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Thought I'd start a new thread for folks with multiple offers to commiserate about the stress of decision-making and help talk each other through this craziness! First question for all you lovely folks: what are the ethics of discussing alternate offers with other schools? For instance, one of my schools offers a much better financial package than any of the others, but isn't my top choice. I've been urged by my undergrad profs to make this known to the DGSs at my top choices and see if I can get better offers. Apparently this is common - if a school really wants you they'll offer you more to keep you from going elsewhere? But does anyone have thoughts (or, better yet, experience to share) about broaching such topics? Is it bad manners to discuss other offers with people in competing programs? Is it dishonest not to? Should one be cryptic, admitting one has other offers but not saying where? I have two visits next week and really don't want to trample on any rules of etiquette I don't know about, but I don't see how the topic of competing offers could fail to come up at least obliquely. Thoughts?

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4 hours ago, The Hoosier Oxonian said:

First question for all you lovely folks: what are the ethics of discussing alternate offers with other schools? For instance, one of my schools offers a much better financial package than any of the others, but isn't my top choice. I've been urged by my undergrad profs to make this known to the DGSs at my top choices and see if I can get better offers. Apparently this is common - if a school really wants you they'll offer you more to keep you from going elsewhere? But does anyone have thoughts (or, better yet, experience to share) about broaching such topics? Is it bad manners to discuss other offers with people in competing programs? Is it dishonest not to? Should one be cryptic, admitting one has other offers but not saying where?

I have definitely heard of this being done and it's a topic of debate on these forums now and again. So: the most pragmatic answer is that yes, it's done, and if money is truly the factor preventing you accepting an offer that is otherwise your #1 choice, I would definitely broach the subject. Maybe not at visits, though you could—my instinct is just that visits should be all about getting to know faculty and your cohort etc and the DGS will be juggling a lot that weekend/day, compared to a conversation via phone or email after the fact when you've really got it narrowed down to, say, 2. 

I guess I'm of two minds on this generally (next couple paragraphs packed with wisdom I've gotten from mentors and friends of mine who are in currently programs/now in academia, so ignore my authoritative tone; it's inherited). On one hand, I think programs offering equal funding to grad students is often a key component to a good cohort dynamic and a good experience and several have told me to look out for it. Obvs I have no knowledge of this firsthand but I can see why it would be the case.

On the other hand, it is so important to be hard-nosed on visits (and in the period after when making decisions) and not be seduced by any romantic visions of graduate student life, like "oh, 5-6 years of funded writing and reading!" That anyone in the year of our Lord 2020 pretends decisions between programs are (often) not largely about money is a little crazy to me. Unless you are independently wealthy/have family support it should 100% be a primary consideration. Once you are there as a student, you are in a large sense a provider of labour for them, and you should think of it like accepting a job. Because it is one.

However, it's often not just about the stipend dollar amount. There are a lot of ways to complicate this consideration that may be helpful to you: 

1. How far does that money go in the area? Living in the Bay area on UC Berkeley money vs on Stanford money—VERY different things. My funding package from Harvard and Columbia are substantially higher than Chicago and Brown, but all things aren't created equal—it's about how far Brown money goes in Providence vs Columbia money in NYC. So when you say substantially more, how much more, and how are the areas comparable? Also: are there internal opportunities through the department or university in later years to increase that funding, e.g. teaching fellowships or competitive fellowships? These will be much more common at some universities than others.

2. Other factors: Is there summer funding? If so, what years is it available? How easy is it to get a 6th year of funding, if you're only guaranteed five? (Ask current students about this; they're the ones who'll know. I've heard for example from a couple current students that Yale tries pretty hard to get you out in 5, though you wouldn't know that from the department website.) How often are you paid? When is the first payment (if you're an international student who'll be incurring moving costs at the start)? Does it adjust yearly for inflation? What are the departmental funds like for conferences, and how does their travel fund work? What about university emergency funds (e.g. for unexpected emergency costs, accidents, deaths in the family, emergency dental)? While I don't think any one of these will be a tipping point when weighing financial packages, amounts in the hundreds or low thousand(s) can be a big deal when you're estimating your cost of living year to year, and can definitely flesh out a fuller picture of what you're looking at. 

