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Applying to PhD as A First-Semester Master Student? Your Help Is Needed!



Hello all,

Thank you for your reply in advance!

I am a 2017 fall PhD applicant who received all rejections, but was offered funded MAs instead. I clearly overestimated myself last year, because I was aiming the top-notch schools with my BA and one-year, non-thesis MA out of the US. Starting with an MA seems like a correct path, so I have decided to take the offer. That means I will be attending to an MA program 2017 fall. Since PhD is my final destination, I am considering if it's possible or even ethical to re-apply to the 2018 fall PhD programs this year (during my first semester as an MA student)?

Here's a few things that I am concerned of:

1. Is it possible that I could ask for LORs from professors in the MA program? If I'm applying 2018 fall,  I will need their letters by November 2017, which may not give them enough time to know me well. 

2. Is it ethical to ask for LORs from professors in the program that I am attending to? I will, of course, apply to the PhD program at the same department, but I will definitely apply for more programs. With that being said, if I am admitted to other programs, it means I will leave the current MA program without graduation. Is it bad to ask professors to do so?

3. When I asked the graduate coordinator about re-applying to the PhD program 2018 fall, she told me that my application will be reviewed with the 2018 fall applicant pool, and my MA credits cannot be transferred to the PhD program. It makes me thinking that if I got into a new PhD program, will my first-year MA credits be accepted? Or is it just this school?


You might be wondering why I am rushing through re-applying in 2018 fall. The reason is that I already got an MA degree in the same field but with different concentration, then I worked full-time for another two years. Now that I am determined to do PhD, I do not want to waste any time doing another MA. 


It would be great if you could share with me your opinions. Any suggestions or advices are appreciated! Thanks a lot!




Edited by TheGingerSnap
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Is the MA you're doing a one year or two year program? I'm assuming it's a two year program but just wanted to make sure. 

To answer your questions:

Re #1: It's possible that you could ask but, given that you won't have written any final papers, it'll be difficult for those professors to comment on your research skills and potential, which is what would be most beneficial to your application. (BTW, did you contact any of the schools you didn't get into to ask about ways to improve your application? It could be that your LORs are excellent and not an area where you need to show improvement...)

Re #2: Is it ethical? Well, that depends. Are they funding and expecting you to complete a two year MA program that you're planning to leave early? If so, then they may be disappointed by your decision. Ultimately, you need to find faculty who are in your corner and will support you to do what is best for you, which may very well mean leaving a program early. You'll have to suss that out for each person individually.

Re #3: The ability to transfer graduate programs is going to be department and institution-specific. Some programs may only let you transfer credits if you received a degree while others will let you transfer in some limited number of courses. My PhD program let me count I think 4 classes from my master's done elsewhere (so 12 credits), which is definitely not the equivalent of a year of coursework.


Do you have funding for this MA program that you're doing? Because, if so, I'd encourage you to stay and complete the program. You'll have the chance to gain valuable research experience, present at conferences, and make connections with faculty to help you have a successful round of PhD applications. Good luck!

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Thank you so much for your answer and the helpful advice!

It is a two-year program, and my POI has indicated that he would fund me throughout the two years. In terms of application, I believe my biggest weakness is the lack of research experience in the field, so completing this two-year program first seems like the best choice for me at this moment. 

Thanks again!!!

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