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Michigan vs UPenn for M.S. Biostat

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Hi everyone,

I have been admitted to a few M.S. programs in biostatistics, but have narrowed my choices - for a variety of reasons - to the University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania.   Even though I might be interested in obtaining a Ph.D., I wasn't ready to commit to that yet so my preference was for an M.S. first.  I was wondering if anyone had any experience with or observations of the two programs.

I know Michigan is ranked slightly higher than Penn (~#4 vs #8), but not sure if that really makes a big difference?

Penn's program is housed in the Medical School, while Michigan's is affiliated with the School of Public Health.  Seems relevant even though course requirements look about the same.

Penn requires a thesis and comprehensive exams even if you're not applying to the Ph.D. program - thoughts?

Both programs seem to accept people into their PhD programs from the M.S. (application required of course) but it seems more common or more likely at Michigan...?

The biggest issue: I have been notified that I'll get funding at Michigan, but no word yet from Penn.  Does anyone know how likely Penn is to fund M.S. students?  I am leaning toward Michigan for that reason, but Penn's location is a bit better for me personally.

Thanks in advance for any comments.  BTW, in case it matters, I am a US citizen just graduating from undergrad (Stat major, bio minor, top 10 research univ.).

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  • 4 weeks later...

I believe there is no funding from the department at Penn if it is an admit for a Masters program (unless a lot has changed since 2015-16). You may be able to find funding from professors if they accept you as a research assistant on a specific project. Unlikely to land such positions before joining the program, but could get such an opportunity by the second semester. Typically, faculty want to see you work for a bit before any major commitment from there side, coz they know they're PennMed (which really is a way way way bigger deal than SPH or the Med School at UMichigan. However, the situation maybe be different when doing a head to head comparison of Biostats departments!) and be warned that they regularly get great candidates who offer to work for no pay (this is true of the Med school in general).

Other than that since you're a US citizen maybe look into FAFSA. I have heard of figures like $20/hr on grant-funded projects (with 20 hrs per week at most during the regular semester) which is higher than what is offered by other graduate schools at Penn, but this would at most cover living expenses.

Penn gets about 40-50 applications, makes offers to about 18-20 to recruit about 5 masters students, so you could weigh your chances of finding RA positions accordingly. Also,8-9 PhDs recruited per year typically.

PennBiostats requires you to take the comprehensive exam at the end of first year, and if you are considering moving into the PhD program, you have to clear the qualifier at the PhD level. If you do pass at the PhD level, you will basically be told by the AdComm Chair that you can't transfer(or even apply) to Phd program - it's sort of a one strike deal for the master's students. Of course second chances maybe be given, especially if a well set faculty member goes to bat for you, but the chances of a favorable outcome are low.

Edited by BadMoonRising
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