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Deciding where to go for Biostatistics

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Hi every one,

I am a senior applying for Biostatistics Phd program this cycle (international student, bachelor in America). So far, it has been quiet dissapointing with all rejections, and every single school I applied to admit me to its MS program. I am still waiting for Brown and Rochester, which I received inivation to their recruitment events/ interviews. Regardless, I really appreciate if every one can chime in and help me decide where to go in case I will not get in to any PhD programs.

So far, I have gotten into Duke MS (with 20 000 dollars scholarship per year), Emory MSPH (in consideration for scholarship), CMU Computational Biology program, Michigan MS, and Minnesota MS. My top options are Duke, Minnesota, and Michigan, with significant lower tuition after accounting for scholarships. In the case of Michigan, they sent me an email telling me that my application is in active consideration for a tuition waiver and 2800 monthly stipe-end, which is a very good deal if I can get it.

My research interest is pretty open right now, but leanng toward causal inference, clinical trials, bioinformatics and imaging. I am not sure if the ranking of each program will impact my future application to PhD. I notice that Michigan has fast-track option, which was mentioned in my acceptance email, but it seems that any one can declare that track. If Michigan does not waive my tuition, it will be my most expensive offer. My cheapest one right now will be Duke then Minnesota. These two programs have a big gap in terms of prestige from what I have researched.

Also, I really appreciate it if any one can chime in some insights about Rochester and Brown PhD programs. Both are small programs with very few discussions on gradcafe and other sites. I have been to the interview at Brown and loved the department, and will be attending the Rochester's one this weekend. If am lucky enough to get the PhD from either of these two programs and also get the funded MS from Michigan, is it worth it for me to take the funded MS over these 2 PhD programs? After graduate schools, I am not sure if I want to do academia or industry. All of these programs seem to have solid placement into industry, but Michigan seems to have an upper-hand when it comes to academic placement.

Thank you every one for your inputs. It has been a very stressful cycle for me, and I really look forward to hearing from any one!

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Sorry to hear about the discouraging news so far, but I'm hopeful Brown or Rochester work out for you. Others may have more information than me, but I would personally go with one of the PhD offers if given the chance instead of a funded MS. If a PhD is your end goal, I think it would make sense to work toward that directly rather than delay for the possibility of a better offer in two years. Based on my impressions, if you liked Brown, I think you will probably like Rochester as well -- both have a similar feel, and you'll be able to work closely with faculty at either program. If the PhD's don't work out and the funded MS at Michigan is an option, that seems like a no brainer to me -- it's a great program and you wouldn't need to pay.

Without funding from Michigan, I think there are a couple ways you could go about it. As far as MS options go, it's tough to tell which to choose without knowing how much more Minnesota would be than Duke, and Michigan than Minnesota. Unfortunately, I don't know how much the rankings of the MS programs will matter in the PhD application process, so I can't really say what the prestige/price tradeoff is.

Another option worth considering is trying to work as a research assistant or in some other statistically oriented job for a year or two, then reapplying for PhDs. Personally, I was rejected everywhere I applied (Stat PhDs) my senior year, then got much better results when reapplying two years later after working as a research assistant during that time. I found it was a great way to strengthen my application, get a better sense of my research interests, and actually save up some money instead of spending a ton on tuition for a master's. Granted, there may be additional complications for you to consider as an international applicant that I haven't run into, but it's another option to entertain.

On a more personal note, I know how frustrating it was to receive all those rejections my senior year, but just know that you'll still have a lot of options even if these last couple applications don't turn out how you hope. I took a couple weeks to make sure a PhD was still my goal, and tried to understand where the shortcomings in my application were and how I could address them. Any professors you have relationships with can provide a good perspective on this and may also give you some advice on next steps as well (and they may even have some connections if you are interested in finding a job). No matter what you choose to do, I would recommend keeping your end goal in mind and taking concrete steps that will help bring you to that goal. 

Best of luck in the rest of the application cycle!

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Hey @BioStatKid, I was at the recruitment day too. I remember there was an applicant who asked a lot of questions about deadlines and when to expect to hear back. I remember the faculty saying it would be one to two weeks. trust me, i am on edge too, its only Tuesday but it feels like forever. I think at this point, no news is good news? Some of my friends in other depts in their respective programs received an email from the school itself rather than from faculty, so they might need time to process paperwork even after adcoms decide on candidates, though im not sure if thats that case for every department. BTW, mind if we dm? I'm curious about your interview experience at brown. 

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Hey @stoodle, thank you for your encouragement! I do hope that things will turn out well! I honestly think that I will enjoy a smaller program and receive more attention than a bigger program. It's just that my friends and family have been pushing the narrative of Michigan as the best school ranking wise + the attractive internal admission; I may lose some opportunities for choosing a lower-ranking one. I also understand that ranking should not be the main criteria for choosing school and am trying to wrap every thing together in my mind.

I just hit you with a DM @TroyBarnes

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If you get into any of the PhD, go for it rather than MS. However, if you are choosing between three masters, UM will be attractive. It is higher internal admission and if you get a GSRA position, it's two years of guaranteed research experience and almost sure admission into PhD. I think Duke is more Bayesian and UM is more genetics + imaging. 

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