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Deciding between a PhD program with more money/prestige and one with better vibes (Spanish Lit)


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Hey all! So I have been accepted to UCLA and UC Irvine's Spanish programs as a PhD student. I visited both programs last month, and was really impressed by UC Irvine, and slightly less impressed by UCLA.

UC Irvine's faculty made a huge effort to get to know us and answer our concerns. The DGS spent the whole entire day with us, even driving us to the beach to ensure those of us who traveled far would still be able to touch the Pacific. We spent lots of time with current grad students who were SO friendly, giving us a tour around campus, showing us their grad housing apartments, and inviting us to a barbecue that they were having with both faculty and grad students. The vibe seems extremely collaborative, supportive and with a work-life balance all around. 

UCLA on the other hand, was more of a mixed bag people-wise. The DGS only spent an hour with us and read a prepared statement about the program. Some of the other faculty were really lovely to me, and I had a nice time chatting with current grad students as well. I met with two potential advisors and clicked with both, but later on heard that one of them is unreliable as an advisor. The real kicker for me was that UCLA paid a few grad students to go out to dinner with us, and they spent nearly the whole time chatting amongst themselves. I know this is just a first impression, but it makes sense to me that at a larger program more people are going to be focused on their own work and less on each other.

So, all in all, I would say I am leaning toward Irvine. However, UCLA has offered me a significantly larger package. $31k my first year, and two years of fellowship funding (my first year of course and my fourth year, which would be huge at the time I begin dissertation work). They also have offered $6k in my first summer, and have lots of opportunity for summer TAships etc. 

UC Irvine was able to up their package slightly, offering $26k my first year and $3k in my first summer. They have fewer summer opportunities for TAships. Worth noting that apart from my first year the annual stipends between UCLA and UC Irvine are nearly identical. 

Additionally, when it comes to department fit in my research areas they are fairly close to even.

I have four days left to decide, where do I pick?? Any advice appreciated.

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