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These last stages of the decision-making process are excruciating, especially under the unusual conditions! Today I graced my favorite professors' inboxes with a thousand-word email about the pros and cons of my top two choices. Writing it all down really helped me clarify my own thoughts. I know which program I prefer, but I'm having trouble getting over the trepidation of moving nearly a thousand miles from my hometown, especially when my second choice program is much closer. 

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That would be me. My first acceptance and I’m thrilled.

just got my Michigan offer. 6 years funding. Fuck. 

IN AT YALE!!!  IM GOING TO LOSE MY MIND I DON'T KNOW WHO I AM ANYMORE 

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I can't sleep thinking about my choices! I'd like to be on the same coast as my family, but I have to sacrifice some things I want to do that. If I went the other way, I'd get those things but I'd have to give up being closer to family and also my relationship. Shit's tough

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3 hours ago, tinymica said:

I can't sleep thinking about my choices! I'd like to be on the same coast as my family, but I have to sacrifice some things I want to do that. If I went the other way, I'd get those things but I'd have to give up being closer to family and also my relationship. Shit's tough

I'm in a similar situation. I need to make a decision on, in my case, an MA program amongst a few offers I have--I've corresponded with all of them and they're all friendly. The funding varies, but a few are distinctly amongst my top choices. I'm really wishing there was an easy metric to consult to decide--I suppose this weekend will be spent compiling information and pro/con charts.

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1 hour ago, Puurple said:

I'm in a similar situation. I need to make a decision on, in my case, an MA program amongst a few offers I have--I've corresponded with all of them and they're all friendly. The funding varies, but a few are distinctly amongst my top choices. I'm really wishing there was an easy metric to consult to decide--I suppose this weekend will be spent compiling information and pro/con charts.

I feel your pain 😕 I think pro/con charts are definitely the way to go! I personally have a spreadsheet that desperately needs filling out. Best of luck to you (and everyone else) during this stressful time!

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I've been on the Berkeley waitlist but last night I got an email saying that they couldn't offer me a spot! I was a bit surprised considering how early it is and I didn't think everyone would've responded by now. I was told, also, that I was first on the waitlist, and the faculty encouraged me to assume that I was in, so it was obviously pretty disheartening to get that email. I think I'd been banking on Berkeley a bit too much because I'm not that interested in the other choices I have. Anyway, feeling a bit crushed over here.

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4 minutes ago, o0livia said:

I've been on the Berkeley waitlist but last night I got an email saying that they couldn't offer me a spot! I was a bit surprised considering how early it is and I didn't think everyone would've responded by now. I was told, also, that I was first on the waitlist, and the faculty encouraged me to assume that I was in, so it was obviously pretty disheartening to get that email. I think I'd been banking on Berkeley a bit too much because I'm not that interested in the other choices I have. Anyway, feeling a bit crushed over here.

I'm sorry you didn't get in.  It's possible that everyone didn't respond. Sometimes, schools with bigger cohorts accept 1.5 people per slot they have and waitlist an additional number of applicants. They do this with the understanding that more people will turn down their offer. It's likely that what happened is that a greater yield than they were expecting accepted their offer. It's also possible that you were first in a certain subfield but both people within that subfield accepted their offer. It's unfortunate but sadly it does happen. It doesn't reflect your ability and it does not mean your work is lesser than those accepted. I hope you reach a decision that makes you happy.

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34 minutes ago, o0livia said:

I've been on the Berkeley waitlist but last night I got an email saying that they couldn't offer me a spot! I was a bit surprised considering how early it is and I didn't think everyone would've responded by now. I was told, also, that I was first on the waitlist, and the faculty encouraged me to assume that I was in, so it was obviously pretty disheartening to get that email. I think I'd been banking on Berkeley a bit too much because I'm not that interested in the other choices I have. Anyway, feeling a bit crushed over here.

Yikes. I'm in a very similar situation with a different school, told very positive things, first on the waitlist, etc, and I'm mortified this is about to happen... 

