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Hi guys.

I have been admitted to two Master's programs and would appreciate any advice you may have to offer. The first is Chicago's one-year MAPH program and the second is Villanova's two-year MA in English. Chicago cannot offer any funding, however, while Villanova is offering a Tuition Fellowship (though no stipend).

Part of my thinks it would be insane to turn down the opportunity to study at Chicago for a year and have access to top-ten faculty and resources, even if it means going into considerable debt for tuition/living expenses. That same part of me justifies it by pointing out that I would have a year after the MAPH to work, apply to English Ph.D. programs and defer those loans.

On the other hand, it would seem fiscally much more responsible to go to Villanova. While I would need to work part time to defray living expenses, I would not be accumulating debt. I really like the faculty and structure of the program, but I don't yet know what kind of placement record the MA generates as far as Ph.D. applications go (working on that). Does anyone here have experience with the program? I would love to PM/email on the subject.

Anyone else facing (or faced) a similar dilemma? There are other considerations (I know many people in Chicago and almost no one in Philadelphia, for example), but I'm mainly concerned with the prestige vs. payoff problem. Muchas gracias for any advice!

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prestige is more important. All the payments for Chicago by you will be an investment for your future and you will see the influence of that investment.

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I've been told so many times "DON'T GO TO GRAD SCHOOL UNLESS YOU GET PAID FOR IT" that I feel compelled to pass that advice along. One thing to consider, obviously, is whether you will make enough money in the career for which this degree prepares you to make debt worth it - and humanities jobs don't seem to be very common or well-paying these days, in general.

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i cant relate too much, but going for a phd in biological research i can say that prestige aint all its cracked up to be. you need a combination of everything, not just peoples perceptions of how good the program is.

then again, youre going for a masters not a phd and in a totally unrelated field, so maybe the prestige matters more? there are big name and successful professors everywhere.

but $$ talks. youre getting a masters which at chicago would cost $$, and afterwards i dont know what the job prospects are for an MA in english, but the less debt, the better! always!

you have figure out the equation. how much more is it gonna cost to go to chicago and how much more would you actually* get out of chicago than villanova?

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If you go to Chicago, you will either need to reapply for PhDs your first semester there (before you may know profs well) or take a year off and start paying back any loans. Personally, I would go with whichever one is a better fit. I turned down mediocre funding in the US for an unfunded UK program, but it was based on what I would learn. The name of the program isn't everything though. Try talking to grad students at each and visiting if you can. I knew several people who got rejected from Chicago PhDs and accepted to the masters and every one of them turned it down. Check out the threads about Chicago. Personally, I love Philadelphia, but I don't know a ton about Villanova.

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Prestige is not more important unless you can pay off the loans. Two years at Chicago, borrowing the whole thing, will easily cost you $100-120K. How do you intend to pay that back? You can't hope to make that much money as an English professor.

I say follow the money. Unless Villanova's program is the bottom of the barrel, you have to be pragmatic here. There's a reason you applied to Villanova's program - something appealed to you there.

I say more often, we need to treat education like we treat everything else. We wouldn't buy a house we couldn't afford just because it was in a nicer neighborhood, or a car we couldn't afford for the prestige of driving around a BMW. Let's also not go for degrees we can't afford to pay back after graduation. It'd be one thing if you could get the entire degree for $50K or even $80K, but over six figures is more than the majority of us can afford to repay unless it's a medical/dental or business degree.

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Funding, hands down. I was on an athletic scholarship for all of my undergraduate and graduate program. I never paid anything for school. Never having the stress of paying student loans is fantastic. I have clientele at my job who were in college over a decade ago and are still paying off their loans. Also, it is important to consider that a school offering you money WANTS you there. They are probably more willing to cater to you and give you more opportunities because they are paying for you to be there. I could have chosen to go to more "prestigious" athletic programs when I was competing for significantly less money but I could tell just by the way people spoke to me that I was not going to be treated with same respect as a school willing to pay my tuition and actively wants me to be part of the program.

As far I know, Villanova has an excellent reputation. It is not like you would be putting "University of Phoenix" graduate on your resume. Haha! ;) Obviously, there are no guarantees in any of this. Just because you go to a university with prestige does not mean you are going to make boat loads of money when you finish and repay your student loans with ease. A PBS documentary I watched showed that our income level correlates directly with our health and how many years we are going to live. Taking the making may prolong your life! ;)

Best of luck to you!

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I agree, I can't imagine paying for graduate school! I decided if I couldn't get into the program I wanted I wouldn't go to graduate school. Thankfully, I didn't have to worry about that because my hard work as an undergraduate paid off. Go for the funding and make a name out of your hardwork and dedication. Contacts are not exclusive at Chicago, and in your field you will be meeting lots of people at conferences. You should make a name for yourself in the cheapest most viable way possible. Don't underestimate how crushing 100k in student loans can be! I was able to get out of undergraduate without many school loans. My university didn't have national prestige but I worked hard, published, etc, and got into a top PhD program with great funding! The point is, you can make a name for yourself anywhere.

Edited by NeuroGal

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I agree with the "choose funding" side. It seems crazy to me to go into debt to the tune of 5 or even 6 figures for a graduate degree, especially a MA! In the humanities this is pretty much guaranteeing you will be paying off your students loans for at least the next decade. This may be a Canadian/American difference but I would never consider a program that would make me pay tuition, and probably wouldn't even consider a program that didn't offer to pay my living expenses through scholarships/TA positions. It is already hard enough to live off of the $15-20,000 most grad programs here offer to pay you that I just could't imagine not even getting that.

That being said prestige should always be a factor in your decisions, but you can still bolster your resume even more by going to conferences and getting published which may be more doable without the financial stress. But definitely email Chicago and ask them if there is any possibility of getting financial help and or a TAship (and make sure to mention your other offer).

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Thank you for all of your responses! In response to a few specifics, Chicago's program is a one-year program, so while it would be in excess of 50k, it would not be 6 figure debt. That being said, I completely agree that that much debt would still be tremendous. Chicago has also informed me that they don't shift the few scholarships they provide around when people decline their offers, so I won't be able to get one.

Since my OP I've had a good deal of contact with faculty members and current students at Villanova, and I'm feeling much informed about recent Ph.D. placements and the general situation. I appreciate all of your advice and the multiple perspectives. I'm on the waitlist for a graduate assitantship at Villanova. Here's hoping one comes my way! :D

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