RPI vs Gap Year - Decisions, Decisions - The GradCafe Forums
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RPI vs Gap Year

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I am in a pickle, 5 days before the decision deadline.

I thought I had my plan set in stone; I was going to take a gap year, do Americorps, gain experience, retake the GRE, work on my writing samples, etc, then reapply to all the schools I got rejected to after the year of service is up. Great idea, right?

RPI, which wasn't originally at the top of my list until they offered me a fee waiver which got me to research their program, had me on their funding waitlist for a PhD. I never thought I'd get off their waitlist, until today (again...5 days before the deadline) they told me I was now going to get funding. Yippee! Context, it's their STS program, which I've heard good things about.

So now I could go to RPI fully funded and get my PhD in STS, which, again, wasn't my top choice (UCB, UCLA, and Stanford were), but I've gotten to know the faculty and department and they seem like my kind of people. The fit is amazing. And I wasn't too fond of the way UCLA, UCB, and Stanford treated me (much like a number than a student). 

At the end of the day, however, all those California schools have prestige. RPI - not so much, though better than my undergrad institution. I want to go into academia (which I know is difficult). So, am I better off taking a gap year, trying to get a position through Americorps (which isn't guarenteed, and I won't know if I get a position until well after April 15th), and taking that year to retake the GRE, and do all the other stuff mentioned above to potentially (not guarenteed) get into a prestigeous grad program? Or am I better off going to RPI, which again, perfect fit, but lower prestige? What really matters in academia?

Oh, and my undergraduate institution wants me to stay for my MS, fully funded. And while I've been talking to my PI (if I were to attend) and he and his lab are amazing, I can't forsee myself staying here for another 2 years. I really need out. But maybe I could suck it up here for the next two years, gain experience, work on my GRE, and reapply to PhD programs...Too many decisions!

Edited by literalturtle
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