Programs Funded PhD at UC Riverside or unfunded masters at Brown University

  1. Hi All,

    I've been accepted to UC Riverside's PhD program in physics and Brown University's ScM program in physics for Fall 2014. UCR is funded and Brown offers no financial support with a tuition of ~$46,000. So its a risk of possibly paying ~140,000 with tuition/living expenses/etc…, but I will be supported by my parents though. I have the option to apply for the PhD program at Brown during my first year, and if accepted my second year will be covered, but this is not guaranteed. I want to get a PhD but I'm not 100% sure what I want to do after I get it. I think Brown would look nice on an application compared to UCR, if I go into something other than physics. Also, for industry, which holds more weight, masters from Brown or PhD from UCR. Any advice/information would be appreciated. Thanks in advance!
  2. jcsd
  3. davenn

    davenn 4,102
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    Gold Member
    2014 Award

    I have asked the mentors to move this to academic guidance section
    where it is much better suited

  4. Vanadium 50

    Vanadium 50 18,239
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    If you want to buy prestige with your parents' money, why not Brown.
  5. lisab

    Staff: Mentor

    What are your career goals?

    If you're looking for a life path with a lot of options, having low debt gives you a heck of a lot more degrees of freedom.

    My $0.02: the UC system is highly regarded. Maybe I'm biased because I'm on the west coast, but no one I know would discount any degree from UC.
  6. If your parents can afford to pay that I imagine your parents and your own social network is strong in the type of people who would take prestige to heart. It will also very likely put you in a better position if/when you apply to a PhD program.

    Being able to make this choice are part of the self perpetuating advantages of coming from a higher income bracket family. There is no point in putting yourself at a disadvantage.
  7. Meir Achuz

    Meir Achuz 2,073
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    DO NOT go to a graduate program that will not pay you. You will be the bottom of the barrel there, with little chance of getting a good thesis adviser. Your future career depends more on your thesis adviser than on the school.
  8. To me this is a "no-brainer". If you look up the US News and World Report rankings of these schools, Brown is #29, and UCR is #54. This might seem like a big difference, but they are both "in the middle", and they really aren't that far apart. Definitely I would take the program that offered you the guaranteed support. As LisaB said, the UC system is highly regarded, and Brown is really not held in high esteem in Physics. In fact, when I lived in California, I had never even heard of Brown. If it were Harvard, Caltech, MIT, etc., then you might have some thinking to do, but Brown just isn't enough better than UCR to warrant turning down the money. My $0.02.
  9. In my experience grad advisors were never allocated in any order based on grad admissions but rather the result of relationships you build with your potential advisor.
  10. analogdesign

    analogdesign 807
    Science Advisor

    In my experience advisors fought over the students with their own funding (external fellowships), engaged with funded students (1st year departmental fellowships or TA-ships) and didn't give the time of day to students without funding. This was because a) they would have to cough up the tuition & fees if they offer an RA to an unfunded student and b) an unfunded student is much more likely to bail which would waste the professor's investment in the student.
  11. You should be basing your decision on what specialty you want to go into, and what work is being done on the specialty at the particular university. If you are only thinking about which one is more famous, then you aren't ready to make your decision. (then again, go with the money!)

    Of course a Ph.D. is more prestigious than a masters, regardless of university (unless you bought the Ph.D. from some online diploma mill), but then, it's a lot more work and comes with an opportunity cost.
  12. analogdesign

    analogdesign 807
    Science Advisor

    Not necessarily. I would expect more from a candidate with an MS from Stanford than a Ph.D. from the University of Phoenix.
  13. ZombieFeynman

    ZombieFeynman 318
    Gold Member

    This is indeed a no-brainer to me. Brown is not even that prestigious for physics, certainly not $140,000 (!) more so than UCR. Being offered an UNFUNDED masters rather than a funded PhD track spot means that you were not very competitive among others admitted in your cohort. I think this will put you at a significant disadvantage in finding an adviser.
  14. It would require the department to have some organized advisor/advisee matching syste. Most of the time you have to initiate contact with the professor and develop a relationship from there rather than a professor spamming for students where the professor doesnt tell you to leave his office until he looks over your finance situation. They should have an idea of how much money they have on their grant which tells them how many openings they have. Successful professors have more grant money and therefore more students.

    If a professor is so worried about the finances then he probably doesnt have grant money which means he is having trouble financing himself ie justifying his work to the community at large.
  15. Congratulations for getting into such a selective university!

    I used to know a person who used to (I think still does) Brown university. What he was saying is that it was an amazing university and the quality met it's reputation. However, I think you can go wrong either way. If you have the money, maybe you will benefit from attending Brown University (I have heard many employers pay attention to university prestige, at least minimally, but I am not sure). However, I do not think it will harm you at all if you go to UC Riverside.
  16. micromass

    micromass 19,794
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    I agree very highly with this.
  17. *cough* McKinsey.
  18. Hi, I did not say that as a completely general statement, but isn't it obvious that for the most part if there are two employers with similar skills and if one went to Harvard and the other to Penn State, they will generally choose the Harvard person?
  19. micromass

    micromass 19,794
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
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    Probably. But is that worth 140 000 dollars?
  20. Oh yeah, that's probably a major drawaback. But the thing is, nowadays people (especially parents) care a lot about prestige. Maybe he should do some research on the academics (for example which textbooks they use) and get a sense of which atmosphere he would be more suited in.
  21. We're not talking Harvard and Penn State, we're talking Brown and UC Riverside. They just aren't that far apart in Physics. I bet most people in the western part of the US hold the UC system in higher esteem than Brown.
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