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Should I Even Wait? CS PhD USC vs. UCSD


PhDerp
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The program at USC is an amazing fit for me! They have arguably the third best NLP research in the world (according to Microsoft Academic Search), are ranked 15th in AI by USNews, have many professors in NLP and at least one in speech processing (who will be my initial advisor), have novel methods of imaging speech production in that professor's lab (critical for my dream research project), accepted me pretty early in the process with an initial 2-year fellowship (so I can work with whoever I want to, as long as they want to work with me!), and my brother hates the school, so the running joke is pretty great. :P

 

[Take this all with a grain of salt: I've never done research before, and I'm easily excitable. I'm sure I'd think any program that accepted me is an amazing fit for me!!]

 

I'm also waiting to hear back from UCSD. I'm sure I'm not invited to their visit day since it's later this week. I'm clearly not a high-up choice for them... Though this may be because I applied under a professor who was still getting back from sabbatical. Anyway, the research I'd like to do at UCSD isn't really supported by their CS department, rather their biomedical engineering department (which I ironically found out during the USC visit day). The POIs I contacted were kinda just the people I thought to be most interdisciplinary. Still, for all I know, someone's going to contact me to work on the exact project I'm interested in any minute now! That's why I'm considering waiting to hear back from them.

 

 

I didn't really understand this whole application process until recently. (I only know anything about it now thanks to this website!) My applications were so mixed-up... I didn't really think about POIs or research labs, I just looked up interdisciplinary researchers who sounded interesting, even if they had nothing to do with my actual research interests. Computational neuroscience? Check! Language processing? Check! Let's apply here.

 

 

tl;dr: I think USC is a great fit for me, and I haven't heard back from UCSD yet. Since I don't know what I'm doing anyway, should I just accept at USC at this point? Or should I wait to hear back from UCSD?

 

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Well I could weigh all of your options for you, BUT, you could look at it this way:

 

Suppose you wait to hear from UCSD:

 

1) If you choose USC anyway, no one is at a loss, since you kept that spot warm by default.

 

2) If you choose UCSD, then you likely carefully considered your available choices, something you are entitled to do.

 

It really seems like your heart is dead set on USC, but what incentive do you have not to at least wait until the deadline? Why not leave the options open and consider all possibilities? At this point it's not like you're really ruining someone else's chances. I mean it sounds like even if you get accepted into UCSD, you'll go for USC anyway (since I did my undergrad in UCLA, I am supposed to give you an obligatory glare for that). But if you wait, at least you'll know that you made the

choice with everything on the table.

 

An aside: I think it's kinda funny, because I have to make a decision between two SoCal schools, and UCSD happens to be my top choice. And my application process was really mixed up as well >_>.

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Thanks for the response! And you're right, I didn't mention why I'm in such a rush:

Housing. I'm trying to clinch a sublet for the fall, and those are harder to come by than regular apartments. They keep popping up and getting grabbed before I have a chance to reply. I'd like to start looking sooner than later, and to be able to register for sites where they post them with a USC email address!

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Why are you waiting for San Diego?  To see if they have a better offer?  

 

I am from Southern California, yet went to school in Boston.  The housing market in SoCal is nowhere near as hectic as it is in Boston; there is no need to secure a place 6 months in advance.  I have no way of proving it, but I guaranty that for every one sublet that is being "snatched up", fifty more are sitting vacant.  LA is effin' huge.  

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Why are you waiting for San Diego? To see if they have a better offer?

I am from Southern California, yet went to school in Boston. The housing market in SoCal is nowhere near as hectic as it is in Boston; there is no need to secure a place 6 months in advance. I have no way of proving it, but I guaranty that for every one sublet that is being "snatched up", fifty more are sitting vacant. LA is effin' huge.

Thank you for the input! However I am still worried about housing for my first semester because initially, I'm going without a car. I'm going to need to have a good transit option, or live close enough to walk / bike safely. If there are still many options given these restrictions, then I agree it won't be an issue. But there are no promises that this will be the case according to the students I met who were in the same boat last year!

And before anyone says "It's not that bad, just be smart about it and you can commute from a further area..." I've thought about this and discussed it with a few people from the area. I really think being right by campus is the best option for me, within the patrol boundaries, if not a further away place with a direct line to campus. I'd prefer the closer option for my first semester, and these are the places that don't last long!

EDIT: And to answer the question why am I waiting for San Diego... That's the whole point of this thread! Should I even bother? I don't think so, but maybe there's something I haven't thought of. I'm asking if anyone can offer their opinions on my situation. :)

So far the verdict is: Why not wait for San Diego?

But I want to know: Why wait for San Diego?

Edited by PhDerp
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Is it possible to send an inquiry to UCSD to ask when you might hear?  I did this with one of my programs that I had some pretty extensive interactions with, but never heard anything final.  I emailed my POI, told her I had some other offers but I didn't want to respond until I had heard from them and if she had a timeline for when decisions might be made.  She told me to go ahead and accept another (unofficial rejection; she went into more details, but it's not relevant to this thread).

 

Asking very rarely hurts if you're polite, not pushy, and not asking multiple times.  You may or may not want to mention other offer.  In my case, I only mentioned it because I had previously been told "please let us know if you have other offers you need to respond to".  I did not say where the other offers were from.

