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A long story about all sorts of things


Awkwarada

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So, this will probably be a rather long post, but I hope that doesn't scare you away. 

I am currently studying for a BA in philosophy and a BA in musicology at the University of Utrecht (Netherlands). I am not totally sure how Dutch BA's compare to US/UK ones, but in general they take three years to finish, during which you spent approx. two full years doing courses in your chosen area and the remaining time doing more or less interdisciplinary courses (this is the standard for the humanities, anyway). If everything goes according to plan, I will graduate next year with a thesis in musicology and in philosophy. Naturally, I've been contemplating what to do after graduating. My initial plan was to do a Dutch Master's degree first (more on those below), and then try to apply to programs outside the Netherlands, but as it turns out I will need to do an English Language Test for the programs in the Netherlands anyway, which means that I will basically have all the required documents to apply to Oxford/Cambridge (if I do not fail the test, that is).

Last year I gained interest in doing a PhD/BPhil in the US/UK, but did not really look into it too much. Now, however, I have been doing some extensive research (as much as my spare time would allow) on where I would most like to study, the requirements, costs etc.. In the Netherlands, an MA is simply required for a PhD, the MA is simply the next stage towards a PhD. For Oxbridge, the most usual path seems to be to first get the BPhil (or Cambridge's equivalent) and then continue to do the PhD (if you're successful enough). In the USA, as I understand it, a Master's degree is not all necessary (even though it might help getting into certain programs), but is basically equivalent to the first year of a PhD (?). So, I've been thinking about my chances to get into for example Oxford or Cambridge (with funding); these are my primary targets not in the least (but also not in the first) because they are relatively close to home in comparison to the USA. So, here's my first question:

1. Would a Dutch master's degree significantly increase my chances of getting into top programs such as Oxford\Cambridge?

I would probably do either the Research Master in Philosophy at the Unvisersity of Amsterdam, which is a two year master required for a PhD in the Netherlands with focus on research, or the philosophy track in the Master of Logic (also at the UvA). Master degrees are both way more common and less expensive here in the Netherlands, so it would not really be a financial problem or anything (as it can be in the US). Related to this question is my second question:

2. Would you suggest that I apply to Oxford/Cambridge after my BA's, or just wait 'till after my Master's?

Would it hinder my application if I get refused the first time around and apply two years later with a Master's in philosophy or logic (assuming I get accepted for one or the other of these programs)? As I said, I have basically all the documents necessary to apply, so why not, right? I have heard, however, that they evaluate more harshly if you already have a Master's degree. Also, would the Logic Master be a better choice because it would make more sense to follow it up with a BPhil, instead of following a research orientated philosopher master with the BPhil?

My overall GPA is the same as for philosophy only: both 4.0. The Dutch system (of course) differs from the UK/USA system: the scale is between 1 (worst) and 10 (perfect). In principle a 10 was considered unreachable (technically teachers are not supposed to get 10's on their own courses), but this depends on the type of study. Obviously, in more the exact sciences it is possible to give all the right answers, just as with multiple choice tests that are common in psychology and other popular subjects in Holland. However, more essay-type tests and courses with only two papers will almost never give students between a 9 (is just reachable) and a 10 (seriously, forget it for essays/papers). The usual conversion table is that a Dutch 8.0 equals GPA 4.0. (I would like to argue that the conversion table should differ for more exact sciences, but oh well, who am I anyway?) As of now, my overall average is something like 8.2 and a little higher for philosophy only courses.

Besides doing two BA's, I also plan to do (and for a part am already doing) some courses in mathematics: first some introductory courses and hopefully also an introduction in axiomatic set theory and introductions to model theory, proof theory and complexity theory. Now, I am not a mathematical genius, and my planning would mean that I would have to follow these courses at the same time as writing my Musicology thesis. Needless to say, this will probably hamper my performance on the thesis (hopefully not too much). So here's my third question:

3.Would following these introductory courses in axiomatic set theory, complexity theory, etc. help my application significantly (for example if I name them in my personal statement)?

These courses will surely help in my application to the Logic Master, but would they help me in applying to e.g. the BPhil? This is also on the assumption that I succeed in these courses, which is not at all a given! Also, would my grade matter much (6.5 vs 8.5 for example) or do you think passing them is incredible enough for someone with almost no mathematical background?

