Missed Opportunity?

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ckangaroo
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Joined: Thu Apr 16, 2020 2:13 pm

Missed Opportunity?

Post by ckangaroo » Thu Apr 16, 2020 2:25 pm

Hello everyone,

I'll try to summarize my issue and circumstance the best I can. I'm a recent physics graduate with a 3.1 GPA from a good college in the DMV area. I wanted to get into a PhD program but wasn't able to attempt the GRE or apply to any schools due to my financial situation, so instead I focused on getting a job quickly after graduating, and I managed to get a job recently as a Systems Engineer at a big defense contractor. One of the major reasons I took the path I have so far was because many of the professors I've talked to mentioned the possibility of going back to grad school either during or after working for some time. I know many companies will allow employees to work and get an MS at the same time, but doing the same thing with a PhD might as well be impossible. I also haven't found many cases at all mentioning people who work for some time in a relatively nontechnical field and then manage to get accepted into a PhD program. I'm worried that I may have lost my chance at getting a PhD or even MS in physics because I didn't strike while the iron was hot during my undergrad days. Even moreso I'm worried that since my first job was a nontechnical one, I'm going to miss out on future careers in R&D.

Does anyone have personal experience that relates to this? Can you apply and return to grad school after working a normal career? How much does my prior academics influence that? I'd appreciate any input you can offer.

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Nishikata
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Re: Missed Opportunity?

Post by Nishikata » Thu Apr 16, 2020 2:39 pm

Of course you can.

I went to work for 3.5 years, and now i am in grad school doing my masters.
Look, you just need to get into a school to reset your status as a student again.
Say you get into a MS program somewhere in this world. After graduating from MS, you are a fresh candidate again to apply for PhD program.

US dollars are strong, so your savings should be good for living expenses in most countries in this world to get the MS.
Go for terminal MS in Europe, for example, where tuition is free. Spend 1-2 years full-time and get a high GPA.
Abracadabra. Your dream of getting a PhD is now alive again.

jabennett2194
Posts: 118
Joined: Tue Jun 12, 2018 6:54 pm

Re: Missed Opportunity?

Post by jabennett2194 » Fri Apr 17, 2020 8:14 am

Would you stop telling people there is no tuition in Europe Nishikata ahhaha
southwest Germany is not the only country in europe

AstroObs
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Joined: Mon Mar 09, 2020 1:42 am

Re: Missed Opportunity?

Post by AstroObs » Fri Apr 17, 2020 11:17 am

jabennett2194 wrote:
Fri Apr 17, 2020 8:14 am
Would you stop telling people there is no tuition in Europe Nishikata ahhaha
southwest Germany is not the only country in europe
Many Nordic/Benelux universities also have incredibly low tuition, and even if they advertise higher non-EU rates I have known these to be waived for several of my international friends eg in the Netherlands and Denmark (independently of scholarships/fellowships, though these may also be available).

I think Nishikata had great advice!! A masters gives the opportunity for more ambitious, independent research projects that can lead to his own exciting/publishable discoveries. Plus he can make up for a run-of-the-mill GPA with one that is uninterpretable hahaha.

Alternatively, if you are in the mindset of just having a fun PhD (and if you have academic dreams those are pretty hard to achieve anyways), there are plenty of low ranked programs with higher acceptance rates you could try applying to alongside masters programs. They pay just as poorly :) You can try getting in touch with professors to see if you are a good match - it is still unpredictable since they might not hire in certain areas year to year so is good to check in in my opinion.
ckangaroo wrote:
Thu Apr 16, 2020 2:25 pm
I'm worried that I may have lost my chance at getting a PhD or even MS in physics because I didn't strike while the iron was hot during my undergrad days.
I guarantee you have not lost your chance at a PhD, and certainly not an MS.
Last edited by AstroObs on Fri Apr 17, 2020 11:34 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Nishikata
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Re: Missed Opportunity?

Post by Nishikata » Fri Apr 17, 2020 11:23 am

Compared to US universities (several tens of thousands per year), Europe is much much cheaper..
(I applied last year, so I kinda already done my research)

Germany of course has many good universities that can be viable alternatives for US applicants. No fees in Berlin or Munich.
Austria (Vienna) is good too, and only 2000 EUR per year.
France has some grande ecoles and universities too, 4000 EUR per year.
Spain (Madrid) about 3000 EUR per year.

No tuition fees in Norway either. If you want to commit to PhD, Finland is free too. But Nordic countries are expensive to live in, so maybe stay away from there.

and UK has left EU, so its rivaling expensive education is excluded from my list...

It will be hard for a US citizen to migrate and study in foreign-language speaking country in Europe,
don't you think that most of them will consider only these countries I listed above?

Just want to let more people know that US is not the only place to get a masters, and it is not that expensive everywhere else.

geekusprimus
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Joined: Sat Jun 08, 2019 1:10 pm

Re: Missed Opportunity?

Post by geekusprimus » Fri Apr 17, 2020 12:55 pm

There are also a handful of schools in the US that offer research-oriented funded master's degrees. They're not very common, and they're going to be tougher to get into than an unfunded one, but it's worth looking around in case living abroad isn't an option for you. You can also look at Canadian universities, which tend to offer more funded master's programs than the US.

jabennett2194
Posts: 118
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Re: Missed Opportunity?

