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Choosing between SFU and Tufts: MA Phil

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Hi all,

I have been offered admission to Simon Fraser University with a good funding package. I have heard back from Tufts as well and will receive the offer soon. I know that funding at Tufts isn't very good. However, they have a good placement record. The placement record (link) at SFU is also decent, but it doesn't have as many big names as the Tufts record. I'm confused about where I should go. 

AOI: Philosophy of medicine, philosophy of mind

Any suggestions about what I should do?

Thanks

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Posted (edited)
6 minutes ago, JohnQP said:

Hi all,

I have been offered admission to Simon Fraser University with a good funding package. I have heard back from Tufts as well and will receive the offer soon. I know that funding at Tufts isn't very good. However, they have a good placement record. The placement record (link) at SFU is also decent, but it doesn't have as many big names as the Tufts record. I'm confused about where I should go. 

AOI: Philosophy of medicine, philosophy of mind

Any suggestions about what I should do?

Thanks

Unless you have significant family wealth on which you can draw, take the funded offer from SFU. Tufts isn't cheap, and Medford, Mass. is a high cost-of-living area. It's not worth it to go into debt for an MA in philosophy. Although there are no guarantees (even for Tufts!), if you're a strong student and you work hard, you'll likely do just fine coming out of SFU.

Edited by hector549

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27 minutes ago, JohnQP said:

Hi all,

I have been offered admission to Simon Fraser University with a good funding package. I have heard back from Tufts as well and will receive the offer soon. I know that funding at Tufts isn't very good. However, they have a good placement record. The placement record (link) at SFU is also decent, but it doesn't have as many big names as the Tufts record. I'm confused about where I should go. 

AOI: Philosophy of medicine, philosophy of mind

Any suggestions about what I should do?

Thanks

In my view, placement records are worth little. They may instill in you a false sense of security if you go to a place like Tufts (not that SFU wouldn't do the same). Like others have said, a good applicant is a good applicant. Now the question for you is whether you think that the resources at Tufts are that much better that you would be a better applicant just for going to Tufts. It seems like the answer could be yes if you go into your MA aimlessly, but if you show up with purpose and actively try to be the best applicant you can be (which sounds like what you're planning), I'm not sure there would be any difference. Even if you think there would be a difference, the Tufts price tag is probably not worth the difference.

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I think you've received sound advice already. I might just say, perhaps redundantly, that Tufts is worth it if the advantages of attending outweigh the economic costs. In some other post, although the topic was about job opportunities after finishing a PhD, someone, quite rightly, pointed out that prestige bias is important - a claim that could also be applied to PhD applications. I don't have hard evidence, but it seems that admission committees do take into account the prestige of the institutions the candidate attended; also, a good faculty and the availability of resources can help one to become a better philosopher - the Boston area seems to be a fantastic place to do philosophy and networking. I don't know how true are the statements that go along the lines of "it can be the same wherever you go, everything depends on you," they may be true, but I lean to the opposite side: tutors matter. I guess that is why people aim at top programs. 

People here seem to agree here that incurring into debt by doing a masters degree, or any other graduate program, is a poor choice. I partially disagree: debt can be crippling, but I think that some debt may be compensated in the future with greater opportunities. Of course, everything depends on the amount of debt you incur. If you think that Tufts will help you to advance your career more than SFU could, then I think is worth to, at least, consider going. But if resources are really tight, that's another story.

In any case, I wish you find a wide window of peace of mind to take a decision that satisfies you.  

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Thank you all for taking the time to respond. @AB1234 The prestige bias is exactly what I'm worried about. Moreover, when it comes to the job market, who you know, the people who write your recommendations and appear on your teaching dossiers - i.e. your network seems to matter a lot. Again, I have no hard data but this is how I've seen my professors go about these things. One of my professors told me straight up that networking is one of the most important aspects of grad school. I'm wondering if I'll be able to network at SFU in the same way that I can at Tufts. Given the faculty profiles of both universities, I think the faculty at Tufts have a far wider reach.

I'm from India and there is a scholarship for graduate programs in the US, which if I have the fortune to receive, will cover almost all my costs. The easy choice is SFU where the funding package takes care of everything. Tufts will be harder since I have to enter the scholarship process, get them to hold my SFU admission until the scholarship results are out. 

Let's see how it goes. I'm trying to take it one day at a time.

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4 hours ago, hector549 said:

Unless you have significant family wealth on which you can draw, take the funded offer from SFU. Tufts isn't cheap, and Medford, Mass. is a high cost-of-living area. It's not worth it to go into debt for an MA in philosophy. Although there are no guarantees (even for Tufts!), if you're a strong student and you work hard, you'll likely do just fine coming out of SFU.

