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voprosi

Decisions 2017

56 posts in this topic

Hi everyone,

I remember going through threads like this in the history boards, so I thought I would start one for 2017. Those of you who are fortunate enough to have a few options to choose from, where are you in the decision-making process and how are you going about making your decisions? 

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Right now, I'm kind of just waffling back and forth. I'll lean towards a program, but then I'll start thinking about the strengths of another school, and I just really don't know what I'm going to do. I'm hoping visiting will help clear some things up for me. Just planning the trips has given me some things to think about--it turns out one school is by far more difficult to get to and from than the others. It's not a make it or break it factor, but it's another consideration that I hadn't thought about previously. I guess I assumed the process of getting back and forth would be more or less the same from one school to the next. On the flip side, though, the faculty there is a great fit... I am a little nervous about committing to an advisor, so the big thing I'm hoping visiting will do is give me a sense of who I might be able to be comfortable around. I'm a pretty nervous and neurotic person and there are certain personalities I have a really hard time working with. With that in mind, I'm hopeful that talking to faculty and getting an idea of what they're like as a mentor will make the decision making process a bit easier.

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37 minutes ago, angesradieux said:

Right now, I'm kind of just waffling back and forth. I'll lean towards a program, but then I'll start thinking about the strengths of another school, and I just really don't know what I'm going to do. I'm hoping visiting will help clear some things up for me. Just planning the trips has given me some things to think about--it turns out one school is by far more difficult to get to and from than the others. It's not a make it or break it factor, but it's another consideration that I hadn't thought about previously. I guess I assumed the process of getting back and forth would be more or less the same from one school to the next. On the flip side, though, the faculty there is a great fit... I am a little nervous about committing to an advisor, so the big thing I'm hoping visiting will do is give me a sense of who I might be able to be comfortable around. I'm a pretty nervous and neurotic person and there are certain personalities I have a really hard time working with. With that in mind, I'm hopeful that talking to faculty and getting an idea of what they're like as a mentor will make the decision making process a bit easier.

@angesradieux Just want to point out that often, the most important (i.e., telling) meet-and-greets at recruitment events are often with other grad students, rather than the faculty themselves. Of course, it's important to try to see how you vibe with your potential advisor, but the events with current grad students are where you'll really be able to get a sense of the program/department's actual culture (to the extent that such a thing is popular during a recruitment event where everyone's job is to convince you that X place is the best place you could possibly be). Talk to students about classes, note their reactions when you tell them who your POI is--fellow advisees, of course, but I've found non-advisees can provide interesting information as well. Students will also be the ones to talk to about the transportation/accessibility issues you mentioned, how livable the stipend is, etc. etc. I know recruitment is crazy and there's so much focus on faculty advisors, but I just wanted to stress the sometimes over-looked treasure trove of info that current grad students can provide. Anyway, congrats on having options!

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12 hours ago, Calgacus said:

I know recruitment is crazy and there's so much focus on faculty advisors, but I just wanted to stress the sometimes over-looked treasure trove of info that current grad students can provide. Anyway, congrats on having options!

 

I completely agree. I've been on both sides at this point, and if you want to know how a program feels, hang out with the graduate students for a couple hours. They have no reason to hold their opinions.

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I am also in the same boat. I'll think that I will have made a decision one day but waver the next. The problem is that I can see myself being happy at all of my choices -- although the type of historian I would become would differ quite a bit according to the institution. I'm visiting one school in March and have discussed various aspects of the department with current students and faculty, so hopefully I will know my choices better in the upcoming weeks.

 I'm also not sure how much value to place on placement/prestige. My top two choices are well regarded in terms of the department as a whole but are relatively new in terms of the subfield. One school has recently been rebuilding its scholars and cohort in the subfield, so I would be among the first few students in the subfield, while the other school has had okay placement (some nonacademic positions) in my subfield but also have a short track record in the field.

 

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5 hours ago, voprosi said:

 I'm also not sure how much value to place on placement/prestige. My top two choices are well regarded in terms of the department as a whole but are relatively new in terms of the subfield. One school has recently been rebuilding its scholars and cohort in the subfield, so I would be among the first few students in the subfield, while the other school has had okay placement (some nonacademic positions) in my subfield but also have a short track record in the field.

