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What Criteria Are You Using To Make Your Decision?


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Can we compile a list of the relevant factors to consider when picking between admissions offers? The obvious considerations (money, ranking, location, etc) are obvious, but since so far both of my programs are coming out pretty even on all those measures, I'm wondering if people have suggestions for some less-obvious, but possibly game-changing, factors to consider which will help me break this stalemate.

I know most of you will cite "fit" as the most important consideration, but since "fit" is something that's impossible to determine on anything other than a very superficial level (i.e. Are there professors in the program who are doing work that I find interesting and that could support my work?) until you actually enroll in the program and experience what it's all about, I'm looking for some other metric to base a decision on. Obviously, the adcomms at the programs I got in to think I "fit", and I don't really have any way of verifying or disproving their suspicion....

I've visited both programs and had equally excellent, but very different, experiences at both. Not helpful. I can't afford to visit either school again (though I would love to).

So. How the hell are you lovely people deciding where you're going to go? What am I not giving enough consideration to? What could give one program an edge over the other that I'm not realizing?

Also, if you'd like to make my decision for me, you're welcome to. ;)

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I second everything you ask. I have to consider a few things outside of the norm, like what the different regions are like regarding employability for when my spouse comes down and needs a job, but aside from that I'm using all the typical measures and coming out with no real idea of what to do. The problem is that all of my programs are SO different in SO many ways. If they were comparable, it would be a different story. I guess things will become clearer (I HOPE) when I do my first few campus visits this coming week, but who knows. My husband has been engineer-y enough to make me some kinda funky spreadsheet thing that compares all of my choices logically and with numbers...but...it has numbers...soo..... ya. ;) When I said I wanted to add a column called "feel" he laughed at me and my ignorance in thinking I could quantify such a thing. SILLY ME.

I too, Dorinda, would love love love it if someone just told me where to go. :ph34r:

Edited by myriadways
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This is likely to be a minority position, but... you're in an funded. Who cares about fit?

Obviously, if "fit" is defined as such that you literally can't do what you want to do as a PhD student, then fit matters. But English isn't physics. It's not like the schools you go to won't have a lab equipped to do the kind of research you want to do. Yes, you'll need sympathetic faculty who can advise you on your dissertation. In the broadest strokes, don't ignore that stuff. But there are very few elite English programs (like the kind you got into!) that just literally can't accomodate you based on your interests. Besides, fit changes. If you're like a significant majority of grad students, you'll end up doing something markedly different from what you think you'll be doing.

I know a criterion I would take very seriously: what school gives you the absolute best chance to graduate with no debt or minimal debt added. It's a huge concern in the context of contemporary English.

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My choice is easy. I have a MA/PhD offer from a top 25 program in addition to some MA offers. It makes it a clear cut choice for me. I feel pretty lucky not having to make a tough decision. I'd be flipping out if I was on a wait-list.

Edited by Rupert Pupkin
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Though obviously less important than anything related to program and further job prospects, I would also consider your living/social situations at different schools as well. I know applying to grad school is more like a job, but most jobs don't have you pulling 12+ hours days, seven days a week. Having a support network of colleagues/friends is really important to me in a program, but maybe you like working alone, so a department with a more reserved atmosphere might be your thing. Likewise, I know I can't deal with living in a rural, secluded place. I want things to do in my (very rare) time off, but maybe you're a big outdoorsy person and going to University Woodland Adventure Place is your thing. I don't think these things should be primary deciding factors, but if two programs seem like they would both work professionally, I would definitely think about it.

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*snip*

University Woodland Adventure Place

:o

Why isn't this a real school? I want to go there....

And, like you, I think social/lifestyle factors are going to be a big part of my decision since I'm so stymied on the academic/professional side of things. I'm sure I'm an idiot for even considering it, but two of the things on my "Decision Metrics" list include:

- general hockey environment (this includes things like how many bar fights I'll get in for being a Canucks fan, how cheap tickets are for the nearest major AHL or NHL franchise, how often my team visits, how generally annoying I find fans of the "home team" in a given city, etc)

- ability to have a (big) dog.

These are serious considerations for me, abashed though I am to admit as much... :unsure: And (wouldn't you know it) the pros/cons in each of these two areas for my schools balance each other out in equal but diametrically opposite ways. The University of Good Hockey Town is less pooch friendly (at least given the living arrangements I would have there), while the University of Having a Big Dog is a hockey wasteland....so, of course, no help there.

ARGHAHHGHAH!

:mellow:

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If I don't get into grad school, I will make it will be a real place. Our mascots will be bears, but our sports teams will be made up of literal bears. Then we'll win ALL the things, and with the money generated by the sports people, I will make a massive English department where every job is TT and grad students get $50,000 stipends.

Don't be ashamed! I heartily approve of these two deciding criteria. ^_^ I'm glad you're not a Senators fan though, Sabres and Senators tension runs deep!

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First, let me say I do not believe there is a wrong choice here.

