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Overall university prestige vs. individual program recognition (Stanford vs. Northwestern Medill)

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Hi everyone!

 

I'll be pursuing a Master's in Journalism/Communication starting in the fall, but first I have to make a decision. I feel very fortunate that I was admitted to all of the programs I applied to, but that also leaves me extremely conflicted.

 

I'm primarily considering Stanford and Northwestern Medill, but I was also admitted to Columbia Journalism School, so that's in the back of my mind, as well. Here's a breakdown of what each has to offer:

 

STANFORD

  • pros
    • overall university prestige and "brand recognition"
    • $25,000 fellowship tuition offer
    • beautiful campus, great weather, close to SF
    • curriculum focuses more on data journalism or public affairs, while I'm interested in magazine writing and multimedia journalism, so I'm not thrilled about all of the course choices
    • I didn't click with the few faculty members I met during open house, and I don't think any of them specialize in my main areas of interest
    • Rebele Internship program provides up to $5,000 stipend for students who do paid/unpaid internship after graduating—cushion in case I have no full-time offers
    • STANFORD. god, just saying that name is...
  • cons
    • not recognized as a top journalism program like Medill or Columbia
    • a part of the Communication department instead of a separate journalism school, so less resources? (I know they don't have a newsroom, for instance)
    • I'm not a big fan of Palo Alto (boring and super high cost of living)
    • doesn't have access to the same fast-paced, urban world of reporting as schools near Chicago or NYC
    • far from my home in MI
  • ???
    • small cohort (~15 students)—can grow closer as a group, individualized attention from faculty/recruiters, maybe less competition?—but a smaller alumni network (at least in terms of program alums)
    • newer program—does not have the long history of established programs like Columbia—but maybe it's more innovative and less stuck in the past
    • a lot of access to tech in the area, although that's not something I'm particularly interested in

 

NORTHWESTERN MEDILL

  • pros
    • recognized as one of the top journalism schools in the US by anyone in the journalism industry
    • $20,000 scholarship
    • closer to my home in MI
    • students split time between Evanston campus and Chicago newsroom, so exposure to fast-paced, urban world of reporting
    • alumni network is supposed to be very strong
    • I like their curriculum more (good blend of writing + digital/new media), and their magazine writing program is supposed to be good
    • I really like one of the faculty members I spoke with; I feel like she could be a good mentor
  • cons
    • Northwestern just doesn't have the same prestige as Stanford/Columbia to the general public and people who aren't in journalism
    • campus is just okay, weather is bleh (but I'm used to it, being from MI)
  • ???
    • large cohort (~100 students? I think)—more school resources and bigger alumni network—but harder to stand out from competition

 

And then there's Columbia, which I'm not considering as much because I didn't get any funding offers from them (but I'll be visiting there next week):

  • pros
    • overall university prestige and "brand recognition" as an Ivy
    • recognized as one of the top journalism schools in the US by anyone in the journalism industry
    • in NYC, the center of publishing and media (especially magazine)
    • top-notch faculty
  • cons
    • insanely expensive, especially since I have no funding offers
    • I've heard criticism that the school is a little too traditional, old-fashioned, stuck in the past, etc. (focuses more on writing skills than adapting to new media)
    • I'm a little intimidated by NYC tbh
  • ???
    • large cohort (over 200 students? I think)—more school resources and bigger alumni network—but harder to stand out from competition

 

 

Wow, this is really long. Sorry, everyone! Anyway, TL;DR: Is it better to choose the program that has the backing of overall university prestige and "brand recognition" (may be helpful in getting jobs outside of journalism), or to choose the program that is recognized in the industry as a top journalism school (could open more doors in journalism)?

 

And also, just any thoughts at all on Stanford, Northwestern Medill, or Columbia.

 

Thank you so much!

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I'd go with Northwestern at Medill. As a fellow Michigan native who was also considering a school in California, I can agree with you that getting away from our winters would be clutch. However, just looking at the info you've provided, you question the kind of fit you have with Stanford and Palo Alto. Evanston/North Side Chicago isn't THAT much more than Detroit cost of living wise. You also seem more enthusiastic about Medill as you have fewer cons listed. So really, Medill is meeting your needs the best out of all your options.

