Which should I choose? - 2008 Archive - The GradCafe Forums
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Which should I choose?


Fiddler_Crab

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I just don't know what to choose. I feel like I am basing my choice on things like the weather and numerical ranking...Here are my options, what do you find most attractive?

School A - Large public research university, ranked lowest of my three choices by USnews etc... Amazing, experienced advisor who is a legend in my field, with students who have gone on to do great things. Currently has only 3 grad students. Department is more broad and not specific to my focus. Fun location. Fully funded.

School B- Top ranked pubic school, #1 ranked program/department VERY specific to my field. Young, up and coming professor with a large lab and many graduate students. Warm, large grad student community. Terrible location. Well funded.

School C- Ivy League school. Advisor is relatively unknown, but is a former student of Advisor A...weird I know. Rural location...not my ideal. Very small lab, 1 grad student. Funding unknown. I am visiting this weekend and have a nice itinerary.

I am at a loss. I have yet to visit all of these places, but have met with Advisor's A & B at a professional meeting. I feel nervous around 'A' because of his fame and age, but felt buddy-buddy with 'B'. I think I want to go to 'A' the most, but am a little turned off by the school's ranking and party reputation. I wish School 'B' had advisor 'A' and was located in location 'A'. What does everyone think?

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Right now I am just pursuing my masters and will decide later if a job or PhD (leading to academia) would be the next step. School 'A' is ranked by USnews around 110 among national universities, School B is something like 38. I sort of have a weird focus (entomology) so appropriate labs are not common. Thank you for you thoughts and suggestions.

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It sounds to me like you really need to take a little from column "A" and a little from column "B."

Also, the Excel (or OpenOffice Spreadsheet!) database idea is the best one. My university database has like 40 fields for each school, and I love it so much. If only I were a good enough candidate to actually need it.

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It sounds to me like you really need to take a little from column "A" and a little from column "B."

Also, the Excel (or OpenOffice Spreadsheet!) database idea is the best one. My university database has like 40 fields for each school, and I love it so much. If only I were a good enough candidate to actually need it.

Quarex, I'm so interested in your database. What are some examples of the fields you have?

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Quarex, I'm so interested in your database. What are some examples of the fields you have?

I would like to hear more about this also. I am torn between two schools, literally going back and forth between each every day (or even a couple of times a day). This obsessing is getting out of control.

I am torn between the #5 school for my discipline, with a top advisor in my field, in an urban location, with an assistantship OR the #19 school, with the young, up and coming professor who is awesome and has interests similar to mine (not exact like school A), in a department with a very interdisciplinary focus (important to me) in a quintessential college town, with a fellowship. They weigh out almost the same in my mind and I think that I would be really happy at either.

I almost wish one of them would have rejected me :o

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yakuza, will the assistantship in the urban location be enough to survive? Or, think of it this way, where are most of the university depts in your field? That's where you'll likely spend the early part of your career so why not live somewhere else while you still have a choice?

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Fiddler_Crab -

I'd discourage you from weighting the generalized USNews national universities rankings too heavily. Field-specific rankings are more useful, since as a graduate student, you graduate from a department rather than from the entire university.

Your adviser and your labmates will be the people you interact with most as a graduate student, and upon graduation, your (former) adviser will be the one to support you in finding jobs. The connections of well-respected, experienced advisers are very valuable as you start your career. If you're sure you'd be happy working for the adviser at school A, I'd go with said school.

On the other hand, I know I prefer large research groups over small groups. More people to interact with = more people to learn from and more ideas to share = less frustration and better progress in research. Young, up and coming professors can be very good to work with, too, for the simple reason that they are very motivated and their enthusiasm is easily spread to their graduate students. It is also good to be in a department with several potential advisers if you're not 100% sure who you want to work for.

Location was important to me because I need to be in a place where my fiance will be able to find a job. Keep an open mind when you visit the schools, and ask lots of questions: how much time do current grad students spend in lab? How often do grad students at school B take advantage of their 'fun' location? How much will location affect your quality of life?

Oh - and don't worry about being nervous around the adviser at school A. It takes very little time for grad students to begin to take their advisers for granted.

Good luck!

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