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Which school? Please help.


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I just posted this question under my discipline, but I think this would be an appropriate place to ask as well. I am having a great deal of trouble deciding which program to accept. I think I've narrowed it down to two, but I really like the third choice as well.

School A has offered me a 4 yr fellowship--2 years of fellowship paired with 2 years of guarenteed teaching-- (I'm doing PhD and already have an MA). It also seems to be a closer match to my research interests, however the advisor I'd work with, while excellent, seems to be overstretching herself. Her students tend to take their paper drafts to a grad student paper writing service rather than her for help along the way because shes really busy, even though she tries really hard to fit everyone in. I think I prefer the location of school A as the town is fairly cool and I have relatives living nearby.

School B, on the other hand, seems more prestigious, graduates seem to get better tenure track and curatorial positions more often (as you know, finding jobs in the humanities is a frightening prospect), there are significantly more nearby museum internship opportunities, students work the program very quickly, and there are very close, hands-on working relationships between advisors and advisees. However the primary person I'd want to work with is away until January 2011 (but apparently some people work with 2 primary advisors and there are 2 people I want to work with there), it is less of a close fit to my interests, and the funding situation this year seems frighteningly grim (no funding offer but they make funding decisions on a yearly basis and tend to spread the wealth evenly and support students well historically).

I would truly appreciate any advice anyone can offer.

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It would have been an easy scenario had school B offered funding. You would probably take time until about Jan 2011 to complete coursework and other requirements to enter candidacy (I do not know if this is true for Art History but is true for most humanities and social sciences programs that I know of). Research interests might not be as good a fit as with school A but what's the point if the adviser is not accessible? I think that is a very important part too! Also as you seem to suggest, graduates from school B seem to be doing better when it comes to finding TT jobs.

If you have the means to take a loan and live with a debt (and if you're confident you will be able to pay it off), then I'd say school B! Its horrible if you have to take your drafts to a paper writing service rather than your adviser!

So I'd definitely say school B if you have the means to do it.

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It would have been an easy scenario had school B offered funding. You would probably take time until about Jan 2011 to complete coursework and other requirements to enter candidacy (I do not know if this is true for Art History but is true for most humanities and social sciences programs that I know of). Research interests might not be as good a fit as with school A but what's the point if the adviser is not accessible? I think that is a very important part too! Also as you seem to suggest, graduates from school B seem to be doing better when it comes to finding TT jobs.

If you have the means to take a loan and live with a debt (and if you're confident you will be able to pay it off), then I'd say school B! Its horrible if you have to take your drafts to a paper writing service rather than your adviser!

So I'd definitely say school B if you have the means to do it.

Thank you Liszt85 for your advice. I agree, finding TT jobs is HUGE. It really helps to bounce these ideas around and I am so grateful this forum provides a space for just that.

Your response also makes me realize I should be a little more specific. I am concerned about the professor at school B who will not be available until 2011. That covers the majority of the time I am taking coursework, which as I understand in Art History, forms the backbone of our dissertations. Our topics and research are supposed to come primarily out of those two years of coursework. I am afraid that if the advisor I am most interested in working with is not there, I will not have the opportunity to work in the area I hope to pursue. (This advisor specializes in the time period I am interested in, while the second person from school B has some overlap in theoretical interests from another time period.)

I am also concerned about more loans as about 50% of my MA was paid for with loans, which I have not paid back. And of course the job prospects in my field are truly frightening, so relying so heavily on loans is a little frightening to say the least. Hope this is more clear. I would truly appreciate any further advice.

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I think it's not that clear a choice...either way, the advisor situation isn't perfect, and you're really weighing loans against future job options. Are the TT placements at school B really so much better that you'd feel confident you could pay back at least another year's worth of loans, and possibly more, or would it be better to just graduate without debt? Also, if I'm understanding you right and you need to take courses with your future advisor, it is a big deal if the advisor isn't there and the courses aren't available. Maybe it would be better to go for the present-but-overstretched advisor, the students taking papers to the writing service could be not as bad as it looks if they're going mainly in early stages for structural and writing advice, and able to ask their advisor to look closely at the content when the writing is a little more polished. I'd say it's worth talking to those students more and getting a better idea what their experience is like.

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WIth that additional information, I might echo what miratrix said. Talk to the students at school A and find out if the advisor situation is all that bad. If it is not, I guess its a clear choice unless school A is ranked some 100 positions lower than school B and that would cause severe difficulties in finding a job later on, which I guess is not the case. So its school A if you talk to the students and find out that the advisor is accessible for discussions about content, etc while the writing service is only for formatting and such advice. Have you visited either of these schools? It might be a GREAT idea for you to do so.

I had thought initially that you'd have a good research fit at school B too but since your coursework heavily contributes to what field you'll be working in, unlike a lot of other programs, I guess that's a very important factor. Its important to do your PhD in the primary area of your interest. If you're interested in other periods, you could always cover those by postdocs.

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