This is exactly right: follow the money. SFU's MA program is fantastic, and you'll come out just as prepared as you would from Tufts. Frankly, I think that SFU has one of the strongest MA programs out there.

It's worth noting, however, that the cost of living in Vancouver (including Burnaby) is very, very high. It's one of the most expensive places to live on the continent, especially relative to people's income. So just be prepared to pay a lot in rent, and not get a whole lot in return. Also prepare to be one of a hundred or so visiting your apartment, often dozens at a time. Start your search early, and work hard at it. The public transportation is good, but it's very common for people to live about an hour away from the university campuses.

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Posted (edited)

I find that an MA program’s reputation typically has less to do with the names of the faculty than with whether it produces students who go on to succeed in PhD programs. In other words, a great writing sample and letters from School X (with lesser known faculty) will outweigh a so-so sample and letters from School Y (with better known faculty) - and that’s largely baked into the MA rankings. Most advantages of MA programs seem to be indirect - and since indirect advantages can be hard to quantify, there’s no guarantee that they’d be greater for you at Tufts rather than SFU, so if it were me, I wouldn’t shell out the extra money. If we’re talking about, say, a $3,000 difference in the size of a stipend, that’s a different story.

EDIT: Also, SFU should have information on the placement records of its graduates. If they don’t make it public, I don’t see the harm in asking for that information. If they are reluctant to supply it, that might be a red flag. Regardless, it’s not like they’re going to withdraw their acceptance if you ask for it. 

Edited by nxr9

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Who do you want to work with at SFU?

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6 hours ago, dgswaim said:

Who do you want to work with at SFU?

I'm interested in the of philosophy of neurology/neuroscience/psychology, and in philosophical concerns vis-a-vis oncology. This will require me to have good grip on the philosophy of science, & philosophy of mind and cognitive science. Both, the department at SFU and at Tufts have these areas as strengths. However, Tufts does seem to have an upper hand.

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7 hours ago, nxr9 said:

I find that an MA program’s reputation typically has less to do with the names of the faculty than with whether it produces students who go on to succeed in PhD programs. In other words, a great writing sample and letters from School X (with lesser known faculty) will outweigh a so-so sample and letters from School Y (with better known faculty) - and that’s largely baked into the MA rankings. Most advantages of MA programs seem to be indirect - and since indirect advantages can be hard to quantify, there’s no guarantee that they’d be greater for you at Tufts rather than SFU, so if it were me, I wouldn’t shell out the extra money. If we’re talking about, say, a $3,000 difference in the size of a stipend, that’s a different story.

EDIT: Also, SFU should have information on the placement records of its graduates. If they don’t make it public, I don’t see the harm in asking for that information. If they are reluctant to supply it, that might be a red flag. Regardless, it’s not like they’re going to withdraw their acceptance if you ask for it. 

Yes, this information is available to the public on their website and its much more detailed as compared to the Tufts record. 

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@JohnQP Tufts has started making offers? When I asked Avner Baz about the status of my application, he informed me that no offers had been made yet. Just to clarify: I am not in any way doubting the legitimacy of your offer. Merely trying to figure out the timeline of offers at Tufts. 

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Posted (edited)

@iKantEven They will send out official offers starting today. I got an email from Prof. Olfert with the offer just now. About a week back, I received an email from the Graduate Office asking me for a few documents. They said, "As soon we receive your documents, we will be able to process the offer". I took this to mean that it was likely that I would be offered admission, which is why this question of SFU vs Tufts came to mind. I'm sorry if my post caused any unnecessary anxiety, I should have clarified.

Edited by JohnQP
I needed to provide more information

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9 hours ago, JohnQP said:

@iKantEven They will send out official offers starting today. I got an email from Prof. Olfert with the offer just now. About a week back, I received an email from the Graduate Office asking me for a few documents. They said, "As soon we receive your documents, we will be able to process the offer". I took this to mean that it was likely that I would be offered admission, which is why this question of SFU vs Tufts came to mind. I'm sorry if my post caused any unnecessary anxiety, I should have clarified.

No problem! Thanks for clarifying, and congrats on your acceptance! 

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Just got the tufts offer, with an SFU offer at hand... this choice is so hard to make. @JohnQP Would you mind if I ask about your funding package at tufts? I was expecting an average 60% tuition remission but only received 3k today, which is basically of no help.

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On 3/2/2019 at 4:28 PM, JohnQP said:

I'm interested in the of philosophy of neurology/neuroscience/psychology, and in philosophical concerns vis-a-vis oncology. This will require me to have good grip on the philosophy of science, & philosophy of mind and cognitive science. Both, the department at SFU and at Tufts have these areas as strengths. However, Tufts does seem to have an upper hand.

