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Chicago Statistics MS vs Harvard Biostatistics MS

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I am an international student from China, accepted to both program. I planned to pursue my PhD study, either in statistics or biostatistics in the future. I am more familiar with Biostatistics, yet I believed that Statistics also has interesting topics. 


I think that the name recognition is about the same for Harvard and Chicago. So do the statistics program. The Harvard Biostatistics program is 80-credit, thus may contain 16~20 courses, without thesis (2 years). The Chicago Statistics program contains 9 courses plus Master's thesis. (2 years) Two programs have similar class size, maybe Harvard is a bit smaller (Biostatistics always has smaller class size) 


Boston vs Chicago? I do not have any idea. Weather is bad, right?


Could someone please shed some light on my questions? Thanks in advance!

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I think that Chicago is arguably the better choice for PhD prep. I could be wrong, but I think that the perception is that statistics programs are slightly more quantitatively rigorous at the masters level--so it could be easier to go from a statistics MS to a biostatistics PhD than a biostatistics MS to a biostatistics PhD. I also think that the thesis factor is important to consider, since it will give you research exposure.


Boston and Chicago have similar climates, except Chicago's cold wind off the Lake make its winters very harsh. In the end, neither cities offer favorable winter climate. I'm biased towards Chicago (as a city, not as a school) since I grew up around there and went to undergrad in the city.

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If your goal is to prepare for PhD applications, in a choice between thesis vs. non-thesis programs, I personally would choose the thesis option. I assume your thesis is supervised by faculty in the Chicago statistics department. If so, that means you'll have at least one person who knows your research interests and capabilities pretty well who could write a specific and strong letter of recommendation (assuming you actually are good). Doing well in your coursework is going to be more or less expected, so I think good performance in a research-oriented theoretical statistics program will be more informative about your potential for PhD work than good performance in a coursework-only more applied biostatistics master's.


Also, cost of living in Chicago is much less than in Cambridge/Boston, which is something to consider since that will add to the cost of your degree. There are few cities in the country that match Boston in terms of hellishness and stress in finding (even barely affordable) housing in commuting distance of HSPH.

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