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MS with Funding or PhD without much?


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Got into UIUC with renewable graduate assistantship (tuition waived/TA-ship + stipend). One of my favorite schools(was considering for undergrad), close to home, ranked very high in ECE.

BUT. It is a MS program. (of course there is the potential for going onto PhD), heard the campus is nice but cornfields elsewhere?




UW-Madison ECE PhD with 6 month project assistantship for the first year, no other funding guaranteed. The POI is going to "observe" during this project assistantship (probationary period) and then may or may not take me. But research is pretty cool. Top 20 ECE program. Nice college town.




UCSD ECE PhD with no funding, no professor. Fellowship nomination that I won't hear back from until well past the deadline and with fellowship I would have to work for someone who I am not that interested in. Top 20 ECE program, great location.


I have asked everywhere, I cannot get extensions. Decision must be made by tomorrow.


Any help is appreciated :)





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I would also go for the master's program, especially if it seems like you may be able to continue onto the PhD. I wouldn't even consider UCSD if you're not getting any funding - don't put yourself into crazy debt for a PhD, it's not worth it. A funded masters may open up even more doors for you down the road.


If you're considering UW-Madison, maybe you could ask about the success rates for people that get off the probationary period? I would assume it's rather high but if it turns out to be a 50/50 shot of getting funding, I would say that's not really worth it either.


As an aside, yes Urbana-Champaign is basically a college town with nothing around it but cornfields. It's a really nice campus though and the student body is really active.

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So, MS with funding is recommended over getting into phd and then actively searching for TA/RAships? How likely is it to find TA/some sort of employment after entering if I am not given anything with the offer?


The Madison program - I have heard he is a very strict guide and sometimes unpredictable, and that he is known to not accept students after the prob. period. Though it is still >50%. 


Thank you guys so much for the advice.

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I'd definitely go for the funded masters. Even if funding is possible down the line at the PhD programs, it's a huge risk and you won't do your best work if you're stressed or if it all hinges on being liked by an unpredictable and ego-driven professor. The MS sounds like it would set you up well to continue your PhD there or apply elsewhere and get into top funded PhD programs down the line.  

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