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Higher ranked program vs. State school with fellowship?


Jacie_ChE
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So, I’ve narrowed down my choices between 2 schools.

 

Financially, School A. is giving me more $tipend (about 2000 more per year), and housing is cheaper there. They are a bigger name and higher ranked in in my field (like top 20 Chem Engineering on multiple lists) than B.

 

School B has a prettier local (State A is very flat, and is kinda depressing looking). They are a decent state school and they are much closer to my current location, which would make the move significatly easier.

 

I think there are a few more professors at A than at B that I would be interested in working with, but School B is offering me a fellowship.

I would be a bit concerned that the caliber of students at School A would be higher and it would be harder for me to get to do research with the particular professors I would want, whereas though there are less options at School B the fellowship basically gives me the ability to work with whoever I want, so I don’t have to worry as much, and there are some interesting professors at school B.

 

I am really torn between these two programs. I’ve had good visits at both and keep going back and forth. Is the chance at going to a more well known university with potentially more opportunities worth passing up on the fellowship at a lower ranked states chool that is in a better location for me?

 

And suggestions/advice?


 

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More money, lower cost of living, at a better school with more interesting professors and smarter fellow students (future peers).  Seems like an easy choice to me...

Edited by iowaguy
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More money, lower cost of living, at a better school with more interesting professors and smarter fellow students (future peers).  Seems like an easy choice to me...

I second this. No success is significant if easily earned, dood! :-)

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I wouldn't make a decision on the basis of $2000 a year for a PhD stipend.  I also wouldn't worry about the move too much.  You only have to do it once.  Also, fellowship vs. RA doesn't really matter too much if you can pick who you want to RA for.  You're going to be an RA on a fellowship, too, because RAing is what helps you get jobs by way of publications.  My first two years I was an RA and my last 3 years I've been on fellowship, and they have been indistinguishable from each other.  (TAship vs. fellowship is different, though.)

 

It really depends on how far apart the reputation is.  Top 10 to top 20, I would think, doesn't really make that big of a difference; you can probably have access to most of the same opportunities from both places.  Top 20 to not even in the top 100, however, makes a much bigger difference.

 

The caliber of students doesn't necessarily mean more competition to get into labs, because most schools build cohorts with students with a wide range of interests who don't necessarily want to work with the same people.  In my cohort, I was the only person with interests like mine and the only person who was 'competing' to work with any one particular person.  Like others pointed out, having more competitive classmates can expand your thinking.

 

This one sounds like it's going to have to be a gut decision, although I'd be leaning towards School A, too.

Edited by juilletmercredi
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Everyone (including my family) seems to want me to pick school A.

I think, as I've had another week or so to mull it over that the 2 things I can't seem to let go of with school B are:

- the fellowship,

-and the location.

If I go to school A I would be putting a lot of stress/distance on my relationship (of 5.5 years) and I don't want to lose that.

And there are a few really interesteng professors at school B as well.

 

I think School A is the more risky but logical chioce and school B is the safer more homey chioce.

It is going to be a hard decision...

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School B sounds like a better fit for your personal life from what you said in your last post. That is a huge factor, especially if you are in a serious relationship. High ranking and money don't matter if you hate your life outside of school and contrary to popular belief grad students still need a social life. 

 

Honestly I would go with school B. You are getting a great education, funded with a fellowship, and you get to keep your relationship strong living in a location you really enjoy. That would make for a much more balanced 4-6 years of your life. 

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Well, you didn't mention your SO in your original post, that changes the dynamics.  But, just to play devil's advocate to what Deadmeat says - if your relationship doesn't work out, will you regret attending School B and not enjoy your time there anymore?

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I agree with Iowaguy and a couple of other posters.  Since you'll spend the next 5-6 years at this place, you need to make sure it'll meet your needs (personal life included).  As an applicant, I realized that that would be important, BUT I didn't realize how much.  I was deciding between a higher ranked place in a remote locale and a solid school in a metropolis.  I picked the latter.  My life is much more balanced (and happier) here than it would've been at "Remote University". 

My only question to you is this: do you have your eye on academia?  If so, you might want to consider ranking a little bit more (especially now...post-sequester).  If you're headed for industry, I think it matters less.  In any case, good luck and congrats.

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I am planning to go back to industry afterwards.

My concern would be with turning down a top 20 program to attend School B might hurt my jobs prospects in the future. But I am leaning towards B for location and fellowship reasons.

Any thoughts?

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