Has this ever been done to get a PhD before?

posted
10-Aug-17, 22:55
Avatar for naturalproduct
posted about 2 months ago
Hi, I'm new here, and wanted to ask about the impact of grades (in certain years) on a PhD application (assuming that references are good).

I study an MSci Chemistry degree, and will be entering 4th year this coming September.

My 1st and 2nd year results were mid 2.1's (~65%), however, upon receiving my 3rd year result last month I am rather worried; I have unfortunately ended up with a 2.2 (59%).

The average across the first 3 years totals to approximately 62%; now my MSci year counts for 40% of the entire degree.

I believe the usual time for PhD applications are November/December onwards?

However, I am under the influence that my 3rd year result will greatly impact the application seeing as at the current time, the 3rd year mark will be the most influential seeing as it is the most recent result and so far the hardest out of the first 3 years (is this a correct assumption to make?).

Now what I wish to ask is if I manage to score a strong first in the MSci year, will that outweigh the results of the first 3 years and put me in a better position to successfully obtain a PhD place? (The project is worth 75% and exams are 25% weightings in the MSci year).

And in this regard, will it be more or less beneficial to apply for a PhD once my MSci year is complete?

I wish to undertake a PhD within one of the top 5 UK institutions (I will not name it) as some of the projects I am very interested in (still narrowing it down) have supervisors there.


Many Thanks in advance


Other information:
I attend a top 5 UK institution (without giving it away).
I had no mitigation in the 3rd year or any other issues.
I need ~ 80% in my MSci year to obtain an overall first class degree classification (this is not impossible).
posted
11-Aug-17, 18:25
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 2 months ago
[quote]Quote From naturalproduct:
Hi, I'm new here, and wanted to ask about the impact of grades (in certain years) on a PhD application (assuming that references are good).
I study an MSci Chemistry degree, and will be entering 4th year this coming September.
My 1st and 2nd year results were mid 2.1's (~65%), however, upon receiving my 3rd year result last month I am rather worried; I have unfortunately ended up with a 2.2 (59%).
The average across the first 3 years totals to approximately 62%; now my MSci year counts for 40% of the entire degree.
I believe the usual time for PhD applications are November/December onwards?
However, I am under the influence that my 3rd year result will greatly impact the application seeing as at the current time, the 3rd year mark will be the most influential seeing as it is the most recent result and so far the hardest out of the first 3 years (is this a correct assumption to make?).
Now what I wish to ask is if I manage to score a strong first in the MSci year, will that outweigh the results of the first 3 years and put me in a better position to successfully obtain a PhD place? (The project is worth 75% and exams are 25% weightings in the MSci year).
And in this regard, will it be more or less beneficial to apply for a PhD once my MSci year is complete?
I wish to undertake a PhD within one of the top 5 UK institutions (I will not name it) as some of the projects I am very interested in (still narrowing it down) have supervisors there.
Many Thanks in advance


If you are grading as low as 59% it doesnt matter what university you are at - you have a problem. Your grade average over all your years is not really any better. Having said that you could still be successful but remember one thing.....Getting onto a PhD is easy in comparison to actually successfully completing one without running out of funding. I would not recommend anyone taking on a PhD with such poor grades. Really you need to be getting a first. Having said that, people do manage to turn things around but you are making a very tough task much harder if you dont have a first.

You are talking about 80% being possible but speaking frankly, your grades are going in the opposite direction and you will definitely have trouble persuading anyone that you can miraculously turn this around. You have no evidence to suggest that is possible and in my opinion the fact that your university is seemingly highly rated, whatever that means, is probably not relevant in that respect. By all means apply, and you certainly should if that is what you want to do, but my strong advice is for you to make turning your poor grades around your top priority and consider the possibility that you might have to do a PhD elsewhere.
posted
11-Aug-17, 18:41
Avatar for naturalproduct
posted about 2 months ago
Thank you for the response.

Could you elaborate on why getting onto a PhD is "easy", because I had always thought it was difficult, as you mentioned, that it is strongly advised to have a first class classification.