3. Lastly it is almost never bad manners to discuss this, though you may get franker and more helpful answers on visits from current students, so they may be your first port of call before you take it to a DGS or faculty member. If it were me, I would not leverage offers against multiple universities in order to get them to make my decision for me (not saying this is what you're doing btw, but I think there's a world in which some decisions are so hard to make that you might push for an equalizing factor to make pulling the trigger easier). But if I'd narrowed it down to 2 or 3 and one option had a substantially less attractive financial package, there is really no harm in asking.

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9 hours ago, The Hoosier Oxonian said:

Thought I'd start a new thread for folks with multiple offers to commiserate about the stress of decision-making and help talk each other through this craziness! First question for all you lovely folks: what are the ethics of discussing alternate offers with other schools? For instance, one of my schools offers a much better financial package than any of the others, but isn't my top choice. I've been urged by my undergrad profs to make this known to the DGSs at my top choices and see if I can get better offers. Apparently this is common - if a school really wants you they'll offer you more to keep you from going elsewhere? But does anyone have thoughts (or, better yet, experience to share) about broaching such topics? Is it bad manners to discuss other offers with people in competing programs? Is it dishonest not to? Should one be cryptic, admitting one has other offers but not saying where? I have two visits next week and really don't want to trample on any rules of etiquette I don't know about, but I don't see how the topic of competing offers could fail to come up at least obliquely. Thoughts?

The DGS at one of my schools actually requested that I send her any other offers I received because this can often be used to leverage more money. She expressed that many students are often nervous or uncomfortable about sharing other acceptances, but there is really nothing to worry about! This can only be used for your benefit. 

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Definitely negotiate if you're in a position to do so. Just make sure you're not just saying "I want more money" but framing it in the right way. So, you can say that X school is offering more money, or that because of the cost of living, you're concerned about how much this school is offering whereas Y school's package is better. Perhaps your stipend itself can be hard to adjust, but perhaps you can ask for more conference travel funds because Z's travel packages are better. Even if one school is offering you less money, if they're offering a perk that your preferred choice isn't, mention it. If they're offering summer funding, first-choice on TA topic, more fellowship time, additional years of funding, independent research funds, etc., always see if the other schools can match or better it. What I wouldn't do is lie. If your first choice is also offering you more money in every possible way, I wouldn't say that a different program is offering more in case they ask a follow-up that will show your lie (e.g. "oh, how much is X offering, maybe we can match it?" or "we know that Y's funding package is XXX"). BUT, if you legitimately have other concerns, perhaps non-financial ones, perhaps by expressing them they can offer something to sweeten the pot. They might not, they might just try to explain things, and they might refuse/be unable to improve their offer, but if you're in the position to negotiate you should do so.

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I'll chime in here as a newly minted PhD to congratulate you all (first of all) but also to say that another factor that isn't often discussed on these forums is professionalization. This includes both tenure track preparation (circulating packets of successful application materials, mock job talks, handholding during the drafting process through workshops etc.) but also alt-ac and alt-track support, which might include preparing you to put together a writing program application or identifying academic journals and internships and connecting you with alumni who have successfully acquired those kinds of jobs so you can tailor your professional resume to those positions. This kind of support isn't often thought of up front, but is absolutely crucial in the final stages of the degree. This is not only important for people who want to hazard the market, but also those who want to have the institutional scaffolding that you need to leverage your degree into another non-academic or academic adjacent job. I'd be very interested, specifically, in asking Ivies if they provide this kind of support and taking that into account, especially given what we all know about the situation at Columbia.

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I'm not sure I will be able to attend the UCSB open house, so if anyone knows much about the program or living in the area (I am a little terrified of Cali's cost of living) I'd appreciate hearing from you!

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2 hours ago, Metaellipses said:

especially given what we all know about the situation at Columbia.

If you're referring to job placement, isn't this also the situation at places like Harvard? (A current student and 2 recent grads have told me they haven't placed a student on a TT line in several years.) Not saying there isn't an issue at Columbia but I'm curious about the degree to which that infamous CHE piece resulted in overexposure for them. Obviously placement is declining (steeply) almost everywhere but it seems to me like flatlining placement is a big issue across several Ivies and I'd be really curious to know where it is worse than other places, as it's almost impossible to take faculty or students' word as gospel and statistics on department websites are often incomplete/fudged/misleading...

