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Any advice for choosing between a better fit, but 5-10 hours from home and a school that is a good fit, but very close to home and close to where you went to undergrad (people in the area you know)? Looking to gauge the value of being close if anyone has experience with that one way or the other.

Thanks!

Edited by Philsgross

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I was actually in the same predicament this application cycle! I got into a school that is 20 minutes from my home, 10 minutes from my undergrad institution, and in the same area as so many of my friends (and all of my friends and family wanted me to go). It wasn't the best fit, and I got into more prestigious schools/was offered more money. So unless one of my family members gets VERY ill within the next 3 weeks so that I need to live close to home, I'll be going to a school 10 hours away. It was a really hard decision (and I honestly had to mourn that I wasn't going to be near my friends), but it's the best for my career. My adviser framed it to me as "It's four years of your life, living away, so you can get a job close to your people". That really helped me. 

Going to the school with the best fit is the ideal career move. You'll likely excel there more, have more opportunities, and that will set you up for more job prospects so you can get a job close to your family (ideally). I've lived 5 hours away from home for my masters and I've been financially comfortable enough to visit a few times a semester and have had people come stay for weekends! Plus you're likely going to make new friends/have a fulfilling life no matter where you go to school! 

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I went 5 hours away for my undergraduate degree.  I didn't get to come home as much as my friends from high school who mainly stayed in the area, but I went home about 2-3 times a semester.  The drive was hard at first but after doing it like 20 times it doesn't feel that bad anymore.    I listen to an audiobook or podcasts and I think long drives are relaxing.  If you have never lived away before I think it's a valuable experience.  5-10 hours is not that far (especially if it is by car) relative to the size of the world (or even the US).  Ironically I am making the opposite move and moving closer to home for graduate school because it just happened to work out for me that way.   Being close to home has some value if you have supportive family/friends but I don't think it is an important of a factor as fit.

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I think a better fit will benefit you academically and professionally in the long run, and that is likely the choice I would make. However, I, too, am a person who loves to be closer to home to be near my family. I currently live about eight hours away, and there are days I really hate the distance. But I have adapted to it. It really depends on what you value more and think will benefit you more down the road. If you will be absolutely miserable farther away and it will impact your mental health and studies, then choose the closer option. If you are just a little nervous about the change but think you can handle it, pick the better fit.

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I'm also currently chewing on this one. My situation is a bit different though, in that I don't have more money and a better fit far away, the money situation would be about comparable for me. One thing I'm considering is how important is my family/support system to me. Moving means starting over with building these relationships and forever changing the friendships you have now. Not to say that you shouldn't, because ultimately your friends and family should support you doing what's right for you, but I wouldn't underplay the difficulty of this if your support circle is something you heavily rely on.

That being said, especially if you've never had the experience of going to a new place on your own and starting from scratch, it's a really great experience that teaches you about your own strengths and weaknesses, and helps you grow in your resilience and other life skills, potentially enhancing the kinds of education you'll be getting by moving. That plus the fact that you've got better money offers and a better fit, I'd go for it and move if I were you. Be prepared to suffer through the adjustment, but know that you can and will grow from it. Like another poster said, unless you've got someone who's only got a few valuable years left to their life that you want to be present for, your relationships should survive the move and  you shouldn't limit yourself for fear of leaving the nest.

Good luck, and congrats on your offers!

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29 minutes ago, ClassyBrat420 said:

 One thing I'm considering is how important is my family/support system to me. Moving means starting over with building these relationships and forever changing the friendships you have now. Not to say that you shouldn't, because ultimately your friends and family should support you doing what's right for you, but I wouldn't underplay the difficulty of this if your support circle is something you heavily rely on.

This is definitely true. Anyone preparing for an academic career should be prepared for having to move a few times and thus having to deal with their friendships changing and needing to rebuild a support circle more than once. 

Another thing to keep in mind for those of you who really want to be close to home is that it's very unlikely that you'll get an academic position at the same place where you get your PhD. If you want to work close to home in the future, it may be that you need to go further away for your PhD. (This mostly applies to seeking jobs at research-intensive universities. The large powerhouse school in your home region may be the best place to go if you want to work at LACs, regional comprehensives, or undergrad-only public institutions in that area post-PhD...)

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This was a really hard decision for me. My mother was diagnosed with cancer when I was in elementary school, it has sense gone into remission with a good prognosis. But there have been many complications such as hypertension, two heart attacks, sleep apnea and kidney failure. My mother is doing very well but the road to recovery is long. I even joke about not drinking b/c my mom may need one of my kidneys though that may not happen any time soon. (She’s also vehemently against it) This past year in particular has been very difficult for my family and after finishing my undergrad, I took a year off to keep my mother’s restaurant open and afloat while she lived in various hospitals. The only reason I feel comfortable jumping back into academia is b/c my little brother has finished his undergrad and can handle everything while I’m gone. She should be well enough to live on her own in a few years time but you still never know when something may go wrong.

I was accepted into a PhD program 11 hours from my home and a terminal MA 3.5 hours away from my home. It just so happened that the terminal MA had a larger stipend for incoming students. I also liked the campus and faculty better. But I would be lying if I said that the university’s proximity to my home didn’t influence my decision. In my case, perfect fit was close to home. And since it’s an MA, I have more time to gauge my willingness to move and flexibility in my research interests. It would be a dream to move some place far away for the sake of career and academia, but this moment just isn’t the right time. I want to be a Professor and academic and am prepared to go wherever it takes but I was lucky enough to find a program close.

So if you are really torn, I’d advise you to really evaluate what it is that’s drawing you twoads home and what it is that’s calling you abroad. What does the farther school have to offer? What at home is valuable? Home life, people, etc, will they still be there when you come to visit? Will something/someone not be there when you get back? Is the school farther away a once in a life time offer? Personally, if your home town is in no danger of death, illness, or change....you should travel away(if money allows it.) Building New support systems is hard and scary, but it’s still worth the experience. The only time close to home should be the best option is if what makes home home is at risk and you’d like to enjoy it as much as you can before it’s gone. I’ve lived most of my life knowing that my days with my mother are numbered so I try to make the most of it. But if you don’t have that issue, go for it! Go someplace scary and someplace new! But I hope my example can give you a good insight as to why someone would want to stay close to home, instead of going somewhere farther.

good luck!

Edited by Oklash

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Coming from a homebody and someone who attended undergrad about two hours away from my home city, go with the fit! Grad school is also about having new experiences and meeting new people. I haven’t decided which school I will be attending (I have two offers) but either way I will be out of state and probably across the country. 

Obviously if money is a factor or the school closer to home is a better program than you would want to go there but I don’t think you should go to a school simply because it’s closer to home. 

But that’s just me. ?

 

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