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Great Program vs. Enthusiastic POI


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So, this week I received acceptance notifications from my top 2 programs (WMU and UVM). Now that I've started telling family/friends/professors, I keep hearing the same question: "Which university is your top choice?" 

 

A few weeks ago, the answer was very clear- WMU, all the way! I'm a medievalist, so going to one of the top MA Medieval Studies programs in the country seemed obvious. 

 

However, an email from my potential POI at UVM has me reconsidering. Although UVM only has a History program with a Medieval focus, the professor seems very enthusiastic and personable, and we have quickly developed a rapport through email. Also, although MA funding is limited, he has already let me know that he is strongly advocating that I receive one of the few first year fellowships. 

 

It's only been a few days, so I don't plan to make a decision right away (plus I haven't heard anything concrete about funding from either and that will play a role in my decision), but I wanted to see what others think about the situation. 

 

Here's my question: How important is the enthusiasm of a POI? Is it more or less important than the prestige of the program?

 

Thanks in advance for any thoughts! :)  

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I think it depends on your long-term goals to an extent. Are you planning to go for your PhD after your masters? If so, then while WMU will look very impressive on your resume prestige-wise, might you have a more fruitful working relationship with this POI you are hitting it off with? If you really like his research interests, you may have a much more impressive thesis coming out of UVM working with the POI you really like there.

 

I would recommend trying to visit both if you haven't already, if it is at all feasible financially. You will probably have a much better, and more informed feel for where you will do your best work and set yourself up for whatever your next step may be. I know traveling to two places (or at least one) by plane is really expensive but I think the probe is worth the investment, especially if you come to find that you strongly prefer one program over the other.

 

Best of luck!!

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Thanks for the thoughtful response, neurominer :) I am planning to pursue a PhD after my masters, and I think you make a great point about having a more impressive thesis if I have a strong working relationship with my POI.

 

I agree 100% that visiting each school would be the best way to determine which one is the better fit (my college visits during my undergrad search definitely led to a surprising, yet perfect, choice that I wouldn't have made if I hadn't gone on a tour). Unfortunately, I doubt I can afford to fly to Michigan or Vermont (I live in Oregon), but I'll take a look at flights, just to see if I can make it work. Maybe I can convince my folks to help cover the ticket cost if I tell them a stranger on GradCafe advocated visiting both universities :) haha 

 

Thanks again for the advice and best of luck to you too! 

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Haha I'm glad my advice could help :). I can definitely understand a round trip flight to both places being too expensive. That being said, if you're leaning towards Vermont I think you should convince your folks to help you out and take a visit even if it annoys them and you have to make some moderate sacrifices (whatever your money would be going to otherwise). SInce Vermont is the unconventional choice, it is too big of a risk to go there off of email correspondence alone. It's simply too easy to misread or get a skewed impression of the person you're dealing with through this type of communication.

 

BUT I do think that if you visit, like the campus, meet with and still feel the same way about working with your POI there, that would be a very good reason to go with the unconventional choice. I hope you find a way to get there :)

 

But if not, I'm sure you'll succeed no matter where you go. Hopefully your Masters is a bright spot in your life, but even if you choose WMU and hate it, or Vermont and hate it, ultimately it is the means to and end--getting into a PhD program which your are good fit for--so you can always grind through the two years and produce good work.

 

:) I think you'll be happy and successful with either choice though.

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