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54 minutes ago, o0livia said:

I've been on the Berkeley waitlist but last night I got an email saying that they couldn't offer me a spot! I was a bit surprised considering how early it is and I didn't think everyone would've responded by now. I was told, also, that I was first on the waitlist, and the faculty encouraged me to assume that I was in, so it was obviously pretty disheartening to get that email. I think I'd been banking on Berkeley a bit too much because I'm not that interested in the other choices I have. Anyway, feeling a bit crushed over here.

Hey, I'm really sorry. This must be awful, especially with faculty encouraging you like that—I wonder if it points to COVID really messing things up behind the scenes, making even fewer spots available when normally they would pull from waitlist when someone declines. Fwiw I haven't responded to Berkeley yet, though got a nudging checkup email from their DGS yesterday.

To be honest I really wish what was going on behind the scenes with department admissions and COVID-19 was less opaque and cloak and dagger than it is right now. I imagine humanities budgets are being devastated left and right, which bodes badly for current students, admits, waitlists and future applicants in ways that aren't totally clear rn. My instinct is that the financial fallout from this crisis will hit a public university system that was already buckling under pressure (UC) very hard. And even though Berkeley English is in a better position funding-wise than most other departments, in all of my conversations so far I've gotten nagging sense that beyond what's explicitly outlined in my funding letter, not a lot can be promised. The faculty are stellar and I'm impressed by their recent placement record, but times like these really show how crucial it is to feel looked after and safeguarded as a grad student. 

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2 hours ago, o0livia said:

I've been on the Berkeley waitlist but last night I got an email saying that they couldn't offer me a spot! I was a bit surprised considering how early it is and I didn't think everyone would've responded by now. I was told, also, that I was first on the waitlist, and the faculty encouraged me to assume that I was in, so it was obviously pretty disheartening to get that email. I think I'd been banking on Berkeley a bit too much because I'm not that interested in the other choices I have. Anyway, feeling a bit crushed over here.

Hi! Sorry about this. I can imagine how you must be feeling. 
I think the outbreak also has a role to play in this. I’ve heard from two different programs (this week) that they won’t be pulling anyone from the waitlist because they’ve been asked to not make any more funded offers. Since I’ve already accepted a better offer, it didn’t make much of a difference to me. But what if it did? 
Surely, this isn’t right! Why are academic fund cuts such an easy decision to make? 

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Hi all! Checking in to see how folks are doing this in strange, strange time. Never in a million years did I ever expect 2020 years to turn out like this. I'm especially saddened for all of you and the future Fall 2021 cohort, going into grad school with this much tumult is something I cannot imagine. Even in the best of times, the process of applying and deciding whether or not to go accept a program's offer was mentally taxing without the pressures of anything external. I vividly remember experiencing a strong case of cold feet and 'should I or should I not' before I started my first quarter. With COVID at hand? My goodness.

I'm happy to keep chatting, offer support, or help proffer advice on decisions. I know that the April 15th deadline is coming up incredibly soon. Always happy to talk.

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So I'm in the final phase of decision-making, and I'm torn between two programs. The programs seem more or less comparable in a number of ways, but one (program A) is offering me substantially more money than the other (program B)-- like, to the tune of $45,000 over the course of 6 years. The cost of living in the areas around both schools is more or less equivalent, but I think I'd really much prefer to live in the area around program B. While I'd certainly be more comfortable financially with the $$ offered by program A, I could still support myself on the $$ offered by program B. The programs are pretty much comparable in almost every other aspect, but I will say there are a few perks beside location (fellowship during the first year, fewer years of coursework, slightly more hands-on job placement process, etc.) that draw me to program B. I'm just concerned that I'd be making a poor choice by giving up the extra money when I'm excited about both programs. I'm definitely leaning toward program B right now, so please someone tell me if taking the lower financial offer is inadvisable/unwise/dumb. 

