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Last week I was told by School A that a fellowship where I work in an office (full tuition + $7.5k stipend) might be able to come to me but it was unlikely. I also found out that I was waitlisted for School B, though I'd already sort of stopped thinking of them as an option.

Fast forward to Monday: I get an email from School B telling me I'd been accepted and offered a Teaching Assistantship - full tuition, $12k stipend. I was floored - not the program I wanted, but an amazing offer. Then, I got an offer from School A for the fellowship I previously mentioned later that same day. 

Do I teach at a program I'm not that excited about and get $12,000 while earning a degree at a school I'll want to leave after the MA for a PhD elsewhere, or do I work in an office at a program I loved and get $7,500 while earning a degree that I can stay to get a PhD at the same school?

What do you all think? I'm actually struggling very much. There are other factors involved too but these are the biggest ones. I have about another week to decide. It did feel good to be able to tell other schools I would not be attending there, but I still have this very difficult choice ahead. PLUS, I still haven't heard from one school, despite my emailing them multiple times over the past few months. (It's crazy that I've gone from thinking I'd be homeless and struggling to afford a degree to having two funded degrees handed to me in under 24 hours.)

I appreciate your advice in advance! 

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Congrats on your acceptances!

From what you wrote I'd go with school A, but there are other things I consider: cost of living in both cities, if program A would increase the stipend if you stayed for the PhD, if you decided to go somewhere for a PhD which school would put you in a better position to do that, etc.

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I'd want to know what the COL in both cities is. I'd also wonder whether the stipend improves when you go from MA to PhD at school A, because I can't imagine that 7.5K gets you very far even in low COL areas. Then another question is how often students from school A continue on to a PhD there, and how often students from school B are accepted. If the plan is to go to a PhD anyway, frankly at this point I think that the main goal of the MA should be to get you there in the best shape possible. I'd also argue that getting there debt-free or at least with minimal debt should be a top priority. There are other aspects you didn't mention; you'd work with different professors, maybe different coursework, etc. And there's the nebulous "more/less excited" that only you can evaluate. Bottom line, which school will help you get into the best PhD program for what you want? 

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12 hours ago, TheWalkingGrad said:

Congrats on your acceptances!

From what you wrote I'd go with school A, but there are other things I consider: cost of living in both cities, if program A would increase the stipend if you stayed for the PhD, if you decided to go somewhere for a PhD which school would put you in a better position to do that, etc.

Thank you!

As to your considerations, the stipend is increased for the PhD. If I went to School A, I would stay for my PhD. If I went to school B, I would most likely reapply for my PhD to other schools again in two years. 

12 hours ago, fuzzylogician said:

I'd want to know what the COL in both cities is. I'd also wonder whether the stipend improves when you go from MA to PhD at school A, because I can't imagine that 7.5K gets you very far even in low COL areas. Then another question is how often students from school A continue on to a PhD there, and how often students from school B are accepted. If the plan is to go to a PhD anyway, frankly at this point I think that the main goal of the MA should be to get you there in the best shape possible. I'd also argue that getting there debt-free or at least with minimal debt should be a top priority. There are other aspects you didn't mention; you'd work with different professors, maybe different coursework, etc. And there's the nebulous "more/less excited" that only you can evaluate. Bottom line, which school will help you get into the best PhD program for what you want? 

Okay, to start, the COL in the higher stipend school's location is lower than the COL on the lower stipend location - bear in mind I fudged the numbers a little to help with anonymity. 

I'm more excited for School A than School B. I also think the professors at School A line up a bit better with my interests - but, the difference is not that much. 

At School B, the teaching assistantship is important to me as I want to teach in preparation, but at School A all PhD students receive assistantships and more opportunities open up for other types of funding (writing center assistant, stuff like that) with much larger stipends. 

This choice is ripping me apart! 

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Seems to me that if you're more excited about school A and you can make the finances work, it's at least a more direct route to your goal than school B, which would require you to essentially start over again and reapply in two years. I don't think that teaching experience will make a big difference at this point in your career. So I suppose the question is whether you want to be at location B or work with B-scholars and give it another go later. Or in other words: is school A your dream school, or would you like to try again for a better option in two years? If A makes you happy and has a direct route to the PhD, it seems like the better option. 

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21 hours ago, fuzzylogician said:

Seems to me that if you're more excited about school A and you can make the finances work, it's at least a more direct route to your goal than school B, which would require you to essentially start over again and reapply in two years. I don't think that teaching experience will make a big difference at this point in your career. So I suppose the question is whether you want to be at location B or work with B-scholars and give it another go later. Or in other words: is school A your dream school, or would you like to try again for a better option in two years? If A makes you happy and has a direct route to the PhD, it seems like the better option. 

Thank you for the responses; I met with one of the professors at School B and am meeting with some students this week. I want my decision to be as informed as possible, and honestly, I find myself starting to lean in the direction of School B as both schools have me sign a contract to not seek employment elsewhere, and I can do a lot more with my funding at School B. I still have no concrete answer in my gut, yet, but every little new factor and thought helps me in the process of weighing the options. I'm still upset I have less than a week to make this choice.

To top it all off, I still haven't heard from my final school. Maybe it doesn't matter much? Who knows.

Edit: To clarify, I've met with professors/advisers/students from School A multiple times in the past year already, so I'm much more familiar with that program.

Edited by helpthebombardier

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Do you have to apply for the PhD program at school A or is it an automatic process to continue on to the PhD?  If you have to apply - what is the likelihood of getting in?  I know a bunch of master's students enroll at my former department with the hope of being accepted to the PhD program when they graduate, but usually only 1-2  of those students get in every three years or so - so the likelihood is not great and ends up with a lot of disappointed folk.

For school B, I would ask them what schools/programs do their master's students attend for PhD programs?  Would you want to go to those schools?

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