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Thread: UCL MSc Economics to U.S. PhD Question

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    UCL MSc Economics to U.S. PhD Question

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    Hi there, I am considering attending the UCL MSc Economics program before applying to U.S. PhD programs but I'm trying to figure out how to pull this off so I don't have a year off in between.

    For one reason or another I would want to apply to U.S. PhD programs after the first term of the UCL MSc program. Problem is, I don't know if I am going to have anything to show for my performance at UCL besides the math exam we take at the beginning of the term, seeing as exams are taken during Term 3 and thus wouldn't be in time for application season.. Does anyone know if I receive final "grades" for courses taken in the first term that would appear on a transcript? Or is this route usually not taken aka most people have a gap year doing research or just stick with the UCL PhD?

    Thanks!

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    Re: UCL MSc Economics to U.S. PhD Question

    I would highly recommend against applying after the first term.

    Exams in UCL's MSc are in May and as their website says regarding every single core module: "Assessment is based solely on the final examination". Even if you do extremely well in pre-sessional math course and the problem classes (marks on them count for nothing though) in the Term I Macro, Micro and Econometrics, I highly highly doubt you will find a single person in the department willing to give you a reference for your 2-3 months of non-graded work.

    Even so, staying in London for 1 extra year isn't necessarily a bad thing if you are an EU citizen. There are a number of Economic consultancies in London, hiring UCL and LSE Economics graduates for 8-10 weeks to 1 year graduate schemes. Add to that the Treasury, Bank of England, CEBR and, I suppose, numerous investment banks hiring economists on research roles.

    I am actually currently trying to choose between UCL and Warwick's MSc and am probably going to accept the latter offer, given my interest in financial, monetary and macro, and UCL's high focus on micro.

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    Re: UCL MSc Economics to U.S. PhD Question

    Thanks for the advice and the information, much appreciated. Unfortunately I am an overseas student (non-EU) so some of those opportunities may not be available. I've also been working for 3 years between my undergraduate work and now so I'm really looking to go straight to the PhD without any more breaks. Sounds like I may have to consider my other options.

    If anyone happens to know someone who has done this or has done it themselves, please leave your input as well.

    Quote Originally Posted by doomy View Post
    I would highly recommend against applying after the first term.

    Exams in UCL's MSc are in May and as their website says regarding every single core module: "Assessment is based solely on the final examination". Even if you do extremely well in pre-sessional math course and the problem classes (marks on them count for nothing though) in the Term I Macro, Micro and Econometrics, I highly highly doubt you will find a single person in the department willing to give you a reference for your 2-3 months of non-graded work.

    Even so, staying in London for 1 extra year isn't necessarily a bad thing if you are an EU citizen. There are a number of Economic consultancies in London, hiring UCL and LSE Economics graduates for 8-10 weeks to 1 year graduate schemes. Add to that the Treasury, Bank of England, CEBR and, I suppose, numerous investment banks hiring economists on research roles.

    I am actually currently trying to choose between UCL and Warwick's MSc and am probably going to accept the latter offer, given my interest in financial, monetary and macro, and UCL's high focus on micro.

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    Re: UCL MSc Economics to U.S. PhD Question

    Anyone else have experience applying to U.S. PhDs after one semester in a Masters program? I was admitted to another program which does indeed have some exams at the end of the first semester and thus would have more to show on my application, but I'm still unsure about convincing a professor to write a letter for me.

    Deadline is Tuesday... any input is extremely helpful.

    Quote Originally Posted by tkgeoff View Post
    Thanks for the advice and the information, much appreciated. Unfortunately I am an overseas student (non-EU) so some of those opportunities may not be available. I've also been working for 3 years between my undergraduate work and now so I'm really looking to go straight to the PhD without any more breaks. Sounds like I may have to consider my other options.

    If anyone happens to know someone who has done this or has done it themselves, please leave your input as well.

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    Re: UCL MSc Economics to U.S. PhD Question

    It is not impossible in general to successfully apply after 1 semester of a UK masters. Some things that might help:

    1. Find out whether the program has mock exams in December (or earlier). The professors may be willing to write you a letter based on the results of the mocks. This is however a highly risky strategy (you won't know your grade until very close to deadlines) and it does require you to do very, very well on the exams (like top 5% of your class, ideally top 1). You also need to try to build relationship with the professors during the semester. Talk to them about your interest in the PhD program early. Ask smart questions in class. Etc.
    2. One avenue you can explore is emailing the UCL professors upfront (like, now) and trying to get a research assistantship. If your visa situation permits, you may even want to arrive a couple of months before the start of your course and spend them RAing full-time. Be prepared that you send a bunch of letters and will maybe get 1 positive response. That would be a good outcome.
    3. Generally, your success with any such strategy is going to be dependent on how good your undergrad record is. Aim to have at least one letter from your undergrad professors to give more credibility to your overall recommendations (for the adcoms to have a perspective from someone who's known you longer than a couple of months).

    In any case - it will be risky, and you should be prepared to be unsuccessful with your application in the year of your programme and reapply after you graduate. Lots of people do that.
    Last edited by irony; 04-12-2015 at 05:56 PM.

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    Re: UCL MSc Economics to U.S. PhD Question

    Thanks for the response, that information is very helpful. Seems like a high-risk strategy judging from the responses.

