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How much does the brand name / ranking of a grad school really matter?


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I am trying to choose between two offers, but I feel like the brand of one of the schools affects me too much. 

Ultimately, how much does the brand name / ranking really matter in making a decision? Would you choose funding over brand name, or vice versa? Those of you who chose one over the other, do you have any regrets? What would you consider given what you know now?

Thanks in advance!

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3 hours ago, Nocturnae said:

I am trying to choose between two offers, but I feel like the brand of one of the schools affects me too much. 

Ultimately, how much does the brand name / ranking really matter in making a decision? Would you choose funding over brand name, or vice versa? Those of you who chose one over the other, do you have any regrets? What would you consider given what you know now?

Thanks in advance!

I get the desire of anonymity, but the quality of advice you receive will be proportionate to the amount of information you can put forward. Such as - are you choosing between Michigan and Harvard or between Cornell and North Dakota State? What field of study? Are you looking to go into academia? Without some meaningful baseline, very little advice will actually be relevant to you. 

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Yes, I agree - if you can at least give us the name of the schools and your broad field, we can be of more help. That's not enough information to really identify you.

With that said, in a general sense - it kind of depends on your field and what you want to do after grad school. I can say that in industry, a "brand" name can help you career-wise, although what's considered a 'brand name' is pretty broad. That can include traditionally elite private schools (like the aforementioned Harvard or Cornell) as well as prestigious public universities (like Michigan, UCLA, Berkeley). And this is going to vary by field - North Dakota State, I have heard, is very good in aviation sciences. Rutgers is a powerhouse in philosophy, although not traditionally thought of when people name prestigious public universities. On the flip side, your PhD program's reputation may be very important if you want to get a tenure-track job in English or philosophy; maybe not so much if you are looking for industry positions in engineering. So the question is, are you talking about actual brand name or are you talking about reputation in your field?

I would absolutely choose funding over brand name if the difference was large enough. If we're talking about full finding vs. no money at all, then absolutely I would take the full funding.

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13 hours ago, juilletmercredi said:

Yes, I agree - if you can at least give us the name of the schools and your broad field, we can be of more help. That's not enough information to really identify you.

With that said, in a general sense - it kind of depends on your field and what you want to do after grad school. I can say that in industry, a "brand" name can help you career-wise, although what's considered a 'brand name' is pretty broad. That can include traditionally elite private schools (like the aforementioned Harvard or Cornell) as well as prestigious public universities (like Michigan, UCLA, Berkeley). And this is going to vary by field - North Dakota State, I have heard, is very good in aviation sciences. Rutgers is a powerhouse in philosophy, although not traditionally thought of when people name prestigious public universities. On the flip side, your PhD program's reputation may be very important if you want to get a tenure-track job in English or philosophy; maybe not so much if you are looking for industry positions in engineering. So the question is, are you talking about actual brand name or are you talking about reputation in your field?

I would absolutely choose funding over brand name if the difference was large enough. If we're talking about full finding vs. no money at all, then absolutely I would take the full funding.

Fair enough. I posted with more details earlier, and received no replies whatsoever, so I thought maybe I was doing it wrong :)

I applied exclusively to Master's in Computer Science programs. My research interests lie in natural language processing and deep learning. I intend to pursue a PhD afterward, and probably try and become a research scientist at a company.

I am trying to choose between EPFL (brand name and high academic output) and UWaterloo (great PI / lab and full funding).

Would you still choose funding over brand name when there is a relatively large gap between the reputations of programs?

Edited by Nocturnae
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Sounds like your major brand identity will be from the PhD.  To some extent, your master's is designed to get you into a good school for that, unless it is miraculous on its own terms.  I have no idea what funding/employment is like in your niche, but if the free gig will get the job done and not make you miserable, that may be enough. 
 

Of course, part of that also depends on what you'd be giving up (education, contacts, social/cultural life) at the other place, but if money is tight the decision might be easier.

Also, brand depends a lot on context and knowledge of your peers.  I had to Google EPFL to see just what/where that is.  :P  Which doesn't mean that a subset of Europeans or computer scientists won't see it as the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Edited by Concordia
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  • 2 weeks later...

EPFL is a great school, especially if you are planning to stay in Europe. And I believe that the cost of education in Switzerland is not as insanely high as in US.

What is your subfield and how great is PI? =)

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Waterloo is an excellent school for tech, comp sci, and engineering. In Canada, it certainly holds a good reputation for those fields. Because of their excellent co-op programs, Waterloo also has some far-reaching influence (more so than you'd expect given the school's general world ranking).

Moreover, if you are intending to pursue a PhD after the Master's, I'm inclined to think that the prestige of the Master's degree matters less. Also, I would always choose a funded program, myself.

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