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Top Tier school or lower ranked school with better program for me?

sneaky monkey


Ive been admitted to two masters programs and Im having a hard time deciding. One school is #1 in its field (UC Berkeley environment/ecology) but the graduate program isn't exactly what I want to do. Its a Masters of Landscape Architecture with an Environmental Planning emphasis. A large part of the program is design which I don't really have a background (or interest) in. What I really want to do is coastal ecology using remote sensing for sea level rise planning at an agency like NOAA but Im still not clear if I can do a remote sensing based thesis project for the MLA program. Faculty and graduate advisors have been pretty slow at getting back to me with my questions. The other program is a CSU state school (San Francisco State University) and has an M.S. Marine Science with people who are already doing remote sensing coastal ecology. The program itself is pretty competitive but the school overall isn't. Ultimately I will probably go on to do a Ph.D. but Im wondering how much prestige really matters? Should I do the program Im not so sure about (the MLA EP) just because its at a top tier school (Berkeley)? Or do the program that is already supporting the research I want to do (M.S. Marine Science at SF State) even if it doesn't have the big name panache?
Thanks for any advice and feedback!
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Hi Sneaky Monkey, in your shoes I think I would go with San Francisco State. If you want to get into a PhD program it will be SO IMPORTANT to have research experience in your given field, and it sounds like SFSU could give you some really good skill sets. If your academic passion links up with professors' specialties it will be a lot easier for them to write the kind of glowing, specific rec letters that will get you into a PhD program, and also for you to make contacts among their network of colleagues doing similar work.

Good luck deciding! :)

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