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So I got an invitation to apply to Cornell's Park Fellowship program today and it really threw me for a loop. Here's why:
I've been planning on getting a PhD for quite some time, and the more I though about what kind of skills I would need for a PhD the less I wanted to get an MBA. To me the MBA is a very general professional degree that prepares you to get a job in industry...
PhD=researcher... so I started to look at specialized Master's programs that would give me lots of classes in statistics and psychology. The schools I applied to are all decent schools (but not top tier by any means) with a masters programs in Marketing Research (there are only 7 or 8 schools in the country with this major.)
So my conundrum is this - if I apply to Cornell, get accepted, and get this funding, do I go?? I am almost afraid to apply, because if I do get the funding it will be one of the most difficult decisions in my life.
Will the name brand MBA with largely irrelevent and unfocused coursework (IMHO) stand out more and get me into a PhD program over a highly focused specialized masters? (Keep in mind Cornell was one of the schools I would apply to for PhD program - my top PhD program choices right now are Ross, Stern, Cornell - of course this will probably change as my research interests develop further)
Part of my confusion is many PhD programs expect me to have the full calculus sequence as well as linear algebra. I can squeeze this in at University of Georgia or Baruch, but I don't see it happening elsewhere...
So my questions to all you PhD students on the board:
What grad degrees did you guys/gals have before applying to PhD programs?
What are your opinions on the well known MBA vs. lesser known quant heavy MS enroute to PhD?
Am I being too myopic in thinking that classes in financial accounting, entreperneurship, leadership and management will be of no use to someone who will be studying the behavioral side of marketing?
Is it better to be a big fish in small pond or vice versa? I figured that I would really be able to stand out at some of the lesser known schools and link up with a professor to work on some research... my view of cornell is that all the students there are top notch, so it would be much harder to stand out as the exceptional student and impress the pants off a professor.
i never got an MBA and never even considered it. most of the stuff in MBA is just boring in my opinion, and completely irrelevant to my research interests.
my MA is in musicology (so completely unrrelated to what i do), but I have B.Sc. in math so i did all the calculus/algebra sequences that you can imagine on my undergrad.
in my humble opinion - if you are very focused on getting a PHD, getting an MBA is a complete waste of time. instead dtry to join as research assitstant somewhere, or alternatively get an MA/MS degree in subject related to your research interests i.e. economics, psychology, sociology, information systems, cognitive science... all maybe relevant in your later studies.
I talked last week with a second year MBA here at wharton. he said to me: "MBA programs, especially the more prestigious, are basically recuitment/placement agencies (very sophisticated and highly connected), that provide some training as part of the placement process".
hobbit's generally right. However, I will say that there is some value to the MBA route you propose, but not in the way that you describe. Basically, going to Cornell for your MBA may give you connections to profs who can help you out in your Ph.D. quest. The MBA in and of itself doesn't mean much in terms of getting accepted to a Ph.D. program (I could be wrong here, but I have a strong sense that this is the case). How do you get these connections? Engage the prof about his research and talk intelligently about it. Doing well in your classes helps too. As far as standing out in a good MBA program, you're onto something here as well, but again, not in the way that you describe. At least three things and the interactions between them conspire against standing out: 1) students are articulate and reasonably bright, as you suggest 2) a lot of the classes aren't quantitative, and there is sometimes a strong team component to the grade, and 3) the level of difficulty of the material isn't high enough to provide meaningful separation for Ph.D. level assessment.
As for the big fish small fish theory you suggest, you might be right. At a non-top place, you might stick out so far ahead of others that you overcome the three points I mentioned above. On the other hand, I am also not so sure that you have to stick out so far to work with a prof. I don't know how other profs view this, but as a prof in the making, I would use MBA performance as only a rough barometer. If the person is, say, in the top third of the class, seems to be intelligent, and seems to like research, I'd consider enlisting their help. It might be useful to ask a prof or two on their sense of the opportunities available to MBA students. MBA admissions might be able to plug you in to profs who are amenable to answering your questions.