You're correct in saying my grades do not support my case very well, does that mean you recommend to waiting until finishing the degree, and if the overall grades turn out very good, then applying?

Would that put me in a better position, as the MSci project year is the most relevant to doing a PhD since that is where the longest part of research is carried out within the entire degree?

I didn't completely understand what you meant by doing a PhD elsewhere, do you mean that I should apply in my 4th year but to other places? If so, what do you mean by "other" places? Because not everywhere will have the research field in which I am interested in.
posted
11-Aug-17, 19:00
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 2 months ago
I agree, having looked at trends in student grades year on year at my uni, most students get the same sort of percentage throughout their years ie if they are getting 65% in year 2, they will get 65% in year 3. It's not common to see large grade increases.

It's pretty easy to get on to a PhD. Depending on field, there can be very few applicants so competition isn't always high. I know many people doing PhDs without 1st or masters as well. Also, grades aren't the be all and end all. Life skills are all important for doing a PhD successfully: resilience, perseverance, a thick skin, managing your project and your supervisor, time management, getting good data to publish etc etc

There's no usual time for PhD applications. That's just crap people say. They can start time of year, but most start in Sept/Oct. Many are advertised March/April time as well. You can apply before you get your result or after. You may as well try and see what happens. It will give you time to hone your application and interview skills if nothing else.

I think it's your predicted grades they will be looking at - not your third year grade. And bear in mind how your referee is going to calculate your predicted grade - they will look at your past grades.

It's your overall grade that will count in the end - people won't care much if you get a first in your MSci year but still a 2.1 overall. That's still a 2.1 overall.
posted
11-Aug-17, 19:19
edited about 21 seconds later
Avatar for naturalproduct
posted about 2 months ago
Quote From TreeofLife:
X


Thank you for the response.

For PhD applications, universities will require a transcript of marks for all years, so I was wondering, whether a very good 4th year mark, would be looked upon favorably, seeing as if the final year mark is much higher than all other years, it would demonstrate that you are very competent at the height of your degree; and thus would show what a candidate is capable of?

The additional skills you've mentioned are definitely a must, I understand that, as it is no easy feat.

With regards to past grades, if one makes a very good impression on their MSci project supervisor, will that aid with the application, especially if it is to the same university department? (since the academics will know each other relatively well). So is that likely to act in ones favor despite the current low 2.1?

Many thanks for our input, it is greatly appreciated.
posted
11-Aug-17, 20:10
edited about 26 seconds later
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 2 months ago
Yes a good 4th year mark will of course be of benefit for those reasons, but there's the issue of consistency. Any perspective supervisor will wonder why you didn't do as well in other years. More consistent candidates might have the edge over you.

Getting your MSci supervisor to like you will be a massive benefit. Supervisors won't sell you in a reference or to their colleagues if they didn't think you were a good student for them.

And a low 2.1 really isn't a problem anyway to be honest, like I said, most PhD students I know got a 2.1. But this is Biology at a Russell Group uni, might be different elsewhere.
posted
11-Aug-17, 20:59
edited a moment later
Avatar for naturalproduct
posted about 2 months ago
Quote From TreeofLife:
Yes a good 4th year mark will of course be of benefit for those reasons, but there's the issue of consistency. Any perspective supervisor will wonder why you didn't do as well in other years. More consistent candidates might have the edge over you.

Getting your MSci supervisor to like you will be a massive benefit. Supervisors won't sell you in a reference or to their colleagues if they didn't think you were a good student for them.

And a low 2.1 really isn't a problem anyway to be honest, like I said, most PhD students I know got a 2.1. But this is Biology at a Russell Group uni, might be different elsewhere.


Yes ofcourse, I understand, the consistency will definitely be different for a final year mark very much higher than the other years' "average" marks, but I was really hoping it wouldn't hinder me greatly.

Other than doing massive amounts of reading around the project topic, and working hard, and efficiently around the lab hour clock, how would you advise to make an outstanding impression on my supervisor from as early as possible?

The 2.1 students getting into the PhD positions really make me believe there is some hope, I do chemistry at a top end Russel Group, I would assume they are not too different?

