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UCLA Statistics

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Hands down Penn State.

UCLA, despite their name, does not have a strong Statistics PhD program (their Biostatistics program, on the other hand, is excellent.) Additionally, I have heard quite a bit about how poorly it is managed/run. The graduate students I spoke to that go there seem to be fairly frustrated and unhappy. And judging by how they handle admissions (which is when programs are usually on their A game), I don't have a reason to believe these rumors are untrue. Also keep in mind that the cost of living at UCLA is much higher than in University Park, but I think UCLA's stipend is only slightly higher (maybe $1k more, but I don't remember exactly.)

Unfortunately I have to say I agree with you, statsguy. This is a case of a department sounding prestigious on the outside and not all that on the inside. I was a student there and extremely unhappy, despite being very into statistics. To this day, I cannot understand the thinking (if any) behind how that department is run. There are some nice professors who do good work, but the program they offer is not challenging. I found that out the hard way, on the job. In fact, when I got a job offer, they told me they were surprised I interviewed well, since the other UCLA person they spoke to "was really bad" .(?!)

I am concerned now that the state budget difficulties are affecting the department. Because even before, things were run cheaply. The best students were not always the ones with the most funding; people were working outside jobs. Sadly, things like personal affinity with faculty or interest, genuine or feigned, in a particular topic, can give you a boost regardless of your ability. Even so, this won't help you in the long run, if you are not equipped for a career when you graduate, then you will have serious problems. I know of a couple of people who were fired because they did not bring the technical skills that were expected. I also know of a well-funded former PhD working for a former MS student who had no funding.

I just want people to know what it is like. If you want a degree from there, know that it is a very political department, even given that academia is political in general. Things may not always make sense to you, so just tolerate it while you are there, absurd as it may be. More importantly, find ways to challenge yourself - you may have to connect with professors in other departments, both in and outside of UCLA.

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