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Choosing Possible Schools


acup313

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A little free time, so I will go through the areas tht I looked at when I was deciding which schools to apply to. I found a really good website that actually had all of this information for every school that offers an Accounting PhD. So for anyone interested in this let me know and I will send it your way. Here were my criteria, this not an exact order of importance, but the more important things are near the top.

1. Research Interest Fit- In accounting there are 4 different areas where people do research. It is sort of set up in to two groups of two. They all can somewhat overlap though. There is one area in particular that interests me. Even though I may end up doing something else, I wanted the possibility to work with professors who did research in this area. Therefore, I eliminated any school that did not have any professor who did this type of research. I did all of this on an excel spreadsheet so I literally deleted schools off of it as I went through the steps.

2. Placement of Past PhD Students- I used this to determine how "good" a school was. This doesn't mean I only picked schools that placed graduates at Harvard or Ivy league schools. I wanted to make sure that when I graduated I would have the opportunity to go to schools that I was pretty sure I would enjoy being at for the rest of my life. Primarily at this point I eliminated schools that only placed students at schools where I could never see myself being. This was mostly used to narrow down schools where I thought I would be comfortable.

The Remaining Criteria are less important, but I used them to narrow down my selections:

3. Amount of Stipend- As I mentioned in my Introduction post, I am married with a baby on the way, so the more money offered the better.

4. Average Time to Graduate- I really don't want to be in graduate school forever. I know this is very different for other program types, but in Accounting 5 years is a pretty common completion time. I tried to focus on schools where graduating in 4 years was a possibility and I eliminated any that said it would probably take 6 years.

5. The Opportunity to Teach- I really want to teach a few classes while I am in graduate school, so any schools that mentioned the possibility of not teaching were cut.

6. Geography- I think some people have this too high on their priority list. For some people I understand that you have reasons why you are limited in where you can go, but for people fresh out of college this is the perfect time to get out of your comfort zone. Be open to the idea of moving somewhere else, you may love the school and the area. If you love the school and hate the area then its a good thing you won't be there forever. This is on my list primarily because my wife vetoed some states because they were too cold. Other than that I was fairly open to going anywhere.

7. Attractiveness of Website- I honestly only used this once to cut a school I was iffy about anyway, but the fact that I got almost no information from the website an the difficulty of navigating it really made me wonder how good the shool was. I wouldn't use this as a primary method of attack, but if you have to choose one school or the other this may be as good as flipping a coin.

8. Instinct- There were some schools that just did not feel right, and then again there were the ones I chose that just looking at the website got me excited.

I know there are a few more criteria that I probably used without thinking about it but numbers 1 and 2 were the big ones for me. Average test scores and GPAs played a role in the process as well, but I will probaly get more in to that later. If you have any other suggestions feel free to leave them in the comments section, as I know everyone's journey is different.

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A short remark about fit and a long remark about geography:

Fit

I think it's advisable to only apply to schools that have at least two profs you would like to work with, preferably even three. You don't want to come to a school, start the program and then find out after a year or two that you can't work with your potential advisor (because they left, retired (or worse), or are just someone you don't get along with).

Geography

I am one of those people for whom geography is an important factor. In fact, it was the deciding factor that broke the tie between my top two choices. I'll just put this out there and you can decide what to make of it.

First of all, I am (a bit) older than the typical 22-yr-old-straight-out-of-undergrad applicant. I've been around and lived in different places (cities, countries) and with different kinds of people (roommates, flatmates, for a short period even tent-mates (long story)). I know what works for me and what makes me suffer. It's true that grad school is not forever, but I'd hate to spend 5 years in a place I don't enjoy living in. I'm sure that when it'll be time to look for jobs after graduation I won't be able to be this picky, but for now I can. So I am.

As an international, the town/city size played a big role in my decision. Larger cities tend to have diverse populations so I would have more chances of making friends, both with fellow country(wo)men and with other internationals/locals. It's been my personal experience that I connect better with other internationals and not with locals, maybe because we have more shared experiences. Larger city = more potential friends.

In a large city I'd have better chances of finding the foods I'm used to, and even finding books/magazines/activities in my language. In addition, city folk are oftentimes more tolerant of strangers. I want to be able to blend into the background, not always be the odd person sticking out.

Weather is an issue for some people. Most of the schools I applied to are roughly in the same area in the US so that wasn't an issue for me, but I totally understand people who don't want to suffer through long hard winters for five years. Gray skies can be very depressing. And it's cold!

Story time:

Of course, geography is less important than fit. My top choices were the two departments that produce the most innovative research in my field (in my opinion), both had professors doing exciting work who I got along with when I visited; both place graduates in the best programs in the US and internationally; and both offered comparable funding packages. With these factors as given, I had to choose between:

School A: all of my LoR writers and most other profs I talked to thought I should go there; I felt I clicked with the people more; average time to graduation: 6 years; required to teach 4 years. Is located in a small university town, grad students live in a town ~30 minutes away by bus.

School B: is famous for being competitive and less friendly; average time to graduation: 5 years; required to teach 2 semesters; is in a large city.

I chose school B, despite the surprised reactions from faculty. In hindsight, I am very glad I did so. The people here aren't half as competitive as people in other places made them out to be. In fact, I feel that my cohort is one of the best features of my school, I love each and every one of them. And, when first year is finally over, I'm sure I'll go out and enjoy all the wonderful things the city has to offer. For now, I enjoy having the possibilities, even if I don't have time to take advantage of them *sighs*. :blink:

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Thanks for the comment fuzzylogician. This is a point I wanted to make, the criteria listed for me were the ones I used, but everyone will have different things that are important to them. For the fit comment, in my field there is almost always at least two professors who do the research I am interested in, if there are any. Also for the geography my field is less competitive so I do not have to to be too picky at any point. Also, my wife and I are somewhat young and we are still open to living anywhere. I really like your comments and I know other people will find them useful. Thanks.

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