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Cultures of Top Statistics Departments

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In these days of virtual open houses and scrolling eclectic fora for useful info on what the heck kind of towns they are in which we're planning to spend the most stressful five years of our short lives, I really want to get a better sense of what people think about the schools I'm considering on the level of comfort and personality, not ranking. I happen to be a domestic student from a medium-sized public university with offers from some very reach-departments, and it matters to me that I don't end up somewhere that is grossly individualistic competitive since I know that I will need to grow a lot wherever I choose to study before I can handle that sort of pressure.

I've been chatting with some faculty and students from some of the programs that have already accepted me, and I've gotten only good vibes so far. For example, one faculty member at the University of Chicago described the students as being very good at coordinating with each other (although the preliminary exams are still a gauntlet). A PhD student at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill told me that they have a friendly, small-town feel without compromising on big city opportunities. I am also holding out to hear from the University of Wisconsin - Madison, Duke University, and Carnegie Mellon University as these are somewhat in purview right now, but I want to open this question up beyond my personal scope.

What anecdotal evidence or impressions have you gotten of the culture at a top statistics department? I'd love to hear anything and everything from anywhere and everywhere; "top" might mean top 50 or top 100 to you, and that's still relevant to the conversation. If you have attended a top statistics university for your undergrad too, then your contributions are more than welcome.

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I went to a top 15 department and found the culture to be great. Everyone got along with each other (aside from a few minor riffs here and there), and we even organized events like department happy hours once in a while. We'd collaborate on homework years 1-2, study for the written quals together, etc.

By year 3 everyone went their separate ways with research but we all still remained friendly with one another, helped each other do mock prelim oral exams, mock dissertation defense presentations, etc. 

Sure, there was maybe some element of competition but at the end of the day we were ultimately competing against ourselves. Aside from 2 very strong candidates, the intersection between academic job applications was minimal as well.

Great experience overall where I went. Some departments may have a culture that could be viewed as "lame" or boring (i.e. everyone does their own thing and goes home, little interaction among students) but I haven't heard of any departments where the culture is super toxic and ultra-competitive.

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