 

If UCSD essentially rejects you, you can have your decision right there and start focusing on getting housing in LA.  If they don't reject you right away, you might at least get some idea of when you'll hear back and you can put off searching until then.

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Ugh, where were people like you when I was looking for someone to fall sublet for me two years ago?

Anyway, I don't think it would be so hard to find a sublet. I managed to get a winter/spring one from Japan (I coordinated the details from Japan). How do you even find sublets for the fall so early? I couldn't get a decent selection until like 2 months before the quarter started.

But do you know if you're probably just going to turn down ucsd once they accept you? Because it sounds like you have both your heart set on a place, and a time constraint for which making an early decision would be beneficial. Depending on your budget (LA can be expensive), and how picky you are about living arrangements, I'd probably just close up the waitshop and go all in on usc.

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I would wait to hear back from UCSD. I visited both schools and the area around UCSD is a lot more pleasant than USC. The housing is also cheaper if you live on campus there.

 

UCSD has some amazing programs and is more than worth waiting for, trust me. You shouldn't weigh your fright of securing fast housing over the next 5 years of your life. If you know that you will prefer USC without any doubt in your mind, then maybe it is worth accepting.

 

If you're wondering, I chose UCSD. I believe it has a much better reputation in California than USC. Your interest in the specific program you are accepted into is what is important though.

 

PS. Don't trust US news rankings. They are good for rankings lumps (~20) of schools together, but cannot distinguish well between schools close in ranking.

Edited by Rantar
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Thanks for all the input, everyone! Here's a quick round of responses:

@Munashi: I e-mailed them a bit ago, still no response. I tried calling, but the machine just told me to write an e-mail! Lol. I would try e-mailing POIs, but for an embarrassing reason, I probably won't... I was really applying to the program more than I was to any specific professor. I really didn't know what I was doing in the fall... :P

 

@the_sheath: Haha, sorry! I'm slow to graduate! XD

 

@Rantar: The thing is, you mention vaguely UCSD has amazing programs... But I don't see how it's at all better for my field! They don't have as many researchers available to work with, and they aren't as renowned in natural language processing. USC takes the cake on that. So it's nice that UCSD has great programs overall... But it doesn't really help if that doesn't include the one I'm interested in! That's really why I'm posting. I want to know what does UCSD have that should make me consider it? I really don't know! Is there anything? So far, the reputation and living areas are the only things to consider (thank you very much for that input, these are very important!). But I don't think the reputation of the school is worth losing out on a more-reputed advisor, and I know I'll be fine living in LA. :) (I shouldn't visit UCSD and see how much I'd prefer to live there... I can't regret it if I don't know what I'm missing out on! Lol)

 

I'll upvote you as soon as mine respawn, because that post was exactly the kind of information I was looking for. And since it turns out the things you mentioned are not enough to sway me, I really might just accept at USC soon!

 

"Don't trust US news rankings" Already on it! ;) It just helps when posting here to mention them, I think, since so many people bring it up. I'm more concerned about the Microsoft rankings which have to do with the sheer number of publications in conferences, but I know even that isn't an ideal metric!

 

 

 

Also, I remembered the other reason the earlier I decide, the better: my SO is moving with me, and he wants to look for jobs sooner rather than later. But just like the housing, this isn't necessarily a good enough reason to rush a decision.

 

Still, it's not really rushing a decision if UCSD has virtually nothing going for it. What could they possibly offer me to make it a better program for me? $1,000,000? :P

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But it doesn't really help if that doesn't include the one I'm interested in!

 

Then USC should be an easy choice for you! It is all about the research fit. If USC focuses on what you are interested in, then go with them for sure. I wouldn't take the top 3 (Berkeley, MIT, Stanford) because they aren't strong in what I am interested in.

 

LA is great, so don't worry about location - my cousin lives in Socal, so I get to visit often. There is so much to do in Socal! Since you're going without a car, make sure you find a way to get to fun places around LA.

 

If you can go onto UCSD's website and objectively determine USC has more of what you are interested in, don't hesitate to chose USC. It is not worth waiting especially since you aren't sure when you will hear back or what they will say. If USC has invested value in you already, it may be the better fit for you.

Edited by Rantar
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Keep in mind that UCSD was only found in 1960, so ratings by sheer publication number can be misleading unless you restrict it to recent times.

Edited by Rantar
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Keep in mind that UCSD was only found in 1960, so ratings by sheer publication number can be misleading unless you restrict it to recent times.

 

I did! It turns out this advisor in particular is up-and-coming (well published and cited in the past 5 years)*. That seals the deal for me. I can't imagine being happier about my future!! ^____^

 

Thanks again for all of your advice, everyone!! I'm going to accept my offer from USC tomorrow.

 

 

* Restricting the search to the past 5 years, my advisor-to-be was ranked #24 in the "Natural Language & Speech" category when organized by publications and field rating, #29 when by publications and citations.**

** I know that "rankings" aren't the best to go by, but I don't know how else to find out about the professor's reputation. I asked profs at my university, and they knew him and his work and said he was well-known. So yay! :P

Edited by PhDerp
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Congratulations on making your decision! :D Feels good, doesn't it?

It really, really does! So excited to do this!!

 

 

Awesome!!! Good luck, its great to hear that USC is the best fit for you. I hope you do some awesome things in the future.

 

Thank you so much!! I do, too. ;)

Best of luck to you, too, and do awesome things!!

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