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Stanford vs Scripps vs Princeton decision advice needed

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Wow I can't decide where to go... here are my thoughts, please help. These are all for org chem.

Stanford - Perfect research/personality fit with a professor. Group were great as well. However he doesn't have tenure yet and there is only one other person in the department I am somewhat interested in. I'd much prefer to be on the west coast.

Scripps - Multiple professors I am interested in. Fit is not quite as perfect as Stanford but there are options I would be happy with. Appears to be heavy competition for rotations. To be honest, I felt some of the grad students were quite miserable. Location quite good.

Princeton - Multiple professors I am interested in, again fit is not quite as perfect as Stanford. Facilities are amazing. Location sucks. Feels like you need to do a summer with the PI to get into the group you want and I want the summer off ideally.

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Judging by the way you talked about all the schools, Stanford sounds like your favorite. Personally, I don't think that a professor not having tenure yet is a bad thing. I am intentionally picking professors who's labs are young because I feel like they are more hungry/eager to prove themselves and publish. Also, keep in mind that your interests might (in fact, most likely will) change once you enter grad school. I'd try to expand the scope of professors you're looking at, maybe include some professors who are in other departments (chemical biology, chemical engineering, or just other disciplines of chemistry) that are conducting some sort of synthetic work, especially if the school allows you to join research groups outside of o-chem without much hassle.

Scripps was my dream school but I have heard from many, many students that it is very cut-throat and that some of the students are miserable. I guess that's the price you pay for working with researchers of their caliber. I would advise against going to a school you couldn't see yourself being happy at or getting along with the students. Work-life balance is important, even if you love your work.

Also, personally, location is rather low on my list of priorities. I'm from the East Coast so I'm a bit biased but the cost-of-living might make the stipends you received at Stanford/Scripps stretch less (and I'm not a fan of perpetually sunny weather). I'm only considering schools from the Midwest and public transportation is a must for me, not sure if it is for you. I'd rank facilities above location, but to each their own!

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I'm not sure it's realistic to have a true summer "off" in graduate school, tbh. What do you propose to do with your summers off? Have you spoken to professors at Scripps and Stanford about the possibility of a summer off?

I'm a gambler so I'd probably choose Stanford but only if the one person you're interested in has already agreed to take you into their lab. If not, then Princeton. (And while NJ isn't most people's favorite state, you would be about 90 minutes from both NYC and Philly, which gives you great opportunities.)

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@rising_star What is it about NJ that puts people off so much? I feel the same way about it, but I can't put my finger on the exact reason.

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2 hours ago, rising_star said:

I'm not sure it's realistic to have a true summer "off" in graduate school, tbh. What do you propose to do with your summers off? Have you spoken to professors at Scripps and Stanford about the possibility of a summer off?

I'm a gambler so I'd probably choose Stanford but only if the one person you're interested in has already agreed to take you into their lab. If not, then Princeton. (And while NJ isn't most people's favorite state, you would be about 90 minutes from both NYC and Philly, which gives you great opportunities.)

I must not have been clear. I mean that I want the upcoming summer off before grad school starts, as I know I am never getting the opportunity to have this much time off in the next 5+ years.

Thanks for your help!

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2 hours ago, redevol727 said:

Judging by the way you talked about all the schools, Stanford sounds like your favorite. Personally, I don't think that a professor not having tenure yet is a bad thing. I am intentionally picking professors who's labs are young because I feel like they are more hungry/eager to prove themselves and publish. Also, keep in mind that your interests might (in fact, most likely will) change once you enter grad school. I'd try to expand the scope of professors you're looking at, maybe include some professors who are in other departments (chemical biology, chemical engineering, or just other disciplines of chemistry) that are conducting some sort of synthetic work, especially if the school allows you to join research groups outside of o-chem without much hassle.

Scripps was my dream school but I have heard from many, many students that it is very cut-throat and that some of the students are miserable. I guess that's the price you pay for working with researchers of their caliber. I would advise against going to a school you couldn't see yourself being happy at or getting along with the students. Work-life balance is important, even if you love your work.

Also, personally, location is rather low on my list of priorities. I'm from the East Coast so I'm a bit biased but the cost-of-living might make the stipends you received at Stanford/Scripps stretch less (and I'm not a fan of perpetually sunny weather). I'm only considering schools from the Midwest and public transportation is a must for me, not sure if it is for you. I'd rank facilities above location, but to each their own!

Thanks for your help! I agree about Scripps and I'm going to scratch it. 

