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Pitt vs UMN


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Hi everyone, 


So I received 5 invitations which is great. I could definitely see myself attending 4 of these, but obviously I liked some schools/locations/programs better than others. I brought it down to two choices.


Pitt- IGBP. I would likely join the molecular pharmacology program. I thought I was finally close to finalizing my decision to attend Pitt. I liked the faculty and students there better than anywhere else. There were so many faculty that shared similar research interests to me that I was having a hard time deciding who to even do my rotations with. I think the program is competitive enough that I would be challenged, yet still not feel like I am falling behind. I am by no means a "top applicant" here which I think is good for me. I want to be challenged and motivated by my peers. I view my peers as competition (in a good way!). Surprisingly, I even liked the city a lot.


UMN- Pharmacology. I thought I was basically settled on Pitt, but then I found out that I had qualified for a fellowship through the UMN medical school. This would mean I would come into the UMN with my own funding. The obvious advantage to me is not that I would earn more (I have eliminated other programs that offered more money with lower cost of living), but rather that I would get to join pretty much any lab since the PI would not have to pay me. The other advantage is that if another student and I wanted to join the same lab, the PI would be inclined to choose me since he wouldn't have to pay me. The other advantage is that my PI would be less likely to push me as hard (not sure if this is entirely good). There is research here that I enjoy, but the department is much smaller.I also feel as though I would have less competition here. This is my home institution and I am pretty familiar with the area. I like living here, except for the soul-crushing winters.


So I'm stuck. Pre-doctoral fellowship + program I like less or My favorite program with regular funding?


Anybody have any thoughts?


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Go to Pitt. Only partially because I am 99.99% sure I will be going there as well... haha.


But in all seriousness, it sounds like you are far more excited about attending Pitt. In the end, the SMALL advantages you would get at UMN are not guaranteed nor are they worth attending a school you aren't as happy with or whose research isn't as exciting to you. Professors may like that you have your own funding, but that is no guarantee they'd pick you over a student who didn't, if they connected better with the other student and felt they were a better match for the lab. Besides, people can always pick up their own funding over the years, so there's no guarantee you'd stand out after a little while in that respect. 


If you loved the professors and research at Pittsburgh, and you can see yourself living there, and you can easily live with the stipend you'll be getting, there is no reason why you shouldn't pick it over UMN.... just my opinion though.

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Branch out to Pitt. If UMN is your home institution, it's going to look better on a CV to have a PhD from a different school. It also does sound like you legitimately like that program more. As long as the fellowship doesn't give you a completely different standard of living, I'm really thinking Pitt is the way to go.

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