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Hey all,

Congrats to those who received acceptances this go around. I never thought I'd find myself among you, yet here I am faced with the challenge of picking one off the top shelf. My proposed research area is 20th/21st century postmodern lit -- lots of experience with magical realism, afrofuturism, historical fiction that seeks to rework the master narrative of 1492. Feminist, Poststructuralist and Postcolonial theory is pretty essential to my work. I'm looking for a program that's super interdisciplinary, allowing me to work in the realm of cultural studies, critical race studies, and media studies. I need coursework that's theory heavy and a department that's not afraid to ask those metaphysical questions that push the boundaries of the discipline.

Now, it seems to me neither NYU nor Cornell are afraid to play in this territory, but who does it best? According to USNews' 2013 rankings, Cornell is top 10 while NYU is top 20. Does this matter? Cornell is Ivy and NYU is honorary Ivy. Thinking of the job market, do either of these positions and distinctions hold weight when pinned against one another? 

In terms of practical matters, NYU's funding is better. The McCracken Fellowship has to be one of the best fellowship offers out there. $26,000+ and an additional $22,000 for those who choose to teach. I live in NYC, and if I stay in NYC, I won't have to pay rent. I'll basically save up my fellowship funds, and in 5 years, buy a house. Cornell's Sage Fellowship offers $25,000+ a year with 4 years of added summer support, and Teaching Assistantships during years 2, 3 and 5. Of course, I'd have to live in Ithaca, which is 4+ hours away from NYC, pay rent, and be away from my support system. 

It seems to me that NYU is the more practical option, but Cornell romances me. Cornell English actively seeks to push the envelope. (Although, a website communicates only so much truth. Is there anyone out there who can speak to this point?) Being outside of the city is also a temptation. NYC STRESSES ME OUT, but because it is NYC the resources are infinite. I just have to be willing to get up every day and travel an hour and a half to get there. Though, I'm so jaded by it all that I'm afraid I won't even bother to hit NYPL to get that one book that can be found nowhere else.

Ultimately, however, I'm not interested in making unnecessary sacrifices. If Cornell isn't worth it, then Cornell isn't worth it. I'll go to NYU, which is an awesome program, do my research, collect my funds, graduate, buy a house, and *maybe* get a job to pay for it. 

The wisdom of the experienced is MUCH appreciated. Upvotes for all. 

Edited by alacran
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Have you met with any professors you'll be working with at the schools? How often do grad students publish? Are there opportunities for being a 2nd/3rd author on a publication? How much money is offered for conferences? Is it a cohort experience? 

There are so many questions to ask and it's why I suggest visiting and being willing to ask the tough questions. 

Based on what you've written, I'd say NYU is the best choice. It sounds like you could finish grad school with savings if you play your cards right. Both are great programs on paper but unless you really figure out which is best for you as a person, I say go with the one that sets you up for the best future success. 

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Thanks, OutdoorsEd. The Open Houses don't take place until late March, but my Skype meetings with the DGSs are coming up soon.

You're right. Its hard to tell without having had these interactions in person. I guess what I'm looking for is some reassurance that not picking Cornell isn't the end of the world. I don't have an academic background, so to have reached this point is quite the feat. I want to make sure that I go down the better of two paths.

And by "better" I mean: come graduation, which program will have brought me closest to the ideal version of me as both a person and a scholar? Things for me to think about.

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I don't think you can go wrong with either or. Both are well-respected schools. Both belong to the same "tier" of schools. But I do think it's important to consider a few things that are often forgotten:

Would your lifestyle be similiar in both cases?
How do you feel about a small town vs a world-class city?
What about public transportation? Do you feel like you could live with the differences?
How do you feel about hills? If I recall correctly, Cornell is located on a hill which is great for getting back in shape.
How do you feel about snow? Ithaca gets a lot of snow due to its location.
How do you feel about getting adjusted to a new city while adjusting to a new program? Some people like the differences; others might find it overwhelming or might prefer having control over certain aspects.
Would NYC be too distracting for you?
Would Ithaca be too quiet/not have enough amenities for you?
Would you like to teach for 3 years or would you prefer to have the option of having additional time to do research?
While NYC living is expensive for most people, it does seem to make sense financially in your case. The fact that you'd have a support system in NYC could only serve to help you. Saving up money to buy a house later will free you from a lot of stress in the future.

A word on placement stats: These can be tricky at times. Some people may choose to not pursue a teaching career; others may decide to stay in the area due to family obligations.

