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Admissions Failed a Masters - how bad does it look?

  1. May 14, 2016 #1
    Long story short, I failed one of three modules of a Masters program in Theoretical Particle Physics at a prestigious European department. The program comprises two taught modules and a project/dissertation module (30 credits each). I barely passed the first taught module (after a resit), failed the second taught module and received a top grade in the dissertation - which I did under a famous researcher. As a result, I received a Postgraduate Diploma (60 credits as opposed to 90 for a Masters). [edit: actually, I have a choice to claim the diploma or leave the program without a qualification]

    My original plan to apply to PhD programs after completing the Masters does not seem viable now. But I am not abandoning the dream of doing a PhD in hep-theory just yet. I believe the best way to go forward is to do another Masters, this time a research-based one.

    My question to you is: how will the Postgraduate Diploma look to admissions committees? Is it a net positive? I have no idea whether it is something that can be shown in a good light: 60 credits imply 1200 hours of graduate study and I learned a great deal during that time. On the other hand, HEP-theory is such a competitive area that often a near-perfect record is required. And failing classes is just bad, no matter how you look at it.

    The question is important because many Masters programs, including my top choice, do not require listing all periods of previous study. I think I would have a strong chance of getting in on the merits of my undergraduate degree alone.
    Last edited: May 14, 2016
  2. jcsd
  3. May 14, 2016 #2
    You need to look at why you failed tbh and also I think applying for another masters is pointless why not just apply directly to a HEP phd program?

    Also I wouldnt suggest withholding info when applying
  4. May 14, 2016 #3
    I do not think I can get into a good enough PhD program at this point. A research based masters should be a worthwhile experience in its own right, I would not repeat anything. Plus, such programs sometimes allow one to progress into the 2nd year of a PhD.

    I will provide all information required. However, if the application says (a real example): "list all post-secondary qualifications you have obtained", then I can omit any period of study during which I have not earned a qualification. In fact, listing it would be contrary to the instruction.

    I edited my post to clarify that I have the choice to either claim the Postgraduate Diploma or leave the program without a qualification. What I am trying to figure out is whether I should claim it, and how it will be perceived by the admissions people. Knowing this will allow me to appropriately address the issue in my applications.
  5. May 15, 2016 #4


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    You're putting the cart before the horse. You failed one module and barely passed the other. What makes you think you'll do better next time around unless you spend the time required uncover the root cause? Did you not study enough? Did you have trouble understanding the material? By contrast, you need to understand what it was about the dissertation process that caused you to do so well.

    Reporting mediocre scores is probably worse than not reporting them, though your excellent dissertation may somewhat compensate.
  6. May 15, 2016 #5
    Youre missing the point, you have to be very good to be successful in HEP theory and failing one taught module and barely passing the other should tell you that at this point in time youre not. You need to improve on your physics (and maths depending on the weak areas), you cant just skip over them (which is what it sounds like in your post) by trying to do a research masters, most likely you will need those skills in your phd and beyond as the modules were in the taught masters for a reason.

    Its okay to fail things but you need to understand that its needs to be addressed not just brushed under the carpet

    Which area of HEP theory do you want to do research in? things like string theory (seemingly the most popular area of HEP) require you to be so so so good at maths and physics that you need to go back and learn the knowledge you failed at.
  7. May 15, 2016 #6


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    Several people here have addressed this. In fact, everyone who responded seemed to have addressed it. The ONLY person who seems oblivious to this question is YOU.

    You seem to care more about "appearance", or how it will look if you try to apply to such-and-such. Never ONCE did you even address the root cause of all this, which is your poor performance. You never posted any consideration on why you didn't do well, or any consideration on the possible reason for it. All you seem to care about is how to get into such-and-such a program to pursue your ideal degree.

    That will never happen until and unless you figured out what went wrong with your Masters program in the first place, because you are bound to repeat that mistake again, especially when you are oblivious to what was at fault.

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