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Accepted to two programs but can not make decisions


PsyJessica
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Hello everyone!

I've benefited from this forum for a long time but it's the first time for me to post new topics. Also, as my mother language is not English, I want to say sorry first for any possible improper expression in this topic.

Recently I'm accepted to two I/O PhD programs and feel it hard to make decisions.(And I know I shouldn't procrastinate any longer)Therefore, I hope to get some suggestions there.

Here is some information about these two programs.

Program A:

It has a medium ranking.The potential advisor is very famous in his area and his research area is something I think I like (at least I enjoy it at this moment). As far as I know, his advising style seems fit to me. BUT due to his age, he is not that active in academia as before and we can see it from the number of his publications every year though I can feel his great passion for research.

From conversations with current students, I can feel it's very collaborative within the program. They're very warm and helpful!

Program A is located in a city and I like the multicultural context and climate there. It seems to have some internship opportunities there.

 

Program B: It has a significantly better ranking. The research interest of my potential advisor who is also very famous in his area is a little bit wide which really covers something I like and something far away from me. Because they don't have interviews and I can't go to the V day, I can't personally generate an impression of his advising style. From the emails, I feel that he is strict and passionate with his research.

Program B is located near a city with many internship opportunities. However, I'm not sure if I will adjust myself to climate and the environment there.

 

For myself, I think I will have an academic career until now but I expect any possibilities in the future. And I don't know how much the prestige of a program will affect the possibility for its students to get a faculty position. And  the offer from Program B came just shortly before and I think I have had some emotional bonds with Program A (I think I will go there so I may find a lot of reasons and evidence to support it) so I don't think I can be objective enough to make final decisions.

Hope to get any advice on this. Thanks in advance!

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I think it's most important that you go to a place where you feel comfortable and supported. I chose a program with an advisor who is in the top of her field, and is retiring once I graduate - but she still knows everyone and is massively respected. Graduate programs are difficult, and you need as much help as you can get to make it through them. If you feel comfortable with program A, go with A. Good luck! :)

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This is a difficult one for sure. My approach would be to generate a list of questions that are really important to me (mostly about lab culture, pros and cons of program and mentor etc.) and email the grad students in both programs. In most cases, they'll be happy to give you honest answers, especially if you're sincere and straight-forward in your email. 

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Hello! First, congratulations on being in such an amazing position! I know it is hard to make this decision. If you are interested in going into academia after completing your PhD, your advisor's productivity is very important. You mentioned that your POI in Program A is older and therefore no longer as productive. How many publications did his recently graduated students put out by the time they finished their degree? Are there opportunities for you to eventually be co-advised by another faculty member in the program, who perhaps may be more productive?

For Program B, is there any way you can set up a Skype conversation with your POI to get some face-to-face time so you can speak to them and get to know their style a little better? Having a wide range of research interests is not necessarily bad, especially if the individual is being productive and is already famous in the field. It means that there is more leeway for you to jump onto other projects that you may be interested in, or to steer your advisor in a new direction if there is something they are not yet studying but you would like to look into. I would also try to set up Skype conversations with some current students in the POI's lab, so you can ask them as well what their advisor's mentorship and advising style is like, as well as what the culture of the program is like, and how graduate students are around each other (competitive, collaborative, warm, distant, etc.) 

I would urge you not to consider ranking so much as both of the POIs you are looking at are well-established and known in their field. Ranking does matter to some extent but who you are working with specifically matters more. As for weather of each city, that's something that none of us can help you with unfortunately :unsure: It's such an individual thing that what might be tolerable for one person is not for the next. 

Edited by shiningorb
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9 hours ago, healthgeographer said:

I think it's most important that you go to a place where you feel comfortable and supported. I chose a program with an advisor who is in the top of her field, and is retiring once I graduate - but she still knows everyone and is massively respected. Graduate programs are difficult, and you need as much help as you can get to make it through them. If you feel comfortable with program A, go with A. Good luck! :)

Thanks so much for your reply and the example you gave, which really came as a relief. I know the importance of being in a supportive and comfortable program and hope my feelings about it now is something true rather than imagination. Good luck to you, too!

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3 hours ago, Sherrinford said:

This is a difficult one for sure. My approach would be to generate a list of questions that are really important to me (mostly about lab culture, pros and cons of program and mentor etc.) and email the grad students in both programs. In most cases, they'll be happy to give you honest answers, especially if you're sincere and straight-forward in your email. 

Thanks! I did ask several current students and will try to collect more information. Thanks for your advice!

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3 hours ago, shiningorb said:

Hello! First, congratulations on being in such an amazing position! I know it is hard to make this decision. If you are interested in going into academia after completing your PhD, your advisor's productivity is very important. You mentioned that your POI in Program A is older and therefore no longer as productive. How many publications did his recently graduated students put out by the time they finished their degree? Are there opportunities for you to eventually be co-advised by another faculty member in the program, who perhaps may be more productive?

For Program B, is there any way you can set up a Skype conversation with your POI to get some face-to-face time so you can speak to them and get to know their style a little better? Having a wide range of research interests is not necessarily bad, especially if the individual is being productive and is already famous in the field. It means that there is more leeway for you to jump onto other projects that you may be interested in, or to steer your advisor in a new direction if there is something they are not yet studying but you would like to look into. I would also try to set up Skype conversations with some current students in the POI's lab, so you can ask them as well what their advisor's mentorship and advising style is like, as well as what the culture of the program is like, and how graduate students are around each other (competitive, collaborative, warm, distant, etc.) 

