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Guest panicking!

Need last minute help deciding!!

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Guest panicking!

I'm down to two choices...With the first choice, the school is very highly ranked with a great academic program and my future is much more set, but everything in terms of the present (i.e., horrible location/city, no friends or family within a 200 mile radius, not a "perfect" match research-wise, extremely long program). In the second choice, the program is no where near as prestigious, and my future becomes much less certain, but for the present, it works almost ideally (city that I love, family and friends, good match research-wise, academic program half as long). Of course this all comes down to a personal decision, but anyone have any advice to share on how they have or would come to a decision?

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Guest jeni

I was in more or less the same position and decided to go to the prestigious place, with a long program, in a city I know noone. In the long run it will help with jobs and the long program could prepare a student better than a half-program (just thesis-oriented). I'd likely meet a lot of new people and make friends there anyway, and who knows, might even like the new city.

I couldn't choose the other program, because the future would be less certain and I'd always look back at this choice. I'd blame myself for not having taken it if I would not find jobs as easily in the future. From my observation, when universities hire assistant profs, they are almost always from top schools. I will not mind 4-5 years in the place I chose because it will likely pay off. But then I quite like their research projects, so it was way easier for me to decide.

I cannot tell you to do exactly as I did, because your case is not exactly the same. My advice is to choose the place you think is best for yourself. Good luck!

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Guest panicking!

Thanks for the advice jeni! The long program however is 7 years long, and the shorter program is 4-5 years long, but since they will count some of my Master's credits, it would be closer to 3 and a half, whereas the first program will not count my credits, as it is a different field...And since I've been in my Master's program for 2 years, with the long program it would mean 9 years total in grad school (!!!). I think you're right though in that I would probably kick myself down the line and think back to this decision if I can't find a job and for that reason I'm prolly gonna choose the more prestigious place...But at the same time, if I go to the prestigious place, and am miserable, I might not do as well as I would in the place that I would be happy...Gah....

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It sounds to me like you might be leaning towards the place closer to home/friends. Quality of life is something you should seriously consider. If it were a really amazing job that would help your career down the line, but it was in a crappy location, would you feel any differently about it?

You could go either way. But I think it would be easy for someone who doesn't know anything about your personal life to tell you to walk away from it and go to a prestigious program.

My opinion.

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I agree... It needs to be a personal choice based on what is most important to you. Normally I would say go for the better school academically because you won't have time for much else, but that is just for me. Go with your gut! Good Luck!

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Which school will let you do what you want to do? I ask because I have talked to some students that have chosen an "institution" over the ability to do the work that they really wanted to do and they have found significant limitations in doing that - namely faculty and institutional support has been less than desirable. From the conversations that I have had with many professors, applicants and others as of late, most have emphasized that the best place is the one in which there is faculty (at the very least one professor) that is really excited about the direction you want to take with your research and your interests and is excited about possible mentor pairings. It becomes, in some ways, much more important than considerations of name ranking because you need at least one ally at your university that really gets what you want to do. Now, if you have found that at both schools, excellent! Then it really is a matter of weighing numerous considerations. Though, if I may be so bold, I have spoken with a fair share of professors who have shown, through their career trajectories, that there is no such thing as a "set future." Certain schools may give you a more sturdy rock from which to leap, but in the end, all students have to make that very big leap into their careers. Name value is not the only source of preparation - opportunities and solid relationships with professors are also important considerations. As is quality of life.... which makes this whole process more bearable! :)

Best of luck to you!

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Guest panicking!

Thanks for all the advice...And it's true, that going to a good school does not guarantee anything, just puts you in a better position to start from. I'm leaning towards the less prestigious school, but know I should go to the more prestigious school. There are professors that I would like to work with at both institutions, who seem to be interested in me as well, but I particularly liked one professor at the less prestigious school, his projects, his attitude, his research directions, and just basically the whole package. This plus every other factor that works well with the school makes it very tempting. I tried making a list with all the plusses and minuses of both programs and the less prestigious school seemed overwhelmingly to be the "best" choice overall...However, as one of my professors put it, I'd basically be sacrificing everything else I'd want in a program for the prestigious school, and he personally thought that it was still well worth it, not just in terms of ranking, and job prospects, but quality of education. It's gonna end up being a last minute gut decision...