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13 minutes ago, meghan_sparkle said:

If you're referring to job placement, isn't this also the situation at places like Harvard? (A current student and 2 recent grads have told me they haven't placed a student on a TT line in several years.) Not saying there isn't an issue at Columbia but I'm curious about the degree to which that infamous CHE piece resulted in overexposure for them. Obviously placement is declining (steeply) almost everywhere but it seems to me like flatlining placement is a big issue across several Ivies and I'd be really curious to know where it is worse than other places, as it's almost impossible to take faculty or students' word as gospel and statistics on department websites are often incomplete/fudged/misleading...

From what I hear, Columbia’s placement rate (or lack thereof) is egregious even by the declining standard of the ivies. There's something going on over there. As one of my professors put it, “It's certainly not the students that are the problem.”

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Just now, Rani13 said:

From what I hear, Columbia’s placement rate (or lack thereof) is egregious even by the declining standard of the ivies. There's something going on over there. As one of my professors put it, “It's certainly not the students that are the problem.”

Ugh, yeah, someone said this to me today about Harvard too. It sucks because otherwise they're top choices. Columbia especially—insane faculty fit, covering all areas of my interests. UGH. Aren't Columbia's intra-departmental fractures longstanding, though? Like, a decade old? Or has something more recent happened?

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Thanks all for your input about finances! Regarding placement: for those who have connections with people affiliated with the departments, does anyone have any insights on placement in the last few years at Yale and Michigan? Yale's website is particularly vague on this front.

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1 hour ago, meghan_sparkle said:

If you're referring to job placement, isn't this also the situation at places like Harvard? (A current student and 2 recent grads have told me they haven't placed a student on a TT line in several years.) Not saying there isn't an issue at Columbia but I'm curious about the degree to which that infamous CHE piece resulted in overexposure for them. Obviously placement is declining (steeply) almost everywhere but it seems to me like flatlining placement is a big issue across several Ivies and I'd be really curious to know where it is worse than other places, as it's almost impossible to take faculty or students' word as gospel and statistics on department websites are often incomplete/fudged/misleading...

Yeah, I'm not referring to the placement record. Everyone has a bad placement record. I'm referring specifically to the cited lack of support and mentorship that graduate students received due to the size of cohorts and lack of official institutional professionalization on the latter end of the degree. Those were the conditions that graduate students at Columbia cited in their complaint and those are the conditions that leave students feeling isolated and hopeless when they confront the realities of the job market They also make it difficult to finish the degree, leading to higher rates of attrition, and also give students no help successfully translating academic skills into the non-academic world (which the realities of the job market require). I think it's important to distinguish between placement and a given institution's support for transitioning out of the academy (whether that's job support or other kinds of mentorship later in the degree).

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1 hour ago, The Hoosier Oxonian said:

Thanks all for your input about finances! Regarding placement: for those who have connections with people affiliated with the departments, does anyone have any insights on placement in the last few years at Yale and Michigan? Yale's website is particularly vague on this front.

They all are. It's a thing.

Straightforward, clear details and statistics about placement seem to be rare. Schools frame it in a way that makes it look better than it is, either by grouping years together (eg 2014 may have been a great year, so they give statistics from 2014-2018), speaking generically about jobs students have gotten without indication the time frame it took them to get that jb (ex. We have had students who went on to teach at Harvard, etc.) or not being clear about the timeline (ex. 60% of students who graduated between 2010-2015 found TT positions- yet we don't know if it took them 1 year or 5). 

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On 2/28/2020 at 4:12 PM, meghan_sparkle said:

Ugh, yeah, someone said this to me today about Harvard too. It sucks because otherwise they're top choices. Columbia especially—insane faculty fit, covering all areas of my interests. UGH. Aren't Columbia's intra-departmental fractures longstanding, though? Like, a decade old? Or has something more recent happened?

These are good questions that I hope Columbia can answer for you. I’m wondering similar things about Princeton tbh. 

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On 3/2/2020 at 12:16 PM, Cryss said:

WashU for me this Fall!