 

@voprosi

Indeed, placement/job rate matters.  There has been debates over what matters more - program name or adviser's name.  IMHO, program's name matters when it's already heavy with resources and well-known faculty members (like Pittsburgh for Latin American history or Berkeley's Modern European history).  Otherwise, if you have a new-ish faculty member just hired to build up a program in a well-known program, it's risk when you have an option to work with a superstar with a track record at a middling program. Under that situation, you will be under a microscope to be sure that you will succeed. 

However, I would not put too much stock on the placement given the changes in the PhD market.  I have noticed more and more students-- incoming and outgoing-- are looking at the non-academic jobs as serious options, not "plan b."  Most people, likely younger people, are realizing that not everyone can get a tenure-track faculty job.  Luck gets people only so far.  Most faculty members are simply not equipped to guide graduate students to positions outside of academia unless they did so themselves so it's not easy for them to offer advice and guidance other than to say "network."

You have to consider that not everyone made the choice to go into academia; there are grad students who have come to realize over the course of the program that academia isn't for them and so they leave after graduation. Incoming students have already chosen non-academic jobs and decided to pursue the PhD  because they have an interest in another career such as think-tanks and museums.  Regardless, everyone is in the program for the opportunity to earn the PhD and spend 5-8 years doing something they're interested in.  Your challenge as a PhD student is to be supportive of your peers' choices along their journeys even if yourself feel alone in a particular situation.

What matters is that the advisers are happy with what their past students are doing now.  Pay careful attention to the way your POI responds when you ask, "Could you tell me what your past graduate students have been doing after they finished?"  A supportive POI will tell all whereas some will be selective and choose those who did pursue academic jobs.  Obviously, you want the former and not the latter.  

As the years go by and our generation wise up, my sense that the placement rate for academic jobs will no longer matter as much as the overall placement which includes nonacademic jobs.  In that case, my PhD program has roughly 90% placement rate overall and is comparable to other PhD programs including Chicago and Harvard for academic jobs (50%).  Over the last 4 years I've been in my PhD program, it seemed like everyone was able to land something after they finished.  Some did return as adjuncts for a semester or two but most found full-time salaried jobs as faculty members or in another position in and out of academia.

At the end of the day, you will go with your gut feeling after you've evaluated.  If all fails, talk to your best friend or adviser (if s/he is the type to look out for your best interests) and see if they see the difference in the way you talk about each program, people, and POIs.  That's how my MA adviser cornered me to my current program :)

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What constitutes "least securely funded", quantitatively? Having a precise match on your adviser is much less important than having a funding package that will allow you to produce high-quality research, and so land a job.

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@TMP @telkanuru

Thank you for your insight on placement and resources.

At this point, I'm between a school that has a reputation for having a supportive grad student community vs. one with better opportunities for funding and one where I'm not too sure about the collegiality of the grad student cohort. In terms of advisors, they're pretty evenly matched, as are the other potential professors who can serve on my dissertation committee. I'm only visiting the second school, so hopefully I can get more info about interactions/support among fellow grad students. 

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Hi all! I am very torn about where to go! Basically I have three main options, all are good fits within my field.

Option A has the best POI in terms of fit, and the most professors whose scholarship I am excited about. It requires TAing every year.

Option B has slightly less funding than option A, but it doesn't require any teaching/assistantships

Option C has significantly more funding than either of the other two options (about $7k a year more), and doesn't require teaching in the first year, but does require it the other four. I like the location of option c the worst. 

SO I have to choose between professors, time, and money. Any advice?

I will be visiting options A+B in the next couple of weeks, just found about about option c, so no plans to visit ye. 

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@DoraWinifred  Go to the campuses, get a feel and come back to this.  Campus visits usually make/break decisions.  Is there any visit Option C?  Have you been in touch with professors and grad students there?

Remember, COL is the key, not the amount of the stipend.  Which stipend will actually provide a decent quality of life in a given area?  $20K in Palo Alto is pretty different from $20K in Durham.

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@TMP Thank you for the response and the advice! I definitely am hoping that campus visits and talking to current students will help. I just got my acceptance/offer from option c this week, so I'm scrambling a little bit to figure out if I'll be able to visit, etc. But I definitely will talk to professors/students in any case. 