 

On a side note, I was accepted into their integrated marketing communications program. However, I know I'm not going since it's the most expensive school I applied to and also doesn't completely meet my needs. I don't know what my financial aid will be like since I still haven't received my welcome packet (because I moved), but I'm almost to a point where I don't really care since it likely wouldn't be enough to sway me from my other choices.

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I'd say if you aren't attracted by the Stanford professors and curriculum, leave it.

 

Medill is VERY good, and has an equally good name among news organizations. There is no doubt about this. I have spoken to several alumni and both vouch for Medill as a good program.

 

Columbia is a little old-fashioned, yes. But it has a fabulous alumni base and it's NYC - the home of media companies. Now it's up to you to choose between Medill and Columbia

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I'd go with Northwestern at Medill. As a fellow Michigan native who was also considering a school in California, I can agree with you that getting away from our winters would be clutch. However, just looking at the info you've provided, you question the kind of fit you have with Stanford and Palo Alto. Evanston/North Side Chicago isn't THAT much more than Detroit cost of living wise. You also seem more enthusiastic about Medill as you have fewer cons listed. So really, Medill is meeting your needs the best out of all your options.

 

On a side note, I was accepted into their integrated marketing communications program. However, I know I'm not going since it's the most expensive school I applied to and also doesn't completely meet my needs. I don't know what my financial aid will be like since I still haven't received my welcome packet (because I moved), but I'm almost to a point where I don't really care since it likely wouldn't be enough to sway me from my other choices.

 

I definitely agree that I seem to have a better fit with Medill, from what I've seen so far. I suppose I'm just a little worried that the Stanford name may open a lot of doors, in which case I might be willing to buckle down and bear the program for a year.

 

Congrats on getting accepted into the IMC program, as well as your other choices! Best of luck to you, and thank you for replying!

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I'd say if you aren't attracted by the Stanford professors and curriculum, leave it.

 

Medill is VERY good, and has an equally good name among news organizations. There is no doubt about this. I have spoken to several alumni and both vouch for Medill as a good program.

 

Columbia is a little old-fashioned, yes. But it has a fabulous alumni base and it's NYC - the home of media companies. Now it's up to you to choose between Medill and Columbia

 

Great points about Columbia. Ahh, if only I had any funding offers from them to help defray the costs, then I would almost definitely choose their program.

 

As it is, I think I'm leaning more towards Medill now!

 

Thanks for your reply, much appreciated!

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To be honest, it already sounds like you know which school is right for you. I can imagine it being tough to turn down a school like Stanford, because of the prestige alone that comes with it. But if you don't like the faculty projects, and you don't like the curriculum, why go? Yes, it does have that name recognition for jobs outside of journalism, but I guess that will only affect you if you plan on going outside journalism for jobs. Plus, Northwestern is still a great school and well known for being one. Columbia sounds like it wouldn't be a bad option, either, but I personally wouldn't go without funding. That's up to you, though, if you think it'd be worth it. 

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Northwestern is clearly the best choice.  Overall university prestige is overrated.  Prestige within your field is much more important.

 

Ha, yes, I think I'm starting to come to terms with this more. Thanks for your reply, I appreciate it!

 

 

To be honest, it already sounds like you know which school is right for you. I can imagine it being tough to turn down a school like Stanford, because of the prestige alone that comes with it. But if you don't like the faculty projects, and you don't like the curriculum, why go? Yes, it does have that name recognition for jobs outside of journalism, but I guess that will only affect you if you plan on going outside journalism for jobs. Plus, Northwestern is still a great school and well known for being one. Columbia sounds like it wouldn't be a bad option, either, but I personally wouldn't go without funding. That's up to you, though, if you think it'd be worth it. 

 

Looking at the pros/cons list, it really seems clear to me now that I prefer Northwestern, but like you said, I feel some apprehension about turning down a place like Stanford in case I regret it. Not to mention, nearly all of my family/friends/acquaintances think I'm crazy for considering anything but Stanford, haha.

 

You definitely raise some good points! I feel more reassured about my preference for Northwestern now. Columbia is most likely out of the picture without funding.