Sweet, sweet, certainty. I hope you’re reveling in it! 🥂 

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10 hours ago, MichelleObama said:

Sweet, sweet, certainty. I hope you’re reveling in it! 🥂 

I really am. Most of the tension/stress amassed during this process is gone and excitement is settling in its place. Now I can start really planning towards August and getting all my ducks in a row sooner rather than later.

Good luck with your decisions!

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1 hour ago, MichelleObama said:

After a ridiculously wonderful visit at Yale, I've decided not to visit Michigan and Cornell and have officially accepted Yale's offer. SUCH PEACE!

yayayayaYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYYYYYYYYYY

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On 2/28/2020 at 4:12 PM, meghan_sparkle said:

Ugh, yeah, someone said this to me today about Harvard too. It sucks because otherwise they're top choices. Columbia especially—insane faculty fit, covering all areas of my interests. UGH. Aren't Columbia's intra-departmental fractures longstanding, though? Like, a decade old? Or has something more recent happened?

So here's the thing.

If you feel that Columbia (or Harvard) are great fits for you, then I wouldn't worry about the job placement record right now as much. First of all, NO ONE is placing these days. It's just really bad everywhere. Second of all, you don't know what things are going to look like in 5-7 years. If you pick a program you're not as wild about and decide to go there because they seem to have a stronger placement rate ... their stronger placement rate might not hold up over the course of six years. That actually happened to me--I attended a program that, though not a top-ranked school, had a better placement than Penn. That is no longer true. 

Third, and most important of all, whether or not a job hopeful gets placed in a given year often has to do with what schools are hiring in that given year. I was on the market for years, and there were some years I really wished I had an Ivy League PhD because most of the jobs were at high-end SLACs or elite R1 universities. Those are the schools that hire Ivy League PhDs. During other years, the majority of schools hiring were much more modest institutions--lower-ranked regional comprehensives or less elite private colleges. I ended up getting hired at an institution like that. I don't think I would have been hired if I'd had a PhD from a super elite school. Like tends to hire like, and at more teaching-focused institutions, Ivy League or elite PhDs are not looked at as "fitting in."

So, it just depends on the year. I think your chances are much better in the long run if you're coming out of an elite school, but if it's a year where UC-Irvine isn't hiring but Lindsey Wilson College is, then you're probably not going to get that job. I beat out Ivy League candidates for my job because I seemed like a better "fit"--but of course an Ivy League candidate beat me out for a job at Brandeis. 

Again, it just depends on what kind of schools are hiring that year. 

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So I'm finding myself in an unanticipated situation after my first two visits. I had thought the choice would be clear for me to go to Yale, and I did have a really lovely visit there - the current students I talked to were honest and kind, and at least four out of the six faculty members I met with seemed quite warm and supportive (and obviously none were unkind - they're recruiting, after all!) I liked the smallness of the New Haven community. I even liked (if I did chuckle at a little) the artificially aged knock-off Oxbridge architecture of the university. I like the structure of the program (except for wishing there was a bit more teaching, but I've already talked to the DGS about this and there may be other opportunities) and the stipend is very livable. In short, I walked away from my Yale visit thinking, "Yes, I could see myself here."

Fast forward to my Northwestern visit: if I thought the folks I met at Yale were nice, it was nothing (with one or two exceptions of outstandingly kind Yale people) to the welcome I received at Northwestern. The whole atmosphere of the visit was much warmer and more laid back than Yale. All the faculty I spoke with were intimately familiar with every detail of my application when I came into meet with them (which Yale faculty for the most part weren't). I also felt that I really clicked with my prospective cohort mates (most of whom indicated that they will probably choose Northwestern), an opportunity I felt I didn't have at Yale due to spending less time with fellow prospectives there (though I'm sure my fellow Yale admits are lovely people). Finally, here's the big factor I feel is pushing me toward Northwestern: there was one faculty member in particular with whom I met who basically told me he thought I was one of the most outstanding applicants he'd seen in a while. We had a great conversation about my work and his work (he's someone whose work I was in conversation with before meeting him), he gave me a long list of book suggestions and even emailed me a few days later with some articles he thought I might find interesting. He also addressed some of the personal elements of my less than traditionally privileged background and shared the story of working through undergrad himself, and I felt like he really understood where I was coming from in that regard. Basically, if I had sat down before my visits and sketched out my idea of the ideal faculty interaction, it would have been my meeting with this professor. BUT I want to be cautious about a few things: firstly, his effusiveness may just be a recruitment strategy and he'll lose interest in me as soon as I matriculate (or he might not but might turn out to be an egomaniac/hyper-controlling/insert other problematic behavior); secondly, as a person without significant father figures in my life, I'm well aware I tend to get excessively emotionally attached to men of a certain age who express a tendency to mentorship or in fact any interest in my general well-being, so I may be overreacting to this professor's behavior.