I do not know as much about Duke, but I am a big fan of Chicago's program (for what it's worth, Chicago was the most painful rejection I received. Take that as a compliment! :) ). It seems like a fantastic place to do Renaissance literature (proximity to the Newberry Library can't hurt?). This is of course colored by the fact that I've grown up right outside Chicago and really love the city and its great institutions, which I could go on rambling about. And if you're into poetry, you'd probably also appreciate the Poetry Foundation too (they have a lot of great events throughout the year). Also, the Chicago Humanities Festival=awesome. I'd say, if you're more of a city person, go to Chicago. (but perhaps someone from the Durham area can give you the flipside!)

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The University of Good Hockey Town is less pooch friendly (at least given the living arrangements I would have there), while the University of Having a Big Dog is a hockey wasteland....so, of course, no help there.

ARGHAHHGHAH!

:mellow:

Possible (utilitarian) solution: A dog makes you happy every day (minus the occasional vandalism/accident). You may only have so much time to actually go to hockey games as a grad student. But, if you are willing to buy season tickets to a team's games, you could instead spend that money on whatever the NHL equivalent is of Sunday Ticket and watch as much of ANY team as you wish while crafting bibliographies and sipping Canadian whiskey (I may be projecting a bit with the last part ;) ).

In the end, you have options. Nice work!

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If I don't get into grad school, I will make it will be a real place. Our mascots will be bears, but our sports teams will be made up of literal bears. Then we'll win ALL the things, and with the money generated by the sports people, I will make a massive English department where every job is TT and grad students get $50,000 stipends.

Don't be ashamed! I heartily approve of these two deciding criteria. ^_^ I'm glad you're not a Senators fan though, Sabres and Senators tension runs deep!

I like the idea of this bear school. Grizzlies make excellent b-ball players, as my former city will enthusiastically attest. ;)

Also, I hope you and your fellow Sabres fans are enjoying our Young Cody. We were all rather fond of him in Canuckland, and a little miffed (to put it mildly) to see him traded away so unceremoniously. Not quite "Hey, let's start a massive riot!" miffed, but miffed nonetheless...

First, let me say I do not believe there is a wrong choice here.

I do not know as much about Duke, but I am a big fan of Chicago's program (for what it's worth, Chicago was the most painful rejection I received. Take that as a compliment! :) ). It seems like a fantastic place to do Renaissance literature (proximity to the Newberry Library can't hurt?). This is of course colored by the fact that I've grown up right outside Chicago and really love the city and its great institutions, which I could go on rambling about. And if you're into poetry, you'd probably also appreciate the Poetry Foundation too (they have a lot of great events throughout the year). Also, the Chicago Humanities Festival=awesome. I'd say, if you're more of a city person, go to Chicago. (but perhaps someone from the Durham area can give you the flipside!)

This is good food for thought. Thanks!

Also, people on these boards have good memories for remembering where fellow posters did/did not get in (despite my admitedly futile after-the-fact attempts to be a little more cagey with info sharing ;) ). I am impressed with people's ability to keep track of this... :)

Possible (utilitarian) solution: A dog makes you happy every day (minus the occasional vandalism/accident). You may only have so much time to actually go to hockey games as a grad student. But, if you are willing to buy season tickets to a team's games, you could instead spend that money on whatever the NHL equivalent is of Sunday Ticket and watch as much of ANY team as you wish while crafting bibliographies and sipping Canadian whiskey (I may be projecting a bit with the last part ;) ).

In the end, you have options. Nice work!

I like the way you think. I'm more of a beer-as-hockey-accompaniment kind of gal, but perhaps the increased intensity of graduate study will elevate me to a whiskey + hockey girl.

So, what other things (quirky, silly, or otherwise) are people inserting as columns into their pro/con tables? Keep the ideas coming! (I'm literally compiling a list of people's suggestions. For reals. :mellow: )

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I'm also vacillating, and I found it pretty helpful to look at previous course directories, and see the classes that were recently offered at both programs. (You can take into account things like the breadth of choices, the overall focus, the gaps and omissions...) It may give you a more tangible sense of what your academic future might look like.

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So, what other things (quirky, silly, or otherwise) are people inserting as columns into their pro/con tables? Keep the ideas coming! (I'm literally compiling a list of people's suggestions. For reals. :mellow: )

I am legitimately concerned about how logistically challenging it is going to be to ship my yogurt maker and food processor to Scotland, if I end up in Edinburgh. I know it sounds dumb, but I literally do not know how to feed myself without these two items.

Also the price of plane tickets is a deciding factor, particularly in the face of an LDR.

Finally, the likelihood that I will run into people I went to high school/grew up with and wish never to see again.

You want silly? You got silly! Except plane tickets, which are unfortunately serious business.

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I am legitimately concerned about how logistically challenging it is going to be to ship my yogurt maker and food processor to Scotland, if I end up in Edinburgh. I know it sounds dumb, but I literally do not know how to feed myself without these two items.