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16 minutes ago, karamazov said:

So I'm in the final phase of decision-making, and I'm torn between two programs. The programs seem more or less comparable in a number of ways, but one (program A) is offering me substantially more money than the other (program B)-- like, to the tune of $45,000 over the course of 6 years. The cost of living in the areas around both schools is more or less equivalent, but I think I'd really much prefer to live in the area around program B. While I'd certainly be more comfortable financially with the $$ offered by program A, I could still support myself on the $$ offered by program B. The programs are pretty much comparable in almost every other aspect, but I will say there are a few perks beside location (fellowship during the first year, fewer years of coursework, slightly more hands-on job placement process, etc.) that draw me to program B. I'm just concerned that I'd be making a poor choice by giving up the extra money when I'm excited about both programs. I'm definitely leaning toward program B right now, so please someone tell me if taking the lower financial offer is inadvisable/unwise/dumb. 

Considering these points, I'd definitely go with the one offering more money. Furthermore, if you're able to save money during your time, that may help you in the long run with the state of the job market and all.

However, money truly isn't everything. If you think you'd be significantly happier at the program which offers less money, that you'd fit in better there, and that you'd regret long-term not accepting, you might as well go that route for your mental welfare (even though this is difficult to predict regardless). 

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53 minutes ago, karamazov said:

So I'm in the final phase of decision-making, and I'm torn between two programs. The programs seem more or less comparable in a number of ways, but one (program A) is offering me substantially more money than the other (program B)-- like, to the tune of $45,000 over the course of 6 years. The cost of living in the areas around both schools is more or less equivalent, but I think I'd really much prefer to live in the area around program B. While I'd certainly be more comfortable financially with the $$ offered by program A, I could still support myself on the $$ offered by program B. The programs are pretty much comparable in almost every other aspect, but I will say there are a few perks beside location (fellowship during the first year, fewer years of coursework, slightly more hands-on job placement process, etc.) that draw me to program B. I'm just concerned that I'd be making a poor choice by giving up the extra money when I'm excited about both programs. I'm definitely leaning toward program B right now, so please someone tell me if taking the lower financial offer is inadvisable/unwise/dumb. 

As someone struggling with very similar factors in their own decision, I don't think it would be dumb to turn down more funding based on the perks you mentioned. I have to agree with @merry night wanderer in that location is very important; it can shape much of your living experience outside your work and it's where you'll be for a good long while! I do want to say though that you must be sure that you can still survive on the funding offered by Program B. If you can, then it seems like it would be worth it.

What is it about Program B's location that you wouldn't like, if you don't mind my asking? Personally I'm shying away from a cross-country move and weather that would be extreme by CA standards. (Since I think that would greatly affect me, these are factors I'm prioritizing.)

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2 hours ago, Cryss said:

Considering these points, I'd definitely go with the one offering more money. Furthermore, if you're able to save money during your time, that may help you in the long run with the state of the job market and all.

However, money truly isn't everything. If you think you'd be significantly happier at the program which offers less money, that you'd fit in better there, and that you'd regret long-term not accepting, you might as well go that route for your mental welfare (even though this is difficult to predict regardless). 

Like you said, figuring out what exactly will be best for me mentally is really hard to predict. While I do think I'd prefer to live in program B's location, the peace of mind that the money from program A would give me might end up being better for my mental health than nice surroundings. 

2 hours ago, merry night wanderer said:

I don't know... location is a huge deal to me. This is your whole life for at least 5 years: where you'll make friends, develop attachments to places, have adventures. IS the difference in location very stark?

The difference is pretty major. Program A is located three hours from, basically, anything (I was about to say "from a major city," but there aren't even really any notable small or mid-sized cities closer than three hours). It's basically a tiny college town in the middle of nowhere. I think I might find it quaint and nice for a shorter period of time, but committing to (in my case) at least 6 years in that spot seems... questionable. Program B isn't in a huge city, but it's a larger town located within 20-30 minutes of a number of mid-sized cities. There would also be a much greater chance that my partner would be able to find fulfilling, lucrative employment in the area around program B. We'd also be about six and a half hours closer to family (5 hours away vs. 11.5). 

