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  1. Going back to debt repayment for a moment, I took another look at the student loan calculator that math123 posted and see that it recommends that "your student loan payment be less than 8 percent of your gross income." That's an arbitrary and unexplained percentage, though, which doesn't take into account an individual's income and living expenses. If you can live below your means and devote a larger percentage of your income to paying student loans, then by all means do so; you'll save a large amount on interest. And speaking of interest, limiting yourself to 8% when you can very comfortably pay more only benefits the student loan companies. A cynic may argue that it explains why the calculator, which is on a site sponsored by "student loan guaranty agencies," adopts such a one-size-fits-all approach to repaying debt. This ties in nicely with rising_star's earlier point that you can't accept advice from loan companies uncritically.
  2. Unless Social Welfare does things differently from the other departments in the School of Public Affairs, that site won't contain any information about your admissions decision. You'll eventually receive an update on the Graduate Division site instead and an e-mail from UCLA directing you to check the site. (Since I'm not in Social Welfare, I don't know how and when the department will contact you directly.) hobopajamas, it's theoretically possible to get rejected by the Graduate Division, but I get the sense from talking to staff that it rarely happens -- if it even does at all. As far as I know, it's only an issue if you don't meet the university-wide minimum standards for admission, but the departments are aware of this and will request an exception only in cases where they're confident they'll get one.
  3. Leahlearns, I'm a little confused about why you're comparing your SAT and GRE experiences and scores. The two tests have some similarities, but they test different content and have different groups of people taking them. Also, while people have pointed out that programs weigh GRE scores differently, nobody has mentioned that professors in the same program can also weigh them differently. One professor in my current department, for example, values GRE scores highly, so applicants who want to work with that person will probably need higher scores than other applicants to the program.
  4. Have you found out what percentage of current students at each program receive fellowships and GA-ships, as well as the usual amounts for those? A couple programs might stand out as more generous with their financial aid.
  5. And don't forget the substantial interest on the loans that math123 mentioned.
  6. You mentioned that Duke has a better placement record in your field, but what about in your subfield? Or are you using the words interchangeably?
  7. If it helps, you're not the only one having difficulty declining offers. I just sent an e-mail to a professor to decline a funded offer and seriously feel like vomiting -- especially since I now have to e-mail two other professors in the program to let them know. It does make me feel a little better, however, to know that someone on the program's waitlist will receive pleasant news. Better still, that person will receive the news just before the open house.
  8. I agree with socialpsych that you should contact the department. A few other thoughts: - Most people forget to account for the time spent traveling to the station, waiting for the train, and traveling from the station to school. If you haven't done this, your commute may be considerably longer. - You might not always be able to get a seat on the train, which of course makes it more difficult (if not impossible) to read and do work. Find out how crowded the trains get during peak periods. - If you do decide to commute, your university may offer discounted rail passes.
  9. I'm not sure why a school's designation as a "research university" should affect your decision since you're going to be in a terminal professional degree program. I took a look at Buffalo's urban and regional planning department site and it offers studio courses and internships just like any other urban planning program.
  10. Congratulations! That's definitely a good outcome.
  11. While it's true that people sometimes apply to programs without researching them much, I suspect that people often say this just to soften the blow of being rejected -- especially on graduate school sites like these where people tend to pick programs more carefully before applying. After all, it's easier to cope with a rejection when you say "oh, I guess my research interests didn't quite mesh with the professors' interests" instead of "oh, I guess other people were better qualified."
  12. It's not a death sentence -- after all, urban planning master's programs are professional, not academic -- but I'd make sure to select people who can write specific and concrete letters. (To that end, make sure to give the letter writers as much information as possible, including drafts of your statement of purpose.) I reviewed just over thirty applications this year as a student reviewer in my current urban planning program, and noticed that employers tended to write positive but vague letters that didn't really help the applicants.
  13. Some of us are waiting on the results of outside fellowships. Some of us are waiting to see if our spouses or parents are going to lose their jobs in the next round of layoffs at their company. Some of us are waiting to see if complications arise from a family member's illness. And some of us are waiting on more than one of those things. I'd love to live in a world where nothing could "possibly pop up in the next month that would make a difference" in where I attend graduate school -- if I attend at all -- but, well, I don't. And many others don't, either.
  14. Out of genuine curiosity, what do people with doctorates in food studies from NYU end up doing? I spent some time reading the department''s website, as well as one person's account of the undergraduate program, but I couldn't find any specific information about what graduates have done, and almost all of the topics mentioned seemed to fit neatly within existing disciplines. Even in my field -- urban planning -- there's a fair amount of scholarship about food access and distribution issues, for example.
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