Tufts does have an upper hand... in a way I guess... but again like others have said, money and debt should be one of your top concerns in this field. Jobs are very scarce and will be in the future. SFU is a great program and you wouldn't be in debt. Tufts might be better but it's not worth going into massive debt, which will accrue interest for 5-7 years. Unless you are going to make payments on those loans through out your MA and PhD. A debt of 20-30 k can balloon significantly in 5-7 years. There are amortization templates online, and just go put some numbers in those and you will see how fast debt can go up when left unpaid, with interest just expounding for 5-7 years. So, unless you have money and won't need much debt, then tuft should be an option. Otherwise, go with SFU and forget Tufts. Seriously, it's simply not worth it.

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On 3/14/2019 at 7:00 PM, Cytem said:

Just got the tufts offer, with an SFU offer at hand... this choice is so hard to make. @JohnQP Would you mind if I ask about your funding package at tufts? I was expecting an average 60% tuition remission but only received 3k today, which is basically of no help.

Just to clarify, the official package I received today was 60% tuition remission. So I have no more problem with that!

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On 3/3/2019 at 6:28 AM, JohnQP said:

I'm interested in the of philosophy of neurology/neuroscience/psychology, and in philosophical concerns vis-a-vis oncology. This will require me to have good grip on the philosophy of science, & philosophy of mind and cognitive science. Both, the department at SFU and at Tufts have these areas as strengths. However, Tufts does seem to have an upper hand.

I'm also interested in mind/cog sci stuff. But I'm worried about how much energy could Dennett spend with his students, given his popularity.

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Posted (edited)
15 hours ago, Cytem said:

Just to clarify, the official package I received today was 60% tuition remission. So I have no more problem with that!

Consider that tuition is $51k. If you're paying 40% of that, you're still paying more than $20k. You'll also need roughly $15k/year for living expenses (I'm being conservative here; Medford, Mass. and nearby areas are expensive). Unless you have access to significant family resources, you're still looking at a minimum of $50k in debt, which is by no means worth it for an MA in philosophy from Tufts.

Edited by hector549

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@Cytem I agree with the opinion that is popular on this thread. I got the same offer as you did. I am from India, so I have the option of applying to the Inlaks scholarship. It is incredibly competitive but I am going to try my luck. If I get it, I will pick Tufts, if not I will stick with SFU.

I have received a funding package that is similar to yours from Tufts.

I think SFU is well equipped to get me placed into a decent PhD program, and it unlikely that I will be in debt at the end of the program.

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Posted (edited)

To @hector549 @Moose#@1%$ @nxr9 @AB1234 @maxhgns and anyone else who might be able to help,

I have the option now of choosing between SFU and Georgia State University. My areas of interest, as I have mentioned above, are the philosophy of neuroscience/psychology and philosophical concerns related to oncological concepts.

Both of the above places look good on paper - in terms of faculty, placement record, research output, and funding packages. As for location, for me as a queer person, Vancouver (SFU) looks like a much better place to live in than Atlanta (GSU). I am veering towards SFU since the placement record looks better, the faculty (from my communication with current grad students and with people teaching there) seem deeply invested in each students career, and the cohort at SFU is much smaller (about 11-13 students, as compared to nearly 25 students at GSU).

Do you any have an opinion or comments that might help me decide between GSU and SFU? Reports from friends studying there, or personal experience maybe, or anything else that you think is helpful.

PS: I decided to post here because I didn't want to create an entirely new thread for a question that's only slightly different.


Thanks again for all your help,
JQP

Edited by JohnQP

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Posted (edited)
6 hours ago, JohnQP said:

To @hector549 @Moose#@1%$ @nxr9 @AB1234 @maxhgns and anyone else who might be able to help,

I have the option now of choosing between SFU and Georgia State University. My areas of interest, as I have mentioned above, are the philosophy of neuroscience/psychology and philosophical concerns related to oncological concepts.

Both of the above places look good on paper - in terms of faculty, placement record, research output, and funding packages. As for location, for me as a queer person, Vancouver (SFU) looks like a much better place to live in than Atlanta (GSU). I am veering towards SFU since the placement record looks better, the faculty (from my communication with current grad students and with people teaching there) seem deeply invested in each students career, and the cohort at SFU is much smaller (about 11-13 students, as compared to nearly 25 students at GSU).

Do you any have an opinion or comments that might help me decide between GSU and SFU? Reports from friends studying there, or personal experience maybe, or anything else that you think is helpful.

PS: I decided to post here because I didn't want to create an entirely new thread for a question that's only slightly different.