2 hours ago, tinymica said:

What is it about Program A's location that you wouldn't like, if you don't mind my asking? Personally I'm shying away from a cross-country move and weather that would be extreme by CA standards. (Since I think that would greatly affect me, these are factors I'm prioritizing.)

In addition to the reasons I've listed above for why program B's location appeals to me more than program A's (program B's location is a larger town near a couple cities; my partner would have better luck finding a job; we'd be closer to family), I also just in general get a better vibe from the location of program B?? I dunno. There's a cool music venue in the town, there's more racial diversity in the surrounding areas, the population leans more blue than the population in the location of program A, there's a lot of history in the town (I grew up in a historic city so I tend to be drawn to other cities with buildings that date to the 18th-19th centuries, and I honestly get a weird shivery-feeling when everything around me was built in, like, the latter half of the 20th century). There's also a major international airport about 20 minutes away, which is nice to have. And I'd be sticking around in the region where I, as well as my partner, have lived most of our lives (which also helps make the move easier for my partner to swallow). 

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I would chose the better location - no question - especially if it meant my partner was happier. No question whatsoever. Money is important, of course, and if it's critical for your mental health, that's worth thinking about, but particularly adding the program vibe on top of that? That's what I would choose. Tbh I would pick the program I liked better, in the location I liked better, with the time constraints of a side hustle, than go to a place with more money. 

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1 hour ago, merry night wanderer said:

I would chose the better location - no question - especially if it meant my partner was happier. No question whatsoever. Money is important, of course, and if it's critical for your mental health, that's worth thinking about, but particularly adding the program vibe on top of that? That's what I would choose. Tbh I would pick the program I liked better, in the location I liked better, with the time constraints of a side hustle, than go to a place with more money. 

Seconding this. I'm always wary of schools that offer tremendous stipends, anyhow. Perhaps this is just me being cynical, but I always think that if they have to do that to get folks in the door, there must be something they're compensating for... 

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2 hours ago, merry night wanderer said:

I would chose the better location - no question - especially if it meant my partner was happier. No question whatsoever. Money is important, of course, and if it's critical for your mental health, that's worth thinking about, but particularly adding the program vibe on top of that? That's what I would choose. Tbh I would pick the program I liked better, in the location I liked better, with the time constraints of a side hustle, than go to a place with more money. 

 

20 minutes ago, hamnet in tights said:

Seconding this. I'm always wary of schools that offer tremendous stipends, anyhow. Perhaps this is just me being cynical, but I always think that if they have to do that to get folks in the door, there must be something they're compensating for... 

Thanks for the affirmation, y'all.

Also, @hamnet in tights, to your point about program A compensating for something: a couple of my undergrad profs have actually explicitly stated that the program likely has to offer especially competitive stipends to lure prospective grad student out to that middle-of-nowhere location. So, it does seem that they're pretty clearly compensating for their less than ideal spot on the map (though I'm sure the program itself is strong and the scholars who have reached out to me have all been lovely). 

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3 hours ago, karamazov said:

A compensating for something: a couple of my undergrad profs have actually explicitly stated that the program likely has to offer especially competitive stipends to lure prospective grad student out to that middle-of-nowhere location.

FWIW:  I choose a program ranked "lower" than another by about 9 spots. The other program wasn't in a location I could see myself being happy in. I ended up choosing a program that was in a location I preferred and offered a decent stipend compared to the cost of living. I spend a fair amount on housing but that's because it's what I choose to "splurge" on. Our stipend increases yearly but I think it's also important to recognize that previous students also fought to make sure that stipends were fair. It wasn't long ago that (at other schools) students weren't guaranteed a stipend which created a lot of tension between the funded and unfunded students. One will never become rich from their stipend but I do think it's important to have a balance between security, placement, location and mental health. I think it's also important to understand that an acceptance to any school does not guarantee a job into schools they've previously placed in without the proper amount of work. If one is too tapped out, a program's money won't cure it all. If one fails out because they don't meet standards, it doesn't matter where one goes if they can't graduate or work to their best ability. In the end, it's up to you to decide how you manage your time though.

