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jamj

How much does prestige matter? (help plz)

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I'm having a really difficult time deciding between two of my offers and am hoping I can hear some different opinions. I am going for my masters.

School A: A smaller school and program, doesn’t have the same longstanding "reputation" that the other school has. The program itself seems really great and I feel like I will have plenty of opportunities to publish and collaborate with others while I'm there. I immediately clicked with both the supervisor and the current lab members. I'm being offered amazing funding that will allow me to live comfortably and it is close enough to my hometown that I will be able to visit my family and S/O. Overall I get an extremely good feeling about this school, my heart says YES YES YES, but I feel slightly held back by the fact that it is not a "top-tier" school, I’m worried this will impact my chances at a career in Academia?

School B: Incredibly prestigious for the field and specific area I am going into. Very interesting research. Generous minimum funding but I am unsure if I will get any external scholarships (won't know until after I accept) and the supervisor cannot yet guarantee additional funding. Also the graduate students here seem pretty miserable to be honest. I expect a certain degree of angst from graduate students, I mean, graduate school is a big adjustment... but these students were all incredibly miserable... I think due to the competitiveness and high standards placed upon them.

Basically, I know I want to go to school A but for some reason it is so difficult for me to shake the idea of turning down school B when it is so prestigious. Why am I so conflicted?

Edited by jamj

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Basically in the same boat so I'm curious to see what others have to say.

I think it's a tough but you need to choose the program that you will thrive in--a lot of opportunities to publish and stand out. And that may not necessarily be the best ranked program. Plus, if you're miserable (as the other students are), there's a chance you may lose motivation. Graduate student retention is a concern. 

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1 hour ago, strawberrykat said:

Basically in the same boat so I'm curious to see what others have to say.

I think it's a tough but you need to choose the program that you will thrive in--a lot of opportunities to publish and stand out. And that may not necessarily be the best ranked program. Plus, if you're miserable (as the other students are), there's a chance you may lose motivation. Graduate student retention is a concern. 

I agree that you need to pick a place you'll thrive in. It's just a big decision and I know if I pick school A people will make comments about it. I guess I shouldn't care about those comments though if it'll get me to where I need to be in terms of my end goal...

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Also curious about this, and currently in the same boat. My smaller school seems like it's a better fit overall (with a few exceptions), but the other program I was accepted into is much more well known, and I actually have an existing network there. I'm interested in jumping into industry research after I get my PhD, if that influences anyone's advice. 

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43 minutes ago, jamj said:

I agree that you need to pick a place you'll thrive in. It's just a big decision and I know if I pick school A people will make comments about it. I guess I shouldn't care about those comments though if it'll get me to where I need to be in terms of my end goal...

What does the ranking/reputation look like? And school B? 

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2 hours ago, jamj said:

I agree that you need to pick a place you'll thrive in. It's just a big decision and I know if I pick school A people will make comments about it. I guess I shouldn't care about those comments though if it'll get me to where I need to be in terms of my end goal...

Another vote for School A.  You'll be happier, more productive, and have less debt when you graduate.  All good things if you want to continue on to the PhD or honestly just for life.  You can always apply again to School B for the PhD if the PhD students have a better deal/are treated better.

2 hours ago, astrobuzz said:

Also curious about this, and currently in the same boat. My smaller school seems like it's a better fit overall (with a few exceptions), but the other program I was accepted into is much more well known, and I actually have an existing network there. I'm interested in jumping into industry research after I get my PhD, if that influences anyone's advice. 

Which program has better ties to industry? Academic reputation doesn't matter as much in industry - it is all about the skills that you bring to the table.  Although if students at your School B are actively miserable too - I wouldn't pick them.  If all the students are miserable - that is going to make for a really toxic environment.

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9 hours ago, strawberrykat said:

What does the ranking/reputation look like? And school B? 

All the rankings I can find are for the undergraduate programs, but school A is 13th, school B is 5th. I'm Canadian so rankings are not as hardcore for us... I *think*... it's more like the reputation attached to the schools. For the area that I'm going into, school B is renowned.

I know that at school B professors are really pushed to publish and secure grants but the whole environment seems very competitive and it appears that the supervisors don't spend as much time with their graduate students. That being said, the professor at school A is new(ish) and is really pushing to publish right now.

Edited by jamj

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I was in the same position, 17th ranked school compared to a 2nd. I ended up choosing the 17th because I knew I would be happier. I had more funding, I got the sense they wanted me more and would be more supportive. I loved the lab group and the opportunities I'd have were amazing (I likely will be able to do field work out in the Pacific Ocean!!). The prof at this school is also younger so he is pretty on top of things especially getting funding and publishing. He was also more outgoing and would definitely introduce me to the right people and help me network. I start there this fall so I can't give any hindsight advice. 

The other school though highly ranked also had some red flags, similar to what you mentioned for your school B. Students weren't super happy and had some issues with the program. The prof was great, but not very outgoing and would probably not introduce me to many people. There were only 2 years of funding offered as well. 

In my opinion, I would much rather be happy with what is going to be several years of your life. Plus, like what's been said, retention of students and sticking through the long haul of a Ph.D is hard for a lot of people. I think the connections you make along the way are definitely more important than the name of the school you went to. 

So I vote school A all the way. Who cares what people think. The important people will be happy for you no matter what you choose. Plus, it's your life, not theirs. You do you! 

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