Good point about cost of living! As far as I know, it is pretty similar in all three places, but I will research more. My impression is that the extra money at option C comes from a fellowship that they use as a recruitment tool. But I also am wrestling over the differing amounts of TAing required at each school. Not having to do any TAing at option B seems pretty significant, and I guess I'm just not sure how much weight to give all the extra time it would allow me to devote to coursework/exams/research. I feel like I'll be able to get a pretty good sense of the people I might be working with, department culture, resources etc. when I visit each school, and I know what it means to live on different amounts of money, but it might be harder to predict the difference that it would make to not have TA duties.

Right now, the fit at option A seems so perfect, but I guess I'm not sure whether I can justify turning down the fellowship offers at B+C... hopefully visiting will lend clarity! 

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Fellowships are one thing, but easy access to regular pots of funding are vital.

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Hi everyone! First time posting, though I've been reading these boards for years.

I'm deciding between two area studies MAs, though my ultimate goal is a history PhD so I thought I'd come here for advice. 

Both programs are very well-regarded, and both schools also have top-20 history PhD programs. 

School A has a POI who is one of the top scholars in the specific sub-subfield I'm interested in. In terms of money, they're not guaranteeing me anything. I applied for FLAS funding, though I haven't heard anything yet, and I've been told that "many" MA students land TA positions, which come with a tuition remission and a small stipend, though I won't be able to apply for those until I've accepted their offer. 

School B had offered me full funding--tuition, fees, health insurance, and a nice stipend, guaranteed for the three semesters it takes to complete the program--and I don't even have to TA! They're just giving me a fellowship. On the other hand, they don't really have any faculty who do work on the country/region I'm interested in. There are a couple POIs whose work is thematically similar to my interests, albeit focussed on different countries/regions--but it's not nearly as easy a fit as the POI at School A. 

It's hard to turn down money, and so I'm leaning towards School B for that reason--here is a real opportunity to get out of this with no debt! I won't have to worry about money--in fact, I won't have to worry about anything but school, because I won't have to work as a TA! On the other hand, thinking strategically about applying for PhDs, School A is better choice--it would be a better fit for me to do a PhD at, and the POI I would be working with is a big name in the field, which would help me applying to other places. School B is also a really good school--just not specifically for what I want to do...

Money, or fit? How important is fit at the MA level anyway? 

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11 hours ago, delores said:

Hi everyone! First time posting, though I've been reading these boards for years.

I'm deciding between two area studies MAs, though my ultimate goal is a history PhD so I thought I'd come here for advice. 

Both programs are very well-regarded, and both schools also have top-20 history PhD programs. 

School A has a POI who is one of the top scholars in the specific sub-subfield I'm interested in. In terms of money, they're not guaranteeing me anything. I applied for FLAS funding, though I haven't heard anything yet, and I've been told that "many" MA students land TA positions, which come with a tuition remission and a small stipend, though I won't be able to apply for those until I've accepted their offer. 

School B had offered me full funding--tuition, fees, health insurance, and a nice stipend, guaranteed for the three semesters it takes to complete the program--and I don't even have to TA! They're just giving me a fellowship. On the other hand, they don't really have any faculty who do work on the country/region I'm interested in. There are a couple POIs whose work is thematically similar to my interests, albeit focussed on different countries/regions--but it's not nearly as easy a fit as the POI at School A. 

It's hard to turn down money, and so I'm leaning towards School B for that reason--here is a real opportunity to get out of this with no debt! I won't have to worry about money--in fact, I won't have to worry about anything but school, because I won't have to work as a TA! On the other hand, thinking strategically about applying for PhDs, School A is better choice--it would be a better fit for me to do a PhD at, and the POI I would be working with is a big name in the field, which would help me applying to other places. School B is also a really good school--just not specifically for what I want to do...

Money, or fit? How important is fit at the MA level anyway? 

at MA Level, money.  Do you really want to take out student debt?  You don't really want to be paying off loans or accruing interest while in a PhD program.  You'll get the fit at the PhD level where you need a really good group of scholars in  your subfrield to guide your dissertation research.

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12 hours ago, delores said:

Hi everyone! First time posting, though I've been reading these boards for years.

I'm deciding between two area studies MAs, though my ultimate goal is a history PhD so I thought I'd come here for advice. 

Both programs are very well-regarded, and both schools also have top-20 history PhD programs. 