I hope I have provided sufficient information to evaluate my position and maybe try to answer my questions. (I can hardly imagine I have not, considering how long this post has become.)

Any reaction (be it negative or positive) to this long story would be greatly appreciated.

Edited by Awkwarada
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29 minutes ago, Awkwarada said:

So, this will probably be a rather long post, but I hope that doesn't scare you away. 

I am currently studying for a BA in philosophy and a BA in musicology at the University of Utrecht (Netherlands). I am not totally sure how Dutch BA's compare to US/UK ones, but in general they take three years to finish, during which you spent approx. two full years doing courses in your chosen area and the remaining time doing more or less interdisciplinary courses (this is the standard for the humanities, anyway). If everything goes according to plan, I will graduate next year with a thesis in musicology and in philosophy. Naturally, I've been contemplating what to do after graduating. My initial plan was to do a Dutch Master's degree first (more on those below), and then try to apply to programs outside the Netherlands, but as it turns out I will need to do an English Language Test for the programs in the Netherlands anyway, which means that I will basically have all the required documents to apply to Oxford/Cambridge (if I do not fail the test, that is).

Last year I gained interest in doing a PhD/BPhil in the US/UK, but did not really look into it too much. Now, however, I have been doing some extensive research (as much as my spare time would allow) on where I would most like to study, the requirements, costs etc.. In the Netherlands, an MA is simply required for a PhD, the MA is simply the next stage towards a PhD. For Oxbridge, the most usual path seems to be to first get the BPhil (or Cambridge's equivalent) and then continue to do the PhD (if you're successful enough). In the USA, as I understand it, a Master's degree is not all necessary (even though it might help getting into certain programs), but is basically equivalent to the first year of a PhD (?). So, I've been thinking about my chances to get into for example Oxford or Cambridge (with funding); these are my primary targets not in the least (but also not in the first) because they are relatively close to home in comparison to the USA. So, here's my first question:

1. Would a Dutch master's degree significantly increase my chances of getting into top programs such as Oxford\Cambridge?

I would probably do either the Research Master in Philosophy at the Unvisersity of Amsterdam, which is a two year master required for a PhD in the Netherlands with focus on research, or the philosophy track in the Master of Logic (also at the UvA). Master degrees are both way more common and less expensive here in the Netherlands, so it would not really be a financial problem or anything (as it can be in the US). Related to this question is my second question:

2. Would you suggest that I apply to Oxford/Cambridge after my BA's, or just wait 'till after my Master's?

Would it hinder my application if I get refused the first time around and apply two years later with a Master's in philosophy or logic (assuming I get accepted for one or the other of these programs)? As I said, I have basically all the documents necessary to apply, so why not, right? I have heard, however, that they evaluate more harshly if you already have a Master's degree. Also, would the Logic Master be a better choice because it would make more sense to follow it up with a BPhil, instead of following a research orientated philosopher master with the BPhil?

My overall GPA is the same as for philosophy only: both 4.0. The Dutch system (of course) differs from the UK/USA system: the scale is between 1 (worst) and 10 (perfect). In principle a 10 was considered unreachable (technically teachers are not supposed to get 10's on their own courses), but this depends on the type of study. Obviously, in more the exact sciences it is possible to give all the right answers, just as with multiple choice tests that are common in psychology and other popular subjects in Holland. However, more essay-type tests and courses with only two papers will almost never give students between a 9 (is just reachable) and a 10 (seriously, forget it for essays/papers). The usual conversion table is that a Dutch 8.0 equals GPA 4.0. (I would like to argue that the conversion table should differ for more exact sciences, but oh well, who am I anyway?) As of now, my overall average is something like 8.2 and a little higher for philosophy only courses.

Besides doing two BA's, I also plan to do (and for a part am already doing) some courses in mathematics: first some introductory courses and hopefully also an introduction in axiomatic set theory and introductions to model theory, proof theory and complexity theory. Now, I am not a mathematical genius, and my planning would mean that I would have to follow these courses at the same time as writing my Musicology thesis. Needless to say, this will probably hamper my performance on the thesis (hopefully not too much). So here's my third question:

3.Would following these introductory courses in axiomatic set theory, complexity theory, etc. help my application significantly (for example if I name them in my personal statement)?

These courses will surely help in my application to the Logic Master, but would they help me in applying to e.g. the BPhil? This is also on the assumption that I succeed in these courses, which is not at all a given! Also, would my grade matter much (6.5 vs 8.5 for example) or do you think passing them is incredible enough for someone with almost no mathematical background?

