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Uniqueness vs. fit


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Hey All,


I've been struggling with this decision for weeks, here is a breakdown of my situation:


School A:

  • Ranked approximately 4th in the field
  • POI well known in the field
  • Research fit closest to where my interests are headed
  • Great at placing students in good post-docs
  • Smaller city (I'm originally from a big city)
  • Good research fit with people, less good personality fit?
  • Quals, slightly more money, have to work 3 semesters as a TA (total across 5 years)
  • Good department talks / conferences

School B:

  • Ranked approximately 12th in the field (but probably a better known school overall)
  • POI recently got tenure, but in the area of his specialty is potentially ranked ~3
  • Research fit is interesting, but I'm going to have to build bridges between my knowledge and that of the people I'd be working with to get a better fit
  • Unknown about placing students as post-docs
  • Awesome big city
  • Great personality fit with POIs and other students
  • No quals, insignificantly less personal funding (works out to ~$500/yr less), more personal travel funding, have to work 7 quarters as a TA
  • Awesome annual debate between invited speakers, "too many talks"

The real problem I think I'm facing is this:


At School A I may encounter a fantastic fit between my POIs, but also risk the possibility of coming out slightly cookie cutter (the lab believes very strongly in one theoretical framework that I'm not certain I agree with yet). Instead, School B might be a less good fit (and is also based a bit on the research that comes out of A), but will require me to pave my own way (thus preventing me from being cookie cutter-esque).



Edited by phalanges
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It seems to me that A is a better research fit, while B is a better personal/holistic fit.  Honestly, my gut would probably lead me to B.  I'm more productive with an advisor that I really mesh with.  I also do better work when I'm happy with my surroundings (school and city). 

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Thanks for your input. I don't think I'd be unhappy at A, since I currently live in similar sized town (and have made it work), and I actually intellectually really get along with my POIs, it's just that I had a very familiar feeling with the professors at B, and really love the city (debatably my favourite US city). It just seems crazy to me to pick where to go based on a feeling / city given that these two institutions will take my research in two different directions. But maybe that is enough...

I think I've narrowed down my decision to the direction / style of research by each institution, and have been trying to determine which I care more about (investigating the how (processing/language) or the why (social/cognition)).

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