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Three Schools, No Funding


taa

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Hey everyone,

I have a week from today to make my final decision of where I will or will not go for grad school.

I was accepted to OSU (Ohio State) geography MA, Stony Brook sociology phd, and Columbia Uni sociology MA, no funding anywhere.

First, I just found out about my admittance to Columbia a couple of weeks ago because my letter was lost for some reason. I had applied to the PhD, but was only accepted for the masters. When I found out, I was uber excited because my partner and I really want to move to New York, and this could be that opportunity. That being said, the economy is shit now, and there aren't many jobs, so we are worried about the financial feasibility, not even considering the 30k that I'll have to go into debt to get the masters there. My plan would be to work my ass off while I am there so that I can get into either theirs or another New York school's PhD program WITH funding.

OSU is my other serious option. It's much cheaper, and I go there now for my undergrad (graduate in June). Columbus is comfortable, and my partner has a decent job here that he enjoys. But we don't want to spend the rest of twenties here. Also, having the brand name of Columbia University on my CV is extremely enticing, and I feel like this could open the door for serious opportunities in the future (granted that Columbia's sociology program is also top notch). OSU just does not have that kind of brand power.

The whole thing is upsetting because even after I pay all of this money and get myself into serious debt, there is no guaruntee that a) I'll get into a funded PhD afterward, or B) that after the PhD, I'll be able to find a viable career in academia. Perhaps I should forget grad school for now and look for a job (that probably does not exist.)

What do you all think? Is it dumb to want to go to Columbia for the reasons I have enumerated (location, compatibility with partner's goals, prestige)? Should we wait it out here in Columbus -- I'll continue my studies at OSU, and then reapply to all of these schools upon completion? Or should we seize the dream and move to NY? Or should I just forget about grad school? Any suggestions would be very much appreciated! Thanks!

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I don't think location is enough of a reason to chose a program (though it certainly is enough to NOT chose a program). Besides, NYC is not really the magical awesomeland that a lot of people think it is; it's uber expensive, crime-ridden, dirty, etc. etc., and unless you have realistic expectations* about moving there, you will be disappointed or overwhelmed. I also don't think prestige is going to help a lot for your MA; as long as you go to a decent school, your work will speak for itself. If you publish, present, create a great writing sample, impress potential LOR writers, and get great grades, your application will stand out regardless of where you went.

Go wherever you want, but I would be very wary of racking up huge amounts of debt for a MA, especially if you need a PhD to meet your career goals.

*Maybe you ARE being realistic about NYC, in which case, great.

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Tough question. I think the previous poster has a good point. You could stay where you are and continue into the MA program, present at conferences, write good papers, and work on reapplying to PhD programs again next year. You could strengthen your application and possibly get more funding.

I do think that if Columbia is your dream school -- completing your MA could give you a definite advantage if you apply to the PhD program at Columbia next year. I would advise taking classes with the profs at Columbia who are on the admissions committee and try and get a good letter of rec or two from these profs. 30k also seems like a pretty good deal for a degree at Columbia. Is this a one year program? Could you work part-time or try and get a graduate assistant position to help reduce your debt a little? If 30k is the only loan you'll be paying back, then that's not a horrible amount of debt.

I would go to the program you feel most excited about and the one that you think will best prepare you for a PhD program (if that is your ultimate goal).

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Go for the cheapest school. Especially if you're not doing the PhD. The MA is simply a stepping stone to a PhD, and there's no sense in getting into debt over the degree, especially if you're planning on pursuing a PhD since you'll have a very hard time paying back your MA debt while in school (or even accruing interest).

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I think the question is whether you ultimately want a career as a geographer or as a sociologist. Within geography, the Ohio State name and department have a lot of cachet, much more so than Columbia. If that's the career path you want to pursue, going to Ohio State won't hurt you because it's a top 5 program. Columbia, however, is a virtual unknown within geography, even though I think it has a graduate program in the discipline.

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I think the question is whether you ultimately want a career as a geographer or as a sociologist.

Indeed a good question. I wouldn't say that I would rather be one or the other. I am using both of these fields as a means of exploring my area of interest. Indeed, when I go to reapply for PhD programs, I may even apply to some interdisciplinary programs, such as American Studies.

I don't think that Columbia has a geography program, but their sociology program is near top 10, if not top 10. And, I should have mentioned, Saskia Sassen is a professor, and she is the star of urban studies right now.

But OSU is definitely a great program as well. And if stayed here, I have a decent job. Perhaps that should make my decision given the tenuousness of the job market right now....

Thanks for responding!

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Indeed a good question. I wouldn't say that I would rather be one or the other. I am using both of these fields as a means of exploring my area of interest. Indeed, when I go to reapply for PhD programs, I may even apply to some interdisciplinary programs, such as American Studies.

Then you should apply to the program that will best prepare you for this. I think which program you go to really depends on what interests you want to pursue.

I don't think that Columbia has a geography program, but their sociology program is near top 10, if not top 10. And, I should have mentioned, Saskia Sassen is a professor, and she is the star of urban studies right now.

And that's great that she's a star. But, as a star, how much time do you think she has to work with MA students? To teach classes they take? You want an advisor that will really mentor and guide you and help you develop as an academic. As great as it is to have a well-known advisor (and I have one now as a PhD student), they are *busy* and thus can't give you the same time and attention as someone else that's a great scholar but has fewer things on their plate.

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