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fauxmystic

Go where it's pretty, or go where it's cheap?

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Two acceptances so far at my top 2! Really tied in terms of research interests/funding/facilities/academic atmosphere/etc. (PI at one actually studied under PI at the other!)

Main differences that I'm having trouble sorting out:
Tech at A specific to my project ideas would need to be set up initially (by me), whereas is already set up and being piloted at B.
Cost of living is high at A (almost making a studio apartment unaffordable), and (VERY) low at B (to the point of making a mortgage a no-brainer).
A is prettier, topographically much more diverse than where I've lived all my life (I could actually hike and camp without driving 8 hours!). B is still in the midwest (hurray, flatland.)
A has offered special sign-on bonuses and training-grant funding in addition to tuition and stipend. B is a lower stipend concomitant with the lower cost of living.
PI at A is around to teach/discuss ideas with regularly. PI at B is also around to discuss ideas with, but is a bit difficult to meet with as they direct an institute (and thus have a lab manager run the show while still advising on projects.)

Thoughts?

Edited by fauxmystic

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Which school environment did you find more comfortable? Which PI/lab cohort do you see yourself getting along with better?

If the question is strictly pretty and expensive vs meh and cheap, I would still go with the cheap option. You are going to be very busy and not really have time to go camping or do whatever as often as you'd think. If you are able to afford a more comfortable living space and potentially even save some money, it will be much easier knowing that you can't escape for awhile. That and you'll probably set yourself up for a good financial situation post-graduation. 

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It sounds like you prefer A apart from the cost of living. If this is something you are willing to compromise for then I would go for A. If you cannot financially make this work or do not want to have a roommate to make cost of living more reasonable, I would go with B. If I was in your position I would go for A and take a roommate or live farther from campus to better afford the cost of living. 

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I found the environment in B very comfortable (and familiar, being from the midwest). Saving money/paying off debts and possibly having a house to make rental income would be really nice. The folks at A and I *really* got along and continue to speak regularly; right now I think I'll feel obligated/guilty for turning them down if I do.

Edited by fauxmystic
mixed A and B up initially

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You don't need to feel obligated to any 1 program. It's the name of the game, and they will understand. If the opportunities at both programs are on par, as a *slightly* older individual, I would weigh the financial aspect very heavily. While 5-7 years is a lot of time, it is also not the rest of your life. If you can get a quality education doing the kind of work you want to do in an environment you feel comfortable in while still being able to pay off debts and become a home owner, you will A. Be less stressed in the program because you don't have to worry about pinching pennies to pay rent and forgoing going out with friends, etc. B. Setting yourself up for a strong future and in a position to move wherever it is that you want to move to (as long as there are job opportunities of course) after you graduate. 

Edit: I just want to stress that there is no right or wrong answer in this situation. You need to do whatever you feel is best for you, and that can be different for different people. 

Edited by PsyDGrad90
Edited to Add

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