I am 32 years old. And that's all I seem to think of these days when I think of making a PhD application. Here's the deal.
I graduated with a 2.2 in Biomedical Sciences (but actually it is a 2.1, because I simply had to resit for 1 class out of 3 years because of personal circumstances and no matter what my grade is for that class, they just put the lowest passing grade of 40 there, which actually made all the difference between a 2.1 and 2.2- what a ridiculous educational system is it that no matter what grade you get it has to be 40 because you resit). Anyway, with this 2.2, certainly I could not apply for a PhD so I did an MSc. But I was so smart, that I just did an MSc. by research instead of a taught MSc., and there was no course requirement, just a year of research. Therefore, despite it was no problem for me to finish this MSc. at all, still I have no grades to show so everything goes back to undergraduate grades. Of course, I didn't stop there, I have acquired some research experience but sadly only one second author publication that is under review for Nature communications (and frankly i lost hope as it has been under review for 1 year now).
Still, it is my damn undergraduate grades I have to upload every time I send a PhD application and I have no more grades to show. It is simply disgusting that despite I have great references from a Professor and 2 post-docs in a top research institute in the world, I still can't get a PhD position. I once remember someone said a 2.2 and an MSc. is equivalent to a 2.1. Is that right? And what on earth does one have to do to get a PhD position? I really need some advice here guys because I am losing it.
You need to stop dwelling on your 2.2. There's nothing you can do about it. If your personal circumstances weren't considered at the time to be a reason for not passing a unit, and if the rest of your grades weren't high enough to counteract your 40% unit, then you got a 2.2. You need to accept this.
On the plus side, you have a research MSc. It doesn't have a grade - so what? No-one cares what grade people get at a MSc. If you could say MSc - Distinction, this still doesn't change your 2.2.
PhDs can be difficult to get on to, depending on the field and location of institute. It's possible that your 2.2 may be holding you back, but it's probably not, because you have a MSc. How many PhDs have you applied for? Have you had someone look over your CV and cover letter or application?
I don't understand why you don't have a grade for your MSc? I did a Master's by research (MRes) and it was graded (pass, merit, distinction). Was this in the UK?
Otherwise, unfortunately the competition is just very tough for funded PhD places, and many of the applicants you're competing against may have a good undergraduate degree and a MSc as well. It's great that you have research experience though, I think that would be a strong point in your favour. Keep trying, but maybe also look into other options such as whether you can self-fund while working part time, or if you could be sponsored by an employer?
Also I don't even mention my grade for undergrad I just put Bsc in X, MSc in y. It never stopped my phd application going through, I didn't even mention my masters was a distinction. The fact that you can study to the level of MRes and complete, that should be enough to get you a phd, its just that you'll be up against other students with various grades and experience.
I agree with all that's been said, you need to let it go and continue with what you want. In the UK and MSc will automatically lift your 2.2 to a 2.1 and is more than enough to get a phd if you're the best candidate for the post.
Hi all. Thank you for your answers. I precisely did an MSc by research at the University of Kent, which was 1 year of research from day 1, and without a taught component. On my diploma, its written MSc, not MRes.
Moreover, you say if you have an MSc. it's good enough, but even in the case of a position I was told I was "almost" shortlisted for, it was my undergraduate grades that mattered to them instead of the fact that I worked at one of the best labs in Karolinska and had a great reference from a professor. I thought demonstrating the ability to do research was important, but apparently I am still competing with the grades of fresh graduates irrespective of my experience. It makes no sense. It hurts more when they take the position and publish nothing during their PhD. I don't know. I am not saying grades don't matter, because they do to a certain extent. I am just frustrated I guess because of how it all works. One of you asked how many applications I sent. To be honest, because of my really low self esteem and 1–2 negative answers, I sent approximately 12 PhD applications in the last 9 years, 9 of which was in the past month. So I guess that says something about how much confidence I lack. I am scared to even send out applications thinking they will reject me anyway and every application I submitted in the last month resulted in panick attacks during and soon as I clicked the submit button. Who knew a 2.2 could do that to someone....I am almost 33, still with the same (if not more) passion to pursue research at the academic level as I had when I completed my MSc at the age of 22, yet I am scared of a 2.2 as almost all PhD positions ask for undergraduate transcript. It's crazy....
Hi there csonm,
Ephiny has mentioned the competitive nature of Phd entry and I think this factor definitely would influence how your qualifications are viewed in applications. So by this, I mean that your 2.2 and research Masters are good enough for you to apply absolutely, but if there are a number of candidates for a post, and they need to be ranked for a highly competitive short listing process, then the 2.2 could make a difference sometimes if all else is equal between you and any of the competition.
However, this wouldn't necessarily be true for every application you apply for and you won't know until you go through the process, much of it will depend on the competition happening for each particular application. Don't lose heart with the author publication, these can take a while to be approved and reviewed as well. I think also the other posters have mentioned the gap between your completion of your qualifications might be a concern as this would put you in competition with others who have less time between their degrees and quals and application for the PhD.
I know your circumstances might seem unfair regarding the much earlier 2.2, but, as pointed out but the other posters, you can't change this- it is what it is. It doesn't make you less intelligent, less apt, or less of a person in any way, shape or form.
So if you can't change the 2.2, and you do have a bit of a gap between your completion of degrees, what sorts of things could you do in the meantime to make yourself more competitive in a highly competitive field?
You might need to consider how to market your abilities to universities to appeal to them now-today. Is there any other qualifying short course you could do that might assist to make your application more competitive, or help you craft a research proposal that is highly appealing to various institutions?
There are some really good pieces of advice in this chain of responses (offered by other posters) and if you have set your heart of hearts on the Phd pathway, then following up on these may help with the next few applications.Good luck with it all-it sounds like a very tough situation for you.
If you want it, go for it, and do everything you can to improve your application. You could apply for as many opportunities as possible to increase the chances of getting accepted.
When I was applying, I watched Pursuit of Happyness for inspiration/motivation. People can get what they set out to achieve even in the face of massive obstacles. At the same time, it is always useful to have a Plan B in case it takes longer than anticipated, or you don't feel able to keep on trying thanklessly.
Just an encouraging story... I know someone who was accepted on a highly competitive BSc programme at a Russell Group university when she had no A levels or equivalent, and no evidence of study in the past 4 years (which was the requirement for mature students). Her application obviously impressed them so much that they thought: screw the protocol. And now she is doing a PhD!
I can understand your frustration. Are you sure that it's the grades that are the problem? (I know it's not always possible to get feedback on these things.) Does it indicate on your application that you had personal difficulties which made the difference between a 2:1 and a 2:2? If not it might be worth saying that on future applications.
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