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jmaeschro

UNC Chapel Hill V. University of Iowa HELP!

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How much does rank matter?

I'm 21st century lit and critical theory. I like both schools but cannot decide.

UNC flew me out and really likes me (full merit scholarship). They email me every other day basically to say "Hi. Just thinking about you."

Iowa, I had to pay to visit. They were very sweet, but sort of said "Hey, when would you like to visit." Less enthusiastic maybe, but they wouldn't have offered me a full scholarship without really caring...right?

They both have great faculty in my areas. The grad students were friendlier at Iowa, but UNC was an Open House and Iowa I was on my own. Very different environments with an Open House and lots of people mixing.

I love the campus at UNC, but I might love Iowa's just a bit more.

What is better...going to a school with a lower rank, but a very prominent scholar in my field? OR going to a school with a higher rank, and lots of good professors?

AH!

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Given that at UNC you can also do coursework with Duke faculty, I would go there because it really maximizes your options for faculty, other graduate students working in your field, and funding opportunities. Just my .02.

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Ultimately your experience will be what you make of it. [\cliche]

At the same time, however, if i were you I would probably choose UNC. My opinion is uninformed, as I know little about Iowa (other than their great writing program). I just know that UNC's resources and the relative availability/proximity to conferences will likely be better (and for lit crit, it's a pretty legit). I'm also obsessed with that area of the country weather-wise.

It's up to you. Play against me for a post and pretend Iowa is your favorite by a mile, then try to explain why. I've found this helps me figure out what's most important to me.

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Sounds like you have two good options. Personally, I would not make my decision based on recruitment policies. It's nice that UNC is sending regular emails. I like it when schools do that, too. But when they do, it's because there's a department-wide policy about it. And ultimately whether it's an official policy to do that sort of recruitment likely won't affect your experience once you're in a given program.

Nor would I base my decision on how I felt about a school's campus. It's important to feel like you're in a place where you can get work done, and where your personal life will be minimally disrupted, but I think the kinds of questions many of us asked about residential experience when considering undergraduate schools are not relevant to graduate study. Faculty resources, library resources, and financial resources are all going to be much more important than "campus feel" when it comes to producing a good dissertation, which is what will get you a job (or not). Being near other universities may turn out to be important too: I didn't apply to Duke or UNC, but I imagine being at the center of a major research corridor could give you a lot of opportunities. (NB: lyonessrampant posted about this above while I was in the process of typing--so you now have two anonymous strangers recommending you consider this).

If both schools are equally strong in your field, as you say, then I think the next step would be to look carefully at the rate at which they've been able to place PhDs in tenure track jobs over the last few years. I would also look at where they were able to place people--whether at regional teaching colleges or RI universities, etc. My guess is UNC is going to come out on top in that analysis, but I'm prepared to be surprised.

Good luck with your decision.

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We should all be so lucky to be in such a dilemma. That being said: go with UNC. They clearly want you more, you'll be in one of the richest acadmic sections of America, you'll have access to absolute top-notch professors and (probably most importantly) UNC has a stellar placement rate. UNC was probably my top school until I soured on them because of how they handled the rejection process.

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I second that! :)

We are not at all biased. Nope, nuh uh. :)

Looking forward to seeing you in Chapel Hill, bdon - and hopefully jmaeschro will be joining us!

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j, I suspect I know you from the UNC visit! Hope the honors thesis wrapped up okay :) And, insider info if you are the person I suspect you are: the school that you had the weird phone call from ended up admitting me... after I asked that I be taken of their waitlist. So odd.

I won't say you should definitely go to UNC or definitely go to Iowa. I will say, though, you are not crazy to turn down the better ranked school if you're afraid that is a nutty move. If you feel better about Iowa and you can reconcile yourself to the fact that having 'U of Iowa' on your CV instead of 'Chapel Hill' might keep you out of some jobs down the line, then go to Iowa. I turned down the school that offered me the most funding, had the most professors, and showed the most interest (granted they were not ranked the highest, but are well known) at least in part because they came across as a bit desperate.

If it helps you to know what kind of decision I was making and what the factors were that have helped me decide, here you go:

I was accepted and funded extremely well at 2 schools (I declined both), accepted and funded okay at 4 school (declined 3 and accepted 1), accepted and not funded at 2 (obviously declined both), and am currently faux-waitlisted at Penn State. Even if I get into Penn State, which is undeniably the top school for my field, I will likely stick with the school I've already chosen. (Oh, and so you know, UNC is not the school I've accepted at.)

I chose the school I did based on:

Location--I've never lived in the part of the country the school is located in, and I like living new places. The city is not too small and is within driving distance of a big city. The climate is not unbearably hot in the summers.

Name/Reputation--I'd say this program is in the top 5 to 7 of my field and grads regularly get good gigs.

Friendliness of Grad Students--I tend to be an introvert, so it's hard for me to meet people and relax. During most of the time during my visit to the school I've ultimately chosen, however, I felt comfortable and felt like I was "clicking" with a few different students and at least one person in my potential cohort. The students didn't seem distant or pretentious and they also weren't all drunk all the time...

One Professor--There is someone on faculty who is a name and who I would love to work with. I recognize the risk in going to a school hoping to work with one person (he could hate me, he could leave, he could stop teaching, whatever), but it's a risk I'm willing to take because of the other reasons I liked the school.

And, to wrap this long post up, I'll say that know wherever you end up will have its problems (and great things too!). There is no such thing as a perfect program. Much of your success and happiness during the PhD process relies on you not the school. You can get to know your field really well at any school. You can make yourself read and write daily at any school. You can go to conferences coming from any program. You can teach well at any school. You can pursue difficult questions while in any program.

Good luck with these final days of contemplation! You're going to be great wherever you go.

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Thank you for all of the advice and insight. I really appreciate it. They are both wonderful places. I think I know what I want to do.

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I would choose UNC in a heartbeat, if only for the campus. But, of course, it's your decision. Congratulations on both and good luck. :)

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