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Another HELP WHAT DO I DO cry for help


iluvgeeks
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I'm in THE most complicated situation ever (or maybe everyone feels that way). Well here goes.

School A is where my gut is telling me to go... School B is where my boss wants me to go. Easy, follow your gut, right?

But the reality is my boss is currently the only guy in my field of interest in my country, has considerable influence in the field, and he was the one who set up a joint program with school B, hence the vested interest in sending a student to his program to see if it works out. The program entails me working for half the time in School B and half the time with my current Boss, ending up with a PhD from School B.

The worry is if I offend my boss by turning down School B (he actually got really upset when he knew School B was my second choice), he will completely blacklist me and I'll never get a job in this field ever.

To make things worse, under pressure, I verbally agreed to go to School B, both to the boss and the faculty (boss's collaborators). Argh.

As a consequence I now lie awake all night beating myself up with regret.

Considerations:

School A and B are neck-to-neck in terms of facilities and faculty interests matching my own.

But some specifics about School A:

- Program has been ranked number ONE for decades. We're talking legendary awesome science that's been done here.

- Beautiful environment, fantastic weather, near nature, yet close to a big city, good public transport, etc...

- significantly better funding

- I get the sense they treat grad students better and are more organised, e.g. better housing

- Lots of friends here

- will almost definitely piss off the boss, and maybe burn more bridges at school B

And School B:

- less coursework and teaching requirements, probably only what's necessary

- can probably graduate in four years

- since I will be working for half the time with my boss, and will probably end up working for him as a postdoc anyway, the transition will be seamless. Sidepoint here: is working in the same lab for grad and postdoc a bad thing?

- will spend less time away from home

- will not anger the boss, thus not sabotaging my future in this field

-less money (probably can be made up for with the time saved on PhD and postdoc)

-don't know anyone here

- lousy location

- bad weather

- lower ranking

- I'll be a guinea pig: they haven't really worked out a structure for the program yet and this makes me nervous

- do I really want to work with a boss who pressures me into making decisions and whom I'm intimidated by? (but at the same time I don't know if school A's faculty will be any better) will i regret being pressured into this??

I am so lost!! I have brought this up several times with my boss but every time I do I just end up caving and agreeing that I'll do his program. I sought the advice of a few profs and postdocs and they all advise me to go to school B to avoid the politics and potential bridge-burning, since faculty and resources are equally great, but I have a feeling I will kick myself forever if I reject school A...

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I'll be short about this [but will likely edit it in time if others dont mention points i'll miss]:

it sounds like you're searching for someone to tell you what to do... but that's exactly the situation that got you into trouble [letting your boss tell you what to do]

now, i KNOW some will disagree with me but i'll let you know what i think: Go with School B but work with your boss on as limited a basis as possible. Why?

[*]you verbally agreed to do so. yes, you can ALWAYS reneg [it's your right] but frankly i feel it wouldve been better for you to have said, "i can't yet give you an answer" than to have given a shaky yes. whatever, you've already done that so let's start with what you've got.

[*]don't limit yourself to working soley with your boss. unless School B has a plain old terrible program you're likely to find stellar professors with which you'll be able to work. now, i take note to refresh that you did say, "the only guy in [your] field of interest in [your] country"... this makes things tricky [to say the least]. nonetheless crosscollaboration with leaders in fields not necessarily your own may help launch your career. being in your boss's shadow will not only stiffle your progress [please don't let this sound too much of an insult but you seem to have a "Jump/How high?"-type relationship with your boss.] in research this Boss should eventually be your collaborator and fellow researcher as the superior/subordinate relationship evaporates. just be careful not to get your PhD in Boss-ology. earning your own degree will involve cutting the umbilical [spellcheck!!!] cord. im not telling you to ditch your Boss. i'm saying you chould go out of your way to ensure that your Boss doesn't become your lifeline during your degree's progression.

[*]i understand youve a schoolcrush on Program A [don't we all have preferences!] but you'd be surprised how many people fall in love with schools other than the 'Top Choice'. Sure, it's a new program [& no one should suffer from being a guinea pig] but this may not be a testament to its research & to its rankings. i see you were accepted by your Top Choice School A... but what if you weren't? if School A had rejected you would you be in such turmoil or would you be looking for the silver linning of School B? if you can honestly say that School A rejecting you wouldve led to you turn down School B anyway... well then you had your answer the whole time.

in the end i hope you sincerely take a breather [you sound like you need the rest!] and at least consider what i, and others, will say.

... & don't let yourself be bullied. you're a grown up.

