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How to get better recommendations in view of Phd?

  1. Sep 6, 2015 #1
    I obtained my M. Sc. in mathematics from a decent European university about a year ago (when I was 27 Due to various reasons of personal nature I didn't really commit to my studies, my marks were the equivalent of a 3.0 GPA, or something like that, and it took me quite a while to finish. I wanted to drop out at some point, also because of the same issues, which led to a change in my thesis' topic, arguments and a not-so-good relationship with my advisor, who agreed to keep me until graduation anyway (but, just to be clear, I really don't wanna ask him for recommendation letters now, nor would it be a smart move given our current relationship).

    Right after obtaining the degree, my problems gradually subsided and I got a decent job in the consulting industry, which of course I am not interested in, but I accepted because I had to. However, my interest for math and physics recently rekindled, to the point that in the little time I can spare from my job I find myself picking up my old books, and reading new ones and it's getting harder and harder to do something I dislike on a daily basis.

    I realized I wasted a good chance and now I wish to apply to a Phd program (anywhere, really, with the condition that it be a reasonably good one) as I feel I am a bit too young to accept how things have played out, but all I have right now is a mediocre GPA and no way to obtain strong recommendation letters to compensate. Therefore I think my chances to get into a good program are very slim (feel free to correct me though, if you think otherwise).

    I feel my only chance would be to get into another (1 or 2 years long) M. Sc., perhaps in applied math this time and enter an environment where I can:

    1. improve my record

    2. get in contact with people who could help me with recommendation letters in the future.
    Here come my questions: is this plan sensible? Does a candidate with 2 M. Sc. in similar subjects raise eyebrows?
    Are there any other ways to get into a new environment where I could at least get better references?
    Feel free to offer further advice on what my other options are, if you have any.
    Thanks in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 7, 2015 #2


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    Two M.Sc. is not going to look bad. Another way would be to work as a teaching or research assistant.
  4. Sep 7, 2015 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    Not sure. A letter from him would be the obvious first choice. If that is missing, it looks really odd and whoever gets the application will assume the worst case.
    You can still try. If it works, great. If it does not work, you can ask why you didn't get accepted - the feedback could still be interesting and help with other applications.
  5. Sep 7, 2015 #4
    Thanks for answering guys. That's why I think I'd need another step before a Phd. My application would just look so odd right now. I wouldn't even know what range of departments to aim at and whether I'd have better chances in Europe or in the US, given I'm from Europe and my GPA, etc. I guess I could get a letter from him If I insisted but it would barely be lukewarm I assume, and I wouldn't be able to check out the actual letter before he sends it. Can't take that chance I'm afraid.

    Would the only way to find offers of research assistantship be going over the website of every department ? Do you know of a website where they might be gathered - a sorta findaphd for assistantships?
  6. Sep 9, 2015 #5


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    If you start a new program, normally, assistanceships are handled as part of the admissions process even though it doesn't strictly relate to admissions. Other than "the grapevine", my first instinct would be to look in the Chronicle of Higher Education and in Academic Journals that take advertisements like Science.
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