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top 15 vs top 75


Hero Honda

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Hi,

 

I need to make a decision for between two PhD programs and want to know how much the ranking matters.

I will only mention the PROS.

 

top 75:

-Recently joined young tenure-track professor who has a 99.99% match with my work. 

- He also happens to have a very strong profile with numerous awards in my area of work.

- metro city with lots of opportunities

- Graduate Fellowship for 5 years, so wont have to do TAsip  

 

top 15:

-Tenured Professor has an established lab and has around 70% match with my work

- The ranking of the university is very high

- smaller and less densely populated city meaning I will get to live in a larger apartment at less rent

- Raship/ Taship

 

thoughts please

Edited by Hero Honda
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My personal opinion is the top 15 school. Unless you're dead set on your interests, they're extremely likely to change or be flexible. Even a 70% match is huge. There is a reason that the school is top 15 versus top 75. Whatever that opens up for you (connections, resources, reputation, etc.), it is likely valuable. It's not like the professor in the top 15 school is just opening his lab either. Also, if you really want to get out of doing a TAship, perhaps try applying for external fellowships and see what you get. 

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If you want to be a professor, go for the top 15 place.  Period.  Even if you don't, I might still lean towards it.  Latching onto a tenure-track professor can be tricky.  If he/she gets tenure, great.  But, what if he doesn't?  Where will that leave you (3-4 yrs into your project)?  And, as the previous poster said, a 70% match is still high.

 

On the flip side, the 5 yr. grad fellowship is pretty sweet.  Are there any tenured profs whose interests align with yours??

 If you don't want academia, my main concern with #75 is that the prof doesn't have tenure yet.

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Signing on to a school specifically to work with somebody untenured is risky. If you want to go into academia, a top 75 school probably won't help you. Your interests will likely change, and even if they don't, you are not forever tied to exactly what you worked on in your PhD (as long as you learn the skills/background to do what you want, it doesn't really matter what you are working on). I would recommend the top 15 school if you want to go into academia.

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Hi,

 

I need to make a decision for between two PhD programs and want to know how much the ranking matters.

I will only mention the PROS.

 

top 75:

-Recently joined young tenure-track professor who has a 99.99% match with my work. 

- He also happens to have a very strong profile with numerous awards in my area of work.

- metro city with lots of opportunities

- Graduate Fellowship for 5 years, so wont have to do TAsip  

 

top 15:

-Tenured Professor has an established lab and has around 70% match with my work

- The ranking of the university is very high

- smaller and less densely populated city meaning I will get to live in a larger apartment at less rent

- Raship/ Taship

 

thoughts please

 

Many people view ranking as a really important part of choosing a school. However, I view the ranking of schools as pretty unimportant, to be honest. For me what matters if research fit, program design, time to a PhD, placement post-graduation, and availability of a few PIs doing things I'm interested in and taking students the time I would be rotating.

 

It would help us more to give you advice if we knew your field.... in fields like Math and Engineering, the rank of the school might be more important for your PhD, but in the biomedical sciences where I'm at, the time when working with a hot-shot PI at a highly ranked school is going to help you most is your post-doc studies (assuming an interest in academia). For biomed, so long as you're in the top 75 or so schools for PhD and can get a post-doc at a top 30 school, you should be okay for applications to positions in academia if you're good at grant application.

 

Pros for having a young, new PI:

1. As you mentioned, startup funds which will support you through your PhD.

2. More face time with the PI, so they're up on what you're doing and will be there more to help if you need it.

3. The PI is more likely to work WITH you than rather than over you.

4. They're pushing for tenure, which means you're going to have to work hard, but they payoff is likely lots of publications and getting to help with grant applications.

5. You say you know what you want to do 99.99%, and this guy does it. If they're willing to take you for sure as a student, go for it. It is a plus when you also love your project.

6. You get to help establish the direction the lab goes. PIs come in with a direction in mind, but you will have much more "wiggle room" in a new lab than you will in an established one.

 

Pros for the older, established PI:

1. Established, so the lab is set in its ways, but probably has established, sometimes cookie cutter, projects for you to do. (The con is likely less wiggle room, which concerns me as you note only 70% interest match).

2. Established labs usually have good funding, but the TA will benefit you if you want to teach and work in academia.

3. The PI will usually be more hands-off, so you will be more independent. This is also a con as it sometimes makes it harder to get help.

4. Everyone considers this the "safe" option, and I would do this if you don't have plans for academia (if you're life sciences).

5. Will probably have you prepare your own manuscripts starting very early, and possibly submit portions of grants.

6. Competition is higher for student funding awards, but you might have more resources for awards and for research.

 

If this were me, I would go for the new PI that matches your research interests, assuming he will for sure let you join his lab. As a student in the biomedical sciences, it is highly beneficial for me to have someone who works with me, sometimes even along-side me in the lab and lets me help with grant and paper writing. Soon I'll be grant writing on my own. For me, the biggest thing for my PhD is for me to learn how to be a good researcher, writer, and presenter while my post-doc is for me to use those skills to establish a pathway for me to get an academic position mostly independently. You also need to think a great deal about your fit with the school itself. It isn't worth it to have your dream project when the school environment makes you miserable. Do you mesh well with the other people in that lab? What about the potential classmates you might have met at interviews? The staff? Did the current students in the program seem happy? I actually selected my program based on fit to the environment as we do research rotations. Then I selected my PI at the end of three rotations.

 

If you go to the top-75, you will need to spend a lot of time networking and establishing ties to get into a highly ranked post-doc. That's exactly what I'm doing, though I'm at a top-30 institution. I joined a lab with a brand new PI with guaranteed funding for 5-6 years with a project I was 80% interested in (which is now the coolest project ever, in my opinion), and at 2 years into my PhD, I am very happy with the lab I chose. We have publications going out the door and I get independence to dictate the direction of my project. It is also very beneficial to collaborate with hot-shot labs if you can, and also to get PIs to be on your dissertation committee who are well known in the field. You should also find opportunities to TA if you're not able to get them. Teaching now will really help you later on. The way I'm doing this is through a public science outreach program to local schools where I teach basic science techniques and also TAing a biology class at the university down the road.

 

Please let me know if you have more questions I can help with.

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It really depends on what you want to do after the PhD. It also depends on how likely the young PI is to get tenure at that institution. If you're tying yourself to that person and ze doesn't get tenure, you may be up a creek without a paddle...

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Hi. My main goal after completing my PhD is to get a faculty position. I have applied to PhD in CS. The thing to be honest is that I am much more inclined towards the Professor at top 75 univ. Had that PI been in top 30, I wouldnt have even given a single thought to this issue. So my main question is, how much does the university's ranking matter when you apply for a faculty position?

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