Should I omit a poor master's degree from my PhD application? Watch

BillMurray
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#1
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Hi there,

I want to apply to the Cybersecurity PhD at Royal Holloway. Here are the admission requirements:

"Applicants should have, or be expecting to obtain, a high-quality (ideally first class) undergraduate or masters (ideally distinction) degree in a relevant discipline. Suitable backgrounds are (but not limited to) computer science, criminology, economics, electronics engineering, geography, geopolitics, information security, law, mathematics, philosophy, politics, psychology, software engineering and war studies. We will also consider applicants with a professional background, so long as they are able to provide evidence of demonstrable academic skills as well as practical experience."

I have a first class degree in International Relations (focused a lot on cybersecurity political issues in my final year).

I scraped through with a Merit (60%) in my MSc Computer Science (conversion) degree. With a tolerated failed grade (42%, algorithms), and a capped resit grade (50%). Unfortunately the capped grade was for an IT security module (I actually achieved 72% in my resit, I do have an email from the department head confirming that, but of course it's not on my transcript). Other areas of the course I did well in, I obtained 3 grades of 70%+ for 3 modules.

I also feel I've made up for my shortcomings in the algorithms module. Plus I program part time for a video game company.

My question then is do I include my MSc degree (in normal circumstances this would greatly help my chances) or should I simply omit it because it might hinder my chances?

Thanks for reading.
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DrSocSciences
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All sounds a bit familiar.
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BillMurray
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??
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XOR_
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I would say no but that IT security grade might be something you want to explain first before sending the application.
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snowpudding
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Do you have a space, like a personal statement of sorts where you can explain your marks, mention about your resit, say what you want to say etc?
I would leave it in personally since even though you did not do very well, you would have gained more knowledge and academic skills from your MSc. Since it’s a PhD have you talked to a potential supervisor?
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Dr Otter
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Never leave things off your application. You can be removed from a position for not disclosing relevant information. A merit level MSc isnt a drawback and in this situation could realy help your application. Plus that will leave a time gap on your CV and what would you say at interview if they asked you about what you were doing during that time?

Most places wont even look at the individual module grades because unless they specifically know the course the module titles wont tell them the specific content covered. They'll just look at the overall degree classification.
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doodle_333
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a phD is a very high standard of academic ability... I can't imagine they wouldn't be concerned knowing you didn't get a high grade in your masters tbh, but what would you say you were doing during that time? it also won't look good if you just leave a big gap

could you call the university and ask if they'd consider you with the masters?
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BillMurray
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(Original post by snowpudding)
Do you have a space, like a personal statement of sorts where you can explain your marks, mention about your resit, say what you want to say etc?
I would leave it in personally since even though you did not do very well, you would have gained more knowledge and academic skills from your MSc. Since it’s a PhD have you talked to a potential supervisor?
Thanks. Yes there will be a personal statement. I still haven't come up with any good reasons for my failure, other than the fact my maths was not up to scratch and I simply wasn't ready for the course. The transition from a social science to Computer Science was rough to be honest. That and I have written a short paragraph on how I didn't give up, which might be of use.

We don't have to seek out a supervisor because it's a 4 year PhD, you do a masters in year 1, then move onto a PhD.
Last edited by BillMurray; 4 months ago
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BillMurray
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(Original post by doodle_333)
a phD is a very high standard of academic ability... I can't imagine they wouldn't be concerned knowing you didn't get a high grade in your masters tbh, but what would you say you were doing during that time? it also won't look good if you just leave a big gap

could you call the university and ask if they'd consider you with the masters?
This is something I will try. But it's hard to get honest feedback from someone who will have the authority to decide who gets interviews/places (i.e, the professors and lecturers). Most of the time, you contact the admin team who always respond with "we encourage you to apply as you meet the minimum entry requirements". But they can't give you specifics on how shortcomings on your application will be received by professors.

I could always contact the professors directly, but they can be funny about that.
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doodle_333
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(Original post by BillMurray)
This is something I will try. But it's hard to get honest feedback from someone who will have the authority to decide who gets interviews/places (i.e, the professors and lecturers). Most of the time, you contact the admin team who always respond with "we encourage you to apply as you meet the minimum entry requirements". But they can't give you specifics on how shortcomings on your application will be received by professors.

I could always contact the professors directly, but they can be funny about that.
Yeah... I know the guy running my partners PhD program always preferred people to call and ask so he wasn't wasting time later but I get that probably varies a lot and you're right you know you meet the minimum you just wanna know how to maximise your chances...
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DrSocSciences
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Include it, and acknowledge what you learned from your resit. The completion of a PhD requires academic ability, of course, but also commitment and resilience, so frame your MSc in terms of a learning experience rather than just a qualification, and balance this with reporting your successes.
Last edited by DrSocSciences; 4 months ago
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