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# PhD Preparatory MS: Which Admission Offer Should I Accept??

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Intern
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PhD Preparatory MS: Which Admission Offer Should I Accept?? [#permalink]  09 Mar 2007, 22:32
I want to get into a PhD program in Finance. My undergraduate degree is in Finance from a non-US institution. I have been out of school for 6/7 years now and my quantitative preparation is not good either. Therefore, I need a PhD preparatory MS degree with some flexibility to take math courses within the program and some extra undergrad math courses outside the program with in a reasonable time.

I applied to four programs in relevant field and got admission offer from each of them. I desperately need some suggestion on picking the right program. Should I give emphasis on program reputation or on the best match curriculum? Please see below for the program description and please let me know your opinion.

1) MS in Finance at University of Arizona:
36-hour program and total tuition/fee is $31,000. Do not offer any funding for MS. All courses are in Finance. Due to cost factor, it will be difficult to take additional math courses. It will take 18-months to complete the degree and add-on math courses. 2) MS in Economics at SUNY Buffalo: 45-hour program and total tuition/fee is$20,000. Do not offer funding for MS. More than 18-hour in Econometrics and allows 9-hour elective in math. Taking additional make-up math courses will not cost much, thanks to the flat tuition rate. It will take 2 years to complete the degree and add-on math courses.

3) MS in Statistics at Texas Tech University:
36-hour program and total tuition/fee is $14,000. No funding at this moment, but opportunity exists. All courses are either in Stat or in Math. However, due to infrequent course offering and prerequisite requirement, it will take 3 years to complete the degree and add-on math courses. 4) MS in Quantitative Finance at UT Arlington: 36-hour program and total tuition/fee is$16000. Do not offer funding for MS. Option to choose 15-hour math course in the degree plan. To meet prerequisite and cover add-on math courses, I will have to take six additional undergrad-level math courses but still can finish the program in 2 years.

Considering cost, time and curriculum, I bias is kind of toward either SUNY Buffalo or UT Arlington. But I can pick others too if there is valid ground. Please help me get out this indecision.
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CEO
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a) I would strongly encourage you to go to a program that will allow you to continue on to your Ph.D. This will easily shave a year or more from your eventual PhD completion.

b) If you are dead set on what you want to do and are absolutely clear that your research area has tremendous potential, find faculty in those 4 schools that are most closely related to your area of interest. See who seems the most enthusiastic.

c) Rather than looking at reputation, look closely at the faculty. As much as possible, you should work with faculty that have name recognition in your area of interest.

Finally, PhD admissions are extremely competitive. Be very sure to have the best possible GMAT score right now and the best possible GPA in your MS Finance.
Manager
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I agree. I might add that if you're concerned about your school's "brand", any of the four programs you're considering is largely equivalent when it comes to PhD admissions. Two years from now, when faculty members evaluate your PhD application, they will likely know

1) the name of the school;
2) it is not a top 20 school;
3) not much else.

I know current PhD students who have an MS Finance degree, and I know for a fact that someone who has a MS in Economics is well regarded in any subfield of business. So I really don't think it makes any difference. Your performance in those courses will be largely more important than the actual school, or the actual courses you took. As for the GMAT, GPA and past courses taken are (at least in part) seen as a signaling device, ie. do you have the ability to be successful in hard graduate courses?

One final note: if you chose Arizona you could be done in only 18 months. Great. However most PhD programs will admit incoming students only for the fall semester so you better plan what you'll do in the 6 months between MS and PhD (finding a job and paying part of the student loan looks fine).
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I personally think the Eller program (Arizona) has more panache than any of the above by a long shot. It's not top 20, but there are people out there able to distinguish top 40 or 50 (which Arizona legitimately is) from the rest of the field. Not that there's anything wrong with the other schools, just that the UA brand does have some umph behind it in all but the most rarified atmospheres.

No general offense intended, but there are people here who, because they're so smart and ambitious--goood qualities both--couldn't imagine a career teaching at anything less than a major research university, so for them, it's top 20 or bust, nothing else matters. However, for a great deal of the world--the majority--such is not the case. There are a lot of people who know who Eller is in the field of business, a lot more than UTA or Texas Tech or any SUNY school. Just a fact.
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mrw: you're right on Arizona being the better school than the others mentioned. However, let me clarify what I said: I don't think any of the four schools makes a difference when it comes to PhD admissions, where the GMAT, GPA and the actual courses taken will make a difference. Stated differently, I think that faculty members who evaluate PhD applications will look at someone who was a stellar student in MS Economics from a good, but not great, school more favorably than someone who was an average (or even maybe above average) MBA student from a top 20 school, because the MS Econ background is seen as better preparation to the PhD program.

Feel free to disagree. I think my main point is that while there is always a difference between an "all-star school" (Wharton, Stanford..) and a very good school (such as Rochester, for example), there is not much of a difference between a good school (Arizona) and an average school (SUNY Buffalo), especially from the standpoint of evaluating prospective PhD students. There may be a larger difference when one looks at the _job market_ following completion of an MS Finance program, but the "PhD application market" is not the labor market.
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cabro57 wrote:
mrw: you're right on Arizona being the better school than the others mentioned. However, let me clarify what I said: I don't think any of the four schools makes a difference when it comes to PhD admissions, where the GMAT, GPA and the actual courses taken will make a difference. Stated differently, I think that faculty members who evaluate PhD applications will look at someone who was a stellar student in MS Economics from a good, but not great, school more favorably than someone who was an average (or even maybe above average) MBA student from a top 20 school, because the MS Econ background is seen as better preparation to the PhD program.

Feel free to disagree. I think my main point is that while there is always a difference between an "all-star school" (Wharton, Stanford..) and a very good school (such as Rochester, for example), there is not much of a difference between a good school (Arizona) and an average school (SUNY Buffalo), especially from the standpoint of evaluating prospective PhD students. There may be a larger difference when one looks at the _job market_ following completion of an MS Finance program, but the "PhD application market" is not the labor market.

No, fair points all; the PhD admissions market is an interesting, rarified atmosphere to say the least, particularly when regarding the sort of programs that are mentioned on these boards. So your points are likely valid there. I really wasn't trying to fire a shot across your bow, just stating an opinion.

I also should admit, in the interests of full disclosure, that I did some graduate work at the University of Arizona--three years worth, law school--so I was just feeling the sting of my school being lumped in as indistinguishable from "inferior" programs (now I've gone and offended Texas Tech, SUNY Buffalo and UTA grads). So I'm as biased as the fan who paints his face red and blue for the big game; I admit it.
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# PhD Preparatory MS: Which Admission Offer Should I Accept??

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