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Schools Graduating at home university - career disadvantages?

  1. Jan 19, 2010 #1

    I am a Physics student who is studying in a German university. My current term is the fifth and I am going to obtain my Bachelor degree in the summer. My Bachelor thesis will be in nonlinear dynamics, I've started doing some literature research and computer experiments already, and I like it very much so far. I aim for an academic career in physics, and I definetely prefer theoretical physics so far.

    Many of my fellow students will go for another university to obtain their Master degree there. For several reasons, I feel unconfident about making a decision. I would like to give reasons/thoughts

    1) I had always dreamt of studying at a top University, e.g. Cambridge. Although my grades so far (school, university) are honestly very good and I was also granted a prestigeous German scholarship, but unfortunately, Cambridge is too expensive. I live with my parents, and with the scholarship, I am financially OK. But the living costs in Cambridge are about 10,500 pounds/year (as estimated by the Cambridge website). This would be a huge financial risk for me, even with the support of my parents. The only funding possibility I know to cover all costs is the Gates scholarship, but it is too late now to apply for the next academic year now. I have known about Gates for a while now, but didn't apply because I was not self-confident enough and because my parents wanted me to focus on my studies instead (which as I know now is idiotic). Anyway, studying abroad is financially quite difficult.

    2) Doing my Master degree in my current university is definitely an option. I cannot say that my research interests have formed yet (Without having had a lecture in e.g. general relativity and quantum field theory yet - which are all Masters courses here - how can I already have developed preferences?). So if I went to another university, say, within Germany, I think it would be not for a clear purpose (like going to a very good group in the field that interests me). It would be rather like going to another university just for the sake of going to another unversity. But maybe I'm wrong, I don't know. Isuperconductivity, general relativity, string theory, computational physics, solid state physics, nonlinear dynamics, etc.... all are interesting fields :-)

    3) If indeed I stayed within my current university to obtain my Master degree, this would probably expect me: The nonlinear dynamics expert will definitely be pensioned after this academic year, so there is no way to coninue in this field. But there are other interesting things here, e.g. a small group on general relativity. Anyway, I think I don't know enough about the research they do here. I could name all the professors, all the fields, and I have some general ideas what the research is about, but only superficially.

    So, my final question is: If I indeed stayed in my current university, would I throw away a great career chance? Right now, I might look our for other universities, possibly even abroad ones, and possibly, I would even find an interesting university, maybe even abroad. But I think I would feel safer staying here. Is it a great chance I would be missing?

    In about 2,5 years, I will have obtained my Master degree. Let's suppose that at that time, my research interests will have fully formed. Suppose I then will want to apply for a doctorate. But suppose this doctorate is, say, within a very prestigeous group, or a prestigeous expert, or a prestigeous university. Will I stand a chance against other applicants who, pherhaps, went to Cambridge or another prestigeous university, or studied at two or three universities? The chances of publishing a significant paper (or publishing a paper at all) as a graduate student and thus making oneself distinct for a doctorate application are rather slim, aren't they...

    Will I encounter career disadvantages if I finish my Master degree at my home university as well?

    I'd be grateful for some replies, ideas, hints!

    Last edited: Jan 19, 2010
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 19, 2010 #2
    I have had similar thoughts to yourself regarding a Masters although I reside in the UK rather than abroad. I would love to apply for say, the CASM at Cambridge but as the Masters Degree's are self-funded in the UK then even a native student is looking at £4000(fees) + £6000 (accom and food). Just not possible for me i'm afraid, and that goes for any UK university where a Masters is sought by the way, very few funded places available.

    The Cambridge name and prestige might be worth it if you're determined to make Physics your career and can afford to take the financial strain, but as I understand it many of the Uni's in Germany (Masters and PhD) are very highly thought of.

    Personally I would elect to stay put and get the best possible Masters from home. You say you have a good relationship with your current Uni so that's a possible right there, but don't be afraid to look at other German Uni's depending on the subject you intend to specialise in. We can't all be grads from Cambridge, MIT, Caltech etc and many other Uni's offer excellent standards at home. I really wouldn't want to break the bank just to get to the named institution and then discover a few years later that one at home would have been just as good.
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