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thegnuguy

Elite School/Some funding vs Decent School/Full Funding

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Choose 1 (example, not my actual situation): UC Berkely + $30,000 loan or University of Michigan + No loan
 

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UM because living in California is a no go. Most people have different requirements on what makes a school the best choice.

Also no debt is nice.

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I know you said this is just an example but Michigan is basically an elite school and you've gotten full funding so obviously that's what you should choose. I think that if you don't have a strong preference either way, you should make the best financial decision, unless you really feel that choosing the "decent school" will hurt your chances of getting a job in the future.

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Personally, I wouldn't bother with a Ph.D if it wasn't fully funded. I would like to be a physicist, but not if it means 5-6 years past undergrad accumulating debt. As for prestige, I'm more concerned with fit than reputation. If I get accepted to Colorado State and MIT and Colorado State is a better fit, I'll be going there. Of course, all the schools I applied to are more or less balanced so that does leave a lot of freedom for choosing.

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All I have to say to those who pay an arm and a leg to go to a big name school (who will be doing the same job as those who went to a cheaper institution): Enjoy paying back those student loans and their snowballing interest! I don't see the point in financially crippling oneself for years if you don't have to. 

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Do not take out the loan. California is horribly expensive too, so you have to think about your living expenses. It's not worth thirty grand.

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As cliche as this is going to sound you need to be where you're going to be happy. If that means taking out the loan then so be it.

 

To add some additional advice to that, be sure that what you do actually will make you happiest (both long term and short term). A loan will take away a lot of happiness, so there had better be a lot to going for that school to balance it out. Personally, I don't see how any one school could be that much better than any other marginally worse school, but I guess it's possible.

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Well, it's possible if you apply to diverse programs, like Journalism/Media Studies/Media, Tech, Society/Global Media etc. Each degree qualifies students for a different profession and area of expertise, so, depending on the ultimate goals of the student, one school could be extremely different in the rewards and benefits. 

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I would also take the full funded offer, but if its a phd, and say the first 2 years or so are funded, you might trust in your ability to win a grant... but I wouldn't take that risk and have no debt. I turned down 5 years of no TAing to TA my first year at another department with the faith that we would win a grant in my first or second year that would knock me off TAing (though the TAship was guaranteed for 5 years).

 

Some people might bet on their skills though, so it all depends on when you have to take out the loans. 

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Sounds like Michigan *wants* you more. Schools that give you better fellowships/training grants = schools that really want to keep you. That's really important, too, because it's a quantifiable measure of departmental support. Of course, if you *really* can't pass up Berkley...believe me, I was in that situation with my undergrad uni. I took the more expensive option (although I did have grant/scholarship support, too), but as a PhD in STEM, I expect to be fully funded.

Edited by poweredbycoldfusion

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