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Penn BE vs. BU BME vs. Cornell BME


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Hi everyone,

I recently visited all of the schools whose BME/BioE Ph.D. programs I was accepted to and have narrowed it down to Penn, BU, and Cornell. Here are the benefits and drawbacks of each school.


Benefits: Best fit with main POI, guaranteed funding/a spot in her lab, most prestigious, nice city, close to my girlfriend, grad students seemed happy/friendly

Drawbacks: No rotations, difficult to switch if advisor leaves/things don't work out, (relatively) far from my family


Benefits: Close to home, in a nice city/great area for biomedical research, prestigious program, POI is probably my second favorite

Drawbacks: POI doesn't know if she will have funding for me, no other professors I am remotely interested in working with, far from girlfriend, didn't have much in common with current grad students


Benefits: Several professors I could see myself working with, really happy, friendly students, cheap area to live in

Drawbacks: Not much going on in Ithaca, least prestigious program, no one professor I liked as much as the two mentioned before, far from family and girlfriend

Does anyone have any advice? I am currently leaning towards Penn and I know that ultimately I need to make my own decision based on my own values, but I am curious to hear opinions of people who may have faced a similar choice.

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It sounds like you should lean towards Penn since you have funding. Though I would always be wary basing a decisions on a single professor, it may not work out. Plus, since you listed it it seems you value being close to girlfriend, and long distance in grad school is not fun. The whole adviser might leave and you are screwed isn't really appealing.


If you want to consider location more. Granted Ithaca is a low-key small area, but it is absolutely gorgeous and always rated as one of the best town in the country. If you are looked for a nice area but still lots to do, I would pick Boston over Philly. Traffic is horrendous in both cities, but I find Philly to be a grimey crime infested mess (and I'm from there). 


What do you value the most? I'd say in order of top to bottom:


Distance to family or girlfriend: Penn, Boston, Cornell

Location: Boston, Cornell, Penn

Prestigious: Penn, Cornell, Boston

Funding: Penn... other two?

Options for adviser: Cornell, Penn, Boston


Good luck!

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I'm also a BME applicant this year, went to Cornell for undergrad, and will probably accept an offer from Boston University for the fall.


As far as my experience with Cornell goes, I can agree that its very different from a city environment which has a billion things to do, but there is something to be said for the community-based stuff that goes on here (which may have led to the camaraderie you observed between grad students) between the festivals in downtown Ithaca, the sports (read: hockey) following, wine tours, farmers markets, and outdoorsy stuff.


Academically, you need to decide based on flexibility. If you want flexibility from the program as in rotations and ability to switch professors, you have to be willing to be flexible about where you end up as well. If that doesn't sound appealing, then I'd say Penn for sure, where you can nail it down from the start. Also, the guaranteed funding sounds like a sweet deal.

Good luck!

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