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samman1994

Research vs. Location

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Hello everyone!

So I am at the point of deciding between schools, and I've come to realize, it isn't as easy as I originally thought. Early on in my search, my only priority was research/program. I applied to schools that had a good amount of faculty doing research I was interested in. Now I have visited the faculty and the school and have narrowed my search down to primarily 2 schools, but have realized that location is coming to play a much bigger role than I thought. 

On one hand, School 1 has everything I want in terms of location. Literally everything. Geography/terrain, culture, demographic, pricing, etc. It is a city/state I would love to live in. The school itself is nice, and specifically there are 2 faculty members who's research I am very interested in. But that is really about it, and I am a bit worried about putting all my interest in just 2 people. 

On the other hand, School 2 has nothing I want in terms of location. I dislike the terrain/geography, culture, demographic, etc. It is a city/state I really have no interest in living in. The school itself is actually beautiful (one of the most beautiful campuses I've ever seen), and there are a looot of faculty members I'd like to do research with (8+ at least). Their research program is amazing. There are some funding issues with most of the faculty however, which does make me a bit cautious (it appears not all of them have great funding), but there being so many faculty members I'd be willing to work with, I don't think this will be a problem (worst case scenario I may have to teach a bit more than I desire). 

I know the priority is always research. That is the whole point of a PhD, and I have been told multiple times that location should not be my deciding factor. However, I do think it is an important factor. 

 

So how much credence/weight do you (or did you) guys put in making your decision? 

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How miserable would you be at school 2?  Would it be to the point where your research would be affected?  How bad are the funding issues at school 2? If you are at the point where school 2 would have a lower probablity of you completing due to the issues than you should consider location.  I know that for myself that location and funding is a factor I am considering especially since at some of my programs I am worried that my unhappiness may reduce my risk of completing.  

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26 minutes ago, Larissa Goulart said:

I'm guessing school 2 is Iowa State, so I'm commenting just to follow the thread cause I have the same doubt.

Best,

 

Shhh. Yes it is Iowa State. 

19 minutes ago, Bayesian1701 said:

How miserable would you be at school 2?  Would it be to the point where your research would be affected?  How bad are the funding issues at school 2? If you are at the point where school 2 would have a lower probablity of you completing due to the issues than you should consider location.  I know that for myself that location and funding is a factor I am considering especially since at some of my programs I am worried that my unhappiness may reduce my risk of completing.  

I would complete it with the same probability as I would in school 1. It is simply a matter of, I would love to live in City 1, but not really in City 2. So yes, I will be unhappy in City 2, but I'll make do. Funding wise? I don't exactly know.. I asked some faculty regarding funding, and they said they have funding now, but not next year, or that they have 2 grants in the process, etc. Regardless, no one gave me a, yes I have complete funding for you. It was always either going to get funding, or have funding for X years (but not guarentee for years Y). Now this may be the case with all schools, and maybe IA state was just more open about their funding. The other schools I talked to, all of them basically told me, Yes, we have funding for you (they did not mention anything about funding only for a certain amount of time or that they have grants in the process), or no we don't and are not accepting students. The students themselves told me that it is not uncommon for your PI to run out of funding and that you'll have to basically teach for some time until the PI gets another grant (note: this was the case with most of the students of the PIs I talked to). Since I don't know the details about how funding works, this is more of a feeling that there may be some potential funding issues. 

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Are you interested in working in academia or industry? As far as I can tell, you're interested in the latter. In which case, you need to look at what kinds of jobs graduates from each program get, and where they get them. Universities that have good placement in this country can have two kinds of good placement. Some universities place nationally, especially in the bigger cities. Imagine the MIT alumni network. Other universities, that may have really strong alumni networks and job placement records, will only have those networks within a specific region. The University of Florida connection gets you a fair way in Florida, but not so much in Kansas or Oregon. How do these universities do? If Iowa State places people in regions you want to live, I would seriously consider it (especially if you're applying for MAs, I can't tell: the extra time to PhD might shift the calculus). If it has really great placement....but only in Iowa and maybe Ohio, that's a really big negative for you.

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On 2/26/2018 at 11:17 PM, samman1994 said:

Hello everyone!

So I am at the point of deciding between schools, and I've come to realize, it isn't as easy as I originally thought. Early on in my search, my only priority was research/program. I applied to schools that had a good amount of faculty doing research I was interested in. Now I have visited the faculty and the school and have narrowed my search down to primarily 2 schools, but have realized that location is coming to play a much bigger role than I thought. 

On one hand, School 1 has everything I want in terms of location. Literally everything. Geography/terrain, culture, demographic, pricing, etc. It is a city/state I would love to live in. The school itself is nice, and specifically there are 2 faculty members who's research I am very interested in. But that is really about it, and I am a bit worried about putting all my interest in just 2 people. 

On the other hand, School 2 has nothing I want in terms of location. I dislike the terrain/geography, culture, demographic, etc. It is a city/state I really have no interest in living in. The school itself is actually beautiful (one of the most beautiful campuses I've ever seen), and there are a looot of faculty members I'd like to do research with (8+ at least). Their research program is amazing. There are some funding issues with most of the faculty however, which does make me a bit cautious (it appears not all of them have great funding), but there being so many faculty members I'd be willing to work with, I don't think this will be a problem (worst case scenario I may have to teach a bit more than I desire). 

I know the priority is always research. That is the whole point of a PhD, and I have been told multiple times that location should not be my deciding factor. However, I do think it is an important factor. 

 

So how much credence/weight do you (or did you) guys put in making your decision? 

I'm having a very similar problem as you right now, but for different schools. I've basically narrowed it down to two schools, but I also don't know what should be the deciding factor to make my choice. 

The first school I really like how the program is set up and the location, but they don't have the exact research I was hoping for; although, they do have good research that I could see myself liking if I tried it. The second school has a ton of the research that is exactly what I'm interested in, but I don't really like the location and the way the program is structured.

 I don't want to be stuck in an area for 6 years that I'm not comfortable with, but at the same time there is a chance I could like it since I've never been to an area like that. I also don't want to rule out the one school based on research because I'm sure there's other options that I would be ok with. One of the schools is considered a prestigious school, but I wasn't sure if that should affect my decision.

So I'm basically questioning the same thing you are, should I make my decision based on the research or the area?

P.S. sorry I can't offer any advice 

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I'm approaching my decision as, where am I going to be happier?

 

That.. does take location into play - I didnt apply for schools that I'd never want to go to, even if they were great programs. Theres one school in particular I did not apply to, because I didnt like where it was at all - even though it was a great school for plasmonics/pchem research.

 

The research is important, even to me. But for me personally, my advisor and how much I like the program, is far, far more important, as is my general/overall happiness. I know some people have chosen research over locations, but... If you'd be miserable at that location for the next 5 years... is that really worth it? Its not, in my eyes. Whats the point in doing research if you hate where you live and that makes you miserable? Its... a big, giant balancing act.

 

I hope this helps a little?

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On 2/26/2018 at 8:24 PM, Larissa Goulart said:

I'm guessing school 2 is Iowa State, so I'm commenting just to follow the thread cause I have the same doubt.

Best,

 

Well I ended up choosing UConn (School 1). At the end of the day, I talked to some people in the field, and they really said School 1s program was the equivalent of School 2. These people also didn't know the people at School 2, but had heard of the individuals at School 1 and knew they had good connections in the field. So at the end of the day, location did play a big role for me. If the programs were the same, School 1 seemed like a safer bet, and moreso than that, I actually wanted to live in School 1. I decided I'd be far happier at School 1 than School 2. 

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