Thank you so much for your input once again, I really appreciate it.
posted
12-Aug-17, 12:56
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 2 months ago
Quote From naturalproduct:
Thank you for the response.

Could you elaborate on why getting onto a PhD is "easy", because I had always thought it was difficult, as you mentioned, that it is strongly advised to have a first class classification.

You're correct in saying my grades do not support my case very well, does that mean you recommend to waiting until finishing the degree, and if the overall grades turn out very good, then applying?

Would that put me in a better position, as the MSci project year is the most relevant to doing a PhD since that is where the longest part of research is carried out within the entire degree?

I didn't completely understand what you meant by doing a PhD elsewhere, do you mean that I should apply in my 4th year but to other places? If so, what do you mean by "other" places? Because not everywhere will have the research field in which I am interested in.


I will answer your points in turn but please remember these are my own personal opinions and I am not in the business of wilfully trying to crush someone's hopes. I am only trying to give you an honest assessment of where I think you are right now:

Getting a PhD is easy if you have the grades. As ToL says above, most positions seem to receive relatively few applicants and in many cases you may be the only candidate. I am getting this information from academics who hire PhD students. If you have a first you can usually expect to have your pick of positions unless you are unlucky.

If I was in your position I would not be considering a PhD at all at this moment. I would consider my grades were simply too low to allow me to be as successful as I could be. That is a personal opinion only and I accept it is not one that most share. ToL gives an alternative viewpoint for example which you may prefer to go with. Certainly having the actual degree makes it easier to sell to potential supervisors but the problem is that at 62% you appear to have only picked up about half of what you were taught. How are you going to catch up with what you have not understood quickly enough to prevent you overrunning your PhD funding? Even if you don't need much of it, you will still be at a serious disadvantage. Universities in general are absolutely choc full of people in trouble and a lot of them struggle because they don't have the basics absolutely nailed down. None of this means you CANT succeed but you face a much higher hurdle than those who gained a 1st.

By doing a PhD elsewhere, I mean another university and another group. Regardless of what you want to study, your grades are not good enough for you to be certain of success.
posted
12-Aug-17, 13:04
edited about 22 seconds later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 2 months ago
Quote From naturalproduct:
Quote From TreeofLife:
X


Thank you for the response.

For PhD applications, universities will require a transcript of marks for all years, so I was wondering, whether a very good 4th year mark, would be looked upon favorably, seeing as if the final year mark is much higher than all other years, it would demonstrate that you are very competent at the height of your degree; and thus would show what a candidate is capable of?

The additional skills you've mentioned are definitely a must, I understand that, as it is no easy feat.

With regards to past grades, if one makes a very good impression on their MSci project supervisor, will that aid with the application, especially if it is to the same university department? (since the academics will know each other relatively well). So is that likely to act in ones favor despite the current low 2.1?

Many thanks for our input, it is greatly appreciated.


Having poor grades throughout and then firing in an 80% in your final year would likely demonstrate that you have a lack of focus until you feel the flames of the fire at your feet.
It would indicate that working without very close supervision is a problem for you. Specifically it would indicate to me that you would not be right for a PhD position unless you could find a way of convincing me that you had fundamentally changed your attitude. Also getting an 80% on top of 3 years of 60% would suggest a complete disconnect between your course years. Without going back and re-studying your first 3 years I would be very suspicious of how it was possible to get 80% in year 4.
If your 80% was largely down to project work then your transcript would show it and that would tell me that whilst you had decent technical skills in the lab you lacked the theoretical underpinning to support a PhD application.

You should think about my advice and consider how you would either argue against it or mitigate for it. I used to help out with interviewing technical candidates when I was an employee and I had my own recriutment business for a short time as well so I am more likely to be picky in my analysis of your situation. You might find that supervisors simply want a bum on a seat.
posted
12-Aug-17, 13:07
edited about 32 seconds later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 2 months ago
Quote From naturalproduct:


Yes ofcourse, I understand, the consistency will definitely be different for a final year mark very much higher than the other years' "average" marks, but I was really hoping it wouldn't hinder me greatly.

