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Thread: European master's as stepping stone to Top 10 US PhD

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    European master's as stepping stone to Top 10 US PhD

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    ​I am currently deciding between accepting a top 20 US PhD offer and some offers for top European master's. My ultimate goal is to do a PhD, and I am wondering as to whether it would be possible to be accepted to a top 10 US program after finishing a European master's. The main questions I have in this regard are:


    • Do UK master's (LSE, UCL) offer the option to do RA work? (I believe that this would greatly improve my application, as I don't have RA experience in academia).
    • If I start the master in Fall 2020, would it be possible to get some recommendation letters by the December 2020 application period? Or is it customary to finish the whole program before asking for recommendations?


    I would greatly appreciate any information in this regard!

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    Re: European master's as stepping stone to Top 10 US PhD

    It would be more meaningful if you could post your current profile, as not everyone needs a full-fledged masters to be competitive. If you're looking at LSE's EME, then definitely. The median placement is around Top 20, while those with Distinctions in their MSc get into Top 10. However, do realise that it's an insanely difficult programme.

    Notwithstanding, UK masters programmes (especially the one listed above) generally have little to no opportunities for RA work, to the best of my knowledge.

    You can get letters, but you shouldn't apply in December of this year. That's because none of your masters grades will be in, by the time you apply. So there's no signaling value, apart from the fact that you enrolled in that programme.

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    Re: European master's as stepping stone to Top 10 US PhD

    You have a funded top 20 offer?

    Take it.

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    Re: European master's as stepping stone to Top 10 US PhD

    PROFILE:
    Type of Undergrad: Econ
    Undergrad GPA: No GPA calculated; graduated at the top of a 100+ people class
    GRE: 170 Q; 165 V
    Math Courses: Linear Algebra, Multivariate Calculus, Probability, Statistical Inference
    Econ Courses: Several Macro and Micro courses
    Other Courses: Several Advanced Econometrics courses
    Letters of Recommendation: 1 great letter, 2 solid letters (all from professors)
    Research Experience: No academic RA experience. 3+ years of professional experience
    Teaching Experience: No teaching experience
    Research Interests: Applied macro; Time-series econometrics
    SOP: Average
    Other: International applicant; studied abroad for a couple of semesters on a merit based scholarship

    With this profile I managed to get a Top 20 US PhD funded offer + several Top European master's offers (most of them fully funded; some with teaching duties). I do know that I am extremely lucky to have been offered all of this, but I am really struggling as to what to do. Would accepting one of the master's offers instead of the PhD one be: (i) potentially useful, as I could perfect my application (get some recommendations from well known professors, do some RA & TA work, take advanced math courses) and have realistic chances of getting into a Top 10 program in 1-2 years time, or (ii) extremely stupid, as the application process is very noisy, and my application wouldn't be that much stronger even if I got a better letter and RA experience.

    I know this might be an obvious choice for some people, but 5/6 years is a very long time, and I would really like to do the best I can in terms of placement.

    Thank you for your input!



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    Re: European master's as stepping stone to Top 10 US PhD

    I totally overlooked the first bit about you already having a funded Top 20 offer. If that's the case, you should just take it. Looking at your profile, assuming you go through with the masters, you'll still need a couple more years for RA experience to even be competitive for a Top 10, and even then, there's no guarantee. So it could very well be the case that you spend the next 2-3 years and still end up with multiple comparable offers in the 10-20 range. It's not really worth the time, in my opinion.

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    Re: European master's as stepping stone to Top 10 US PhD

    Quote Originally Posted by tutonic View Post
    I totally overlooked the first bit about you already having a funded Top 20 offer. If that's the case, you should just take it. Looking at your profile, assuming you go through with the masters, you'll still need a couple more years for RA experience to even be competitive for a Top 10, and even then, there's no guarantee. So it could very well be the case that you spend the next 2-3 years and still end up with multiple comparable offers in the 10-20 range. It's not really worth the time, in my opinion.
    Good to know. I wasn't aware that you needed a full 2-3 years of academic RA experience to be competitive for top 10 (I do have +3 years of experience working on economic research projects in the private sector, but I do know that it isn't the same).

    Still struggling with the decision bc the Top 20 program that I got into isn't particularly a good fit for me in terms of research interests. I still have to hear from some programs, so we'll see.

    Thank you for your advice!

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    Re: European master's as stepping stone to Top 10 US PhD

    When it comes to Top 10, you'll simply need more of everything, in order to differentiate yourself. With regards to fit, interests change during grad school as you are exposed to more things. Unless there's absolutely no one in your current field of interest at the school you got into, you shouldn't worry too much about it.

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    Re: European master's as stepping stone to Top 10 US PhD

    Quote Originally Posted by tutonic View Post
    I totally overlooked the first bit about you already having a funded Top 20 offer. If that's the case, you should just take it. Looking at your profile, assuming you go through with the masters, you'll still need a couple more years for RA experience to even be competitive for a Top 10, and even then, there's no guarantee. So it could very well be the case that you spend the next 2-3 years and still end up with multiple comparable offers in the 10-20 range. It's not really worth the time, in my opinion.
    I'd like to clarify something. Tutonic is giving advice to a specific applicant. In general, it is not necessary to have a pre-doc RA experience to be competitive for the top 10. Probably something under half the successful applicants have such experience.

    For specific cases, doing a pre-doc can be vital. And it has real value for both learning and signaling. But it is by no means a general requirement.

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    Re: European master's as stepping stone to Top 10 US PhD

    Quote Originally Posted by startz View Post
    I'd like to clarify something. Tutonic is giving advice to a specific applicant. In general, it is not necessary to have a pre-doc RA experience to be competitive for the top 10. Probably something under half the successful applicants have such experience.

    For specific cases, doing a pre-doc can be vital. And it has real value for both learning and signaling. But it is by no means a general requirement.
    Good to know (and good of you to clarify!).

    Do you agree with tutonic in that 2-3 years of RA experience would be necessary in my case? Is there something that I could do other than working as a RA that could make me competitive for top 10 (that is, what is the thing that the other half of successful top 10 applicants are doing?).

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    Re: European master's as stepping stone to Top 10 US PhD

    The ‘year’ requirement really depends on how soon you can secure excellent letters of rec from well known professors. Tutonic says 2-3 years because its unlikely one will be given important work in their first year before they have proven their research/programming skills. So it takes time (2 years).

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