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Columbia vs UCSF

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There are many things I like about both places. The community and environment I liked more at Columbia, but of course the main issue of me is research and career prospectives.

I'm mostly interested in going into genetics, academia careerwise. Which program is best?

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Coming from someone who is currently waitlisted at Columbia, I'll try to be unbiased.

Looking at your previous posts, it looks like you may be overthinking your decision. They both have great programs, but you will only get out what you put in to the program. My best advice would be to go with your gut feeling. It is difficult to rank a program based on others view of the program.

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If you have a similar list of faculty you are interested in at both schools (at least 3-5 accomplished faculty members at both institutions who you could see yourself working with) then go with your gut! You will not be making a wrong choice here as both institutions are top tier! From your previous posts, I can see that you feel like you should go to UCSF but other programs gave you a better gut feeling! I was in a similar situation before I made my final decision, and ended up picking the program I had a better gut feeling about/thought would make me happier and I think it was the right one! If you work with an accomplished faculty member at either school you will have great career prospects, so its not going to make much of a difference which institution its at (considering both of these schools are highly regarded). 

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First, I will echo what others have said: you will get out of your PhD what you put into it. The program you choose needs to be right for you. Look for PIs doing work you want to do. Forget courses, forget everything other than the work being done and whether or not it's the type of work that will keep you up at night. 

If both programs fit your needs, think about SF vs NYC. Rent is ridiculous in SF, but it's also high in NYC. However, I believe Columbia provides subsidized housing in Washington Heights. Does SF provide affordable housing? In general, it seems like there are west coast people and east coast people. If you know which type you are, the choice should be easy. 

As far as science goes, I was under the impression that Columbia pretty much invented modern genetics. Depending on the type of genetics you like, Columbia could be a great fit. In my mind, as someone reading papers everyday, I see more biochemistry coming out of UCSF. I'll just say, there are some amazing publications coming out of UCSF. There are also outstanding PIs coming out of UCSF. 

In the end, you're in a really great position and you will be happy either way. Ask yourself, 1) If my top three choices for labs don't work out, will I be happy with my fourth choice?, 2) Do I see myself living in NYC or SF for five or so years? 

I know this post is unorganized and prattling. I've had way too much coffee today. But I hope the general ideas are conveyed. Feel free to PM me if you would like bounce around ideas. 

Congratulations, regardless! You're in a very fortunate position. 

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On March 22, 2017 at 2:11 PM, blc073 said:

 If both programs fit your needs, think about SF vs NYC. Rent is ridiculous in SF, but it's also high in NYC. However, I believe Columbia provides subsidized housing in Washington Heights. Does SF provide affordable housing? In general, it seems like there are west coast people and east coast people. If you know which type you are, the choice should be easy. 

UCSF does provide subsidized housing but only about 1/3 of those applying for it get it, and you can only live in it for 2 years. However, I think that if you live off campus, they give you extra funds beyond the stipend to help with housing. If there's a UCSF grad student here, maybe they can confirm this. 

As far as being an east coast vs west coast person, I don't think there's really such a binary. I'm in NYC where many ppl are transplants from elsewhere, many from the opposite coast. Can't really distinguish between us. I went to an Ivy for undergrad where, like all its peer schools, nearly 1/2 the student body is from 3 states: CA, NY and MA. Again, we had more in common than not. And SF is full of classmates of mine who grew up out east but got jobs in tech straight out of college. So I don't think weighing which "type" you are should matter. But the rest of blc073's advice is right on point, solid, and well said.

Edited by Cervello

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26 minutes ago, Cervello said:

As far as being an east coast vs west coast person, I don't think there's really such a binary. I'm in NYC where many ppl are transplants from elsewhere, many from the opposite coast. Can't really distinguish between us. I went to an Ivy for undergrad where, like all its peer schools, nearly 1/2 the student body is from 3 states: CA, NY and MA. Again, we had more in common than not. And SF is full of classmates of mine who grew up out east but got jobs in tech straight out of college. So I don't think weighing which "type" you are should matter. But the rest of blc073's advice is right on point, solid, and well said.

