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Decision Advice for MSEE - Penn vs Uconn vs CVN


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Hi Gradcafe,


I'm a few weeks away from having to submit my decision for my MS in Electrical Engineering and I was hoping to get some opinions from people here. A little about me: I got my BS in EE from a mid-level private university not well known for its engineering school. I was top ranked there and considered the program to be fairly easy. I've been working full-time for 3 years now, and I wanted to take myself up to the next level with a master's degree. All of the people I work with currently have their MS, and the knowledge gap between us is significant. I do as much learning as I can on my own, but nothing beats formal education for building a strong knowledge base. I work in audio electronics and would like to stay in the field after graduation.


I have 3 programs to choose between: UPenn, Uconn, and Columbia CVN.


UPenn's courses are very well aligned with my interests and career aspirations, and the program is well regarded. It would require me to move and the tuition is quite high. There aren't many opportunities to get assistance from UPenn from what I've heard. However, there are good research opportunities that are flexible and part-time that will at least pay something. I'm having a hard time with the idea of giving up my comfortable salary for 1-2 years and paying tuition, although I can cover most of my ride through school with minimal loans.


Uconn has offered me an assistantship/research opportunity that would waive tuition and provide a very modest stipend. They are decently ranked, but the department seems awfully focused on topics I'm not very interested in (mostly low-level device physics material). The assistantship would be a full-time commitment, and I would need to find time to get 1-2 classes done per semester on top of that. 


CVN has the best course offerings for me by far. I would be able to complete the program in 3 years if I'm only taking 1 class per semester, and I get the benefit of continuing to earn my salary. I am very much an autodidact by nature, so I won't miss the privilege of sitting in a lecture hall for 3 hours a week per class. My biggest concerns with CVN are access to professors and TA's for advice and mentorship, and the lack of networking opportunities. I also will not be doing any lab work or research with them, although I do get to do plenty of playing around with hardware at my job which I feel makes up for some of that. I also take on electronics projects in my spare time, so I was thinking that I could do some independent work related to my classes if I go with CVN. Of course, the big question with this route is will I have time to handle grad school in addition to my full-time job, but it sounds like I will actually be less burdened with this option than I would if I accepted Uconn's offer.


An additional wrinkle is that I have been dealing with health problems this year, and I don't have a clear prognosis yet. It makes me a little uneasy thinking about committing to a full-time program when I'm not sure what shape I'll be in when August rolls around. I'm hoping to have a better idea of what's going on before my decision deadline, though.


If anyone has any wisdom to share, especially about experiences with CVN or other online programs while working full-time, it would help me tremendously. 



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