I would urge you not to consider ranking so much as both of the POIs you are looking at are well-established and known in their field. Ranking does matter to some extent but who you are working with specifically matters more. As for weather of each city, that's something that none of us can help you with unfortunately :unsure: It's such an individual thing that what might be tolerable for one person is not for the next. 

Thank you for your so patient reply. In fact, my POI in Program A still had some ongoing projects and his recent students seem to have good publications to help them find a position in university. And the mentorship in the program is relatively flexible and I can have a co-advisor according to my research interest in or out of the department. And actually there is already another professor I love to work with but will come to see after attending.

And as for Program B, I think I will take your advice to set up Skype conversations with my POI and current students. I hope to collect enough information before the final decision. 

I know your opinions about ranking - it's not so important. But I'm not sure if a better ranking means more chances to meet and work with more outstanding professors and cohort students as well as more opportunities when looking for positions after graduation. That's why I hesitated. And for weather, yes, we can not change it to a warm place:( but for me it's a small bonus for Program A (though I know for some people, they even won't take it into account).

All in all, I appreciate your advice very much and it really gave me some good directions about what to do next to make a better decision.

 

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Thanks again for all suggestions! I feel strongly supported in this forum.

To add the program information, I just now knew that Program B didn't provide financial support after the first several years and it seems that students will need to fund themselves when working on dissertation and taking last classes. It came as big bad news for me because I don't think I can do so due to my economic conditions and the difficulty for international students to find jobs while doing research work. However, to make a decision merely according to financial aid is something I never imagine...

I think I need to calculate the pros and cons for both programs once again because this news really breaks the seeming balance.

Any advice on that? Should I attach great importance to the availability of funding? Thanks!

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14 hours ago, PsyJessica said:

Thanks again for all suggestions! I feel strongly supported in this forum.

To add the program information, I just now knew that Program B didn't provide financial support after the first several years and it seems that students will need to fund themselves when working on dissertation and taking last classes. It came as big bad news for me because I don't think I can do so due to my economic conditions and the difficulty for international students to find jobs while doing research work. However, to make a decision merely according to financial aid is something I never imagine...

I think I need to calculate the pros and cons for both programs once again because this news really breaks the seeming balance.

Any advice on that? Should I attach great importance to the availability of funding? Thanks!

You should never do a PHD unfunded unless you are independently wealthy and are just doing one because it's a life goal. Remember the schools are investing in you so a lack of promised funding might be a tip they don't value you as much. 

Just my take.

Edited by Sparkybob
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20 hours ago, PsyJessica said:

Thanks again for all suggestions! I feel strongly supported in this forum.

To add the program information, I just now knew that Program B didn't provide financial support after the first several years and it seems that students will need to fund themselves when working on dissertation and taking last classes. It came as big bad news for me because I don't think I can do so due to my economic conditions and the difficulty for international students to find jobs while doing research work. However, to make a decision merely according to financial aid is something I never imagine...

I think I need to calculate the pros and cons for both programs once again because this news really breaks the seeming balance.

Any advice on that? Should I attach great importance to the availability of funding? Thanks!

You need to request more detailed information. Often, programs don't provide funding after the first 4 years or so once the bulk of the courseload are finished. However, typically once you finish most of your classes you move into "all-but-dissertation" status where the cost of tuition you pay is significantly lessened. But I don't think you typically receive a stipend so that's important. Also note that typically fees/costs are increased for international students. 

I think it really depends on which factors are most important to you, and what you see as most realistic. You need to be practical and do some estimations/projections of how much you may have to take into loans if you went to Program B. Try to get a sense of what the older grad students pay, take in loans, and the cost of living of the area. 

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3 hours ago, Sherrinford said:

You need to request more detailed information. Often, programs don't provide funding after the first 4 years or so once the bulk of the courseload are finished. However, typically once you finish most of your classes you move into "all-but-dissertation" status where the cost of tuition you pay is significantly lessened. But I don't think you typically receive a stipend so that's important. Also note that typically fees/costs are increased for international students. 

I think it really depends on which factors are most important to you, and what you see as most realistic. You need to be practical and do some estimations/projections of how much you may have to take into loans if you went to Program B. Try to get a sense of what the older grad students pay, take in loans, and the cost of living of the area. 

Thanks! Yes, they will stop funding when I'm in "all-but-dissertation" status but I won't receive a stipend and the cost of living there really bothers me. Anyway I appreciate your suggestions and try to get more information before making a choice.

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17 hours ago, PsyJessica said:

Thanks! Yes, they will stop funding when I'm in "all-but-dissertation" status but I won't receive a stipend and the cost of living there really bothers me. Anyway I appreciate your suggestions and try to get more information before making a choice.

In my experience, I'm offered funding through the all but dissertation phase, with of course a clear timeline to follow. If your professor is willing to work with you on such a schedule, that might be a good sign that you'll be funde through completion just not after a certain point. Sorry if that doesn't make sense - regardless, I really recommend going with the place most willing to fund you the most, because as mentioned, they're the ones who value you the most. Up to you of course! Choose what seems best. :)

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