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MS at an unranked graduate school with a (potentially) great advisor?

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Hi all,


I am currently struggling with making a decision on grad school. I got offered a potential masters (in ecology) with someone who would be a great advisor on a project that sounds really interesting. 

I have talked to several people and got mixed advice about taking this offer.

My main concern is that getting a MS from an unknown university might impact future possibilities of getting into a good PhD program. Other than this, this is a great opportunity because I have been working with my advisor and he is very supportive, and does really interesting work. It would be fully funded and the project itself sounds like it's right up my alley.

Many people have said that a masters is always good to have. And in this case, even if the school/program isn't what I want, the productivity in terms of papers, thesis, networking, and conference presentations would be what a future advisor would be looking at.

Any input/advice would be really appreciated because I really need to make a decision on this (mostly for my sanity :P)

Thank you all in advance :)

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If it is fully funded and research you are interested in I would go for it. If you were passionate about your work it will show in your PhD applications and be a huge plus for you, regardless of the institution you came from. What PhD programs are looking for is passionate people who have a track record of success doing research, every other consideration is secondary. However, I don't know about your field but in mine a Master's doesn't really help your PhD application unless you did poorly as an undergraduate. If a PhD is your goal, why not apply directly to PhD programs? Good luck!

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Where you get your masters from doesn't really impact you getting into a good PhD program. Since this would be a funded opportunity, use it wisely and present your work, network, defend a thesis and if possible publish a paper. The skills you gain from the degree will be transferable at the PhD level. When you go for PhD interviews as long as you demonstrate your knowledge of the area of study and can coherently speak on what you can offer the program (as well as why they can help you), the adcomm doesn't care where you got your MS from. Plus since you like your PI and project you can get an awesome LOR out of the opportunity. 


I'll give you an example: I'm currently finishing up my MS from a pretty unknown school in the Bio field. The school is top-tier for engineering (my undergrad) but when I decided to switch my field of study from pure engineering to a more bio related field (cancer bio/pharmacology), the school name held little weight. However, I had the opportunity to do a MS while being fully funded, so I took it. The way I saw it was that it gave me the opportunity to do in-depth research at the grad level for 1.5 years while easing my mindset into the grad school one. If I didn't like grad research I had the opportunity to quit and go into the workforce or if I did like it I would have even more research experience on my CV. I also look at it like this: spending 2 yrs on a degree isn't that big of a deal since I'm relatively young and plan on continuing my studies at the doctoral level.


Overall I enjoyed the experience and learned a lot. I got to present my research (went to 2 conferences), network, and I'll be getting a publication later this year. Plus I had interviews at every program I applied to (ranked 2-30) and I'm going to be attending a top 10 program. So I say take the opportunity since it seems like you want to and don't worry about not being able to get into a good PhD program. Good luck with you endeavors!

Edited by eteshoe
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People are going to care much more about the work you do (did) as a master's student than the name of the university on your degree. That is, they'll be interested in the classes you took, the lab work you did, the conferences you presented at, and the papers you (co-)authored. That's the body of work that will get you into a top PhD program, regardless of the university's name. Go with the full funding and make the most of the opportunity you're being given. Good luck!

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