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CU Boulder vs UCSB for PhD in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB)

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Boulder was my first choice upon applying to schools, and thankfully I got in! I also got in to UC Santa Barbara as well. I visited Colorado last year and really enjoyed the pace of living out there, and I've never visited Santa Barbara. I grew up in the Bay Area and am already concerned about losing diversity, the litness (if you will, there's always fun stuff goin on in the Bay), and culture. I know for sure I'll be losing those things and gaining relaxation and nature/beauty by going to either school. I've been dead set on Boulder until recently. While I'm looking to get out of Cali for a bit, I'd need to buy a different car and obviously the move would be more challenging to Boulder than SB. I prefer mountains to the beach (marginally) but Santa Barbara seems to have some slightly more exciting research going on. Santa Barbara is the easier and less stressful choice here for sure, plus some of my best friends live in SoCal, but I consider grad school a great chance to branch out and live somewhere entirely new like Colorado. I'm facing a seemingly impossible decision here. Does anyone have any input on these schools, areas, or programs or general advice about what they find to be the most important/quality-of-life-determining aspects of their PhD experience?

Edited by ashbash
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I've spent most of my life in Boulder (I didn't attend CU, however). I️'m going to be sad leaving, because I️ really like Boulder. I️ love the accessibility of the Mountains (the city, especially the CU campus, is nestled right up against the mountains, so you can very easily go on a morning or after-work hike). I adore the weather because it's so sunny (granted I'm sure Santa Barbara is very sunny as well haha). I️ also just liked the vibe I️ guess, and how open the city feels given the amount of open space surrounding it and the restrictions on building heights so as not to obscure views.


I'm also trying to decide between bio PhD programs (ahhhh!!!) and I️ think prioritizing both research opportunities and location is very valid (I'm probably going to end up in California a lot because I️ want to live in California and this is a great opportunity to). Research obviously matters a lot, since you are going to be spending a lot of time doing it haha. I️ think as long as there are like 3-4 professors you could see yourself working with who are taking students and aren't jerks, that is plenty (assuming you have rotations). With location, I️ think it comes down to where you could imagine yourself living (very hard because of covid zoom interviews) - do you see yourself living by the beach or by the mountains? (both are truly great locations - I️'ve never been to Santa Barbara, but I've heard the campus and area is gorgeous). Additionally, what people did you vibe with better during interviews/ could you see yourself being friends with them? (also hard because of zoom)


Also, I️ wouldn't underestimate the value of having personal connections wherever you go (sadly I️ don't have friends or family near pretty much any of the schools I️ applied to) - it may be nice to be able to see familiar faces during the stress of a PhD program.

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