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Personal factors driving the decision-making process.


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I'm just looking for general feedback here, if anyone has any thoughts.


Here's the situation: I'll be choosing between two PhD programs with similar rankings that are offering nearly identical funding packages. They're both large, public universities, and both of my "persons of interest" at each school have been quite pleasant so far, reaching out to me by phone & email. I'm visiting both schools in the beginning of March and hope to have made my final decision shortly after.


The essence of my dilemma is that School A is a better fit academically, but School B is in my hometown, meaning that my fiance and I would be able to move back to the city we grew up in, and be settled there for a good 5-7 years (hopefully). I feel that my decision will ultimately affect a lot more people than just my fiance and I. We both come from very close families. My fiance lost his father last year and has a younger brother in high school, and I know being close by would be wonderful for them. Plus, my family would be ecstatic if we decided to move back. Everyone will be very supportive no matter what I decide, but I can't help feeling conflicted. [For reference purposes, School A is 8-9 hours away by car, which is also about how far away from home we currently are]


Is it a mistake to privy personal factors above academic ones when choosing which graduate school to attend? I don't want to regret having chosen a school that doesn't really offer what I want when I could have had that at School A, but on the other hand, family means a lot to my partner and I.


I'm hoping that once I visit School B (in my hometown) and get a feel for it, I'll have a great experience and feel it can offer me a lot, and then the decision won't be so difficult.


Either way, I know that seeking balance between professional and family life is a common theme/problem in the world of academia, so I'm sure someone out there might have some wise words for me.

Thanks for reading :)



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I think its totally alright to think about more than just the academics. Many (I would say most) people consider city / location when they are applying for schools, and family is an even more valid reason. I think the big question is how MUCH better of a fit is the far away school? If the answer is a LOT better, then you probably should go.

Think about just the universities and take out your desire to be home. Can you see yourself doing well in both programs? Will you be satisfied with the worse-fit school? If you cant see yourself going to school there, then go to the other. However, if you would feel good about both then you have some thinking to do.

Then I would think about if being away from home will affect your ability to be happy and thrive. The goal is to eventually finish and it would be a shame to eventually quit because you need to reallocate. I would just weigh how important each factor is and decide what will be best for your life over all. 5-8 years is a decent chunk of it, after all.

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I would go with the school near your home. It sounds like family is really important to you. You can make the most out of the academics of any school you go to if you work hard, and you might find a related area of your field that you find even more interesting, but you can't change your family being 10 hours away. The departments might be a little different than you think, so you might end up being happier at school B anyways!

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