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Choosing among MIT Aero, CMU, UIUC, UCLA (all ECE) for PhD


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Greetings to everyone! I am an EE undergrad student and applied to various PhD programs. I have admits from ECE departments of CMU, UIUC, UCLA, Gatech, and UC Santa Barbara. In addition, I have an admission offer from MIT Aero/Astro. 

I removed Gatech and UC santa barbara from the list. Now, here are pros/cons;

1) CMU has a great CS program and it is widely known. I will be a part of signal processing and machine learning group in ECE department so I can really benefit from CS program. USnews rankings are also good, competing with MIT and Stanford. However, Pittsburgh is not a big city and it might get really cold in winters. I also have an impression that the reputation of the school is only coming from CS and the rest of the school is not as great as CS.

2) UIUC is really great in ECE research and I will be advised by a prestigious professor. However, urbana-champaign is in the middle of nowhere and the school seems to be not publicly well known. 

3) UCLA has a really great campus and it is in LA!! The group that accepted me also seems good. But the rankings are lower compared to the rest.

4) MIT is definitely the best among all but the department is not EECS. I have been in touch with a professor there for a while and the research is completely EE-related but nothing to do with Aero. I will also be a part of LIDS if I choose MIT. However, I am not sure if I can really land on EE-related jobs after graduating.  Although I am considering to stay in academics, I might also work in the industry so I don't want to eliminate any options.

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I'm in a similar situation (Stanford EE and MIT Aero). Did you attend open house yesterday?

My advisor (who I trust) told me regardless of what I do during my PhD, a degree in a different field will impact future opportunities (all will state preference for EE/CpE PhD). I don't plan on attending MIT, though I probably would if I was accepted to EECS. 

Based on minimal info of your situation, I'd say CMU is your best option. Have you visited Pittsburgh before to get a sense of weather? Felt similar to Boston imo. CMU will certainly not limit opportunities. Friends who have graduated from there have all gotten TT positions at top schools within two years of graduating.

I'd say UIUC is fairly well-known within academia. But yeah, middle of a cornfield. Don't know anything about UCLA- so no comment.

I'm sure you know this, but brand name is secondary to fit.

Good luck, feel free to reach out.

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Thank you very much for the comments! Same here indeed. Many of my professors told me Aero phd could really my future career. Some said it is really up to me and how well I perform during Phd. But it is still a risky decision. The name "MIT" is charming and LIDS is also an incredible lab with infamous faculty members.  I would also definitely accept MIT it was EECS.  

In your case, Stanford is at the same level as MIT EECS and it is a good chance to have an offer from such a great school.  I don't have any chance to attend open houses or visit schools because I am not in the states. 

Everyone around tells the same thing about CMU, it is really famous for its CS program and engineering program is fairly good. I don't know if it is a good criterion but general and engineering rankings (QS, THE) of CMU is not always above the others. I might prefer to be part of a school which is not only well known for a single program but has a fairly good reputation in all of its programs.

UIUC is really good in the field but the location is terrible and isolated. Some professors don't say good things about UCLA. But the city and the campus is an important factor. Right now, I lean towards UCLA because of the general reputation of school (maybe not really well known in EE) and the city. I suspect that I might not be really happy in UIUC. If I attend MIT aero, I would be worried about my future. CMU seems the safest choice but still can't really feel sympathy to it.

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I share your perception of MIT, as do many people. At the end of the day they all have the potential for great opportunities.

The one piece of advice all my colleagues/professors have given me is to consider fit, as that will determine my happiness within the program. You may benefit from some Skype calls with current students to get some additional perspective, if you haven't already.

Truly wish you the best in making the decision. Perhaps I'll run into you on the west coast if you decide to go that way (USC is actually my front runner due to faculty fit).


Edit: Seems like you're not the only one facing the MIT vs UCLA dilemma, though not full acceptances: 


Edited by jmcdonald2
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