 

Thanks for your advice, much appreciated!

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Looking at the pros/cons list, it really seems clear to me now that I prefer Northwestern, but like you said, I feel some apprehension about turning down a place like Stanford in case I regret it. Not to mention, nearly all of my family/friends/acquaintances think I'm crazy for considering anything but Stanford, haha.

 

You definitely raise some good points! I feel more reassured about my preference for Northwestern now. Columbia is most likely out of the picture without funding.

 

Thanks for your advice, much appreciated!

 

Mine were the same way about Stanford! As soon as I mentioned I got accepted, it was as if that was my only option (even though I was still considering other, lesser known/ranked schools). It drove me a little crazy, but it's really just because those not in the field know the name, that I received such a response (my PI started telling people I was going to Stanford before I even made my decision! what's up with that?). I think it's more important for your future job prospects what people in the field know, not what people outside of it do. You might also want consider the fact that if you are taking classes you don't enjoy and doing work you aren't interested in, you might not succeed as much as you would someplace you're doing what you're passionate about. I guess for a Master's, since it's shorter, some people might stick it out, but I imagine it won't be as enjoyable, or as easy. 

These are just my opinions, so I'm sure you'll be great whichever you decide; these are all great options so really, you can't go wrong with either. In the end, I simply went with my gut. :)

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If you do decide to go to Northwestern (which it sounds like you'd enjoy more and would likely lead to better networking opportunities based on what you've mentioned), you can always save your acceptance letter and show it to your children and grandchildren one day. :) You will always know that you were accepted there, so that's got to be a great feeling. At the end of the day, the program that will best help you meet your career goals, a place where you'll be happy and productive, and (preferably) not end up accumulating a lot of debt sounds like a great option to take.

 

Congrats on the offers and best of luck on your decision!  

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Go with Stanford. Your employer won't care about the precise details of the modules you completed - he'll care that you went to Stanford. A little known fact is that most of what you'll learn about your career will be from work, so the differences between the faculties doesn't really matter in the long run. Institutional reputation, however, does. Stanford is where you want to go. If you reject this, you'll regret it forever.

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Mine were the same way about Stanford! As soon as I mentioned I got accepted, it was as if that was my only option (even though I was still considering other, lesser known/ranked schools). It drove me a little crazy, but it's really just because those not in the field know the name, that I received such a response (my PI started telling people I was going to Stanford before I even made my decision! what's up with that?). I think it's more important for your future job prospects what people in the field know, not what people outside of it do. You might also want consider the fact that if you are taking classes you don't enjoy and doing work you aren't interested in, you might not succeed as much as you would someplace you're doing what you're passionate about. I guess for a Master's, since it's shorter, some people might stick it out, but I imagine it won't be as enjoyable, or as easy. 

These are just my opinions, so I'm sure you'll be great whichever you decide; these are all great options so really, you can't go wrong with either. In the end, I simply went with my gut. :)

 

Haha yep, can totally relate! Good point about being passionate about classes. Anyway, thank you so much for your encouraging words! I really appreciate it.

 

 

If you do decide to go to Northwestern (which it sounds like you'd enjoy more and would likely lead to better networking opportunities based on what you've mentioned), you can always save your acceptance letter and show it to your children and grandchildren one day. :) You will always know that you were accepted there, so that's got to be a great feeling. At the end of the day, the program that will best help you meet your career goals, a place where you'll be happy and productive, and (preferably) not end up accumulating a lot of debt sounds like a great option to take.

 

Congrats on the offers and best of luck on your decision!  

 

Haha, you can bet I'll save my acceptance letters! Thank you so much!

 

 

Go with Stanford. Your employer won't care about the precise details of the modules you completed - he'll care that you went to Stanford. A little known fact is that most of what you'll learn about your career will be from work, so the differences between the faculties doesn't really matter in the long run. Institutional reputation, however, does. Stanford is where you want to go. If you reject this, you'll regret it forever.

 

Thanks for another perspective! No matter which path I take, I really hope I don't regret it forever, haha. I appreciate your response!