All this being said, I'd really appreciate the perspectives of current students: how important is finding the faculty mentor? Like many of us in this line of work, I'm excessively dependent on approval from authority figures, so my instinct is to think that having a really supportive advisor is quite important. Obviously I want someone who will work me hard and help me grow, but I don't think I'd fare well with someone who was all tough love and never had anything affirming to say about my work. But even supposing this one professor at Northwestern is the perfect mentor I've been dreaming about (which is a big supposition), is it worth walking away from Yale essentially for just one person? (There are lots of other things at Northwestern that are appealing in terms of campus/stipend/community/etc., but nothing that's a significant improvement on Yale). In this job market, am I an idiot to walk away from Yale under any circumstances? My takeaway on the overall vibes at both was that Yale would be more a more rigorous and Northwestern a more nurturing environment (though I'm not suggesting there's no nurture at Yale or no rigor at Northwestern), and I don't have a good sense about which of those two things is more important. All in all, I'm really surprised at how torn I feel - I thought it would be easy to choose Yale and be done with it, but walking away from this Northwestern faculty member (and from my truly lovely cohort group there) is going to be really painful, even though I still think it's probably right. Help?!

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21 minutes ago, The Hoosier Oxonian said:

So I'm finding myself in an unanticipated situation after my first two visits. I had thought the choice would be clear for me to go to Yale, and I did have a really lovely visit there - the current students I talked to were honest and kind, and at least four out of the six faculty members I met with seemed quite warm and supportive (and obviously none were unkind - they're recruiting, after all!) I liked the smallness of the New Haven community. I even liked (if I did chuckle at a little) the artificially aged knock-off Oxbridge architecture of the university. I like the structure of the program (except for wishing there was a bit more teaching, but I've already talked to the DGS about this and there may be other opportunities) and the stipend is very livable. In short, I walked away from my Yale visit thinking, "Yes, I could see myself here."

Fast forward to my Northwestern visit: if I thought the folks I met at Yale were nice, it was nothing (with one or two exceptions of outstandingly kind Yale people) to the welcome I received at Northwestern. The whole atmosphere of the visit was much warmer and more laid back than Yale. All the faculty I spoke with were intimately familiar with every detail of my application when I came into meet with them (which Yale faculty for the most part weren't). I also felt that I really clicked with my prospective cohort mates (most of whom indicated that they will probably choose Northwestern), an opportunity I felt I didn't have at Yale due to spending less time with fellow prospectives there (though I'm sure my fellow Yale admits are lovely people). Finally, here's the big factor I feel is pushing me toward Northwestern: there was one faculty member in particular with whom I met who basically told me he thought I was one of the most outstanding applicants he'd seen in a while. We had a great conversation about my work and his work (he's someone whose work I was in conversation with before meeting him), he gave me a long list of book suggestions and even emailed me a few days later with some articles he thought I might find interesting. He also addressed some of the personal elements of my less than traditionally privileged background and shared the story of working through undergrad himself, and I felt like he really understood where I was coming from in that regard. Basically, if I had sat down before my visits and sketched out my idea of the ideal faculty interaction, it would have been my meeting with this professor. BUT I want to be cautious about a few things: firstly, his effusiveness may just be a recruitment strategy and he'll lose interest in me as soon as I matriculate (or he might not but might turn out to be an egomaniac/hyper-controlling/insert other problematic behavior); secondly, as a person without significant father figures in my life, I'm well aware I tend to get excessively emotionally attached to men of a certain age who express a tendency to mentorship or in fact any interest in my general well-being, so I may be overreacting to this professor's behavior.

