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Choosing between PhD and MA programs


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Hello, humans.

I was accepted at UC-Davis, NIU, and VA Tech, and I have been offered full funding and tuition remission for each. I am torn about what to do because I think that perhaps I could be admitted to a more highly ranked PhD program if I attend NIU or VA Tech first, but I also think that I could be quite happy at Davis. I qualify for a fellowship that I will only receive if I am accepted to a PhD program (It's a fellowship from a program that I am already involved in, at my undergrad institution.). Additionally, if I accept Davis then I would not have to go through the application cycle again. I'm quite tempted to accept the offer from Davis, yet I wonder if I will be hurting my eventual employment prospects. 

My primary worry is that I am allowing the offer of a fellowship, and the feeling of prestige that admittance to a PhD program begets, to unduly impact my decision. Perhaps it really is in my best interest to attend NIU or VA Tech. I have reached out to a couple of professors about this, and while one has advised me to go with Davis (Their advice was that I can always transfer, if I really want to.), the other has yet to respond and the application for this fellowship is due next month. I am becoming anxious. 

I would appreciate any advice on this matter. Thanks!

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I've been advised that if you get into a funded PhD, you ought to go! There's no guarantee you'll do better if you take the long route through a MA, and you might end up with worse offers after all that.

Whatever drive you have to work extra hard to do better on the market is best spent on publications instead of a roundabout MA, in my humble opinion.

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