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I have graduated from one of the top 5 university of UK institution with not so good GPA (Lower Second which would converts to 3.00~3.20/4.00). Then I graduated Master’s degree from top university of my home country (in eastern Asia). Here, I have published one paper as 1st author (~13 IF) and two paper as 2nd and 4th author and also, I have published two patents.

After that, I have been working as a research associate for 3 years in one of the diagnostic company in my country. (This was an alternative option for compulsory military service).


I have applied for PhD degree in BME/Bioengineering/Chemical and biological engineering for fall 2017 to top tier engineering universities.

So far, I have been rejected from 6 institutions out of 20 and have not heard anything from other institutions at all.

Since it is already mid- Feb, I am worried that I would be rejected from all the universities.

Last week, I received a rejection letter for PhD and offered for MA degree in Chemical and biological engineering from Johns Hopkins University. They say there is no funding opportunity in 1st year but there might be some in 2nd year.

I have heard lot of opinion that this is no better than cold rejection and they give out these offers to gather cash to fund their PhD.

But now I am considering this offer seriously since it’s all I have so far but the problem is I have already earned MA and I am 29 this year…

If I don’t get PhD offer, I am going to re-apply next year and I am considering following two options to do so. I would like to ask other’s opinion which would be more realistic.


1) Diagnostic Company, which I am currently working, have US branch in New Jersey. I have asked the CEO that whether I could be transferred to this branch and he said it might be possible (not sure whether this would be a research position but it is likely). My plan is to move to US branch and see if I can find a lab at nearby university (Upenn, Penn state, Columbia Etc..) which I could conduct research during weekends. I guess this would better my chances for next year’s PhD application to those universities (would it?) or at least I could get some recommendation letter from US professor. But I am not so sure whether Professors would allow total stranger to work in their lab. Back in my country, this is often possible but I have no idea on US institution’s customs. If this is possible and if it indeed better my chances for PhD admission, I guess this option is better than the second since I do not have to worry about living costs and tuition fee.

2) Second option is accepting JHU’s offer. Since I am international student, the tuition cost is huge burden, not to mention that two extra year at my age.

If I accept this offer, I would be able to make some connections with professor at JHU. Would there be a chance for me to transfer of re-apply for PhD after a year (to JHU + other universities) and if so, would this increase my chance of getting PhD admission than the first option? I heard lot of rumor that accepting this type of offer would stigmatize you as a student who are not eligible for PhD admission. Is this true??  


 No-response (14)

Cornell, Upenn, Chicago, Boston, Rice, Yale, Columbia, Wisconsin, Michigan, Perdue, Brown, UCLA, Northwestern, Duke

Rejected (5)
UC berkeley, Stanford, UCSD, Washington,Illinois - Urbana 

Offered MA(1)

Johns Hopkins  


Edited by Welches
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I agree with many opinion you've read that this is the school's way to gather money. I have read and see that many schools offers unfunded MA for PhD applicants for international students because a) many of them accept the offer after feeling down about the whole process b ) some of them are actually willing to spend huge amounts of money for the chance to be in a great US school, and of course c) the tuition for international student is much higher than domestic. I don't really think it is a bad practice since it is a win-win for both party if the student is okay with paying the tuition, etc. YMMV, but I personally won't go to any MS/MA/PhD program without funding. 

That being said, if you have the money, accepting this offer would help you make connection with JHU professors, and many schools allow for an easy transfer from master to PhD if you show them exemplary performance. I don't think accepting the offer would stigmatized you since not many people would even know that your application was transferred or moved to MA unless you tell them. Also, if later you decide to do PhD somewhere else, an MA from JHU would probably increase your value as applicant.

Edit: I didn't read your first option. I don't know about the possibility of working on weekends for a random lab. I am not sure if it will be allowed with the visa, maybe someone else can shed a light on this? But if that is possible, then I guess it is your better option since you would be earning instead of spending huge amount of money for tuitions.

Oh, and don't forget that it is still mid February. You still have 14 more decision to wait for, I hope any of them would come up with better offer for you :) 

Edited by CoffeeFueledAnxiety
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I do not think that accepting an offer of that nature stigmatizes you for later PhD programs. Johns Hopkins is a very well respected institution here. I agree with everything CoffeeFueledAnxiety said above. No one can tell later what offer you were given. Also, their funding might be reserved for residents of the US. I agree with the suggestion that you could transition to a PhD later. I know a lot of programs allow that. And yeah, like they said, wait until you hear from all the offers. Honestly an offer into the masters at that school is still a good offer just because of their reputation. If you get a Masters there it will still look very good for you, Johns Hopkins has a good reputation.

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