Post by jabennett2194 » Sat Apr 18, 2020 6:19 am

geekusprimus's answer is the most logical.

nishikata (even after the correction from free to 2000+ euro) and astroObs (regarding European programs, see below) are still missing the point.
It doesn't matter how low the tuition is in Europe compared to the US...
You are still PAYING something. Even if you pay the EU citizen tuition (Ill give the example of the Netherlands because I am here right now) you are still paying 2000 euro (compared to the non-EU citizens 17,000 euro) per year....
That is NON-TRIVIAL!!!
You are going to paying for tuition, housing, travel across the Atlantic, food, etc. Yes the cost of living is much lower over here, but you are still PAYING something.

The best option is as astroObs says, apply to below ...idk #75 roughly? PhDs in the US News ranking. There are TONS of amazing programs even below #100!

Do not pay for your grad education when you are a citizen of the US and have these options in science.

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Nishikata
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Re: Missed Opportunity?

Post by Nishikata » Sat Apr 18, 2020 10:17 pm

After all, ckangaroo will be the one deciding according to his current personal conditions and his future plans. All we did was to give him the options.

There are possibilities of applying for smaller scholarships from organizations like DAAD in Germany which can supplement the living expenses. Yes, you will still be paying a nonzero amount of money for your food or other expenses there. But quitting one’s current job to live based on grad school stipend for 5-6 years is already some huge opportunity cost anyway.

My personal rule of thumb in making such decisions is: what do I get from this big purchase?
  • Does your new degree open the door for new career options?
  • Does it accelerate promotion in your current field?
  • Does it fulfill a personal lifelong dream?
  • Does it get sufficient appreciation from your society?
Maybe if your answer to one of the questions is yes, then it may be worth it to pay the price of leaving your current job. However, I guess maybe ckangaroo has pondered these questions before posting this anyway...

So then it goes to analyzing the price versus the goods you get.

If choosing outside US:
  • experience in living internationally
  • Terminal masters, with reduced living expenses compared to US
  • After Masters, you can be paid a salary as PhD student (in Switzerland for example)
  • Tuition can be free without having to serve as TA/RA
  • A chance to improve the tier of your academic portfolio (GPA, papers, letters)
  • A chance for another, final shot at the dream schools albeit the longer training (2 in EU + 5 years in US)
If choosing to settle for PhD in lower-tier schools in US:
  • Domestic relocation only
  • More likely to be able to retain a similar lifestyle
  • TA/RA possible to waive tuition and provide stipend: lower overall monetary cost
  • Shorter academic training in an integrated MS+PhD program
The above list is of course not complete, and I suggest each individual can make their own to understand their decisions better.

jabennett2194
Posts: 118
Joined: Tue Jun 12, 2018 6:54 pm

Re: Missed Opportunity?

Post by jabennett2194 » Sun Apr 19, 2020 3:22 am

^^^^ now that is a post I can get behind Nishikata :) great points!

For those interested, although they are quite competetive, here is a list of some scholarships US citizens can apply for to study/research outside of the country. I applied to most of these so for future reference anyone can feel free to ask me about the app process.

Fulbright — applied and won, on my grant now

Marshall — applied and rejected

Rhodes —applied and rejected

Gates Cambridge — applied and rejected

University of Amsterdam Excellence (or Merit, excellence is full tuition and a lot of money, and merit is slightly less) — applied, got into the program but didnt get the Excellence or Merit

ETH Zurich Excellence — didn't apply, the application fee is quite high given the Swiss currency and I had already sent a billion dollars applying the previous year to grad school so I only applied to school I got a fee waiver for the second time around

Churchill — didnt apply because you need to come from a certain list of universities and mine wasn't listed https://www.churchillscholarship.org/eligibility.html

Mitchell — didnt apply

Higgs at Edinburgh — didn't apply, but the deadline was very late (you can still apply technically https://www.ed.ac.uk/student-funding/po ... sics/higgs although beware Covid-19 effects on admissions), so I was going to apply if i didnt get in somewhere this year

DAAD (didn't apply)

ckangaroo
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Joined: Thu Apr 16, 2020 2:13 pm

Re: Missed Opportunity?

Post by ckangaroo » Sun Apr 19, 2020 3:16 pm

Thanks to all of the people who've given feedback to far.

I'm glad to hear that it's still possible to get accepted for a PhD program after working later in life. However one of the things I'm still confused about is how I would go about applying and what would I use as credentials for applying after being out of school for 2-3 years. Is it more highly focused on the GRE scores? How much can I rely on letters from previous professors after having graduated? I realize a lot of these questions might be very basic, but I don't have anyone to turn to in my personal life for these kinds of questions.

I should also also say that I'm not picky about where and what college or program I get accepted to, I know that I'm in no position to aim for higher ranked programs. I'm more interested in what I study in the end. The reasons I'd like to get a PhD is primarily for career reasons, because I'd like to do research as a full time job if I could which I don't seem to have access to with only a BS. But it's also just a personal dream of mine I'd like to achieve.

Also while I'm not 100% discounting going international for my education, I'd prefer to not do it for the reasons most people already outlined.

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Nishikata
Posts: 218
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Re: Missed Opportunity?

Post by Nishikata » Sun Apr 19, 2020 8:35 pm

GRE score only serves to prove that you have the basic aptitude in studying physics. It clears this bar, but not sufficient to get you admission.

PhD program is a research program, so letters of recommendations from researchers are usually the best qualifications.
It depends on how well your relationship with your professors are in the past, but based on my personal experience, some of them will be willing to write for you. However, you will need to supply them with sufficient information about you so that they can write a strong recommendation.

A first step, is to send them an email and offer to meet in a video chat (because coronavirus) to update them with your current situation if they're willing to help. Some of them will have forgotten about you and some will never reply. This is normal. You just have to get on with those who do.

Research experience is good, but if you do not have one you can elaborate about your work project and have it mentioned by the recommenders. It's better than nothing.



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