    Anyone else have any experience with this situation or know someone who was been in it? Also, if anyone happens to know someone in the UCL MSc Economics program and could put me in touch with them that would be supremely helpful.

    Thanks.



    Quote Originally Posted by irony View Post
    It is not impossible in general to successfully apply after 1 semester of a UK masters. Some things that might help:

    1. Find out whether the program has mock exams in December (or earlier). The professors may be willing to write you a letter based on the results of the mocks. This is however a highly risky strategy (you won't know your grade until very close to deadlines) and it does require you to do very, very well on the exams (like top 5% of your class, ideally top 1). You also need to try to build relationship with the professors during the semester. Talk to them about your interest in the PhD program early. Ask smart questions in class. Etc.
    2. One avenue you can explore is emailing the UCL professors upfront (like, now) and trying to get a research assistantship. If your visa situation permits, you may even want to arrive a couple of months before the start of your course and spend them RAing full-time. Be prepared that you send a bunch of letters and will maybe get 1 positive response. That would be a good outcome.
    3. Generally, your success with any such strategy is going to be dependent on how good your undergrad record is. Aim to have at least one letter from your undergrad professors to give more credibility to your overall recommendations (for the adcoms to have a perspective from someone who's known you longer than a couple of months).

    In any case - it will be risky, and you should be prepared to be unsuccessful with your application in the year of your programme and reapply after you graduate. Lots of people do that.

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    Re: UCL MSc Economics to U.S. PhD Question

    Hi!

    Thanks for writing about this issue. I am an overseas student for MSc. Economics at UCL for 2016-2017 and I had asked the Graduate Director for some information regarding how UCL can help with PhD application. I am a bit worried by their response. I am interested in PhD application to the US, but since my undergraduate college is not very well-known I want to do a good MSc. from where I can get good recommendations etc.

    I had written to UCL:
    "I intend to meet the 2015 deadlines for admission in to Fall 2016 PhD programs, and would like some information about how UCL and the department can help me organise this. The letters of recommendation especially are quite concerning, since I will have been in the university for only a few months. Furthermore, I will have taken only one examination (the math and statistics prerequisites examination) when I make my application, so I am a bit worried about how my transcripts will come across."

    To which the answer I received was:
    "
    PhD Applications
    Your referees should be from your undergraduate university; UCL academic staff will not be in a position to attest to your academic performance when you apply to PhD programmes in the Spring of 2016 (or 2017). You may provide proof of enrolment at UCL with your PhD applications, mention your Maths & Stats exam result, and inform the institutions you apply to that you will have examination results in July 2016."

    I understand why the professors would not be able to write recommendations for Fall 2016 applications, but why for 2017? This is very disconcerting, and if I am unsatisfied, I will take the MSc offer elsewhere. Hope I helped!

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    Re: UCL MSc Economics to U.S. PhD Question

    Hi,

    Tkgeoff's situation mirrors mine. I am presently pursuing Masters in Economics after a business undergrad and two and a half years of work experience. My goal is to pursue a doctoral in the US but due to my background and inadequate rep power of my current institute, I feel another masters may be the way to go.

    When i applied a couple of years ago, I had the same query - the response was similar to the ones offered in this thread. A year after the masters is spent doing RA work or in the professional sector.

    As for the UCL response posted by DiddlyDoo, that seems most alarming if that is indeed what was meant - references for 2017 would not be supplied.

    Any other programs that can throw light on this would be most useful.

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    Re: UCL MSc Economics to U.S. PhD Question

    DiddlyDoo, did you ask them why 2017 as well? It's seems on the verge of unbelievable that the professors will not be able to give you a recommendation after you have already received your grades for the programme. Looks like some sort of a typo to me.

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    Re: UCL MSc Economics to U.S. PhD Question

    I would strictly recommend not to apply during the MSc year as final grades of the exams and dissertation are only out in November.

    Firstly, Applying in the same year of enrolment gives no new information to the PhD admissions committee, except the maths and stats result ( which also cant be considered the final grade in that module as students are allowed to retake it in the summer to improve upon their initial score). However, this grade is present in the final transcript.
    Secondly, students sometimes do manage a recommendation from their personal tutor for applications during the same year as enrolment but the recommendation would only be able to mention your level of motivation and research interests which aren't as crucial as your performance in a particular module, percentile rank and your comparison to previous successful candidates to top PhD programs. Therefore, this holds little relevance.
    Thirdly, a popular choice followed by students to circumvent this issue is to enrol in the Mres at UCL ( with full/ partial funding but since, you're Non-EU this might happen only if you're exceptionally brilliant) and then apply for top PhD programs during the Mres year with your MSc grades in hand.
    Lastly, with respect to the issue of recommendations, if you apply after you have your MSc grades recommendations are not an issue at all. Most students would have developed a good reputation with their dissertation supervisor over the summer and some other professors and recommendations are easy to avail unless you have performed very poorly and don't deserve one for the school you are applying to. The MSc program director is very helpful in this respect and the PhD admissions director is available in case you need some guidance too.

    To conclude, you cant really signal anything new during your MSc year (except your potential that lead to your admission in the MSc program). This might not be a problem if you're aiming for very low ranked PhD programs but will definitely not be favourable for a top PhD application. Also, top students (top percentile) in the UCL MSc programs got rejections when they applied in the top 20- US PhD programs in their MSc year but were accepted to such programs after again applying in the MRes year with their MSc grades in hand,

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