School A has a POI who is one of the top scholars in the specific sub-subfield I'm interested in. In terms of money, they're not guaranteeing me anything. I applied for FLAS funding, though I haven't heard anything yet, and I've been told that "many" MA students land TA positions, which come with a tuition remission and a small stipend, though I won't be able to apply for those until I've accepted their offer. 

School B had offered me full funding--tuition, fees, health insurance, and a nice stipend, guaranteed for the three semesters it takes to complete the program--and I don't even have to TA! They're just giving me a fellowship. On the other hand, they don't really have any faculty who do work on the country/region I'm interested in. There are a couple POIs whose work is thematically similar to my interests, albeit focussed on different countries/regions--but it's not nearly as easy a fit as the POI at School A. 

It's hard to turn down money, and so I'm leaning towards School B for that reason--here is a real opportunity to get out of this with no debt! I won't have to worry about money--in fact, I won't have to worry about anything but school, because I won't have to work as a TA! On the other hand, thinking strategically about applying for PhDs, School A is better choice--it would be a better fit for me to do a PhD at, and the POI I would be working with is a big name in the field, which would help me applying to other places. School B is also a really good school--just not specifically for what I want to do...

Money, or fit? How important is fit at the MA level anyway? 

 

Honestly, I would go with school B. Although school A has a POI that can oversee your work, how much work would you be doing if you're scrambling for financing (or working!) for the full two years. If they are both schools that have top-20 history PhD programs, then you'll likely find  many people (from school B) who overlap with what you want to do AND can give you invaluable advice/LOR about applying to Ph.D. program where "fit" matters more. 

You might want to see if you can use school B's funding as leverage for the M.A. at school A ("I'd  prefer your program but school B is giving me $$$...") to see if that helps secure you funding. But if that doesn't work, school B all the way. 

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Is anyone else still waffling back-and-forth after doing campus visits? What aspects of the visits made one school stand out more clearly than others?

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On 3/18/2017 at 0:31 PM, scimin said:

Is anyone else still waffling back-and-forth after doing campus visits? What aspects of the visits made one school stand out more clearly than others?

I did.  It helped to talk to my advisor and she listened to the way I talked about each program/visit and pointed out that I sounded more excited about working with this POI despite some reservations and that was it.  If you think you'll do well in both programs all things equal, choose the one you're more excited about being part of... the people, the resources, the location.  Remember, you're "married" to your adviser for 6-8 years.

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I'm torn between two schools, both private with similar funding, and would appreciate any advice. 

School A is the more prestigious, better-ranked school, but it's currently in a "transition phase" in terms of hiring Americanists to replace a few big names who've left in the past few years. At this school I would have an advisor who is known for being extremely supportive and who I think is genuinely drawn towards my work--she is close to retirement and would take me on as an exception (she's otherwise not taking new students). That is a bit concerning to me because it means she's potentially not really going to be around (in academia, not in the world) when I'm trying to crawl my way into the job market. If she retires early then I'm not sure who else at this school would advise me, though the school is, of course, making some hires in the next few years. When I visited this school it didn't feel like a great fit. Other than my potential advisor and one Latin Americanist, the department is known for being more traditional and conservative--and this has been a problem for me at my current school, where I'm doing my MA. I would have to work outside of the history department a fair bit, and I would have an advisor from the English department who would fill my need for someone working in gender and sexuality. This school has amazing placement statistics and a great reputation but it isn't so open to the idea that public history is valuable, and that is very important to me as someone who could happily go either way.

School B is less prestigious but is known as a "dynamic, innovative" program. The department offers more courses that I'd like to take and that reflects the fact that the faculty is full of historians who are doing the type of work I would like to do. My primary advisor at this school is very, very early into her career and she's not working in the exact same field as me, but the questions that she is asking are amazing and I got on really well with her when I met her at the visit. If I were listening to a gut feeling, I'd say she's the right advisor (even though she's a bit of an unknown quantity, just because she really hasn't worked with many students). Because she is quite junior, she would co-advise along with another professor who also seems like he would probably be good but it's difficult to know--I met 7th year students of his who were positive. This school does not have anyone working specifically in gender and sexuality and I am not sure where I would get that--I'd likely have to have an outside advisor on my committee. I visited this school immediately after I visited school A and a few hours in I was like "ok this is where I should be." I could imagine myself amongst the student body and there was an energy between the faculty that I did not feel at school A (where I have been told there is more tension etc). This school's placement statistics vary from year to year but it's very well-known and not unreputable. They also have a specific public history and archives program that I could take classes in, and I think I'd be very supported in my oral history work.