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I completely reject the "If you don't go to X, you will regret it forever" parlance. Most grown adults I know don't spend most of their days regretting the educational decisions they made earlier in their careers. If they do, it's usually for the debt load, but not because they went somewhere perceived as "less prestigious."

 

At the point in your career in which you are considering graduate school, the overall prestige of your university doesn't matter as much as the reputation and prestige of the program you are choosing. SO this

 

Northwestern just doesn't have the same prestige as Stanford/Columbia to the general public and people who aren't in journalism

 

doesn't matter at all. Presumably, you are going to journalism school because you want to be a journalist; anyone familiar with journalism will know that Northwestern is one of the top programs in the field. And after your first 1-2 jobs getting further employment is going to be about the work you produce anyway.

Edited by juilletmercredi

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I completely reject the "If you don't go to X, you will regret it forever" parlance. Most grown adults I know don't spend most of their days regretting the educational decisions they made earlier in their careers. If they do, it's usually for the debt load, but not because they went somewhere perceived as "less prestigious."

 

At the point in your career in which you are considering graduate school, the overall prestige of your university doesn't matter as much as the reputation and prestige of the program you are choosing. SO this

 

Northwestern just doesn't have the same prestige as Stanford/Columbia to the general public and people who aren't in journalism

 

doesn't matter at all. Presumably, you are going to journalism school because you want to be a journalist; anyone familiar with journalism will know that Northwestern is one of the top programs in the field. And after your first 1-2 jobs getting further employment is going to be about the work you produce anyway.

 

100% this.

 

If your gut says Stanford, and you really want to be there, then by all means, go to Stanford. But I really can't imagine you regretting the choice to attend a TOP journalism school over Stanford, especially when Stanford's program does not cater to your interests at all. I get the feeling that someone telling you "you'll regret turning down Stanford" is literally only speaking of the overall university ranking (which A: does not matter as much as the program and B: rankings are pretty debatable and really shouldn't be the defining point of someone's life choices) and ignoring your best interests.  

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....Presumably, you are going to journalism school because you want to be a journalist; anyone familiar with journalism will know that Northwestern is one of the top programs in the field. And after your first 1-2 jobs getting further employment is going to be about the work you produce anyway.

 

Also, I've spoken to people who graduated from Stanford. They said it's much harder to get job opportunities for journalism in Palo Alto. East Coast is where the concentration is

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I turned down University of Chicago to go to University of Texas, Austin. Why? Because of the actual two programs I applied to, UT Austin was better. I too liked the prestige of UChicago but turned it down because it wasn't a better choice academically for that I wanted to do. 

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I completely reject the "If you don't go to X, you will regret it forever" parlance. Most grown adults I know don't spend most of their days regretting the educational decisions they made earlier in their careers. If they do, it's usually for the debt load, but not because they went somewhere perceived as "less prestigious."

 

At the point in your career in which you are considering graduate school, the overall prestige of your university doesn't matter as much as the reputation and prestige of the program you are choosing. SO this

 

Northwestern just doesn't have the same prestige as Stanford/Columbia to the general public and people who aren't in journalism

 

doesn't matter at all. Presumably, you are going to journalism school because you want to be a journalist; anyone familiar with journalism will know that Northwestern is one of the top programs in the field. And after your first 1-2 jobs getting further employment is going to be about the work you produce anyway.

 

Yes, great points. My end goal is still to build a good network in the journalism industry and find a job after I graduate, so this definitely applies! Thanks for your input, I really appreciate it!

 

 

100% this.

 

If your gut says Stanford, and you really want to be there, then by all means, go to Stanford. But I really can't imagine you regretting the choice to attend a TOP journalism school over Stanford, especially when Stanford's program does not cater to your interests at all. I get the feeling that someone telling you "you'll regret turning down Stanford" is literally only speaking of the overall university ranking (which A: does not matter as much as the program and B: rankings are pretty debatable and really shouldn't be the defining point of someone's life choices) and ignoring your best interests.  

 

Yep, and it doesn't really help that most of the people who urge me to go with Stanford don't really know the specifics of what I'm interested in, haha. Thanks again!