Thanks again for all your help,
JQP

 

I've known several graduates of the MA programs at both GSU and SFU, and not only were they great, but they only had good things to say about those programs. I don't know that this should sway you at all, but I can also say that Kathleen Akins (who works in areas related to your interests) is a brilliant philosopher.

I've been to Atlanta several times, although I've never lived there. I've heard it said it's a pretty good place to be queer, actually, although I wouldn't be at all surprised if Vancouver is still much better on that score. It's definitely a lot prettier (in terms of scenery, not architecture; Atlanta wins the latter). It's definitely worth bearing in mind that the cost of living in Vancouver is extremely high, so you should probably contact current MA students to ask how they're managing on their stipends. (Like: if you want to live with a partner in an apartment that's more than just a studio, in one year you'll be paying a PhD student's stipend in rent--even quite far out. It's absolutely possible to spend much less, but you have to be prepared to spend quite some time looking, and take on roommates.) In many ways Vancouver's more of a sprawling series of suburbs than a city proper, so you should be prepared to spend an hour or so on the bus/SkyTrain to get around (that said, the public transportation is very good, except when it snows).

If memory serves, GSU's faculty cover a wider range of areas of philosophy, and I think GSU has more faculty who share your interests. GSU also has many more faculty members than SFU, so I wouldn't worry much about the number of graduate students. 25:21 isn't really any worse than 13:13.

Edited by maxhgns

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Posted (edited)
On 3/16/2019 at 6:40 PM, JohnQP said:

To @hector549 @Moose#@1%$ @nxr9 @AB1234 @maxhgns and anyone else who might be able to help,

I have the option now of choosing between SFU and Georgia State University. My areas of interest, as I have mentioned above, are the philosophy of neuroscience/psychology and philosophical concerns related to oncological concepts.

Both of the above places look good on paper - in terms of faculty, placement record, research output, and funding packages. As for location, for me as a queer person, Vancouver (SFU) looks like a much better place to live in than Atlanta (GSU). I am veering towards SFU since the placement record looks better, the faculty (from my communication with current grad students and with people teaching there) seem deeply invested in each students career, and the cohort at SFU is much smaller (about 11-13 students, as compared to nearly 25 students at GSU).

Do you any have an opinion or comments that might help me decide between GSU and SFU? Reports from friends studying there, or personal experience maybe, or anything else that you think is helpful.

PS: I decided to post here because I didn't want to create an entirely new thread for a question that's only slightly different.


Thanks again for all your help,
JQP

I think that @maxhgns has given you some great advice. From what I know of the faculty, GSU has significant strengths in phil mind/cog sci/psych, so that's good for you. I can't speak to what living in Atlanta might be like as a queer person, but I've been there once, and it's a huge, diverse, and cosmopolitan city. I'd guess that the cost of living will be lower in Atlanta as well. It's pretty affordable, despite its size.

I'd recommend talking to a few current students and faculty there (and at SFU) to get a sense of how well the department fits your interests, and how well the program and city meets your other needs. Don't be afraid to cold-email people if you don't yet have a connection in the department!

Edited by hector549

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On 3/16/2019 at 6:40 PM, JohnQP said:

To @hector549 @Moose#@1%$ @nxr9 @AB1234 @maxhgns and anyone else who might be able to help,

I have the option now of choosing between SFU and Georgia State University. My areas of interest, as I have mentioned above, are the philosophy of neuroscience/psychology and philosophical concerns related to oncological concepts.

Both of the above places look good on paper - in terms of faculty, placement record, research output, and funding packages. As for location, for me as a queer person, Vancouver (SFU) looks like a much better place to live in than Atlanta (GSU). I am veering towards SFU since the placement record looks better, the faculty (from my communication with current grad students and with people teaching there) seem deeply invested in each students career, and the cohort at SFU is much smaller (about 11-13 students, as compared to nearly 25 students at GSU).

Do you any have an opinion or comments that might help me decide between GSU and SFU? Reports from friends studying there, or personal experience maybe, or anything else that you think is helpful.

PS: I decided to post here because I didn't want to create an entirely new thread for a question that's only slightly different.


Thanks again for all your help,
JQP

Kind of a late response, sorry. Honestly, those are both great programs from what I understand. Small programs can be beneficial, because you will probably get more of your professors time. And since MA is short you'd wnat to get as much face time as possible to secure a decent LOR. However, a big programs may allow you to find you own niche of people within the the grad students.

For your worry about Atlanta for a queer individual.. I wouldn't worry to much about it. I have an aunt who lives in AT and its much more of a big-city metropolitan type of city than you'd expect. AT is surprisingly diverse and any big city like that, most "non-traditional" type of people are usually alright (I'm a minority in the South too, but live in a metro) lol. Besides, it is only two years and then you can move to your next city.

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