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5 hours ago, Coaster said:

@rising_star What is it about NJ that puts people off so much? I feel the same way about it, but I can't put my finger on the exact reason.

Honestly, no clue. I think because it seems like a backwater compared to the states around it? Or because it historically did provide serve as a landfill for NY? IDK honestly. But, like everywhere, it has its good and bad parts and points to it.

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Stanford is a top tier program. The others fall into the category of "top ten, but not top 5." How important is prestige to your future? Are you looking for a tenure track faculty position?

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On 09/04/2018 at 5:08 AM, dells_of_bittersweet said:

Stanford is a top tier program. The others fall into the category of "top ten, but not top 5." How important is prestige to your future? Are you looking for a tenure track faculty position?

What are the top 5? Does it actually matter? Surely advisor is more important...

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The top 5 would probably be Caltech, MIT, Berkeley, Stanford, and Harvard. From what I’ve heard, it depends on what you want to do. If you just want a job in industry, it’s probably not going to matter if you go to any of those schools. However, my advisor told me that for p-chem academia positions you’ll have the most opportunity if you go to Berkeley, MIT, or Caltech. Of course, advisor does matter a lot, and if you’ve fallen in love with research at another school I would say you should go there. However, if that isn’t the case, I would consider the prestige of the school in your decision

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On 4/15/2018 at 10:24 AM, pchem2018 said:

The top 5 would probably be Caltech, MIT, Berkeley, Stanford, and Harvard. From what I’ve heard, it depends on what you want to do. If you just want a job in industry, it’s probably not going to matter if you go to any of those schools. However, my advisor told me that for p-chem academia positions you’ll have the most opportunity if you go to Berkeley, MIT, or Caltech. Of course, advisor does matter a lot, and if you’ve fallen in love with research at another school I would say you should go there. However, if that isn’t the case, I would consider the prestige of the school in your decision

MIT would not be in my top 5 for synthetic organic chemistry. Neither would Harvard. And Stanford only makes the cut for the same reason the others do- it's a prestigious institution. I would say Scripps and Berkeley for top 2, and then everyone else. No one is coming remotely close to being on par with those two for synthetic organic chemistry. [EDIT: Princeton and Caltech are closer to them than Harvard or Stanford.]

Edited by mind yours

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On 4/16/2018 at 5:39 PM, mind yours said:

MIT would not be in my top 5 for synthetic organic chemistry. Neither would Harvard. And Stanford only makes the cut for the same reason the others do- it's a prestigious institution. I would say Scripps and Berkeley for top 2, and then everyone else. No one is coming remotely close to being on par with those two for synthetic organic chemistry. [EDIT: Princeton and Caltech are closer to them than Harvard or Stanford.]

I should have clarified and said that people’s opinions about the “top 5” can vary quite a lot, and discipline does matter. Honestly, deciding which schools make the cut is a little silly. For example, several professors I’ve spoken to think very poorly of Harvard, and definitely wouldn’t put it in the top 5, but other professors I spoke to strongly recommended me to apply there. I was giving those five schools as a general top 5 from what I’ve heard. That being said, I did have a synthetic organic chemist friend who applied to Princeton as a backup school (he got into Berkeley, Stanford, MIT, along with others) and he didn’t even go to Princeton’s visiting weekend as it was so far down on his list of all the places he got into (he still visited 6 schools), and I’ve never heard someone speak that highly of Princeton.

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16 hours ago, pchem2018 said:

I should have clarified and said that people’s opinions about the “top 5” can vary quite a lot, and discipline does matter. Honestly, deciding which schools make the cut is a little silly. For example, several professors I’ve spoken to think very poorly of Harvard, and definitely wouldn’t put it in the top 5, but other professors I spoke to strongly recommended me to apply there. I was giving those five schools as a general top 5 from what I’ve heard. That being said, I did have a synthetic organic chemist friend who applied to Princeton as a backup school (he got into Berkeley, Stanford, MIT, along with others) and he didn’t even go to Princeton’s visiting weekend as it was so far down on his list of all the places he got into (he still visited 6 schools), and I’ve never heard someone speak that highly of Princeton.

Princeton has a young faculty and is not traditionally known as a top school for Chemistry. It is very up and coming, especially for organic chemistry. I would agree that it has a stronger department for straight, pure organic chemistry (particularly if you want to do methodology/catalysis) than Stanford or Harvard as well. This all changes however if you want to add a biological element to your PhD.

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