Other than doing massive amounts of reading around the project topic, and working hard, and efficiently around the lab hour clock, how would you advise to make an outstanding impression on my supervisor from as early as possible?

The 2.1 students getting into the PhD positions really make me believe there is some hope, I do chemistry at a top end Russel Group, I would assume they are not too different?

Thank you so much for your input once again, I really appreciate it.


Unless you are at Cambridge or Oxford it almost doesn't matter what unviersity you went to. Your 62% will be pretty much the same as 62% from any other uni. If I were you, I would forget all about your university's "ranking". The rankings are nonsense from start to finish. There really is no such thing as a "top end" Russell Group uni.
posted
12-Aug-17, 18:40
Avatar for naturalproduct
posted about 2 months ago

If I was in your position I would not be considering a PhD at all at this moment. I would consider my grades were simply too low to allow me to be as successful as I could be. That is a personal opinion only and I accept it is not one that most share. ToL gives an alternative viewpoint for example which you may prefer to go with. Certainly having the actual degree makes it easier to sell to potential supervisors but the problem is that at 62% you appear to have only picked up about half of what you were taught. How are you going to catch up with what you have not understood quickly enough to prevent you overrunning your PhD funding? Even if you don't need much of it, you will still be at a serious disadvantage. Universities in general are absolutely choc full of people in trouble and a lot of them struggle because they don't have the basics absolutely nailed down. None of this means you CANT succeed but you face a much higher hurdle than those who gained a 1st.


Learning approximately half of the content taught is one way to look at it, however, my university is very reluctant to awards firsts, especially high ones at that. To be fair, how high would you expect someone to get for a good chance for a PhD (if only considering grades), because obtaining even above 75% overall for the year is regarded by academics of the institution to be outstanding, and yet one could still say they have a 25% “learning gap”. This brings me on to the next point, being that a lot of the courses (bar organic chemistry and some physical) do not prerequisites from previous years, hence, the material not being completely reliant on the entire degrees course content. Also, as an example, PhDs in chemistry (in my case and many others) are usually branched into 3 of organic, physical and inorganic; point being made is that a 100% in physical modules, does not impact ones organic knowledge in any way, shape or form. As an example, many from my year have 40s for physical chemistry, but 85+ in the other; in a completely numerical situation, that may average out to an overall within the 60s, however, a supervisor has no use for an organic PhD position to a person who has 80% overall, with 90s in inorganic and physical, but a 50 in organic.
(Apologies for the long examples, but in this case, for chemistry, it has to be said).
posted
12-Aug-17, 18:40
edited about 13 seconds later
Avatar for naturalproduct
posted about 2 months ago


Having poor grades throughout and then firing in an 80% in your final year would likely demonstrate that you have a lack of focus until you feel the flames of the fire at your feet.
It would indicate that working without very close supervision is a problem for you. Specifically it would indicate to me that you would not be right for a PhD position unless you could find a way of convincing me that you had fundamentally changed your attitude. Also getting an 80% on top of 3 years of 60% would suggest a complete disconnect between your course years. Without going back and re-studying your first 3 years I would be very suspicious of how it was possible to get 80% in year 4.
If your 80% was largely down to project work then your transcript would show it and that would tell me that whilst you had decent technical skills in the lab you lacked the theoretical underpinning to support a PhD application.

You should think about my advice and consider how you would either argue against it or mitigate for it. I used to help out with interviewing technical candidates when I was an employee and I had my own recriutment business for a short time as well so I am more likely to be picky in my analysis of your situation. You might find that supervisors simply want a bum on a seat.


