PhD after Bachelors - good idea?

Forum for the GRE subject test in mathematics.
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dharmeshg
Posts: 16
Joined: Tue Dec 01, 2020 12:53 pm

PhD after Bachelors - good idea?

Post by dharmeshg » Sun Jan 31, 2021 12:34 pm

I would like to hear thoughts from all of you.

Is it a good idea to take up a Ph.D. program right after Bachelor's degree? is it very difficult/challenging?
or one should do a Master's and then start a PhD program?

Any thoughts/opinions highly appreciated.
thanks,

Cophysneurec
Posts: 11
Joined: Wed Nov 25, 2020 12:57 am

Re: PhD after Bachelors - good idea?

Post by Cophysneurec » Sun Jan 31, 2021 3:34 pm

I have not started a program yet, but I think it really depends on your level of preparation (how do you feel, and what courses have you taken)? Usually when trying to tackle something big (like a PhD) being mentally prepared can set you up for success by making you less likely to give up when you taste failure. So, do you feel ready to tackle graduate coursework and independent research?

On the other hand, how well prepared are you? I think it must be helpful to have taken graduate courses prior to starting the program, so that much of what you learn will really be review and solidification of concepts, and you can start drawing connections and thinking more freely instead of just trying to stay caught up. I would think you are in a pretty good spot if you’ve taken 2-3 graduate courses in your area of interest, and maybe even 1 would be good. I’m sure there are people who do well without having taken any as well, it would just be more difficult.

Best of luck!

UniformlyDivergent
Posts: 19
Joined: Fri Dec 04, 2020 2:32 pm

Re: PhD after Bachelors - good idea?

Post by UniformlyDivergent » Mon Feb 01, 2021 1:27 pm

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that a PhD program is hard (for most people) no matter what your background is. This is because a PhD program is a different animal entirely from undergraduate, a masters program, or even industry. In all of those other contexts, your focus is on understanding and applying known ideas. In contrast a PhD program is intended to train you to make new ideas, or discover new things which can be applied. This is fundamentally different, and no matter what, doing something new is always much harder than learning how to do a known thing.

With that said, regarding the question "Is going into a PhD from undergrad a bad idea?", I'm going to echo Cophysneurec's response. It depends. Assuming your target PhD program is in Math (pure or applied), and you're undegraduate training is also in Math (pure or applied), it really depends on how you approached your education. Did you challenge yourself or skate by? Did you pick up some research experience as an undergrad, or solely coursework? Did you TA/Tutor for any classes? Have you done any REUs or internships that are meant to prepare you for grad school? You don't need to have done all of these, they're just examples, but the way you take on undergraduate will ultimately determine how ready you are for grad school.

If you feel like you're not ready (which isn't a failure, by the way), there are some options. Many schools offer a post-bac. program intended to help "bridge the gap" between undergrad and grad. A masters is not a bad option either, especially if you can get funding for it. If you do this, try your hardest to get involved in some math research while you're there. There are also math research opportunities via the national labs, a la SULI or others. A lot of REU programs still accept newly-graduated bachelors degree-holders, so that's an option too.

On the other hand, if you've done some/all of the stuff I talked about earlier, and you are just not sure, I would say go for it. Most PhD programs for math are funded, whereas with a masters it is harder to find funding. If you get in and can't finish, your program will probably let you bow out with a masters, which is a plus. Finally, if you have done your hardest to prepare, and you're just doubting yourself, don't expect to be ready, because most people are not, but trust that you can make the transition. If you want it bad enough, you can do it.

Good luck out there. -UD

dharmeshg
Posts: 16
Joined: Tue Dec 01, 2020 12:53 pm

Re: PhD after Bachelors - good idea?

Post by dharmeshg » Mon Feb 01, 2021 2:36 pm

UniformlyDivergent and Cophysneurec -

I would like to give a big shout-out and a sincere thanks for the great advice that both of you have given. TBH I will be completing my Bachelors's this year and am not sure if I will be able to take the pressure where most of my classmates will have a Masters's and more experience than me. I have only applied to a handful of Ph.D. (and did not think I will get in TBH) but got into one which is nice and also fully funded.

I am also waiting for a few Masters outcomes so let's see.

thanks again,



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