I think there are fundamental lifestyle differences between living in the Bay Area and living in NYC. People with certain personalities will gravitate to one lifestyle over the other. 

One's experience at an Ivy League university is not representative of the popular college experience. Furthermore, graduate school is completely different than undergraduate. 

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2 hours ago, blc073 said:

I think there are fundamental lifestyle differences between living in the Bay Area and living in NYC. People with certain personalities will gravitate to one lifestyle over the other. 

One's experience at an Ivy League university is not representative of the popular college experience. Furthermore, graduate school is completely different than undergraduate. 

First, I'd like to say again that I agreed with most of what you had to say and thought you were well spoken (well, actually, well written :-) ). But I still don't think the lifestyle point is all that critical to making this decision because we're considering two urban areas, both of which offer great city culture and also outdoor activities within 40 mins from town. 

I've lived in NYC for six years and have spent time in SF visiting friends and family. Obviously, SF has better weather, but people I know in SF, many of whom were my best friends in college, are just as happy there as they were here, and doing many of the same things. Outside of work, for those who aren't grad students & have more time to kill, or lab/class for those who are but are trying to get some downtime, they're either doing typical urban stuff or they're outdoors hiking, just we do here in NYC. There's amazing hiking under an hour away from midtown. Great softball league in Central Park. Terrific beaches on Long Island. One thing we have in NYC that SF doesn't have at quite the same level is theater, but they still have some good stuff happening in that realm, too. Maybe it's just that I think people who are tech, comp sci, biotech, lab ppl are more alike than they are different no matter what coast they're on. All I'm saying is that I don't think it's a big distinguishing factor to consider, except for weather. One might really prefer the weather on one coast over the other.

Finally, I never claimed that my undergrad experience was representative of the popular college experience. In fact, I was claiming the opposite. In schools like mine, nearly half the undergrad population is from the 3 states I named (CA, MA & NY), while the other half is hugely diverse. Since those 3 states are heavily represented, you tend to meet plenty of ppl from those states and begin to recognize that ppl who grow up on the coasts tend to have more in common than not.

And lastly, my comment wasn't meant to speak to the differences between grad school and undergrad. I've been a tech for 2 years at Columbia, my undergrad institution. It's a world of difference, not least because I'm no longer on the undergrad campus but rather up at the medical center, and like the grad students & post docs in my lab, I'm working full time and really long hours with only 2 weeks off a year. The only undergrads I see are those working in labs up here. I imagine it's the same where you are, since Longwood and many of the Harvard labs are in Boston and even Belmont. So yeah, given my own experience the last two years, I agree with you: undergrad and grad school are little alike, even though I worked in a lab as an undergrad every semester from freshman year and every summer. As an undergrad involved in a lot of different ECs, my lab work didn't define me the way it does now.

And for whatever it's worth, I don't mean to be contentious with you, especially because I agree with and value much of what you've posted here on Grad Cafe. I think you've given great, solid advice. I simply didn't agree with the one, minor, point. 

 

Edited by Cervello

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2 hours ago, Cervello said:

Obviously, SF has better weather...

This is my point. It's not a fact that San Francisco has better weather than NYC. Personally, I much prefer the weather in Boston compared to California. Clearly I am more of an east coast person. All I am saying is that each coast has little things that make it more appealing to some people. 

In the era of alternative facts and Trump, I have to say this is a ridiculous argument. There is just so obviously a difference between west coast people and east coast people, it's unreal. There's the West Coast-East Coast hip hop rivalry, there's the term "best coast" in reference to the west coast, there's a Huffpost article entitled "33 Reasons the West Coast is the Best Coast," there's a Buzzfeed quiz called "Are you more east coast or west coast," I can go on. I actually can't believe someone would dispute the notion that there are west coast people and east coast people. 

Also, I know you meant well, but I would avoid telling people they are well spoken. It's incredibly condescending. 

Edited by blc073

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