All this being said, I'd really appreciate the perspectives of current students: how important is finding the faculty mentor? Like many of us in this line of work, I'm excessively dependent on approval from authority figures, so my instinct is to think that having a really supportive advisor is quite important. Obviously I want someone who will work me hard and help me grow, but I don't think I'd fare well with someone who was all tough love and never had anything affirming to say about my work. But even supposing this one professor at Northwestern is the perfect mentor I've been dreaming about (which is a big supposition), is it worth walking away from Yale essentially for just one person? (There are lots of other things at Northwestern that are appealing in terms of campus/stipend/community/etc., but nothing that's a significant improvement on Yale). In this job market, am I an idiot to walk away from Yale under any circumstances? My takeaway on the overall vibes at both was that Yale would be more a more rigorous and Northwestern a more nurturing environment (though I'm not suggesting there's no nurture at Yale or no rigor at Northwestern), and I don't have a good sense about which of those two things is more important. All in all, I'm really surprised at how torn I feel - I thought it would be easy to choose Yale and be done with it, but walking away from this Northwestern faculty member (and from my truly lovely cohort group there) is going to be really painful, even though I still think it's probably right. Help?!

That's a really tough situation. 

I want to be careful here and not give you misleading ideas about your visits. "But" my experience has been that I had anticipated, based on conversations during the recruitment process, to develop a mentor-style relationship with a faculty member. Or at least have some kind of advising-level interactions. This has not happened at all. I don't think I was misled or that the faculty member has been negligent in some way: A friend of mine at UVA received similar effusive compliments during his visit, and I don't believe he ever connected with that faculty member. I'm learning that academia never turns out exactly as you wanted or expected it to be. 

So if your only reason for choosing Northwestern over Yale is to develop a close relationship with that faculty member, then you might feel disappointed somewhat. And, of course, I say "might" because it could be amazing and all the things you want it to be.  Or it might be that this faculty member will happily be on our orals/dissertation committee but you don't develop that kind of proximity you're looking for. 

I've heard similar things about Yale's visit days--feeling less warm and all. I don't know how much you can make out of it, but I'm definitely a big vibe person. Both programs are amazing, and I don't think you can make a bad decision either way. 

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51 minutes ago, The Hoosier Oxonian said:

So I'm finding myself in an unanticipated situation after my first two visits. I had thought the choice would be clear for me to go to Yale, and I did have a really lovely visit there - the current students I talked to were honest and kind, and at least four out of the six faculty members I met with seemed quite warm and supportive (and obviously none were unkind - they're recruiting, after all!) I liked the smallness of the New Haven community. I even liked (if I did chuckle at a little) the artificially aged knock-off Oxbridge architecture of the university. I like the structure of the program (except for wishing there was a bit more teaching, but I've already talked to the DGS about this and there may be other opportunities) and the stipend is very livable. In short, I walked away from my Yale visit thinking, "Yes, I could see myself here."

Fast forward to my Northwestern visit: if I thought the folks I met at Yale were nice, it was nothing (with one or two exceptions of outstandingly kind Yale people) to the welcome I received at Northwestern. The whole atmosphere of the visit was much warmer and more laid back than Yale. All the faculty I spoke with were intimately familiar with every detail of my application when I came into meet with them (which Yale faculty for the most part weren't). I also felt that I really clicked with my prospective cohort mates (most of whom indicated that they will probably choose Northwestern), an opportunity I felt I didn't have at Yale due to spending less time with fellow prospectives there (though I'm sure my fellow Yale admits are lovely people). Finally, here's the big factor I feel is pushing me toward Northwestern: there was one faculty member in particular with whom I met who basically told me he thought I was one of the most outstanding applicants he'd seen in a while. We had a great conversation about my work and his work (he's someone whose work I was in conversation with before meeting him), he gave me a long list of book suggestions and even emailed me a few days later with some articles he thought I might find interesting. He also addressed some of the personal elements of my less than traditionally privileged background and shared the story of working through undergrad himself, and I felt like he really understood where I was coming from in that regard. Basically, if I had sat down before my visits and sketched out my idea of the ideal faculty interaction, it would have been my meeting with this professor. BUT I want to be cautious about a few things: firstly, his effusiveness may just be a recruitment strategy and he'll lose interest in me as soon as I matriculate (or he might not but might turn out to be an egomaniac/hyper-controlling/insert other problematic behavior); secondly, as a person without significant father figures in my life, I'm well aware I tend to get excessively emotionally attached to men of a certain age who express a tendency to mentorship or in fact any interest in my general well-being, so I may be overreacting to this professor's behavior.

