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    Okay: say I achieved a low 2:1 in my undergraduate degree (which in fact I did). If I had started working after finishing this degree, but then wanted to go back a couple of years later to do a Master's, followed by a PhD, at universities considerably better than the middling one I did my undergrad at... How much of a chance would I have?

    - How much weight would be given to the Master's, versus the Bachelor's and other qualifications achieved before it i.e. A Levels etc., when applying for a PhD?
    - How much of a difference would the time gap make? If, say, there was a three-year gap between finishing the Bachelor's and starting the Master's, but I intended to start the PhD immediately after the Master's, would that increase the relative importance of the Master's?
    - Alright, so I would have to apply before having finished the Master's, so any potential excellent results I achieved in it wouldn't come to light soon enough. What if I did two Master's degrees in a row, THEN applied for the PhD? Would that work?

    In short I am wondering to what extent I can undo the consequences of my laziness during my undergraduate degree, when my attitude was "Let's just get this over with and do well enough to get a graduate job" and I didn't really take it seriously. Can I crawl my way back up, and if so, how?

    1) 'Which Uni' has no real meaning at postgrad level. This is very much a school leaver obsession, and within academia it really has no meaning. Sure, there is a difference in perception between London Met and Cambridge, but within the general list of Unis it really has no significance where you did you undergrad. More important is the relevance of your previous degree content/research interests to the new Uni, your academic references, and the quality of your personal statement/research proposal.

    2) A levels and GCSEs? Totally irrelevant. 'Low 2i'? Its a 2i, you don't need to say anything else.

    3) Gaps in study? Excellent idea. Having a bit of experience of the real world is viewed as a huge positive, especially if its doing relevant work.

    4) Two Masters degrees? Will not add any weight to your PhD application and will cost you a small fortune. Its the quality of your overall postgrad application that counts, not extra bits of paper.

    5) Yes, you can apply for Masters during your final undergrad year. Any offer would be conditional on your final degree result (so you can't 'hide' this). But see 3. above about the advantage of having some time out.

    6) Go and talk to your potential referee(s) now. Explain your final point about laziness - they can emphasise in their reference that you 'woke up' in you second year and put the graft in, and that your degree result does not represent you true ability.

    7) Remember that Masters funding is a rare thing. The new PG Loans only provide £9k - not enough to fund fees and 12 months living expenses. Think carefully about why you want to do a Masters at all. If its just 'I can do better than my undergrad result' its a potentially expensive gesture that probably will make no real difference your life/career chances. Same can be said for a PhD btw - academic posts are hard to get, not well paid, and beyond the 'up yours' of calling yourself 'Dr' the rest of the world wont care.

    Sorry if this sounds very negative, but I have had this 'should I do a Masters' will endless students, and most realise that you cant kick up' a 2i, and life is made up of bigger things than 'degrees'.
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