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Accepted. Decision time. Questions to ask???


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Hi Everyone!

I've been accepted to two very good schools (Columbia TC and NYU Steinhardt) and am having trouble deciding. I hope to visit both schools in a few weeks. Do you have any advice? What questions should I be asking? I'm a little afraid I'll overlook something obvious. Does anyone have something they wished they had asked about? Thanks for any and all advice!

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ask about funding -- what's paid for and what's not. are there student fees? health ins. 100%? tuition, etc.

ask what students do for work in the summer -- most schools don't do year-round stipends -- if the dept. tends to find work for you or if students are cast into the world of summer employment. try to get a sense of whether a lot of students take out loans or if the financial package is enough to live on.

ask about neighborhoods, rent, safety. pay attention to cost of living type things -- the price of gas, how much people pay for heating bills, groceries, etc.

the rest of it should be pretty standard -- obviously you'll want to know about advisers and faculty and the general overall health of the school, placement, etc.

good luck!

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The person above has basically covere most of the things you will need to ask. As for the cost of living, it sounds really stupid, but go into a McDonalds and look at the price for a Big Mac meal. The Big Mac meal is standardized so that you get the same thing everytime you order it, no matter where. The key difference is the price of the meal goes up and down based on the cost of living in the area. As a NYer I can tell you that I have found that "my" Big Mac meals are approximately 50 cents higher than other areas.

Some NYC specific questions you should ask/consider.

1. Are you bringing a car? (not really needed in Manhattan) If not, does the program provide an additional transportation stipend?

2. Do they help with housing? NY (like every major city) has its wonderful and not so wonderful areas. Do people tend to live in Manhattan or do they go for the cheaper rent in Brooklyn.

3. Look into the safety procautions at the schools. I'm sure they are fine, but TC, in particular, gets a little sketchy if you venture too far at night.

4. Since you are doing edu, you may want to find out what school districts you'll be working with. The NYC public school system very much reflects the city. Some placements are more desirable than others.

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There is another thread going right now about whether a negative experience in the admissions process will affect folks' decisions regarding which offers to accept. I think this points to an excellent (and very important) array of questions that go beyond the more obvious academic fit, financial package, and cost of living concerns:

What is the culture of the department? What is the culture of the institution? Is this going to be a friendly place with a supportive dynamic? Are students competing against each other or collaborating with each other? I wish I could think of good ways to phrase these questions to get at them indirectly - I feel like most people will tell you that they're happy if you ask them a direct question, but you need to know if the style and rhythm of a place are in tune with your needs. Make sure you talk to grad students, at as great a length as possible, about their lives and their careers. Since you're comparing two or more institutions, you have the luxury of comparing the responses you get. It's possible that a place with what seems like worse funding or a lower ranking might have an atmosphere that will enable you to perform your best. And it's not just the department itself that matters, though they're probably most of it - you should also ask current students about their experiences with administration, particularly if you've hit any roadblocks in the admissions process (cranky secretaries, stupid bureaucratic requirements, etc). Remember that the food they feed you during the recruitment weekend will be much, much better than anything they'll give you the rest of the year. Try to get current students to talk honestly about how respected and supported they feel. Keep in mind that everyone will be trying to win you over. Take it all with a grain of salt.

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