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Guest guest

Go with your gut. Call me crazy, but I turned down not one, but three more prestigious programs for a program that is quite good in itself, but not top 5.

Believe me, the prestige issue was killing me for the past couple of months but ultimately, I knew that I wasn't the type of person who needs prestige to be happy. I've talked to at least 20 faculty regarding this and the general consensus is that although a top-ranked program won't hurt you, it's really what you have accomplished and who you are as a person that matter.

If it's worth noting, being a mediocre student at a top program can also hurt you.

Good luck.

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Guest genna

I've been in a very similar situation. Ultimately, I chose the program that is bigger in my field and now I'm all excited to start. YOU and your attitude decide how the next 5-7 years turn out to become ... once you make a decision it will turn out ok!

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ok... seeing that there are mixed messages being given, I have a quick question. How far apart are these schools? Is it top 5 v. 50? If it's a HUGE difference in a very competitive field I would have to say prestige. If it's a moderate difference and/or the field is not so competitive for job placements then you have some wiggle room.

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Guest panicking!

Therein lies the problem...The academic disciples aren't the same, although they are related. The prestigious school is ranked top of its field, and the program is well established, while the less prestigious school has a much newer program that is ranked around 60-70 or so...

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Guest panicking!

I should probably add that the guy at the less prestigious institution is pretty huge in his field, which makes it more confusing

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Guest guest a la mode

Your decision is a tough one, but only you know yourself and how you will likely be in each place. Ultimately if you are still undecided, you should call up professors in your field that know you and get their opinions. Nobody online can know what you should do really, and your gut should tell you more than anything.

A few things to consider:

You will make friends at either school! You can always visit your family and friends from time to time. I know we will all be on budgets, but there are ways to make it work. It is near impossible to always be near family, esp. when you are going the academic route.

I'm not sure why one program takes half the time of the other, but that is a major consideration. You said they are in different fields-- another big consideration. For example, getting my PhD at Harvard would have taken me 6 years (because they don't recognize an MA from a school other than Harvard) and at my school it will take (ideally) 4 years. It is important to me that I be able to get back to work ASAP. It is not in your best interest to be doing your PhD for any longer than it needs to take. However, if one of your schools is something like Harvard, then maybe it's worth the sacrifice. I'm not sure how long you mean when you say it will be "extremely long".

Having said that, four-five years is NOT that long. It may seem like a long time. But if you are in your late twenties and you think back to what you were doing 5 years ago, it just doesn't seem like that long ago. So, my tendency would be to make the short-term sacrifice for the long-term good.

All the best to you, and congrats on your acceptances! Talk to professors to get the best opinion. They will be less biased than family and friends who want you close.

PS- Post and let us know what you decide!

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Guest panicking!

You're right, it's a pretty tough decision and I have already asked professors in the field and gotten different advice from different professors, which confused me even more! By long I meant 7 years (M.S. not recognized), versus 3 and a half (M.S. recognized). I've got a few more hours to decide (really cutting it close to the wire, one school needs a response by tomorrow morning!)...

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Guest guest a la mode

Hi again,

I've already said most of what I have to say. But my reaction to hearing 7 years vs. 3.5 years was YIKES. Big difference. My instinct would be to try to talk to current students at both schools, if you haven't already done this. I know it's super last minute. Are students burning out in a 7-year program? You don't want to drop out because it's so painfully long. This is what bothered me about Harvard because it's like, um, yeah, why can't you recognize my MA from a top program for which, by the way, I am still paying student loans? It's very frustrating. Are you prepared to go to school for 7 years? Last anecdote: I know someone from my undergrad program who went straight to do his PhD at Yale, right after graduation. He is still at Yale, 6 whole years later. In that time, which was the bulk of my twenties, I lived in France, in Japan, had two awesome jobs, taught high school, etc, etc. And that guy still has one more year at Yale. He may be doing amazing research, and I'm definitely not knocking Yale, I'm just saying, how much are you willing to give up for the big name?

