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I'm a 23 years old Bachelor of Accounting from highly reputable institute in Malaysia, have a major in Accounting Information Systems. I have been working in my almamater, giving lectures & assistanships, helping students, and working on campus' laboratory, etc. for the last 6 months. No significant work experience. No savings.
My interests are in Management Information Systems, especially in Business/IT Alignment. I have wrote two paper on those topic since graduation. One of them have been presented at National Accounting Symposium. At this moment I also writing a books (co authored with a professor) on Auditing Information Systems and will be available on the market soon.
Yes, I would like to do a PhD in it. I want to come back to my home country to begin my academic career as soon as I get my PhD. I plan to apply in the next years. But I don't have good undergrad GPA (3.3 of 4.0) because I have a lot of extracurricular and also work part-time to finance my study. However, I have good grades (mostly A) on information systems-related courses.
And now I have a few queries:
1) Is it possible for me to go straight to the PhD? I'm very much interested in Michigan, Purdue and Tepper.
2) My TOEFL scores only 615 (paper based). I never take GMAT or GRE test. However, my GMAT simulation scores lay around 680 to 730. Is it "enough"?
3) Do PhD-wannabe have to be an outstanding performer all around? Do they have to be very good especially on math/stat/quant?
4) I know this is a very stupid question. But, is there any chance for a candidate like me to get accepted to the top-tier school (HBS, Wharton, Stanford, MIT, etc.)?
Any comments will be appreciated so much. I am hoping to get some honest advice.
1) You need to remember that although very few schools specifically state that they will reject any applicant who doesn't have a master's degree, not having one definitely means you have to find a way to prove that you're "good enough" for graduate work, especially at shools like Michigan or CMU (don't know enough about Purdue). Having written/presented a paper is a step toward that but is probably not a perfect substitute for graduate work such as courses in Math or Econ. IMO the low GPA itself won't hurt you that much if you can explain why it wasn't higher, but you'll definitely need a great GMAT score, especially on the quant side.
2) As tkkoh said, 680-730 is probably "not enough", especially as an undergrad. Many schools such as Tepper have cut down on their PhD programs so they'd rather reject borderline candidates.
3) Yes, you need to be very strong on quant. You can always brush up your verbal skills, whatever that means. Excellent math abilities will help a great deal when reading papers.
4) When it comes to the PhD program, I wouldn't say Michigan and CMU are much weaker than the other schools you've mentioned, but just look at the student webpages at MIT for example. Most of them, international or not, have master's degrees from Princeton or Yale or Stanford. You can't honestly compare to those guys, even if you scored 780 on the GMAT.
a) I don't think that having gotten A's in IS-related courses helps in any way. That's expected of you. Had you gotten C's it'd have hurt you.
b) If you plan to apply to top schools, don't state in your application packages that you want to go back to your home country after you get the PhD. The top schools' reputations are based on placement, and no matter how the school you end up in Malaysia is, it never beats UC-Berkeley or Michigan, or even Emory or Rice. Last year, I heard the head of my PhD program basically say (in his welcoming comments) "if you don't go to a top school after you complete the PhD here, we've failed you, and you've failed us".
tkkoh, cabro57, huge thanks for your lavish answers. I appreciate it much.
However, is there anything else that I can do to improve my chance? Perhaps writing more books/publications, doing more with GMAT, LORs from minister/senate/congres members, without taking Master degree first?
Can you mention some other schools, which came from tier 2 & tier 3, with less competition, but still have good programs (especially in MIS), with professors which is expert in their area, and also give generous stipend to their students?
Last but by no mean least, I really want to pursue PhD, especially in the top-tier schools in US. And I was very-very wondering if you could give me some advice & suggestion to make my dreams come true.
Now that I read cabro's reply again, I begin to see the cracks in my own app.
I don't have a master degree. My undergrad GPA is only around 3.3 by my direct conversion. I graduated "only" among the Top 10%. No pub. No formal RA. Did not take any heavy math courses. (not even full-course calculus as it wasn't offered).
My GMAT is not too bad. But my quant is "only" 49/90th percentile.
The anxiety of the waiting game begins....
1) the only recommendation letters that will really help you are from professors who are at least marginally reputable in their fields. A politician cannot recommend you for academic work, he doesn't know anything about it.
2) right now the best thing you can do is show how motivated you are at getting a headstart in advanced math/econ courses, so take one or two this winter. If you're applying this year, the results won't be in for the admissions commitees to see, but you'll be able to mention that fact in your app.
tkkoh: I got 49 when I did the GMAT and it was enough to get me in a few very good schools (not MIT, but still). I think anyone who scores that high should be considered by admissions commitees; whether it is what really happens, I don't know. Good luck!
1. Are you absolutely sure that you want to major in IS?
Accounting is very hot right now, whereas IS is very much in a slump. Will and when it will recover is anyone's guess. If you frame it right, you can do IS-related research within Accounting programs; I know someone in my program that is doing just that.
2. How important is it for you to go to a top school?
Tepper, Michigan, and Purdue (and that's my impression of the prestige order) are all top-notch IS schools, but there are many others with good programs that may serve your purposes, especially if you want to go home after you graduate. As someone else noted, the pressure will be high at top-notch schools to go to another top-notch school (as they define it). Check out the ISWorld PhD page for a list of schools with programs, and then look at their web pages.
You do need to nail the GMAT, but the "lower ranked" schools will be more tolerant of a lower score, obviously. The lack of a masters may be a problem, and having one would definitely help, but I tend to think that your research experience will compensate for this (unless the school's web page notes that a masters is preferred or required). Demonstration of an interest in research is a VERY important consideration in admissions.
Jaypalm: you made a very good point here. A PhD from a top US b-school is a huge investment and your quality of life definitely suffers for the time you're there, so you really better make sure there's a reward at the end of the line. If the OP's plan is to go back to Malaysia (ie. maybe go back to a top school in his country, but not a top school in the world), getting a PhD from a good school (but not top 25 US school) is probably a better option. From my own (somewhat limited) experience, there's no particular reward to having a PhD from Wharton if you teach in a second-tier university.