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Prestige or funding?


holdsteady
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I'm going to school this fall for an English MA.

 

This is not a degree with sure job prospects, of course. I have been admitted to perhaps the most prestigious university in Canada (keeping in mind that prestige is not as big a deal in Canada as it is in the States), one with a legitimate international reputation. I've also received little funding at that school. On top of that, tuition fees are much higher (more than double) my other choice. Funding would cover about half of my first year's tuition. I may win an external scholarship for my second year, but that will remain uncertain until well after I've begun my studies.

 

Simply put, I'd be going much further into debt if I go there.

 

If I go to my other option, I'll receive funding that covers the lower tuition costs for 16 months. That's at a minimum. I'm still eligible to receive funding that's only decided in the fall. In other words, I would not be paying for my degree. This school also has a work program that should give me work experience and financial security, allowing me to probably graduate with some savings.

 

Every time I think I'm certain I'm going for the latter option (it's not like it would prevent me from going to the top PhD programs in Canada), I think of the reputation of the school I'd be rejecting and the city it's in. Still, I'd be paying out of pocket for an MA in English.

 

Help. Please.

 

 

 

 

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I understand it's difficult to turn down an attractive offer, but you know yourself it makes no sense to pay for an English MA. As long as the other school allows you to later pursue your interests - which it sounds like it will - I think it's by far the better option. 

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Agree with fuzzylogician. The other thing to consider is that prestige only goes so far--whereas your accomplishments and successes at a "lesser" university (achieved without the stress of worrying about money) will speak for themselves.

 

Taking the offer at the more prestigious university, sans funding, just seems like it will only lead to regret.

 

Certainly, you might always have a little "what if?" in your mind if you go to the "lesser" one...but would you rather have a little "what if?" or a big student loan bill? Will the "what if?" matter to you two years from now if you are really successful at your second choice?

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Certainly, you might always have a little "what if?" in your mind if you go to the "lesser" one...but would you rather have a little "what if?" or a big student loan bill? Will the "what if?" matter to you two years from now if you are really successful at your second choice?

 

The problem is that the "what-ifs" always happen. Whenever you have two (or more) choices and you're letting all but one of them go, there is (at least for some time) that lingering question of what would have happened if you'd chosen to go another way. Assuming that you only applied to schools that you're interested in, there is at least something attractive about all of your options, so even if one offer is on paper better than the other, there were also things that attracted you to the school with lesser offer. 

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I understand what you are going through as I am in a very similar situation.

What is it you ultimately hope to achieve? That question really helped me. If you want an MA to help open more doors for you (career-wise) and to increase your eventual salary the small school with funding would seem to be the best choice (based on the limited information provided). If however you want to go for your phd or something like that, especially abroad, then going to the prestigious school, busting your butt to stand out, and taking on the debt is worth it. 

It's an extremely difficult choice, and sadly it's one that gets little sympathy, and few listeners who are willing to ACTUALLY listen, understand the predicament, and offer GOOD advice (so many people either call you a lucky whiny b*tch, or say 'oh man, go there, that is such a fun city and the clubs are so awesome!' (yeah, because we are working so hard and paying so much to drink it up and party.)).

 

ps. as a future MA in English please don't judge my poor spelling, grammar and punctuation too harshly! 

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If you want an MA to help open more doors for you (career-wise) and to increase your eventual salary the small school with funding would seem to be the best choice (based on the limited information provided). If however you want to go for your phd or something like that, especially abroad, then going to the prestigious school, busting your butt to stand out, and taking on the debt is worth it.

I'm admittedly in a different field than you, but my inclination was actually the opposite where if you want to work with a terminal masters it's best to go for prestige in order to stand out on the job market. But, if you're good enough now to study at [top university], your work during the funded MA will still be of top quality and enable you to apply to a very good PhD program. Another thought is that when doing a PhD application you can say that you were in a funded program, I imagine that's going to look a hell of a lot better than an unfunded degree.

But, again, I'm in a different field where it's actually the norm to go from BS to PhD instead of BA to MA to PhD and where an unfunded offer is a very strong red flag.

Edited by Vene
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I'm also in a similar situation, so I'll relay some advice I got from a professor I talked to last night. In terms of the ranking (this is for U.S. PhD programs, so I don't know how much it applies for Canadian schools), he mentioned that although it shouldn't matter, it often does make a difference to admissions committees what the ranking of your MA school was.

 

He also suggested that I contact the schools individually to let them know that another program has offered me funding/a stipend, and see if they can work with me in that sense- so you can always contact the prestigious school and see if they can work with you! You've done the hard work of getting in, so they are now the ones who have to convince you to pick them. The worst they can say is that they can't offer you more money.

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I tend to agree with everything that has been said here.

 

I am also Canadian, and applied to four schools. I have two that were more or less tied for first choice, but I knew from the get-go that if I got little/no funding at those choices then I would have to go where my degree would be the most affordable. Whenever a family member/friend would ask which I was going to choose, I would say "Whichever will not put me in crippling debt". For those of us in the Arts/Humanities you really do have to take into account the amount of debt you would go in...

 

Also, as you stated, prestige does not matter nearly as much in Canada as it does in the US. If you are planning on pursuing a career in the US after grad school, maybe the prestige matters a bit more. I do agree that the latter is your best choice, though

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