I am a US student who will be entering a master's program in music composition this fall at the University of Edinburgh, but a back-up choice is a highly regarded specialist school within a larger university (The Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, part of the City University of New York). I am 52 -- hence the title of this thread! -- and my plan is to go on to a PhD, so...I like to think that a degree from an internationally renowned Uni such as Edinburgh would likely enhance my chances of getting into a prestigious PhD programme (Oxbridge, Yale, Harvard, etc) -- something I feel is important especially given my late start (ie I need all the help I can get). But is this true? New York would certainly be more practical -- and I've heard that it's not where you've been so much as what you've done that the prospective PhD institution will look at. If anyone has any insight, opinion, advice as to which might be better preparation and perhaps "look" better when I woo the likes of Oxbridge, Princeton, Yale, etc., I'm all ears (on the latter point, I realize it's not so much where you go but what you do, but still...).
I currently have a Bachelor's in music as well as a law degree (Berklee College of Music and Seattle University School of Law respectively).
Maybe it's just me, but I think people spend far too much time choosing a university based on its name or prestige. Your choice should depend on whether or not there is a project or adequate supervision to suit you. I am close to your age and also working towards entering a PhD programme. I think that anything is possible once you put in the effort. A great name will not guarantee a great degree, only the person that is actually doing the work.
I work at a university and what you have done is definitely more important than where you have been (at least at my uni).
I tend to agree with dancing - you need to mesh well with the research interests of your supervisor and that will largely dictate where you apply for a PhD. But leaving that aside for a moment, have you applied for a masters program at one of these universities? Because getting onto their masters programs is a lot easier than getting onto their PhD program and is a very good stepping stone if you can then get a distinction at masters. I know they usually require a good 2-1 or equivalent but if they like your application then any kind of 2-1 could be OK. I take it you are self-funding both degrees - that will help as funding for music is mind-bogglingly scarce and competitive.
I am on the old and crazy side too!
I was about to suggest the same as Smilodon, if you want to get onto a PhD programme at a top university, you should apply get on one of their masters programmes. Although, I do know a handful of people at Oxbridge who got DPhil places with the equivalent of 2.1s from low ranked US universities. As long as you have decent grades with your previous degrees, and get a distinction in the masters, you should have a good chance of getting into Oxbridge (assuming your research matches their interests).
But, I would also say do the PhD in the country where you intend to teach. US uni's tend to favour US PhDs.
All excellent advice -- especially regarding US colleges preferring US degrees. Thanks!
To answer a question or two -- I'm already accepted to Edinburgh -- have an e-mail address and everything -- plus I've met with my supervisor, who is an extremely well respected composer (and a great chap as well). and I'll admit, there's the powerful lure of Edinburgh (city) itself. As for CUNY -- all my decision-making torture could be entirely moot, as I haven't heard back yet. But I think I have a good chance at acceptance -- and again, logistically it would be a lot easier. They seem to have a great faculty, but I really haven't "bonded" with anyone. So I guess we'll wait and see.
Thanks again, all
Edinburgh is indeed a fantastic city and you would have all of Scotland on your doorstep. I would be tempted to consider staying there for a PhD if you like the supervisor there - it's a very good university. But then I am prone to travel - getting that experience on top of the studies would be an added bonus and I'm sure you could sell that angle on your resume back in the US (if you ever go back.....).
Once again, thanks to everyone for their comments. I will say that if there's one thing I don't need to be sold on, it's the city Edinburgh -- I've been there twice and absolutely adore the place -- as I do the Scottish countryside, the Scots people, Scotch whisky, Scotch beer...(and did I say whisky?). There's no doubt in my mind that a year in Edinburgh would be an incredible experience, compared to a year in Queens, New York (I'm originally from the New York area, so I know the ups and downs of living there). It's more a matter of whether the school and life experience is worth being that much farther away from hearth and home (I currently live in Seattle). As I explained to my wife and daughter, if it were a choice between U of Edinburgh and, say, Columbia or NYU, I think the decision would be easier to make. But U of Ed and a public university...
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