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how to feel better after deciding (or, should I back out?)


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It has been nearly two months after I made my decision between two PhD programs, and I have been feeling terrible about it for 2/3 of the time afterwards. I would actually be excited enough with either school had I not been accepted by another, but now just can't stop blaming myself :(. I would appreciate any suggestion, no matter on how to feel better, how to improve my situation, or whether things are really so bad that I should back out. Something about the programs (I made some details vaguer to avoid being recognized but they will generally be representative of my situation):

Program A: Ivy/Stanford/MIT, top tier in my subject, which I declined

Pros: overall prestige/alumni network; slightly more stipend (scholarship); more flexible curriculum (nice because I have taken most required courses before)

Cons: fewer profs in my fields of interest; the "chemical/vibe" was not a perfect fit in some "nuisance" parts


Program B: UC school/big state university, also top in my subject, which I accepted

Pros: slightly better climate of the city; atmosphere that is a slightly better fit for me; slightly more profs in my fields of interest, placed more students in my desired positions (which may well change)

Cons: many required courses that I can't waive; more TA/RA obligation (funding comes from TA/RA)


I chose B because of a better fit in both research interests and job placement. But now I start to feel more and more uncertain about my interests - I haven't tried many fields of research yet, and my interests seem to come out of nowhere. Also, I feel more and more discouraged looking at the required curriculum when course registration is nearing. What made me more upset than before was that I was assigned a temporary advisor (for my first 2 yrs) today, whose research interests have no overlap with mine... Though I don't need to be committed to working with them at all, I take this as a predictive sign for how things will develop in the future - maybe my profs of interest all prefer to work with other students?

I know I will likely be fine in program B after all. But I was really worried that the regrets will not disappear during the following years. Also, since it was more difficult to get into program A, I even started to feel that I shouldn't forgo the opportunity to attend it, given that I tried so hard to get in. This may not be reasonable at all, but it bothers me whenever I was not so confident and happy with my decision.

Finally, I guess I will feel worse if I back out, so I don't really want to do it. But please do let me know if things are really so bad that I should.

Edited by anonymapp
submitted by mistake at the first time
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Um, I really doubt your temporary academic advisor is expected to become your research advisor. My department purposely assigns us an academic advisor who we are unlikely to work with so that the incentives are well aligned. For example, a research advisor could push you to spend more time in the lab without caring too much about how you are doing as far coursework, quals, and career development. You want your academic advisor to be a neutral sounding board until you are sure you jave found a research advisor you are willing to trust your career with.


You made the right choice. Relax.

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