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How do these options compare?


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For comparative, which one would you choose from the following? And why? I am having a real hard time deciding.

UCSD, MIT or Vanderbilt (and UCLA, perhaps excluding this one due to poor funding).

Of course the request for advice goes to current grad students or people in the job market, not prospectives as myself! I appreciate any good advice!

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If your funding at UCLA is insufficient, I would focus on UCSD and MIT, as Vanderbilt is in an entirely different tier as far as rankings go (unless there is something specific about Vanderbilt that makes you believe it will be a far better fit than the other two, but that's not the sense I get from your post). If it were me, I would go to MIT, but that's because they have some fantastic people working on the topics and methodologies that I work on. I don't attend either, so I don't know a ton about their programs, but it should probably come down to a lot of factors very specific to you - where do you have a better potential advisor? Have you visited yet? Did you meet the professors with whom you imagine you will work and did you get along well? What kinds of topics within our very large subfield of CP interest you? Does either school seem to have more/better people working on your topic? Is there a senior professor at either location who seems particularly interested in you and your work (developing a close relationship early on with a senior professor who thinks highly of your work can open up a lot of doors for you)? 

Perhaps if you share a bit more information about your interests you might be able to get some more useful assessments from people who know those programs particularly well.

One very minor point on location - one thing that I did not think about when I was choosing, but has turned out to be a nice benefit of attending a school in the northeast, is that it's not uncommon for a handful of top schools in the area to put together topic-specific conferences for their students and professors, which makes it much easier to network with top scholars beyond the faculty of your own university. I'm sure all universities hold some conferences, but my impression is that, due to the ease of travel between schools in the New England area, it happens a bit more frequently around here.

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FYI, there are are very few current grad students that frequent this site, much less that are at the job market stage.

And also...I agree with the other poster, you really shouldn't be seriously considering Vanderbilt with the other options. You just need to figure out which of UCSD or MIT is a better fit and how they have placed students in your subfield. Another nice thing about the location of MIT is that you have access to a lot of other professors and academics in the Boston area and can take courses at Harvard. 

Also keep in mind that MIT is more of a boutique program - small faculty and small cohorts - than UCSD (or UCLA). This comes with its positives and negatives but you need to consider which environment would be a better fit for you.

Edited by Comparativist
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Funny that I probably met you yesterday at UCSD if you were there. Remember how much better the weather is in San Diego! Aha but besides that, I would visit both and see how you get along with your fellow grad students and professors. There isnt much difference in ranking and placement. There is a likely a big difference in culture and people. Subfield wise also there are some difference. UCSD is a beast in IR and Comp and quickly growing in American. MIT for methodology for sure. UCSD's theory department is week. But also remember the weather.

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