I hope I have provided sufficient information to evaluate my position and maybe try to answer my questions. (I can hardly imagine I have not, considering how long this post has become.)

Any reaction (be it negative or positive) to this long story would be greatly appreciated.

Hi,

I'm actually an international student from The Netherlands studying in the United States. I am completing a MA in Musicology, and was just accepted to several PhD programs. 

It is true that you do not need a MA to enter PhD programs; however, the time spent in a MA program will allow you to build a strong resume. For example: you will (hopefully) have presented your research at conferences, you'll have experience teaching as a Teaching Assistant, etc.  Your writing samples will likely be better as well.  It's definitely not impossible to be admitted without a MA, but especially as an international student, your (English) writing may not be up to par with that of domestic students in the US/UK.  

Introductory courses are generally not helpful, you'll want more advanced courses and only if they relate to your area.  In other words: don't just take difficult courses because you want to look good.  Rather, spend time on perfecting your writing etc.  You also would not want to put them in your personal statement.  The statement is usually short, and should pertain to your research goals, why you want to study at that university, why you think you're a good fit.  It usually isn't a good idea to list courses you've taken, unless they are important to your research area.  In addition, they can always see them on your transcripts.

Regarding your grades, make sure you have an average of 8, and you'll be fine.  In addition to your grades, you will be required to take several tests.  It's likely that, for you, these are the GRE general test and the TOEFL test.  

Hope it helps.  Best of luck to you!

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Congrats @Musicologist on getting accepted to PhD programs and thank you so much for your comments. Since you are from the Netherlands, would you mind answering a few questions specifically about the transition (if you have the time, of course)?

Did you receive your BA in Netherlands (UU or UvA?) and then went on to do MA in the US? If so, would you say the two programs connected well or were you ahead/behind?

Did you find it a big transition, like in practical matters such as language, contacting the home front? (The time difference makes it so that it is hard to find a good time to contact people in the Netherlands, I believe.)

How did you do on the GRE's? And did you study a lot for them? Luckily, Oxford and Cambridge don't require them, but I ever were to apply to US programs, this would be a major concern me, because I feel I wouldn't do well at all without studying intensely. Not that that is a problem, but it would take a lot of time that I could've spent otherwise. And what about the TOEFL?

Also, the introductory courses in mathematics are (as far as I am aware) quite advanced subjects, so even though they're introductory they would count as advanced courses (they are 'niveau 3', the highest undergraduate level at UU). Besides, I wouldn't be doing them just to look good, but also because they interest me and to test my mathematical abilities for the Master of Logic. 

I will take your comments on the personal statement to heart! However, some Dutch universities require a personal statement of two to three pages (!), so I guess it would make sense to say something about my side interests in that case.

Anyway, your comments were helpful and thank you for your time so far. :)

Edited by Awkwarada
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I did my BM in violin performance (hogeschool niveau) in the United States, then I continued to get a MM (hogeschool master) and a MA (university MA level) simultaneously.  I did do some undergraduate work in The Netherlands, but it depends on the school you get into whether it's a smooth transition.  Not all schools are at the same level.  I feel that, in general, schools in The Netherlands are ahead compared to those in the United States.

Since I lived in the United States for nearly 8 years and I'm basically bilingual, I did not study that much for the GRE and did well.  Judging your writing on here, The TOEFL will be easy for you.  It's just long.  Both the GRE and the TOEFL are 4 hour tests.  Not all universities require the GRE, but they will require the TOEFL. There's been a trend that admission committees don't really look at GRE scores when making decisions, and that it's merely a requirement the university sets.  There's also a math part in the GRE, but they won't look at that score if you're doing Musicology (my math score was really really bad).

The transition to living here was relatively easy, but that can differ from state to state (I'm in California).  I lived with a friend, and they helped me throughout the first two years here.  Like most Dutch people, my English was good and there were no issues at all.  The internet, social media, and skype kept me in touch with the home front.  There is a 9-hour time difference, but we make it work.

I should say that if you get into a PhD program, the school will fully fund you.  This means that you will not pay for tuition, health insurance, and you will get a stipend to cover all basic living expenses.  You do not need to work.

You're welcome to find my on facebook if you send me a private message, and we can connect through there if you want!  

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