All this being said, I'd really appreciate the perspectives of current students: how important is finding the faculty mentor? Like many of us in this line of work, I'm excessively dependent on approval from authority figures, so my instinct is to think that having a really supportive advisor is quite important. Obviously I want someone who will work me hard and help me grow, but I don't think I'd fare well with someone who was all tough love and never had anything affirming to say about my work. But even supposing this one professor at Northwestern is the perfect mentor I've been dreaming about (which is a big supposition), is it worth walking away from Yale essentially for just one person? (There are lots of other things at Northwestern that are appealing in terms of campus/stipend/community/etc., but nothing that's a significant improvement on Yale). In this job market, am I an idiot to walk away from Yale under any circumstances? My takeaway on the overall vibes at both was that Yale would be more a more rigorous and Northwestern a more nurturing environment (though I'm not suggesting there's no nurture at Yale or no rigor at Northwestern), and I don't have a good sense about which of those two things is more important. All in all, I'm really surprised at how torn I feel - I thought it would be easy to choose Yale and be done with it, but walking away from this Northwestern faculty member (and from my truly lovely cohort group there) is going to be really painful, even though I still think it's probably right. Help?!

Just wanted to say I so relate to your sentiments about (over)responding to approval from mentors. I'm currently experiencing a sense of abandonment: with one exception, my thesis committee is being slack, but I realized my frustration is compounded by emotional needs that I need to separate out from grad school. Absent parents aside, being an academic tends to make for a solitary existence, and few people have the knowledge or interest to understand the work we do, at least the finer details that consume us day in and day out. It can be hard to separate eagerness for attention and affirmation from the reality of academia. But if you thrive off a support system and like to have deeper connections with your mentors and peers, that is not something to ignore. Your description of your visit to Northwestern sounds lovely, and even if it is in the context of recruitment, it makes one wonder how much cooler your reception will be at Yale if it feels close to lukewarm now. I wonder if you could speak further with advisees of of the NW professor who you were wooed by?

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Honestly— I'm beginning to be conflicted about my two options and I wasn't expecting this to happen, lol.

I was accepted two programs and I do adore both programs.

Getting into rankings, one is ranked 17 and the other 27.

The first school I recieved the standard funding package (21k and 3k the first summer) but I was nominated for the highest diversity fellowship, and I should hear back the results of that this week. This would tremendously increase my stipend by like 4k a year and also enable me to have some more summer funding. I visited the school, and I enjoyed the cohort and professors I met. I only really interacted with one professor I really want to work with (he's an angel and also brilliant, so naturally everyone wants to work with him, lol), and the DGS who is equally as amazing. I'm nowhere near a fan of the area, but it's proximity to LA and other places makes it more appealing. But the city is very... utopic and dystopian at the same time, lol. 

For the second school, I recieved a significantly higher funding package, as I was nominated for a fellowship that people who participated in a summer program I did last summer are eligible for. As far as the UCs go, it's a pretty sweet set up. 24k a year and 5k for two summers. 

What immediately struck me was how involved and interested the professors are. So far, I've had four different professors reach out to me to congratulate me and express their desire for me to reach out if I need any help in the process. I had one professor reach out to me at the other school (the professor I wanted to work with), but that's about it. I think what is really making me conflicted is that they really seem to want me there, and it just feels good to be wanted, you know? They're all excited and very interested in my studies. 

I prefer the location of the second school as well. It also seems a bit isolating, but I mind this less considering I really like the area. I'm not able to attend their open house, but I did get to visit the department last year and speak to a professor, and I enjoyed my time there very much. Only con is I won't be able to meet me future cohort members. 