I am completely unsure of how this decision will go. I am drawn to school B and I'm excited by the advisor there, but part of me thinks that it makes more sense to go to the nominally stronger, better-ranked program, where my advisor would also be great--if anyone has any thoughts I'm very open to hearing them. 

 

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54 minutes ago, OHSP said:

I'm torn between two schools, both private with similar funding, and would appreciate any advice. 

School A is the more prestigious, better-ranked school, but it's currently in a "transition phase" in terms of hiring Americanists to replace a few big names who've left in the past few years. At this school I would have an advisor who is known for being extremely supportive and who I think is genuinely drawn towards my work--she is close to retirement and would take me on as an exception (she's otherwise not taking new students). That is a bit concerning to me because it means she's potentially not really going to be around (in academia, not in the world) when I'm trying to crawl my way into the job market. If she retires early then I'm not sure who else at this school would advise me, though the school is, of course, making some hires in the next few years. When I visited this school it didn't feel like a great fit. Other than my potential advisor and one Latin Americanist, the department is known for being more traditional and conservative--and this has been a problem for me at my current school, where I'm doing my MA. I would have to work outside of the history department a fair bit, and I would have an advisor from the English department who would fill my need for someone working in gender and sexuality. This school has amazing placement statistics and a great reputation but it isn't so open to the idea that public history is valuable, and that is very important to me as someone who could happily go either way.

School B is less prestigious but is known as a "dynamic, innovative" program. The department offers more courses that I'd like to take and that reflects the fact that the faculty is full of historians who are doing the type of work I would like to do. My primary advisor at this school is very, very early into her career and she's not working in the exact same field as me, but the questions that she is asking are amazing and I got on really well with her when I met her at the visit. If I were listening to a gut feeling, I'd say she's the right advisor (even though she's a bit of an unknown quantity, just because she really hasn't worked with many students). Because she is quite junior, she would co-advise along with another professor who also seems like he would probably be good but it's difficult to know--I met 7th year students of his who were positive. This school does not have anyone working specifically in gender and sexuality and I am not sure where I would get that--I'd likely have to have an outside advisor on my committee. I visited this school immediately after I visited school A and a few hours in I was like "ok this is where I should be." I could imagine myself amongst the student body and there was an energy between the faculty that I did not feel at school A (where I have been told there is more tension etc). This school's placement statistics vary from year to year but it's very well-known and not unreputable. They also have a specific public history and archives program that I could take classes in, and I think I'd be very supported in my oral history work.

I am completely unsure of how this decision will go. I am drawn to school B and I'm excited by the advisor there, but part of me thinks that it makes more sense to go to the nominally stronger, better-ranked program, where my advisor would also be great--if anyone has any thoughts I'm very open to hearing them. 

 

As someone who is musing over the same dilemma, I say to ask yourself if your #1 dream position is to be a public historian--meaning, curator, historical consultant, corporate historian, etc. Or, if your goal is to be a professor of history, who could also teach public history and be involved in local projects wherever you end up teaching. 

If it's the latter, choose Option A, but also look around the school and region for public history opportunities, and attend/publish public history stuff. If the former, I'd choose Option B.

From what I've experienced, I don't think that public history will ever be on "equal" footing with traditional history, because it's long been viewed as a back-up plan for people who can't get a TT job. And TT job placement is how departments--and students and admins--gauge their reputation. 

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Posted (edited)

18 minutes ago, NoirFemme said:

As someone who is musing over the same dilemma, I say to ask yourself if your #1 dream position is to be a public historian--meaning, curator, historical consultant, corporate historian, etc. Or, if your goal is to be a professor of history, who could also teach public history and be involved in local projects wherever you end up teaching. 

If it's the latter, choose Option A, but also look around the school and region for public history opportunities, and attend/publish public history stuff. If the former, I'd choose Option B.

From what I've experienced, I don't think that public history will ever be on "equal" footing with traditional history, because it's long been viewed as a back-up plan for people who can't get a TT job. And TT job placement is how departments--and students and admins--gauge their reputation. 