There are pros and cons to both. I'm curious to know what professors said who recommended going with the less known/ranked school that is close to friends and family.

I hope this post did not make the debate worse for you. I wrote it with the best intentions! Good luck and post again :)

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Wow, this sounds like a really tough situation.

I know this may not help, but it really sounds like you can't go wrong. Both choices seem to have a lot going for them (e.g. prestige/smarts of your own advisor seem to matter as much as prestige of the overall program). Once you sort out your priorities and choose, you should be fine!

I'd say that you should choose based on research interests (especially if you are pretty sure they'll stay the same), and then ask yourself if you can be happy in the place/situation you chose for the requisite number of years. If you aren't happy, your work may suffer, so it's important to know that you'll be able to cope.

I was soooo in the same situation, and sympathize. Congrats on your acceptances. And do post to let us know what you decide.

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This

However, as one of my professors put it, I'd basically be sacrificing everything else I'd want in a program for the prestigious school, and he personally thought that it was still well worth it, not just in terms of ranking, and job prospects, but quality of education. It's gonna end up being a last minute gut decision...

makes me worry a bit. Sacrificing "everything else you'd want in a program" sounds a bit sad.

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Guest no longer panicking!

Thanks for the advice and the anecdotes! It was definitely a very tough decision. In the end I decided that going to a school for one professor may not be the right thing to do in case things don't work out, and that the difference between the two schools was too great and I chose the more prestigious institution...I was essentially going back and forth the whole time, and emailed my response literally one minute before the deadline!! I don't think I sacrificed everything else I wanted in a program, it's just that one school had more certainties than the other...As for the professor who suggested the less prestigious institution, he said that if you're not happy you won't do well, and theres no point going to the more prestigious place, as duckrabbit also said. (Btw, did you end up choosing the more or less prestigious school for your decision?). However, I think for this situation it was a case of knowing that I'd be happy somewhere, do great research, and it would take less time, vs. taking a risk, doing great research, and taking more time, but also being more well prepared after that...and no risk no reward right?

It was a very hard decision and I'm still somewhat second-guessing myself, right now mostly on the time issue, more than any other factor, but it's not bothering me to the point that I can't deal with it right now, and overall I'm happy with the decision. My plan is to work as hard as possible and I know that the school is interested in shortening the average graduation time, so I'll try my best to help them along :)

Thanks again for all the advice, and hopefully I made the right decision! Good luck to everyone else still making a decision!

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Congratulations! It really does sound like you made a great decision. :D Especially since you'll be happy with your research opportunities and the prospect of rewards (= jobs!) when you finish, you'll surely be able to cope with the living situation. (Anyway, nobody's living situation is perfect in graduate school, and people definitely make it.) Prestige doesn't hurt, either!

:wink:

I ended up choosing the less prestigious school -- in my case the decision hinged (partly, at least) on research interests. In terms of the interests that motivated me to apply to graduate school in the first place, the two departments were roughly equal, but the less prestigious one is home to a professor with whom I thought I'd work especially well, and the location is one I know I can enjoy for 5-7 years.

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Guest not panicking!

duckrabbit, out of curiousity, how much of a difference was there in terms of ranking between your two programs?

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Not that much -- one is ranked about five places higher than the other. However, I have every reason to believe that the program I didn't choose is going to move up in the rankings (new hires, etc.). Also, the school I didn't choose is known for a number of very good departments; the school I did choose is known primarily for the department I'm joining and one or two others.

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