Overall— I believe that I would enjoy working with the professors at the second school more. There's more overlap with our research interests. But the first school is also amazing for people in my field (critical theory).

How much of a difference is their really between 17 and 27? I know rankings are important to keep in mind, but I don't want to get stuck on that, at the same time. 

Ahhhhhh you guys are always amazing with advice, so I'd love to hear your input!

 

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1 minute ago, spikeseagulls said:

Honestly— I'm beginning to be conflicted about my two options and I wasn't expecting this to happen, lol.

I was accepted two programs and I do adore both programs.

Getting into rankings, one is ranked 17 and the other 27.

The first school I recieved the standard funding package (21k and 3k the first summer) but I was nominated for the highest diversity fellowship, and I should hear back the results of that this week. This would tremendously increase my stipend by like 4k a year and also enable me to have some more summer funding. I visited the school, and I enjoyed the cohort and professors I met. I only really interacted with one professor I really want to work with (he's an angel and also brilliant, so naturally everyone wants to work with him, lol), and the DGS who is equally as amazing. I'm nowhere near a fan of the area, but it's proximity to LA and other places makes it more appealing. But the city is very... utopic and dystopian at the same time, lol. 

For the second school, I recieved a significantly higher funding package, as I was nominated for a fellowship that people who participated in a summer program I did last summer are eligible for. As far as the UCs go, it's a pretty sweet set up. 24k a year and 5k for two summers. 

What immediately struck me was how involved and interested the professors are. So far, I've had four different professors reach out to me to congratulate me and express their desire for me to reach out if I need any help in the process. I had one professor reach out to me at the other school (the professor I wanted to work with), but that's about it. I think what is really making me conflicted is that they really seem to want me there, and it just feels good to be wanted, you know? They're all excited and very interested in my studies. 

I prefer the location of the second school as well. It also seems a bit isolating, but I mind this less considering I really like the area. I'm not able to attend their open house, but I did get to visit the department last year and speak to a professor, and I enjoyed my time there very much. Only con is I won't be able to meet me future cohort members. 

Overall— I believe that I would enjoy working with the professors at the second school more. There's more overlap with our research interests. But the first school is also amazing for people in my field (critical theory).

How much of a difference is their really between 17 and 27? I know rankings are important to keep in mind, but I don't want to get stuck on that, at the same time. 

Ahhhhhh you guys are always amazing with advice, so I'd love to hear your input!

It really sounds like the second program is where you want to go and where you belong. The difference between 17 and 27 does not sound like it should be a dealbreaker to me given the other factors, though hard to say for sure as a third party that isn't you and doesn't know either school. Plus rankings can change a lot in 5-7 years' time (evidence schools like UC Davis working hard to develop their PhD program and jumping up a ton in the last US News rankings release compared to the previous one). It also may be #27 school is markedly stronger in your subfield than #17 school and that should matter.

Could you ask the grad administrator if they could provide contact information for other cohort members, for the purpose of connecting given the lack of ability to visit and met each other? They may want to send a blanket email giving people the option to opt out, but both UChicago and Princeton have given us the emails of other admits. You may have middling success but it's pretty common knowledge that cohort camaraderie / getting a feel for your fellow students is often a big factor in people's decision-making process so it can't hurt to ask!

Last, I totally sympathize re: feeling much more "wanted" by one school than another; I'm in this situation myself and it's hard not to draw conclusions or develop instinctive feelings when you have a lot of professors reach out from one place and fewer from others. However my very limited experience so far (cruelly cut short by cancelled visits!!) is that every school has a different strategy when it comes to recruitment, some much more aggressive than others. No one at Yale seemed to have the vaguest clue of what Harvard or Chicago were doing, and Berkeley's DGS had zero idea either when I spoke to him and was very curious about it ... so if possible try not to set too much store by it? Other than the loveliest email from the DGS I had no contact with Yale professors before my visit (compared with 5 professors at Columbia emailing me and 3 at Berkeley) and I went in assuming that maybe they didn't want me as much or there wasn't much of a fit. But this wasn't the case at all. It's worth a good faith effort to reach out and have conversations is what I'm saying, though from what it sounds like you may well still end up liking program 2 a lot better.

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