I am having similar issues regarding my Staub and Le Creuset sale-buys and my KitchenAid stand mixer, and as such am seriously considering taking my highest funded offer without considering anything else, simply because I'd have the money to move properly rather than leave everything behind and start from scratch. :blink: Curse you, FoodNetwork, for making me so interested in cooking with nice things.

By the way, re: taking stuff to Edinburgh, I'd look into whether or not your appliances will work there...maybe I'm crazy or ill-informed, but I'm not sure an adapter will do the trick with something as energy-sapping as an appliance. Might need a transformer, which would be annoying.

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One criterion I've paid some attention to is the presence of a well-established journal. Working on a journal seems to be a great way to stay on top of trends in the field, network with professors from other schools, and get a sense of the peer-review process before attempting to publish.

I'm ashamed to admit that I selected my undergrad institution based almost entirely on the quality of cafeteria food. I did have excellent food for four years, though.

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I know this sounds silly but when I visited one of my schools, every student apartment I went to had a record player, and sitting on a couch, listening to tunes and drinking beer, I just thought, "This is it. This is the one."

Also, everything else/job placement/faculty involvement/cheap housing/etc are also awesome, but sometimes it really is the things you can't quantify that weigh heaviest.

EDIT: That being said, I still haven't finalized my decision because -- jeez! -- six years is a long time to make a decision based on something so tenuous!

Edited by hedgerows
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Also, everything else/job placement/faculty involvement/cheap housing/etc are also awesome, but sometimes it really is the things you can't quantify that weigh heaviest.

I am having trouble deciding between two very similar programs. One is close to home, family, friends, etc, which would be very nice, but I feel an indescribable pull to the region in which the second school is situated. I'm halfway hoping my visit to the first school next week wont go well so I won't have to explain to my mom that I'm moving halfway across the country just because "it feels right."

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- ability to have a (big) dog.

Truthfully, some of my considerations are, "How dog-friendly is this town? Is the cost of living low enough that I can comfortably afford a 60 pound dog living with me?" So you're not alone there.

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One thing I haven't seen so far on this thread is simply that weird, elusive thing called the gut. I'm a big proponent of going with your gut, and already I'm leaning towards making a decision based on mine (though of course I'm waiting until after visits to do so). It's always worked out with me so far...hopefully it will this time, too.

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I'm trying to remember what I did when I was choosing schools for undergrad. I remember I met both my parents (odd because they are divorced) at a Hawaiian-themed burger restaurant, and my mom made pro- and con- columns on some stationery that one of the schools had sent. I don't recall having helpfully added anything to either column for any of the schools. Sometimes I wish they still treated me more like a kid and less like a real person who knows what he's doing.

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One thing I haven't seen so far on this thread is simply that weird, elusive thing called the gut. I'm a big proponent of going with your gut, and already I'm leaning towards making a decision based on mine (though of course I'm waiting until after visits to do so). It's always worked out with me so far...hopefully it will this time, too.

I'm completely with you on gut. I'm leaning toward a particular school, and I'm going to visit next week. If it feels right, then I'm going. If it doesn't feel right, then I'm going to check out my other top two choices. I think gut is an important factor.

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I've compared the schools I'm accepted or wait-listed at by the following metrics:

NRC Population Students Time to Degree Completion Rate Pub per Faculty Job/contract Still seeking Teaching Diversity Overall CoL Housing Air, Water Crime Rainfall Snowfall Precip Days Sunny Days Avg. Jul High Avg Jan Low Voting Female students Unemployment Taxes (Income + Sales) Recent job growth Future job growth Stipend

Yes, I am an obsessive spreadsheeter-you should see my personal movie and book consumption archive =P

But really, these are all things I'm using--obviously the ones pertaining to the actual schools carry more weight but weather and area are also important to me. I've been used phds.org for most of the school research and bestplaces.net for surrounding area research. Ultimately, time to degree, completion rate, stipend, NRC ranking, and cost of living are probably the big 5 when it comes to ranking schools, for me, so far. Still, I'm visiting at least 3 schools over the next 3 weeks and will surely throw all this out the window when I get some a posteriori research ;)

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I know this sounds silly but when I visited one of my schools, every student apartment I went to had a record player, and sitting on a couch, listening to tunes and drinking beer, I just thought, "This is it. This is the one."

I think we could be such good friends, hedgerows! that is such a hilarious and (awesomely) superficial thing, and I'd probably base my decision on something similar. I definitely think my decision will come down to something that can't be quantified. Or as my 40 year old co-worker said "My money is on Rutgers. She doesn't know it yet, but she's going to choose it so she can make out with cute indie boys in Brooklyn."

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I can't decide whether to listen to my head or my heart, neither of which have been completely reliable.... I'm oscillating between the program that would be best for my career in the long run, and the one that sounds like a exciting romantic adventure in the short run (which still has good job prospects, but slightly less so.) It's a battle royale between logic and passion!

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