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Can anyone give me suggestions on choosing schools?


yiqiu1989
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Hello, everyone. I applied for several 2014 fall linguistic programs (PHD). Now I got two admissions, one is SUNY Buffalo and the other is UC Davis. Currently, my concentration is linguistic typology.

Now the situation is like this:

SUNY Buffalo only admits me without funding (at least for the first year, because they say that I do not meet the school's presidential fellowship criteria, but I still have chances to be employed as TA in subsequent years if my academic performance is excellent). But UC Davis would like to accept me with funding (TA).

I am torn between the two schools. It does seem that SUNY Buffalo is better than UC Davis in linguistic typology; but UC Davis is strong in mind/brain/language. If I choose to go to UC Davis, of course, I would like to try its strongest subfield, but I also doubt whether I can survive the whole program there because I simply have no background  of psychology (or any other empirical studies).

Of course, this is my own understanding. In fact, I am an international student. Linguistics in my country is rather undeveloped (we do not have any undergraduate major and I study linguistics mainly all by myself), so I am not so sure about these two schools in US. As for the reason why I applied for these schools, it is fairly simple----they have the subfield of linguistic typology in their programs.

I know some of you guys in this forum are native Americans and have already been studying in a linguistic PHD program, can you give me some advice?

 

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 If I choose to go to UC Davis, of course, I would like to try its strongest subfield, but I also doubt whether I can survive the whole program there because I simply have no background  of psychology (or any other empirical studies).

No, you don't. If you want to focus on typology, and UC Davis accepted you knowing that you want to focus on typology, then you CAN do typology at Davis. Check out the research interests of faculty there, their courses, and past student dissertations.

 

SUNY Buffalo only admits me without funding (at least for the first year, because they say that I do not meet the school's presidential fellowship criteria, but I still have chances to be employed as TA in subsequent years if my academic performance is excellent). But UC Davis would like to accept me with funding (TA).

I don't know about you bt funding would be the red line for me. If a place isnt gonna give me funding, it's a NO. The only reason when funding could be negotiable is if you can fund yourself.

Edited by hoviariel
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John Hawkins at UC Davis does lots with typology–but surely you looked at his work when you applied?

 

I agree that you don't have to get involved with psycholing at Davis if you don't want to. There is support for several other subfields there.

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I agree with everyone that said you should definitely go to the school that offers funding, and that you don't necessarily have to do psycholinguistics work if you chose Davis. 

 

I'd also like to add that if you do become interested in psycholinguistics, that's okay too - even if you don't have a background in it yet. I'm sure you'll be able to develop your knowledge and skills during your PhD.  :)

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Getting an (even partially) unfunded PhD in typology sounds really risky to me. I agree with the others and would for sure choose the funded program. 

 

Also, it is good to have a program that has multiple specialities if your background in linguistics is spotty, as there is a high chance you will change focus/interests throughout the five years and it's good to have options. I have seen a lot of people come into our program and switch topics based on the personality/work style of the potential advisors - some professors are so awesome to work with that they inspire you to change to a subfield you wouldn't necessarily have otherwise chosen. 

 

Also fyi: it is COMPLETELY possible to do brain/mind/language-y things without a background in psychology. :) 

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Thank you guys so much for your opinions. It seems that all of you suggest me to go to UC Davis. Aha, but all of my friends in my country suggest me to go to SUNY Buffalo.

 

I know it is quite risky for me to go to a program without funding, but I know several professors in SUNY Buffalo do typology in approaches which are exactly similar to mine. So you guys may know that my approach is quite functionally-oriented (quite non-mainstream in US). But Hawkins in Davis do typology in a kind of way which is more formal. I don't know whether the word "formal" can exactly characterize his  approach. But I do think his approach does not suit me to a T.

 

As for funding, I know that none of the few students from my country attending the linguistic PHD program in SUNY Buffalo ever obtained fellowship when they were admitted to this program. It sounds pretty bad. They all paid tuition fees for their first year study. But in second year, most of them successfully secured financial support via being employed as TA. In fact, the so-called "fellowship" in SUNY Buffalo is tied with a 4-year TA. Then for those who are not funded, they have to apply for TA year after TA (except the first year). Yet I know it is still risky because places of TA available should first satisfy those fellows.

 

All my friends in my country suggest me to go SUNY Buffalo because they consider "match" is the most important factor. Besides, some professors in Buffalo are quite influential in functionalist camp. My friends do believe that an influential professor plus a match of interest counts everything. And it does sound that the financial situation in Buffalo is not exceedingly bad because I may still manage to secure partial funding in subsequent years as long as my scholastic performance is not so awful.

 

So now I am more torn between the two schools when I know you guys suggest me to go to UC Davis, ahaaaaa.

Edited by yiqiu1989
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Sounds like you really want to go to SUNY.  If that is what you really want to do and you are ok with the possibility of having to pay for your entire PhD and can afford it, than I say go there.  

 

Hawkins isn't the only person who does typology, Farrell does some as well, but nevertheless, I do believe you are correct in that Hawkins leans towards a formalist approach.  

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I do not want to badmouth Buffalo as I was also accepted and think it is a very solid program. I would say, however, that their program is a little dated and their specialties and research are a little on the older side. This is not always a bad thing! I just feel like, as a general trend, they are not as relevant or up-to-date in their research as other universities might be and may have more of a struggle placing their graduates with jobs as a result.

 

I personally know somebody at a school similar in size and rank to Buffalo who was all but guaranteed funding after their second year and told they would receive a TA-ship after their first semester. He ended up finishing unfunded and with a 4.0, which hurt him both financially and emotionally. He does not regret his PhD at all, but still harbors a lot of resentment that he was "all but promised" aid after the first semester. 

 

Anyway, those are just two small partially related comments that might help. Ultimately, there are no wrong decisions if you're happy with your decision!

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