It's good advice--thanks. I am not interested in being a curator, historical consultant etc, but at the moment I have a strong foot in oral history and oral history documentary, and I wouldn't want to lose that--but you're right in that there are opportunities to keep a hold of that anywhere. The regional thing is not such a big issue (A is Philadelphia, B is New York). The reputation of B in oral history and documentary is better than the reputation of A. Obviously this is something I need to think about a bit more - good luck with your decision though!

Edited by OHSP

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1 hour ago, OHSP said:

It's good advice--thanks. I am not interested in being a curator, historical consultant etc, but at the moment I have a strong foot in oral history and oral history documentary, and I wouldn't want to lose that--but you're right in that there are opportunities to keep a hold of that anywhere. The regional thing is not such a big issue (A is Philadelphia, B is New York). The reputation of B in oral history and documentary is better than the reputation of A. Obviously this is something I need to think about a bit more - good luck with your decision though!

You're welcome. If oral history and documentary is vital to your work, Option B sounds great. But since NYC and Philadelphia aren't drastically far apart, could you still use the resources and/or collaborate with researchers at Option B while attending Option A?

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On ‎3‎/‎9‎/‎2017 at 0:42 AM, DoraWinifred said:

@TMP Thank you for the response and the advice! I definitely am hoping that campus visits and talking to current students will help. I just got my acceptance/offer from option c this week, so I'm scrambling a little bit to figure out if I'll be able to visit, etc. But I definitely will talk to professors/students in any case. 

Good point about cost of living! As far as I know, it is pretty similar in all three places, but I will research more. My impression is that the extra money at option C comes from a fellowship that they use as a recruitment tool. But I also am wrestling over the differing amounts of TAing required at each school. Not having to do any TAing at option B seems pretty significant, and I guess I'm just not sure how much weight to give all the extra time it would allow me to devote to coursework/exams/research. I feel like I'll be able to get a pretty good sense of the people I might be working with, department culture, resources etc. when I visit each school, and I know what it means to live on different amounts of money, but it might be harder to predict the difference that it would make to not have TA duties.

Right now, the fit at option A seems so perfect, but I guess I'm not sure whether I can justify turning down the fellowship offers at B+C... hopefully visiting will lend clarity! 

Did you wind up going on visits? Have you made a decision yet ?

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I visited everywhere and I'm still not entirely sure. There's one school I'm leaning towards--I think over all, the way the program's structured would work better for me. However, there are a couple factors weighing heavily in favor of another program that make me hesitant to pull the trigger and make the official decision. Plus, another program is ranking a bit higher than the others, which I guess makes it difficult to turn down the offer despite having some reservations. I'm meeting with a mentor from undergrad today to discuss the options and see what advice she has to offer. I guess from a purely logical standpoint, I feel like the school I'm leaning towards makes the most sense. But then whenever I think about committing to go there, all of the "what if's" start attacking and I begin to wonder if I'm absolutely sure I want to turn down the other two offers. Hopefully talking to someone who really knows the field and has no vested interest in selling one school to me over another will help me figure things out.

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3 hours ago, angesradieux said:

I visited everywhere and I'm still not entirely sure. There's one school I'm leaning towards--I think over all, the way the program's structured would work better for me. However, there are a couple factors weighing heavily in favor of another program that make me hesitant to pull the trigger and make the official decision. Plus, another program is ranking a bit higher than the others, which I guess makes it difficult to turn down the offer despite having some reservations. I'm meeting with a mentor from undergrad today to discuss the options and see what advice she has to offer. I guess from a purely logical standpoint, I feel like the school I'm leaning towards makes the most sense. But then whenever I think about committing to go there, all of the "what if's" start attacking and I begin to wonder if I'm absolutely sure I want to turn down the other two offers. Hopefully talking to someone who really knows the field and has no vested interest in selling one school to me over another will help me figure things out.

@angesradieux  Your hesitation is absolutely normal!  Once you submit your decisiosn to the program, try not to look back and keep looking forward.  The feeling of "what ifs" will never, ever go away.

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On 3/28/2017 at 1:22 PM, SarahBethSortino said:

Did you wind up going on visits? Have you made a decision yet ?

I did go on visits, and now am leaning towards option c! Still have a few questions to follow up with before I make a final decision.. 

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