I think there are brilliant scholars at multiple schools but think it's also important to realize that professors can leave at anytime for any reason. A scholar I was interested in at a different school is now working at another school. Another scholar I'm interested in working with is leaving a school ranked in the top 20 for English and moving here despite her having tenure over there. The professor will keep her tenure here but I think it's important to realize that professors can and sometimes do leave their previous positions for things other than retirment. Sometimes, the environment is equally as important to them and they might not always know how much students are being given as a stipend here. Another recently hired professor formerly taught at a school that is ranked in the 60s/70s and was offered the position over someone who taught at an HYP institution because the fit was better.

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2 hours ago, Warelin said:

FWIW:  I choose a program ranked "lower" than another by about 9 spots. The other program wasn't in a location I could see myself being happy in. I ended up choosing a program that was in a location I preferred and offered a decent stipend compared to the cost of living. I spend a fair amount on housing but that's because it's what I choose to "splurge" on. Our stipend increases yearly but I think it's also important to recognize that previous students also fought to make sure that stipends were fair. It wasn't long ago that (at other schools) students weren't guaranteed a stipend which created a lot of tension between the funded and unfunded students. One will never become rich from their stipend but I do think it's important to have a balance between security, placement, location and mental health. I think it's also important to understand that an acceptance to any school does not guarantee a job into schools they've previously placed in without the proper amount of work. If one is too tapped out, a program's money won't cure it all. If one fails out because they don't meet standards, it doesn't matter where one goes if they can't graduate or work to their best ability. In the end, it's up to you to decide how you manage your time though.

I think there are brilliant scholars at multiple schools but think it's also important to realize that professors can leave at anytime for any reason. A scholar I was interested in at a different school is now working at another school. Another scholar I'm interested in working with is leaving a school ranked in the top 20 for English and moving here despite her having tenure over there. The professor will keep her tenure here but I think it's important to realize that professors can and sometimes do leave their previous positions for things other than retirment. Sometimes, the environment is equally as important to them and they might not always know how much students are being given as a stipend here. Another recently hired professor formerly taught at a school that is ranked in the 60s/70s and was offered the position over someone who taught at an HYP institution because the fit was better.

Thank you for sharing! I will definitely take all of this into consideration. 

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I have more or less a full ride offer from Toledo. It is my only fully funded offer at the moment.

I am so nervous about moving to the city, though--everything I've read indicates it is high in crime, violence, and poverty. Anyone here familiar with this area of Ohio? What would you say if I was considering rejecting the offer because the city is really rough? Please help. I wish it didn't look so negative at first glance but everything I've read suggests this to be the case.

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I am finding myself stuck in my decision between WashU and Penn State. The stipend/COL is roughly the same for both programs. I have gotten along well with the faculty members I have met at WashU. They all indicated that the university would be a great fit for my interests; the DGS was especially adamant on this point. At Penn State, I have spoken with only one faculty member in my prospective field, but I got along well with her. There seem to be many resources for studying the twentieth century at PSU, and the larger department could give me more opportunities to branch out into other subfields. At the same time, Penn State requires more teaching than WashU. I would be on fellowship during my first year and then teach three classes in my second year, whereas WashU would have me teach a 1:1 starting in my third year. In contrast to PSU, WashU's stipend is not dependent on my teaching, which I think is a major point in that program's favor. One of my undergrad professors has told me as well that in this economic climate, attending a private university might be the more stable choice. But then again, Penn State would be the easier move for me, and, from what I have heard about crime in both areas, State College would be the less stressful place to live, at least during the beginning of the program.

I'm in contact with my mentors and with professors from both programs, but I still feel stuck. Does anyone have thoughts?

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1 hour ago, Puurple said:

I have more or less a full ride offer from Toledo. It is my only fully funded offer at the moment.