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Honestly, and this is coming from someone who had to choose between four top ranked programs a few years ago, the only way I found to decide was to visit, be on the campus itself, talk to the people in person, meet the other grad students, and so forth. Numbers went in all various directions, and departmental reputations were of course spread out across my interests from innovative to tried&true, but none of that ended up mattering when it came down to it. My gut ended up telling me where I would flourish the most. For example, I went to visit one school I was really excited about and almost settled on (one of your options actually), and in <24 hours I realized that I could never live there and feel okay about the place, and the people there just didn't click. 

If the environment is miserable for your taste and the people unpleasant, it may come back to bite you in the quality of your work. If you get somewhere and feel like, "Yes. This is home. This place makes me feel really excited to get started," then you've found your choice. Maybe this sounds a little flimsy, but it worked for me. As many lists as I made comparing, I ended up just *knowing* where I wanted to go after I saw the place.  

Edited by Avalanched
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My experience may be different than others', but it always seemed to me that professors--because they don't make huge amounts of money--are borderline obsessed with well-paid positions and fellowships. Whenever a program's reputation begins to skyrocket, it's often because they've secured a way to pay professors or grad students better. So when calculating a program's prestige, I would consider a lucrative fellowship to raise the ranking significantly.

NYU is a very well-respected institution (just by virtue of being in NYC they are always going to be able to attract top talent for faculty; the fact that they have deep pockets helps too). Cornell is too, but while it is probably significantly stronger in Medieval Lit than NYU, is it really that much better in Theory at this point? I can't imagine it is--especially if you start taking NYU's Philosophy program into account. Basically, if in 2013 Cornell was ranked at 8 and NYU was 20, in 2017 I bet they're closer and an additional $22,000 on offer would probably tip the scales in NYU's favor reputation-wise.

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43 minutes ago, heliogabalus said:

Cornell is too, but while it is probably significantly stronger in Medieval Lit than NYU, is it really that much better in Theory at this point? I can't imagine it is--especially if you start taking NYU's Philosophy program into account.

Small but important point: If you take a look at NYU's philosophy department, I think you'll see that they don't have much to offer someone interested in "Theory". In fact, I suspect that much of the work done in that department is rather hostile to "Theory". NYU is certainly a strong place for people with the theoretical interests that the OP has, but I don't think you'll be finding it in the philosophy department.

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9 hours ago, Glasperlenspieler said:

Small but important point: If you take a look at NYU's philosophy department, I think you'll see that they don't have much to offer someone interested in "Theory". In fact, I suspect that much of the work done in that department is rather hostile to "Theory". NYU is certainly a strong place for people with the theoretical interests that the OP has, but I don't think you'll be finding it in the philosophy department.

Actually, to your point Glasperlenspieler: NYU does offer a certificate in theory through The Program in Poetics and Theory, which isn't all too buddy-buddy with the Philosophy program. Apparently the poetics and theory program is more "history of western philosophy" while the Philosophy program has a "strong analytic bent." Luckily, that certificate program is available, so if a philosophy is the answer, poetics and theory just might be.

heliogalabus, I'm liking you're thinking on the correlation between funding and rank. I just got my official acceptance letter from NYU today, which details a funding plan that's even more generous than what I've described above. They're literally throwing money at me. I imagine only so many programs are able to do this.

One thing that does concern me, though, is how strict NYU's program is. Students are not able to take incompletes, and if exams are failed more than once, you are "terminated from the program". This seems a bit severe.

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<< Students are not able to take incompletes, and if exams are failed more than once, you are "terminated from the program". This seems a bit severe.>>

It will also probably get you out of there with a PhD in 5-6 years. In a weird way, these sound like good things to me. And they obviously believe you can do it if they're throwing that much money at you. I have absolutely no dog in this fight, but look at it this way--NYU is willing to give you the same amount of money as many assistant professors are offered. For me--unless I hated New York and it would be prohibitively expensive--that would put NYU far ahead of Cornell.

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True that. NYU isn't as exploitative as some graduate programs, and I respect that they respect me and my kin. At this point, its up to the Open House to seal the deal. 

Thanks for all the feedback, everyone. Reading your responses, and lurking on other threads has done the much needed work of snapping me back to reality. It takes exceptional funding to break the tie between two great programs, and NYU understands this. I'll still be visiting both programs in March, and while I am leaning towards NYU, I will keep an open mind, ask the tough questions, and find my best fit. 

 

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