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Stuck choosing between my top 3 picks UCSF, UPenn, and Johns Hopkins for a PhD in Cellular/Molecular/Developmental Biology (varies by school/program). From what I've seen, heard, and read, all three schools have amazing programs, I think my decision will more likely come down to quality of life in those three places.

San Francisco - I'm from the Bay Area, so family is nearby, easiest move and probably safest of the three cities. BUT expensive af and I don't get the experience of moving to a new place.

Philadelphia - Had great interviews with faculty members there, but didn't think the grad students I met were as outgoing or fun. Cheaper than SF for sure, but more expensive than Baltimore. Safer than Baltimore, but still more crime than SF.

Baltimore - I really loved the city and students that I met here. In terms of cost-of-living, in Baltimore you get the most for what you pay. However, everyone keeps warning me about the crime rate in the city. 

Any advice is welcome, especially from current students at any of these schools or students who considered these places.

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When you say "everyone" warns you about the Baltimore crime rates, who are they? I'm not here to be a Baltimore crime-apologist, but I'm irked as a resident when people make claims without properly sourced information. Baltimore is like any major city: there are areas and pockets of crime, and varying levels of crime within those areas. Familiarity with the area helps guide where one should or should not go. A sweeping generalization from someone like my dad, whose father was a police captain for years in Baltimore no less, who says things like, "Why would you go there? Are you looking to get shot?" Well, no, because I stay out of those areas as best I can. And yes, even in the good areas, there is crime, but again, that is any major metro area.

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Hey, I'm a current grad student in Baltimore on the homewood campus. I've never ever ever had any problems with crime. Also on and around the homewood campus, there are security cars EVERYWHERE. It's pretty safe here. I'm a female and I've walked home in the middle of the night hundreds of times alone and I have never had any problems. Lately I have been taking the super convenient security shuttle which picks me up at my building at night and drives me right to my house. There are bad neighborhoods, but you will never have any reason to go there. Seriously do not let crime be the reason why you decide not to come here. 

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UCSF is AMAZING! There's not much to add tbh. And the stipend is generous and SF is not as bad if you know where to look.

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I am going to second Tonydoesmovie. I grew up in Philadelphia and did my undergrad at Temple and lived in West Philly with a bunch of UPenn people. I bugs me when people get concerned about crime rates. I was never a victim of a crime in Philly and I was born there. I also lived in DC and spent a bunch of time in NYC and Baltimore.  You know where I was mugged? Fisherman's Wharf in SF. True story. Go to the school that meets your needs. 

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On 3/9/2017 at 10:45 PM, randoc said:

Stuck choosing between my top 3 picks UCSF, UPenn, and Johns Hopkins for a PhD in Cellular/Molecular/Developmental Biology (varies by school/program). From what I've seen, heard, and read, all three schools have amazing programs, I think my decision will more likely come down to quality of life in those three places.

San Francisco - I'm from the Bay Area, so family is nearby, easiest move and probably safest of the three cities. BUT expensive af and I don't get the experience of moving to a new place.

Philadelphia - Had great interviews with faculty members there, but didn't think the grad students I met were as outgoing or fun. Cheaper than SF for sure, but more expensive than Baltimore. Safer than Baltimore, but still more crime than SF.

Baltimore - I really loved the city and students that I met here. In terms of cost-of-living, in Baltimore you get the most for what you pay. However, everyone keeps warning me about the crime rate in the city. 

Any advice is welcome, especially from current students at any of these schools or students who considered these places.

You should definitely look up gov reports on crime; remember crime rates vary by neighborhood so they may not effect you. Maybe consider spending a few days in Philly and Baltimore. If you like a calm city vibe you'll enjoy Philly. And Philly is close to NYC, DC which is an added bonus.

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I'm going to add on to what tonydoesmovie and mbiochem have said. I'm a Baltimore native, I did undergrad @ Hopkins Homewood, and I'm currently living in the area. I live ~15 min walk from the campus, and I've never felt unsafe walking to and from my home even if it's really really late at night. I could seriously write an entire novel about how much I LOVE the city of Baltimore. I think it's the perfect city for a grad student: really really affordable, a myriad of cool things to do (for when you're not in lab!), easy to get around, close to a bunch of other cool cities (DC 1 hr, Philly 1.5 hrs, NYC 3.5 hrs) etc etc etc. Don't let "everyone" scare you about Baltimore, especially if that "everyone" hasn't experienced living here. 

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