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A rock and a hard place...in a good way.


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Summary: Applied and accepted to both of my top choice Chemistry Ph.D. programs (!!). Accepted to school A in January- love the environment and faculty, also my undergrad institution (though my research was in a different department).  Accepted to school B two weeks ago- googly eyed over a particular advisor and project but not crazy about the school in general. Same city.

I'm not one for last minute decisions, but I'm having a very hard time with this one.


School A:

3 top advisor picks- all their research is a fairly significant departure from my background in natural products, but interesting and all seem like a good personal fit (supportive, experienced, established with stable funding)

first semester- 2-3 rotations

top 35 program

excellent resources and professional development opportunities

smaller, intimate, passionate community

fully funded- 26K stipend

safe and familiar campus- able to live closer/more affordably (suburban)

fewer TA hours (1 year only) and more classes required

fewer course options


School B:

1 top advisor pick- marine natural products, also a good personal fit. (basically my main reason for applying to this program)

first semester- 1-2 rotations

top 25 program

excellent resources but so-so professional development (heavy focus on industry only)

larger department and grad community- not sure about how I'll fit in, seems more competitive

fully funded- 25K stipend + 5.5K four year fellowship

will have to commute, more expensive/harder to find housing, not as safe of a campus overall (downtown)

more TA hours (1 year only) and fewer classes required

more courses offered


So it pretty much boils down to a familiar place with new projects and multiple advisor options vs a new place and one advisor with a more familiar project. 

Any tips? How would you decide?

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It sounds like both schools have advantages and disadvantages, but I would go with school A, where you have more than one option for an advisor. You might not personally fit well with one of them, or they might not be able to take students on when you're ready, or they might leave entirely. If you have multiple options from the start, you're more likely to find someone that you can work with long term.

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This is a total toss-up. Flip a coin. Heads is School A, tails is School B. Then, wait 15 minutes. If you find yourself wanting to do another flip or second guessing the decision, then you have your answer. But really, I don't think you can go wrong here. 

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