 

 

Also, I've spoken to people who graduated from Stanford. They said it's much harder to get job opportunities for journalism in Palo Alto. East Coast is where the concentration is

 

Really great point! I know that quite a few people who graduate from any journalism school end up moving to NYC after graduation, and the Bay Area seems like it might have less career opportunities compared to fast-paced, urban metropolises. Thanks for your input!

 

 

I turned down University of Chicago to go to University of Texas, Austin. Why? Because of the actual two programs I applied to, UT Austin was better. I too liked the prestige of UChicago but turned it down because it wasn't a better choice academically for that I wanted to do. 

 

It's great to hear from someone who was in a similar situation. Thanks for your response, and congrats on your acceptances!

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Different field (biophysics) but I turned down Johns Hopkins for Wash U in St Louis. Johns Hopkins has more name recognition but Wash U is the better program for what I specifically want to study. I don't regret this decision even slightly! Are you going to grad school for prestige or for a terrific education? My answer is for the education... I could care less about the average person's thoughts on the prestige of my grad school. I would think that most people going to grad school feel the same way. Go to the program that is best for you! Not the one that sounds impressive to people outside of your field.

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Different field (biophysics) but I turned down Johns Hopkins for Wash U in St Louis. Johns Hopkins has more name recognition but Wash U is the better program for what I specifically want to study. I don't regret this decision even slightly! Are you going to grad school for prestige or for a terrific education? My answer is for the education... I could care less about the average person's thoughts on the prestige of my grad school. I would think that most people going to grad school feel the same way. Go to the program that is best for you! Not the one that sounds impressive to people outside of your field.

 

Yes, definitely for education and to bolster applicable skills and career opportunities, not necessarily to impress random acquaintances and relatives who probably don't really know or care about what I"m studying :P Thanks for your input, I appreciate it!

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Hi everyone!

 

Just wanted to give you an update and thank you all again for your helpful responses. I've officially declined Stanford's offer of admission—god, were those some hard emails to send. I will most likely go with Medill at Northwestern, but visiting Columbia this past weekend has brought up all sorts of feelings in me ahaha. If anyone has any insight regarding Medill vs. Columbia, I'd love to hear them, but otherwise, thank you so much for your input! :)

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Hi everyone!

 

Just wanted to give you an update and thank you all again for your helpful responses. I've officially declined Stanford's offer of admission—god, were those some hard emails to send. I will most likely go with Medill at Northwestern, but visiting Columbia this past weekend has brought up all sorts of feelings in me ahaha. If anyone has any insight regarding Medill vs. Columbia, I'd love to hear them, but otherwise, thank you so much for your input! :)

 

Congrats! I know it's not easy - I just turned down a school whose visit I LOVED, and even though I'm attending my "dream" uni, I was still super sad to send that email. :( 

 

As for the rest of your decision, I think that I would have to truly believe an unfunded program to be 10x better and so much more worth it than my other options to choose it over a funded program. But that's just me - I'm pretty sick of stacking up student loans.  :lol:

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Where does your interest lie?

 

My interest lies primarily in long-form non-fiction narrative writing or magazine writing, although I definitely want to gain skills in video production, interactive journalism, and some data literacy. I find Medill's curriculum to be more varied/balanced and less focused on pure reporting, which is very attractive. At the same time, Columbia has amazing faculty and presumably many opportunities related to being in NYC. However, the cost is...

 

 

Congrats! I know it's not easy - I just turned down a school whose visit I LOVED, and even though I'm attending my "dream" uni, I was still super sad to send that email. :(

 

As for the rest of your decision, I think that I would have to truly believe an unfunded program to be 10x better and so much more worth it than my other options to choose it over a funded program. But that's just me - I'm pretty sick of stacking up student loans.  :lol:

 

Yeah, after further deliberation, I think the cost of Columbia wouldn't justify any slight edge it may have over Medill (if it even does have an edge over it—I think both programs are about equally strong, or the difference is minuscule). I think I'm just starting to question my own judgement at this point after obsessing about it for so long, haha.

 

 

 

Thanks again for your responses, everyone! :)

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If there is a huge funding gap between Columbia and Medill, go for the latter. Medill has a good balance of what you want to do. Columbia, I feel, is a little more traditional though they are a huge name

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