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What's more important - the name, or the community?


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Hi all,

I've been accepted to two different programs for a MA in English and both are offering comparable funding. The main difference between the two is that one university's name carries some prestige, whereas the other seems to have more faculty whose research interests intersect mine. Here are the programs in a nutshell:

School #1:
School #1 is a small, private university in DC (~15,000 students). Its name carries some weight, but I think mostly for its law and undergrad programs. The funding offer covers tuition for the two years leading up to the MA and provides a $7,000 stipend per semester for the first year, but the cost of living in DC is rather high: $1500/month is about the cheapest I could find for a one-bedroom in a decent area (I remain vigilant). During the second year I would get an hourly wage in lieu of the stipend. I do however really like DC and would love to live there. Instead of teaching, I would be working ~15 hours per week at a center devoted to teaching with technology where I would be doing mainly editorial work (and perhaps some research?) for some of its projects, which sounds well and good.

The program looks great overall, but I haven't yet found any faculty whose research interests overlap mine (digital humanities), and to my knowledge there isn't really a community for it. I did toss around the idea of trying to start some sort of network there but I don't know how realistic that is. I can take classes at other DC-area universities (which would be covered by the assistantship), but I think that would be the extent of how much cross-pollination I could do. At least two of the unis in the area have great digital humanities centers but I don't know how much I could participate in them.

School #2:
School #2 is a large "public ivy" with about 50,000 students. The funding offer was initially $9,760 per year on top of tuition coverage, but after letting them know about my other offer I received a fellowship worth an additional $4,000 per year. I would be teaching 1-2 classes per semester and they would be general ed writing courses. There is also the possibility of teaching summer classes which would provide extra money. The cost of living is much lower ($500/month could land me a large one-bedroom, and $1100 would nab me an unnecessary-but-awesome four-bedroompalooza), so even though the funding is about even for both schools I could afford a much higher standard of living in school #2's city. The city itself is a college town with about 100,000 people. It doesn't look like a bad place to live in, but I don't think it stacks up to DC.

Now, as for the program: there is a bustling digital humanities community at this school and there are a few faculty who I could work with, and one in particular looks great. I would definitely be getting involved in some groups on campus that are centered around DH-related topics. i should also mention that at the end of the two years I would be evaluated based on my academic progress and potentially receive an offer of admission into their PhD program.

At the end of the day it looks like School #1's biggest bragging point is its location and name, whereas School #2 has an established community of what I ultimately want to pursue. As my family loves to point out, putting School #1 on a resume would look great, but how much does that really matter in academia? I chose to pursue the MA because I was uncertain about going for the PhD, but it's still a big possibility.


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I would say that since you (at this point) are not sure about going on to a Ph.D., the public Ivy seems to be a better choice. An MA can be great for exploring your interests. You should go where the work excites you! $14k in DC is also insane. Furthermore, I think you're talking about Georgetown? If so, it's a great school, but the other one sounds like a good one, too. Don't forget that in grad school, it's who you work with and your subfield ranking that matter. If there's no one at school A who works on DH, then it might not be as easy to ease into that for the PhD.


About your qualms concerning the size of the cities: it's only two years! 100,00 people isn't tiny, and you can apply to PhD programs in big cities after that if you want (and hopefully get more money).


Good luck!

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