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End of my PhD dream.

  • Thread starter drighanchu
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  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

Hi,

It's embarrassing, I failed my quals (after 2nd attempt), the school is going to kick me out with a masters. Mentally devastated and embarrassed to go to my cubicle, as I have another one semester to finish my MS, still I need to go to the lab to continue my usual work. The school is going to give me an MS as a consolation prize. I am from a ~60 ranked school in US, was doing PhD in CS.

However, my supervisor wants me to apply for PhD in another school (for the next fall, he is quite supportive), I have done 2 publications with him during the last 1.5 yrs, gpa is quite low 3.47.

What should I do now? is "reapply-start-over" worth a shot? Do the schools carry "failed quals" information on the transcript? Is there anyone here with similar situation?

please suggest and let me know.

thanks in advance.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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The end is just the beginning. You've been knocked down, get back up again and try again.
 
  • #3
UltrafastPED
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I had several classmates who failed their qualifiers at the University of Michigan, but went on to complete PhD programs at other universities.

Second chances are good - so take advantage of them.
 
  • #4
verty
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What feedback did you get after the two attempts? I mean, what went wrong?
 
  • #5
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What are the PhD quals? IQ test or something?
 
  • #6
Vanadium 50
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The universities you are applying to will know that you failed your quals. It might be encoded in your transcript (when I was a student, research pre-qual and post-qual had two different course numbers, but even if it's not, it will be in your letters. If you would have passed, your references would say that - since they don't, the new schools will know. So there's no sense worrying about keeping this secret. The cat is out of the bag.

I think your real concern is how you plan to pass the qual the next time after failing it twice. Personally, I would not move forward until I knew the answer to that question.
 
  • #7
Choppy
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I have to agree strongly with Vanadium 50.

You need to figure out why you failed the qualifying exam twice and do something to change that, otherwise, if another program does let you in, what's to prevent history from repeating itself?

Finish the MSc. Don't worry about what other people think. Then re-assess.
 
  • #8
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Keep at it! :D
 
  • #9
What feedback did you get after the two attempts? I mean, what went wrong?
@verty: May be I got too much succumbed to panic, screwed some obvious questions.
 
  • #11
I had several classmates who failed their qualifiers at the University of Michigan, but went on to complete PhD programs at other universities.

Second chances are good - so take advantage of them.
@UltrafastPED: failing from UMich is a different case, I am not from UMich, UMich is a great school.
 
  • #12
The universities you are applying to will know that you failed your quals. It might be encoded in your transcript (when I was a student, research pre-qual and post-qual had two different course numbers, but even if it's not, it will be in your letters. If you would have passed, your references would say that - since they don't, the new schools will know. So there's no sense worrying about keeping this secret. The cat is out of the bag.

I think your real concern is how you plan to pass the qual the next time after failing it twice. Personally, I would not move forward until I knew the answer to that question.
I have to agree strongly with Vanadium 50.

You need to figure out why you failed the qualifying exam twice and do something to change that, otherwise, if another program does let you in, what's to prevent history from repeating itself?

Finish the MSc. Don't worry about what other people think. Then re-assess.
@Vanadium 50, Choppy: yes, you are right. Now my concern is to how I do explain/convince the adcoms that I have learned from my mistakes and will be serious about the "courses/exams" from now on.

So, should I mention about my failure in the SOP? I am confused. I just came to know that the transcript will not bear such information, however I do not want to hide it either. I had some problems, I know, but whom do I explain those to? will the "excuses for my fail" be going to help me to get another PhD position at school X?
 
Last edited:
  • #13
UltrafastPED
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For a person dropped from a PhD program the transcript will note "MS Physics - terminal degree" or some other notation which indicates that you were not allowed to continue.

So I would not attempt to hide it. Instead use your statement of purpose to show what you learned from the experience, and how you will move forward when given a second chance.
 
  • #14
verty
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For a person dropped from a PhD program the transcript will note "MS Physics - terminal degree" or some other notation which indicates that you were not allowed to continue.
I can't believe they would write that. Surely they would say "Physics with Honours, blah blah" and nothing more.
 
  • #15
UltrafastPED
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Your transcript reports withdrawals, incompletes, courses retaken, programs for which you were admitted, and the programs which you completed.

It is an honest record of what you did - otherwise it wouldn't be much of a transcript.

Now your diploma may not say "terminal", but a diploma is not a transcript.
 
  • #16
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A lot of this depends on the school you went to and the programs you are applying to. My transcript has no record of quals at all, even the fact that I passed. It's very information light and this was from a good program. Furthermore, if you are applying to a school that is less prestigious, they might not be overly concerned with the fact that you didn't pass quals that aren't theirs.

I had a few friends who didn't pass quals in my program. Some of them went to other schools and had zero problems (and are still in the field) and some of them transferred to other programs at the same university after doing lab work for a year (physics to non-physics).

Whether or not 'failed quals' ends up on your transcript, I would imagine other schools will know what is going on. A letter from your advisor will probably mention the issue, and getting a masters from a program that only awards them as a consolation prize is also a sign. I personally don't think it's the kiss of death; as I mentioned, I have a number of friends who didn't make it for a number of reasons the first time around, and most of them eventually ended up at a different program and did just fine.

And frankly, it's hard to say whether or not you'll have problems at the next school. I know the quals at my program were very hard. The above mentioned friends had zero problems passing at the other programs they went to. Then again, if it's you and not the test, then I would make sure that you examine the situation and come up with a game plan for improvement.
 
  • #17
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It's not the end of your dream.

Many, many students that don't succeed at one institution end up successful at another. While I don't know much about Ph.D. programs in CS, in Physics, the graduation rate from people starting grad school to finishing their Ph.D.s at the same institution isn't really that high. My undergrad, graduate school #1, and graduate school #2 had very low rates (<%50, %33, and ???, respectively).

My GPA was bad at GS #1, and I hated it. Took time off, decided to go back to do a research based masters, liked my work, got the masters, stayed for the Ph.D. and finishing in a few months.

If you want it, you can do it.
 
  • #18
Office_Shredder
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The fact that your advisor is encouraging you to try again is a big plus for applications. If you have an advisor who will write a letter of recommmendation stating "This guy is awesome and failing these quals is a fluke" they will definitely take that into account
 
  • #19
thanks everyone for suggestions and comments, not sure how far I can go, but will try to update how things come out. thanks again.
 

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