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UW-Madison or Yale?


WorkingItOut
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My situation is as follows:

 

I accepted my fully-funded MA/PhD offer from UW-Madison before the April 15th deadline. I had visited the department and feel very positive about the city, the people, the program, and the research fit. UW-Madison is very highly regarded in my field.

 

On April 16th, I received notice from Yale that I have been offered a similarly generous package in their PhD program. This is also a great department and seems like an excellent research fit, however I cannot comment on the people or the department culture as I had not visited (the acceptance is something of a surprise). I am a little bit starstruck by the prestigious name of the institution

 

I'd love to hear some input on what I should do. It seems like there might be some flexibility in declining my first offer, although I'm still not sure if that is what I should/want to do. 

It is my intention to pursue an academic career in my Humanities-related field. 

 

Any thoughts? 

 

 

Other info: undergraduate student coming from small international liberal arts school

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Which school is higher ranked in your field? Which department has a better placement record? Which advisor(s) are a better fit for your research interests? Which program has more resources (money, library/archives, faculty in your areas of interest)? Whichever school has those things is the one you should go to.

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Agree with the above. If you want to go into academia in the humanities, rank and placement record are crucial. I'd talk with some of your mentors (letter writers, for example) and get their opinions, too. And see if you can arrange a skype or phone call with the relevant people at Yale and see how you fit in with that department. 

Edited by brown_eyed_girl
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So first - enjoy the starstruck-ness for a moment, but then get over it. Prestige is great, but reputation is better - and Wisconsin is a powerhouse in several fields. In my field, Yale and UW are both top 10 programs and really selection would be about fit. (in a lot of humanities fields, though, Ivies do still hold a lot of prestige and power behind them). What are placements like coming out of each program? Where do students end up afterwards?

 

Can you arrange a visit? If you can, I would visit the department (ask if they can assist you with funding, and in a hurry, since they accepted you so late). Since you've already visited UW you want to be sure you are comparing apples to apples. At the very least, I would arrange Skype meetings with faculty and some current graduate students to get a feel for the department.

 

Surely you must have mind-ranked them before you applied - which one was more appealing to you beforehand?

If you do your due diligence and discover that you would really rather go to Yale, technically UW is supposed to formally release you from your decision to attend. In practice, very few PhD programs want to force a student to attend who clearly doesn't want to be there, and the contract isn't legally binding on you if I recall correctly (although you should check to be sure). Worst case scenario you do some light bridge-burning - UW might not be happy that you are backing out of the agreement, but in the long run you need to do what's best for you and your career.

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Thank you all for your good advice - I needed a little bit of perspective, and this has definitely helped me to take a step back and examine things. Both are great programs - Yale is higher ranked in the broader field (the subfield is a bit harder to find data on), but not by a HUGE amount (top 10 vs top 20). Yale agreed to extend the acceptance deadline, so I'm heading out to to visit New Haven this weekend. I've have a superb vibe based on my internet interactions, but this will provide a lot of important insight. 

 

Thanks again! :)

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Yale for sure.

 

Depends on the field and the fit, keep in mind that Wisconsin is ranked higher than Yale in several fields. But, Ivy League prestige probably goes along way when you are up against the hiring committee. In my subfield Yale and Wisconsin are #2 and #3.

Also keep in mind that Wisconsin's university system is being eviscerated by Scott Walker.

Edited by twentysix
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