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Top 15 vs Top 50


so undecided
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Here are the pros and cons for each university. I need to decide between these two biology PhD programs.

 

1) Top 15:

- ivy-league

- small city

-RAship and TAship

- less research interest fit

 

2) Top 50:

-larger city

-RAship

-there are more labs that fit my research interest

-the program has a larger size in terms of faculty and students

 

I want to go into academia.  How much ranking of the university matters? 

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I would go to the top 15 for sure, unless you think you would be considerably happier at the top 50 or the financial situation is considerably better there. Rank matters a lot in academia and the things you've listed about each school don't make the top 50 sound much more appealing. Larger size has pros and cons, and your research interests may change, so as long as there are one or two people you can work with at the first school it sounds like a better bet. 

Edited by brown_eyed_girl
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My PI (top 20 school where I am a lab tech) says that once you hit the top 50s, it's more the reputation of the PI and their work rather than just the school.

 

Rather than rankings, I would decide based on funding and research fit. I personally wouldn't go somewhere that required me to TA for my funding, because that's just time spent away from research. If you want to end up teaching, then you won't be as opposed to the TA experiences as I am. I would also go where there are more professors in whose work I am interested.

Edited by babybird
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Top 15 vs. top 50 is a significant difference if you want to go into academia. Since you didn't list a really compelling reason to go to the top 50 one (e.g. top 15 unfunded or something), I'd recommend you take the top 15 offer.

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My PI (top 20 school where I am a lab tech) says that once you hit the top 50s, it's more the reputation of the PI and their work rather than just the school.

 

Rather than rankings, I would decide based on funding and research fit. I personally wouldn't go somewhere that required me to TA for my funding, because that's just time spent away from research. If you want to end up teaching, then you won't be as opposed to the TA experiences as I am. I would also go where there are more professors in whose work I am interested.

Even if you want a research career, TA experience is good to have. Perhaps not having to TA, or having a low workload is good, but the opportunity to teach or TA if I wanted to is something that I would require in a program, just for job prospects.

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If you want to get into academia, the top 15 program for sure ( as long as you will be ok with the research options and will be able to finish without wanting to drop out or become depressed, or something else along those lines).

 

If you go with the top 50, your employment prospects may be limited, which might defeat the purpose of completing a PhD. 

Edited by jenste
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Research fit is very important, but that has more to do with being interested in the topic and being able to work with the PI. The likelyhood of you not changing your research interests over your career is very small, especially if you are a good researcher, so I don't think doing exactly what you want to do in a PhD is very important as long as what you are doing is in the ballpark. 

 

IE i'm interested in geodynamics, mantle flow and modeling. I could have chosen to study many different localities, or aspects of plate tectonics, but none of that really matters because i'm getting myself into the field of geodynamics and my education will prepare me to answer any question in those fields I want (within my intellectual ability). 

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Even if you want a research career, TA experience is good to have. Perhaps not having to TA, or having a low workload is good, but the opportunity to teach or TA if I wanted to is something that I would require in a program, just for job prospects.

I'm fine with the opportunity to TA. I absolutely will for at least one semester, for that valuable experience you mention... I just prefer programs that actually fund through an RA, and thought that if OP had similar feelings, it might be a consideration for them.

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Thank you so much for your responses everyone.

 

At the Top 50 institution, there are many prestigious labs and I believe that there are more chances to have publications. That is the another reason why I'm having hard time to decide between these universities.

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More publications can't necessarily outweigh going to a higher-ranked program, unless you're going to be first author on significantly more publications. Take a look at the placement record of each lab and each department as a whole. Use that to guide you. 

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