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grow a spine, stand up to your boss, tell school B you've made a mistake and accept at school a.

don't look back.

i don't know what your field is, but i've yet to hear of one where one person holds the sole power over whether or not you'll ever find work in that field. it may seem that way now, but unless we're talking about dr. frankenstein here and you're in geneva circa 1812, you will find a way to make a path for yourself.

this is a choice that goes beyond the next four years -- it seems to have to do with standing up for yourself and grabbing what you really want. in other words, it's about character. so go for it, i say.

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You mention science? there is an endless possibility in science and research in general is so interesting, so I wouldn't count on a specific topic. But that's just me, I know many believe they truly know what they should work on, and sounds like only a few follow through / stick to their original plans to pursue a specific topic.

On the other hand, it sounds like you and your boss are not the best match, so I wouldn't want to work with him to begin with. Remember, it's not only his reputation / prowess that will make you successful, but your own performance and happiness are what the determining factors.

On this note, if school A is number 1 and offers sufficient funding/attention/excitement for you, then go for school A. Bridges won't burn out if you end up doing amazing work in your field :D (exception: those overly prideful ppl).

Btw, I am curious how can funding from one school (A) be better than the other school (B) if school (A) requires more teaching? Good funding should be defined as adequate to support your career and does not interfere much with your study (less TA the better).

And again, you hate the location!

Location should not be a number one factor, but for those who get depressed or need some moments to refresh: living in a place where you don't absolutely hate (perhaps, if you love the area) can be quite beneficent to your development.

Hope this helps!

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From reading your post it sounds obvious that you want A and are just having trouble working up the courage to stand up to your mentor. I'm having a hard time imanging such a small field that you could seriously dammage your career prospects on the basis of one strained relationship, though - I've been learning that American sociology is a very small world over the last couple months, but even if my undergrad mentor was upset with me over my choice and somehow managed to prevent me from ever working in my state's public university system I wouldn't really care that much. (But, then again, I have a great working relationship with him and I do truly value his opinion - your situation sounds different.) Do you feel that returning to your country where this one guy holds all the shots is what you really want to do? Or, worst case scenario, could you envision yourself going for a H1-B or career in a third country? Ranking matters (not so much within the top 10-20 programs in a field, but very much between, say, top 10 and 20-50), and IMHO you want to keep as many options open as possible. And having good mentors *really* matters - I'll join the chorus observing that it sounds like you're being abused by this guy and risk being exploited by his buddies at B. One of the reasons why I'm having such a hard time rejecting my school B is because the people there really want me to make the best choice and are willing to acknowledge the strengths of program A...

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Considerations:

School A and B are neck-to-neck in terms of facilities and faculty interests matching my own.

But some specifics about School A:

- Program has been ranked number ONE for decades. We're talking legendary awesome science that's been done here.

- Beautiful environment, fantastic weather, near nature, yet close to a big city, good public transport, etc...

- significantly better funding

- I get the sense they treat grad students better and are more organised, e.g. better housing

- Lots of friends here

- will almost definitely piss off the boss, and maybe burn more bridges at school B

And School B:

- less coursework and teaching requirements, probably only what's necessary

- can probably graduate in four years

- since I will be working for half the time with my boss, and will probably end up working for him as a postdoc anyway, the transition will be seamless. Sidepoint here: is working in the same lab for grad and postdoc a bad thing?

- will spend less time away from home

- will not anger the boss, thus not sabotaging my future in this field

-less money (probably can be made up for with the time saved on PhD and postdoc)

-don't know anyone here

- lousy location

- bad weather

- lower ranking

- I'll be a guinea pig: they haven't really worked out a structure for the program yet and this makes me nervous

- do I really want to work with a boss who pressures me into making decisions and whom I'm intimidated by? (but at the same time I don't know if school A's faculty will be any better) will i regret being pressured into this??

The verbal agreement might have been a mistake.

Tell the boss that funding issues might prevent you from attending B. It's either an out (how can he blame you for following the money?) or a nice way to get a raise...

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Do you really think that one person really holds that much influence over the whole field? I doubt that.

Go to school A. You've put such a bad wrap on school B already that you're only go to be that much more miserable going there.

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Right now your question is whether to go to school A (where you obviously like it better) or school B for the sake of the reasons you listed.

I think the question should be revised to: "OK I have to go to school A, how can I reverse this situation and tell him I'm not going to school B without burning bridges and pissing him off?"

You can make up a lot of reasons, some that he will have no rights to get pissed off at you.

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I think it would be worthwhile to talk this out with someone. From my experience, these stories are always a little more complicated than what you can cover in writing. Is there someone from your undergrad institution, for example, that you could speak with? Or a mentor (not someone too involved), counselor, etc? I think talking it out often helps you better understand how you feel about the situation.

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A! A! A! Follow your heart! Carpe diem!! It's YOUR life!

I agree with the other statements made by the pro-A people. Especially the part about how no one can possibly fault you for going with the better financial offer. Enjoy!

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