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CalTech vs. UC San Diego (PhD Maths) ... please help!

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Hi all


I’m an applicant for a Maths PhD and yesterday I was accepted by CalTech from the waitlist. Now I have the choice between CalTech and UCSD and I’m not sure what to do!


I had a lot of thoughts about this last day / the last hours and I’m really afraid to make the wrong decision, so any advice or comments on the following would be highly appreciated!! Here my thoughts:



1.) Clearly CalTech is much much higher ranked and way more prestigious than UC San Diego and admission is more competitive, so initially I was strongly leaning towards CalTech but then I thought about a couple of things which I’m not sure how problematic they are:



2.) My research interest is Number Theory, particularly analytic number theory like e.g. prime number distribution, special values of L-functions, zeta-functions, etc. But CalTech seems to be very much focused on the algebraic side of number theory doing a lot of algebraic/arithmetic geometry as well which I’m less familiar with. So if here is some CalTech maths student, pls let me know whether one can do Number theory with more emphasis on the analytic side as well at CalTech?? (At UCSD one can)



3.) Related to the above: As the no of CalTech students is tiny the faculty size is also pretty small, around 15 – 20 math profs while UCSD has around 50 faculty members. Clearly research interests can slightly change over the years and I obviously don’t know what I’m gonna work on exactly, so I’m afraid that at CalTech I might be pushed into something I won’t be happy with because fields are just not covered by the faculty, while at UCSD I expect to have at least one prof for virtually every area. Can this be a real problem at such a small grad school as CalTech?? (Of course I know that most people regard the small size as an advantage but I don’t really see why.)



4.) Finally I’ve heard that the social life there is quite bad. Not much is going on and ppl are working all the time. (To get that right, I’m totally willing to work hard and I’m far from being someone who is partying every week, but is there anything happening at all?.) I’ve read student life is much worse than at most other grad schools, so is it really that bad? Also, considering the tiny number of people, does it “feel” like going to university or would the atmosphere be much different (and in what way different) from big schools like UCSD?



I’m really happy for every answer and like to thank everyone who is reading all this! Please let me know you opinions on this or if you have any CalTech experience, it would help me a lot. Thanks very much!

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CalTech itself may not be happening. But Pasadena is a cool town with lots of things to do (I grew up there) and you're in the LA area so Downtown is just a 30 minute train ride away. It's not like UCSD is all that bumping either. I wouldn't let that be the deciding factor, if you're the socially outing type you'll be fine, if you want a social life on a platter, well that isn't going to happen even at the smallest liberal arts colleges.

Edited by ZacharyObama
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