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Dilemma on choice for science phd


Happy1996

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I am happy to have been offered places and funding at two of my choices - so MIT turned me down, more shame on them :).  One is Ivy League and I have an external scholarship to go there. The other is a really good school and they offered me a place early and offered extra funding as the guy running the lab group was keen to recruit me. I like the city and part of the USA  the first one is in a bit more - but I really like the campus in the second one as it has a great vibe and happy students. I think maybe the first one is more internationally prestigious but the Faculty is much older and more established and seem less interested in me and my research whereas the second one is very interested in me and my research - so I feel in the second I could do some cutting edge stuff in a new lab group. I'm really really conflicted!!  The funding works out at about the same for each though place 2 would be cheaper than place 1. How do I make the right choice? Have just been to visit both!

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@Happy1996 I'm very conflicted at the moment, too. One general thing I'm trying to consider is how much I think I'd thrive during and after each environment. Some factors that I think will contribute to that include:

  • Are there a lot of people doing research I like?
  • Do they have opportunities to prepare me for finding a job after I graduate? What kind of jobs?
  • Am I likely to publish good, cutting edge papers with the POIs I like?
  • Did I like the students and the atmosphere they've developed?
  • Does the program have a mentality of mentoring/investing in their students?
  • Do they emphasize students learning a lot of techniques to make them more marketable/prepared?
  • What's the work/life balance expected to be, generally?
  • (Side note: I think prestige and the connections that come along with it play a role future opportunities, but it's not a huge pro in and of itself)

Along with some more indirect factors:

  • Would I enjoy this city? What do 20-somethings (or whatever your age group may be) do here?
  • Will I be stressed out about paying my bills considering stipend vs. cost of living? Could I afford to live alone on the stipend if I wanted to?
  • How necessary or possibly inconvenient would it be to take my car? How convenient is public transportation? How long would I have to commute? Could I deal with the traffic and afford parking here if I drive?
  • How easy will it be to visit my family?

Of course, all of us will have different priorities when it comes to these things. I've been told to go with my gut, but I really don't think I have strong feelings about one particular program (although I have one interview to go). Good luck, and hopefully I've given you some things to think about!

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I'm also working on deciding right now. Here are some things I'm thinking about:

  • How much will I have to TA at each school?
  • What research will I be working on? Do my interests align with my potential advisor's interests?
  • Will I like the environment of the department? The culture of the individual lab groups?
  • What specific facilities/resources are there at each school? (e.g. supercomputers, labs, etc.)
  • How long do most students in that program take to finish their PhD?
  • What's a typical number of papers that a graduate student will publish in their time there?
  • What conferences do students at that school typically go to? How is this funded?
  • How excited does each school seem to have me there? Will I feel welcomed?
  • Does the school or potential advisors have any particular connections that will lead to exciting opportunities? (e.g. field work, types of jobs after graduating, etc.)
  • Are there classes I will be excited to take?
  • Do the current students there seem happy? Do I see myself being happy there?

Hope this helps and good luck deciding!

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