what to do and need to tell University B my decision very soon.

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I would go to A all the way, more good things to put in your application. You'll end up getting better letters from people who actually work in your field of interest, the thesis may become a good journal article and/or writing sample, RA-TAship will add to your CV, etc. Also, if you want to get a PhD you should be prepared to work in any context, being close from home shouldn't be an issue.

That said, University B sounds like a nice safety option.

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Well you really need to list exactly the 2 or 3 top goals you want to get out of a MA program to improve your applications and decide which school fits that. 

 

Like for example, is GPA your goal? Do you think you could improve the LORs part of your application? Are you really interested in beefing up your methods? This is more in line with university B.

 

Do you need a better writing sample? Do you want some teaching experience on your CV? Do you think you can strengthen your existing letters? This is more of a university A situation...

 

Basically it comes down to what you want to improve in your application during the MA. 

 

Also, it's pretty obvious ''university B'' is U of T.  ;)

Edited by victorydance
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Hi, I've never posted here before but I read these forums often. I've been really struggling over something, and I'm wondering if folks here will have any insight. I really appreciate your time and thoughts!

 

Basically, next year I will be doing a Master's at a Canadian university, after which I plan to apply to top PhD programs in the US (my top choices are University of Michigan and Princeton). Right now, I face the choice between two MA programs, and I'm not sure which will better prepare me to get accepted into top PhD Programs.

 

I have been or will be shortly accepted into the top three universities in Canada, all with funding. I've basically decided against one of them because the program is too long, so now I face a choice between "University A" and "University B." They are both fairly prestigious, as far as Canadian universities go.

 

University A is my undergrad institution. It has a smaller department, but in terms of my subfield interests, it has the best faculty for it. I already have strong relationships with several professors (two in my field, many outside of it), whom I really enjoy working with. At this program you are assigned an MA supervisor who you meet with throughout the year (which I would prefer) and there is a thesis component. On the downside, I've already taken the graduate courses in my subfield interests, there isn't very thorough methods training, and it might be distracting for me to be in my home city where I have so much going on and am a known name on campus. I haven't technically been accepted yet, but I know that I will be and I also know roughly what funding I will get - a few thousand less than University B (though cost of living is also lower), and internally administered (combo of scholarship + TAship) rather than government fellowship (because they lost my grant application).

 

University B has a larger department, slightly more prestige overall, but fewer people who share my subfield interests. You don't complete a proper thesis or have an MA supervisor. The coursework looks a lot more stimulating and would be new to me - some of it relevant to my subfield depending on what they offer. In particular, they have very thorough methods training that I could benefit a lot from. University B rarely funds students (has a reputation for being a "cash grab" MA program), but they have offered me a government fellowship which will cover all of my tuition and most of my living expenses. RAships and TAships are very difficult to come by and unlikely for me to get. I think the above sorta synthesizes the good with the bad, but another good thing is that I would probably find it easier to focus on school if I got away from my current city (though then there are the downsides of moving and having to uproot, build new relationships, etc).

 

Basically I'm pretty torn here. Part of the question, to me, is also about whether external funding (as a fellowship) carries more prestige than internal funding (as a TAship), and whether that is enough of a factor that it should matter to my decision. Also, knowing that I have such a great working relationship with my honours supervisors at University A, whether I should give that up to be just a number at University B. 

 

Overall, I realize this is a good dilemma to have. But I'd really appreciate input because I have no idea what to do and need to tell University B my decision very soon.

 

 

Well you really need to list exactly the 2 or 3 top goals you want to get out of a MA program to improve your applications and decide which school fits that. 

 

Like for example, is GPA your goal? Do you think you could improve the LORs part of your application? Are you really interested in beefing up your methods? This is more in line with university B.

 

Do you need a better writing sample? Do you want some teaching experience on your CV? Do you think you can strengthen your existing letters? This is more of a university A situation...

 

Basically it comes down to what you want to improve in your application during the MA. 

 

Also, it's pretty obvious ''university B'' is U of T.  ;)

 

Lol yeah, B is definitely U of T.

 

 

Just wondering, is it really THAT difficult to come by a research assistant position at U of T? 

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Lol yeah, B is definitely U of T.

 

 

Just wondering, is it really THAT difficult to come by a research assistant position at U of T? 

 

This is just conjecture because I have never studied there but I see two competing arguments for this:

 

1) The way that the program is set up, a course based one year program, it might be hard to quickly get to know professors and therefore harder to get an RA position.

 

2) There is just a ridiculous amount of profs at U of T (almost 100) so there has got to be some opportunities somewhere. 

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Thanks folks for the input so far

 

This is just conjecture because I have never studied there but I see two competing arguments for this:

 

1) The way that the program is set up, a course based one year program, it might be hard to quickly get to know professors and therefore harder to get an RA position.

 

2) There is just a ridiculous amount of profs at U of T (almost 100) so there has got to be some opportunities somewhere. 

 

I have a friend doing an MA there. She said there's not a single person she knows in her MA program that has an RA position. Also, the lack of people doing what I'm interested in would probably make me a less-than-ideal applicant for most positions unless the one guy (literally, only one guy) needs someone. I think most of the RA positions go to PhD students, who are already starved for funding.

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Thanks folks for the input so far

 

 

I have a friend doing an MA there. She said there's not a single person she knows in her MA program that has an RA position. Also, the lack of people doing what I'm interested in would probably make me a less-than-ideal applicant for most positions unless the one guy (literally, only one guy) needs someone. I think most of the RA positions go to PhD students, who are already starved for funding.

 

I know of (not personally) one person doing their M.A at U of T this year with a research assistant position. 

 

So I guess it's not impossible...? I'll have to inquire more about this though.

Edited by atnight12
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