I am so nervous about moving to the city, though--everything I've read indicates it is high in crime, violence, and poverty. Anyone here familiar with this area of Ohio? What would you say if I was considering rejecting the offer because the city is really rough? Please help. I wish it didn't look so negative at first glance but everything I've read suggests this to be the case.

I think people have a tendency to be dramatic when it comes to crime. When I was heading to study in Russia, everyone was going on about terrorism. When I was moving to DC, everyone was going on about crime. I say perhaps talk to real people who live there. I have an aunt, uncle, and three cousins who have lived in Toledo forever, and a good friend from college from Toledo. They're all fine. I went a few times as a kid and I lived, haha. I hear Toledo has a great art museum.

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1 hour ago, Wimsey said:

I am finding myself stuck in my decision between WashU and Penn State. The stipend/COL is roughly the same for both programs. I have gotten along well with the faculty members I have met at WashU. They all indicated that the university would be a great fit for my interests; the DGS was especially adamant on this point. At Penn State, I have spoken with only one faculty member in my prospective field, but I got along well with her. There seem to be many resources for studying the twentieth century at PSU, and the larger department could give me more opportunities to branch out into other subfields. At the same time, Penn State requires more teaching than WashU. I would be on fellowship during my first year and then teach three classes in my second year, whereas WashU would have me teach a 1:1 starting in my third year. In contrast to PSU, WashU's stipend is not dependent on my teaching, which I think is a major point in that program's favor. One of my undergrad professors has told me as well that in this economic climate, attending a private university might be the more stable choice. But then again, Penn State would be the easier move for me, and, from what I have heard about crime in both areas, State College would be the less stressful place to live, at least during the beginning of the program.

I'm in contact with my mentors and with professors from both programs, but I still feel stuck. Does anyone have thoughts?

I obviously have a horse in this race because I'm headed to Penn State this fall and would love to have you in my cohort (middlebrow fiction, yes!), but for what it's worth, here's a breakdown of some of the relevant factors that led me to choose a school with a heavier teaching load (PSU) over one with a lighter teaching load (Ohio State): the stipend was higher, there were more opportunities for summer teaching, there was a guaranteed one-semester teaching release while dissertating, the resources for 20th/21st century American lit were stronger (so strong that they compelled me, a would-be narrative theorist, to turn down the school that's the epicenter for narrative studies in the U.S.), the program was longer and included a more-or-less guaranteed post-doc year (this was a plus for me, 6/7 years vs. 5, but I know that may not be the case for everyone), and the move to PA would be easier for me (and puts me much closer to family, which was a big deal to me). Also, full disclosure, because I already have a grad degree from OSU, I was certainly drawn a bit to the novelty of a different school and a different department (not so much that it was an ultimate determining factor, but enough to note here).

Also, my understanding regarding the 2:1 teaching load at Penn State is that not everyone actually winds up teaching two courses in that odd semester; where possible, you can swap out some other, potentially less time-consuming service (tutoring, writing center work, etc.) for one of the two courses. Also, the fact that you're only teaching two courses for one semester out of every four seemed ultimately negligible to me (but I'm coming in with a decent chunk of teaching experience--and major burn-out from two years in the non-teaching sphere--and I'm (perhaps naively!) looking forward to diving in headfirst with teaching).

All that said, two years with no teaching requirement to start is a big, big deal. Teaching is a big drain on your time, and two years without that obligation can really allow you to get your grounding, explore all your department has to offer, etc. (I do think there's equal value to having time off from teaching while dissertating--I had a fellowship in the final semester of my MFA program without which I probably wouldn't have completed my thesis--but it's possible such opportunities are available at WashU, too.) I also know WashU's placement record is great, and everyone I've encountered on Grad Cafe with a connection to the program has had only glowing things to say.

I don't think you can go wrong here either way, and I'm wishing you all the best as you make your choice. If you want to talk any more about my choice to attend Penn State, don't hesitate to send me a message!

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