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Choosing a school I haven't visited?


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So I'm deciding between two schools for my PhD.

One is a computational biology program at a pretty good, but not top, school. I visited and I loved it there. The research is what I'd enjoy doing for five years, but it's not EXACTLY the area I'd want to be in (which is somewhere between computational biology and epidemiology).

The second is a public health program at a top-ranked school which is very close to my field of interest (not entirely, but would help me better than the first school). The problem is, I haven't visited. They didn't give me any assistance towards visiting them and plane tickets were too expensive to cover it on my own. While this would probably be the top choice if I had visited, it's hard for me to decide to go to a program that I haven't seen in person and to live in a place I've never been.

Basically, my questions are: Should it make a difference whether a school invites people out for interviews/recruitment? Is this an indicator of program funding, or is this typical in public health? And how risky is it to decide to go to a school I haven't visited?

Thank you! :)

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Could you set up a few Skype conversations with faculty, and possibly a grad student or two, so that you at least get to have the same conversations you'd have had during a visit? That might help you to decide. You can also ask if the admission office has any videos or interactive web tours of campus, and I'm sure you could find some current grad students via web forums who could give you info on the city and what it's like to live in the area, etc. This might help you to make your choice.

Good luck.

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I definitely second the bit about interactive web tours. I was going to suggest it myself! Also, Google lots of pictures. It's not as good as visiting the campus itself, but it is better than nothing. My best friend went to graduate school at a place she never visited -- she LOVED it. I know every case is different, but I thought it might be nice for you to hear.

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