About the “fire at feet” situation, yes this is completely right, this may play a role.
However, the working with close supervision is the opposite case here. In order to achieve an over 80 criteria for the MSci project, you are required to work independently on the project without much prodding from supervisor, and the more help you demand from the supervisor, that will lower the overall mark (20 % of the project is marked for “originality, independence, initiative”). Why I mentioned the 80% in the first place is because to actually achieve this, the criteria demands independent work. (My fault for not including this, but here I had to mention it as doing well in the MSci is opposite of being “spoon-fed” by the supervisor).
posted
12-Aug-17, 18:42
Avatar for naturalproduct
posted about 2 months ago

Having poor grades throughout and then firing in an 80% in your final year would likely demonstrate that you have a lack of focus until you feel the flames of the fire at your feet.
It would indicate that working without very close supervision is a problem for you. Specifically it would indicate to me that you would not be right for a PhD position unless you could find a way of convincing me that you had fundamentally changed your attitude. Also getting an 80% on top of 3 years of 60% would suggest a complete disconnect between your course years. Without going back and re-studying your first 3 years I would be very suspicious of how it was possible to get 80% in year 4.
If your 80% was largely down to project work then your transcript would show it and that would tell me that whilst you had decent technical skills in the lab you lacked the theoretical underpinning to support a PhD application.

You should think about my advice and consider how you would either argue against it or mitigate for it. I used to help out with interviewing technical candidates when I was an employee and I had my own recriutment business for a short time as well so I am more likely to be picky in my analysis of your situation. You might find that supervisors simply want a bum on a seat.


In the first post I mentioned the MSci project is 75% of the final year, so, the high grades are almost impossible without doing outstanding in the project. Since this is a highly practical degree, being able to explain the results will require a being adept at a high amount of theoretical background and knowledge, so doing incredibly well in the final year in this case, will also highlight the grasp of ones underlying theory.
This is why I mentioned if doing exceptionally well in the final year will outweigh the previous years grades, as even if the project is worth 75 %, it also implies that ones theory is advanced, if they do that well.
Which is why I was wondering overall, if I were to apply after obtaining the degree, if it would favour me than my current situation.

I greatly appreciate your input, and I am incredibly happy you chose not to sugarcoat anything, because what you said, I will seriously consider and will probably hear it from others, so many thanks for your input.
posted
12-Aug-17, 21:13
edited about 6 minutes later
Avatar for robinwestwales
posted about 2 months ago
PhD recruitment committees will always be particularly interested in the research project or dissertation mark. Maybe focus on that instead of PhD apps this year and actually see if you are good at research and enjoy it (you might have done a research project in your 3rd year so forgive me if that is the case). So, you might get a 2.1 overall, but with a very good research project mark (say over 75) in the 4th year that would look more favourable. I can see where some other posters are coming from re consistency and knowledge.

Whilst you might be enthused by PhD topics within 'one of the 'top 5 institutions' have you looked elsewhere (and, indeed beyond the Russell Group?). Do have a look around as there might be even better more suitable departments, projects and supervisors. League table positions seem important to you (since you refer to the interest uni as 'one of the top 5', rather than just saying nothing), take no notice of league tables, something really for A level students. REF tables might be useful, but research and supervisor fit, location and support/'feeling' of department are just as important, if not more so. Where you get your PhD from means nothing (or shouldn’t). The uni just funds the research and awards it after external examination.
posted
13-Aug-17, 00:33
edited about 11 seconds later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 2 months ago
Hey! I had "the grades" but found it difficult to get PhD funding (I sucked in my first interview and had to wait another year for my next applications - it was stressful as I thought "how many years am I going to have to do this for?!"). Thankfully it was only a year in the end but still - it was hard.

I would say in your position just do the best you can and see what happens. Enthusiasm counts if you get through to interview stage. I'd say apply for as many as possible (within reason - after all - each one will involve some work) to increase your chances of getting funding. I wouldn't resign myself if I were you, but definitely go for it.

Also - maybe consider Plan B options. A colleague of mine got a 2.1 or a 2.2 (can't remember now but think it was a 2.2), funded herself for the first year of her PhD, and then managed to obtain funding for the remaining two years. That could be a Plan B for if things don't work out the first time round. Also maybe apply for a mixture of different unis.

Good luck with everything!

Postgraduate
Forum

Copyright ©2017
All rights reserved

Postgraduate Forum

Masters Degrees

PhD Opportunities

PostgraduateForum is a trading name of FindAUniversity Ltd
FindAUniversity Ltd, Sellers Wheel, 151 Arundel Street, Sheffield, S1 2NU, United Kingdom. Tel +44 (0) 114 268 4940 Fax: +44 (0) 114 268 5766