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Decision-making difficulty


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Hi all, I'm currently agonizing over making a final decision between two great schools--I'll call them School X and School Y--and would be grateful to hear any thoughts of the community because everyone seems so helpful and insightful! 

School X is a top-20 school. It is located in a dense, cosmopolitan city, and a very liberal state. It's quite accessible from an international airport. The faculty working in my areas of interest is large and diverse, but no one works specifically in my area of interest; that is to say, if I am interested in object studies in African literature and how it reflects race relations, for instance (an area I just made up), the faculty in School X are strong in African literature, object studies, race relations, but not the intersection of them. The courses that they are offer are very exciting and innovative to me. Thus, at this moment, while there are many professors with whom I would like to work, there is no one particular professor whom I gravitate toward and know will be my mentor. The student body seems very international and diverse. School X is a private school, so I am thinking that the program will be more sheltered from the effects of Trump's cuts. I have a friend living in the city, so I have someone to turn to and help me settle down if I need help.

School Y is a top-10 school. It's located in a small-to-mid college town, about an hour or two away from the state capital. I'm not sure how liberal the state/city is, but as an LGBT-identifying person, it's an area of concern for me. It's definitely not as accessible as School X, especially from the international airport in my city. Professor Z, the name in the specific area in which I am interested, is at School Y, and I would love to work with her. She has also expressed a very warm interest in my work and in working with me, and I have heard that she is a wonderfully supportive mentor. There are a few other professors whose work I am interested in, though not directly related to my research areas. However, the department at School Y is more "traditional" and not as eclectic as the one in School X, so apart from Professor Z, I can't really say that I can explore or develop my interests as fully as I can in School X. I am also worried about going to a school to work with just one professor in particular, a fear compounded by Trump's budget cuts to education and to the arts and the fact that School Y is a public school. The student body is, according to the students I have spoken to, "overwhelmingly white and non-international," and though I want to stress that that's definitely not a negative thing per se, I would enjoy interacting with a diverse population.

Funding at both schools is generous, and I would be happy with either, so it's not playing a role in my decision-making process. Both schools also have a comparable placement rate and a rigorous professionalization program.

I would really appreciate any thoughts of advice from everyone. Thanks! :) 

Edited by fuzzylogician
Edited for privacy at poster's request
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Thanks, that's a really good point! I could indeed produce an infinite list of reasons... I guess what would be more useful would be to prioritize some factors so things make more sense instead of being a mess of unsorted information. 

Unfortunately I wasn't able to attend the open house, which is why I'm agonizing over this decision! 

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I think if it were me, I would ask School X to what extent you would be able to collaborate across departments. This was a specific concern of mine as well, because my intended research is interdisciplinary. Frankly, it sounds like that's your main concern about School X and that it otherwise presents a near-ideal opportunity for you. 

If I'm understanding correctly: I suggest sending an email to a professor in the department and asking them about interdisciplinary or intersubfield (I just made up that word) collaboration and support. Specifically, I might ask whether it's permissible, given the nature of your intended research, that your future dissertation advisors be composed of faculty from different departments. The answer will likely help you a great deal.

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To me, it seems like school Y may be the place for you. it's important to have that support system and it seems like the professor you'd work under is willing to take you under their wing. Furthermore, you'd be enhancing your educational development at the university because it targets exactly what you're interested in. 

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I would definitely do School Y. Having somebody you are already deeply interested in working with is really important and a great thing to have right away. Yes, I understand that being LGBT often informs decisions; it was definitely a concern for me. But I think you'll find that most universities are accepting and excited by diversity of thought and identity. And if some aren't, your presence and scholarship might change their opinions. Overall, I think School Y sounds like a better fit, which is the most important aspect for your education and future.

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I suggest getting into contact with the schools' LGBT centers if they have them, or if not, their biggest LGBT student group. When I was briefly in law school, the LGBT center was instrumental in helping me figure out the climate there. They should be able to help you get a feel for it before you commit either way.

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