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Am I being silly basing a decision off location/people?


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Both Master's programs.

 

School A: $18k for two years.  Full tuition remission. More established program.  Advisor is a good combination of hands on/hands off.  Has made it clear that she sends students to conferences and such.  New lab with spankin' new equipment. Well funded.  Problem?  The school is in a VERY rural location.  Like, the woods.  I'm coming from Chicago and am terrified of being away from civilization for so long (even two years).  I also didn't seem to mesh very well with the students there (though that could be in part due to the overwhelming majority of prospective and current students being in ecology whereas I'm in microbiology... and we're very different sorts of people.)

 

School B: I haven't received word on my funding status.  But the PI is very well funded and mentioned that he would only have me TA if I really really wanted to TA (else wise I would RA).  I got along really well with the people there (faculty and potential students alike).  I really like the location and weather.  Problem?  Funding, obv.  The current GA rate is 10k/9 months.  10K! It's possible my PI would supplement my stipend... but I'm not sure if he'd be willing to throw down an extra 8-10k for me.  AND it's only partial tuition remission... meaning I would pay $60/credit hour out of pocket. Also... the PI here is kind of a big deal.  He's super busy and has a 'large' lab (2 post-docs, 2 PhD students, 1 lab manager, and >6 undergrads)... so most of my advising would come from the other people in the lab.

 

In terms of developing into a good scientist... I get the feeling that school A would be a better choice for me.  It's a more developed program, the advisor seems to be a good advising mix, new equipment, willing to fund trips to conferences, etc.

 

But... when I visited school A, I had a weird feeling.  I didn't really get along with the students there (nothing hostile, just didn't mesh well) and I'm worried that I won't make friends when I get there.  (Again, this is probably because there weren't very many available microbiology students to meet.)  And it's so RURAL!

 

Am I doing this the wrong way?  Thoughts?

Edited by Tubulin
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In terms of developing into a good scientist... I get the feeling that school A would be a better choice for me.  It's a more developed program, the advisor seems to be a good advising mix, new equipment, willing to fund trips to conferences, etc.

 

 

Is your top priority in getting a M.S. to develop into a good scientist with adequate funding, or to make friends in a large city and stress about not enough funding?

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I think that while visits are helpful, it's hard to gauge what it would really be like once you were there. It's likely that you'd get along much better with the other students once you were attending the school and had gotten to know them, than when you were just meeting them over a weekend. Even if you still didn't like them, you could always try to make friends elsewhere.

 

As for the location, it's only two years. Consider it a learning experience.

 

I think it's just important to keep in mind that choosing a grad program is a lot different from choosing a four-year college. It's important to be happy where you are, but the priorities have sort of shifted.

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I'm working in a very rural area after living in metropolitan areas my whole life. It can be a little hard at times, but I think I'm the better person after experiencing a totally different style of life.

 

I've learned A LOT about myself, what I like, what I don't like, what I value and what's really important to me. Plus, it's just interesting to see a new type of life and understand how different/same people end up.

 

If you don't have a history of depression, i'd think that this whole rural thing may end up being a valuable (or at least interesting) experience for you. If nothing else, it'll make your return to "civilization" a lot sweeter.

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Tubulin, I totally understand where you are coming from.  I do think location is important in making a decision, because you don't want to be unhappy where you will be living, right?  Also, take into account other factors surrounding the location such as the culture of the town you're in, what students do for fun, etc.  My situation is a little different since I will be spending the next 5-7 years of my life at my program, but I know someone who said that he was totally fine living in a rural area (from a diverse, urban area) during the two years of his masters program because he was in the library the whole time.  

 

If I was in your situation, I personally think you should choose school A.  It is kind of contradictory to what I said above (my situation is a little different and you can PM me if you want to know why), but I don't think the more comfortable/familiar location is worth sacrificing all the benefits of school A.  Like the poster said above, it also may be a great way to discover more about yourself.  Also, a masters program with funding sounds great, because not many people have such a luxury.  Not being in debt after your program is a great situation to have, especially since you think school A would better develop you as a scientist (might be more able to get a job or admitted into a PhD program with better training).  

 

PM me if you have any more questions!  And make sure you are 100% sure of the decision you'll make, and that you won't regret it.  I'm sure you will make the best decision for yourself, because in the end it is your life, not any of ours. :)

Edited by eaboo316
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I think you should go to A and look at it as a challenge and new experience. You will have time to warm up to people and make friends, and won't you be exceedingly busy with your research and studies anyhow?

 

Also it seems like $18K in a rural area will serve you far better than a mere $10K in an urban area.

 

I understand what it's like when you don't get the best vibe from a school or from your peers, but I think it's most important to look at the practical concerns and advantages here and how a program will best serve you for the rest of your career.

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Just to be contradictory, I wouldn't necessarily go with School A.  It sounds like A wouldn't be a bad choice, but I wouldn't ignore your gut feeling on it.  While I will be going for 5-7 years and not 2, I definitely did factor in location, weather, and fit with students - after all, what's the point of a good program if you're not happy.  If you think you could handle it and maybe not just love the city, then A would be okay, but if you truly feel that the location would make you miserable, it's not worth it.

 

Having said that, the fit with advisor worries me more in what you said.  If your PI will not be a good mentor to you, that may not make a good graduate school experience. 

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