UofT vs York - halp. - Decisions, Decisions - The GradCafe Forums
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UofT vs York - halp.


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The degree: English m.a. 

The schools: York, UofT

The issues: York is offering scholarships that will cover my tuition at the least. UofT offers Nada (I will need loans). York's faculty seem more welcoming. York offers more options in terms of the degree (e.g. option to do an MRP, or thesis, or directed reading courses, etc.) while UofT is coursework only (so I will be somewhat limited I imagine to producing work along certain lines). However, a few years ago I started a grad degree at UofT but had to drop out and I have a strong urge to finish it off ffs. I think UofT is more competitive and may be more challenging but that could be a good thing? And I want to continue on to do a PhD somewhere awesome and for some reason I have this feeling that UofT would more likely put me in place to go where I want to go.

The ask: please help.

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I'm not in your field, but I think that if you want to do a PhD, having a thesis will make you a more competitive candidate. For many PhD programs, a master's thesis is mandatory. But I'm not sure about your field. Things could be different.

As well, for your PhD you don't know if you will be 100% funded. You might need to take out loans to cover some of your expenses and this could add up to a fair bit of money after a few years. It it were me, I'd likely chose the program at York and try to do some work or a side project with a prof at U of T if you can.

That being said, after rereading your post just now, you mention that you have a feeling that UofT will put you in a better position to achieve your goals. If you feel so strongly about it, then go with your gut. You have 2 good options and there is no right or wrong in making this decision. Choose the option that's best for you.   


Edited by thelionking
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Another outsider's point of view, which can easily be overruled by someone who knows better:

It seems there are a number of upsides to York (the faculty, the chance to do a dissertation).  Downside, I suppose, is that it is less world-famous than U of Toronto.  I don't know how big a deal that is in English Lit.

At U of T, you have quite a lot of downsides-- it may be harder to generate a paper that can be used as a writing sample (or build an impetus to the doctoral program, if that is what you want to do).  Also, while it is nice to swim with the big fish, the course-only calendar gives you 8 opportunities to get lower grades than everyone else, and not a ton of time to carve out your own space.   Will you get to know professors at U of T, or is this a nuisance assembly-line for them?  Or will they push you harder than anyone would at York?  You didn't give any information on that.  [I see in one of the ratings pages that York has over twice the number of students/staff member that U of T does!  Does that matter in your program?]

If it were me and I didn't know about doing a PhD, I might choose Toronto.  It would be a cool place to be, and it might be an eye-opener to see who's hanging out on the top level.  If I had no idea how good I was, and wanted to take a lot of courses to get a better idea of what to do (while living in a nice city), it makes a little sense.  

But if I already knew what I wanted to study and was disciplined and hell-bent on a doctorate (with its own opportunity costs and dicey employment outlook), York would seem like a better bet.  There are a lot of threads here on the prestige of MA programs, and consensus seems to be that it isn't a big deal all by itself.  Whereas money in the humanities is.

Now, if you know you need to slay the dragon in Toronto because of the last time you were there, that's another thing.  But maybe you've seen what you need to know about the place for now, and can come back in a year or two with a strong PhD application.



Edited by Concordia
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I'm not in your field either, but I did my social science MA at York and am currently doing my social science PhD at U of T.

When you say you want to do your PhD 'somewhere awesome', do you have somewhere in mind? I would suggest maybe touching base with the grad secretaries in the respective departments to ask if they have any placement stats about their MA cohorts (they might not, not all departments keep track of this, in which case it might be good to ask to be put in touch with alumni for anecdotes, or to find a list of alumni on the website and Google a few to find out where they went). Try to find out where they go, and see if that aligns with where you want to go. Don't leave it to your gut, find some evidence.

Here's the deal with U of T: grad departments (with some exceptions, like professional programs) are allowed by the Uni to offer funding packages for 5 years of their grad studies programs. Some decide to fund one year of the MA + 4 years of the PhD (my department does this), while some (like English) opt to fund for 5 years of the PhD. This is helpful in a sense, because time to completion rates are much longer in some departments than others. Humanities takes longer than social science which takes longer than life science departments. (Though it should be said, the time to completion for the majority of PhD programs exceeds the funding package - the English PhD program takes, on average, 7 years). After the funding package is done, people often cobble together money from funding agencies, doctoral completion awards, TA-ing, RA-ing, instructing, and some Union funds.

I mention this because, if U of T is the 'somewhere awesome' you want to go for the PhD, you should know that there IS funding for the PhD (but it has limits), and if that IS where you want to go, you should find out if taking the MA at UofT puts you in a better position to get into their PhD program. Does the MA program coursework allow you to forgo PhD program coursework? That's another thing to think about (and that's the deal in my department and the one downside of doing my own MA elsewhere - I had to do MA and PhD-level stats and theory courses in my first year of the PhD because I didn't do my MA at U of T and get the coursework done in that program - if you can effectively accomplish some of your PhD requirements during the MA, then it might be worth it).

So look at where people end up from the prospective programs and see what aligns with your aspirations. Unless there is a strong indication that the U of T MA bolsters your chances of going where you want to go for the PhD (like the U of T PhD program, or, if you want to go anywhere abroad, the U of T name might be worth it), I would go with York. I would personally not advise going into debt for this MA, and I'm proof that you can take an MA from York and go elsewhere (though again, I'm in different field). I really enjoyed my time doing my MA at York, there were lots of great profs and I did my own MRP there, which gave me a strong taste of grad-level research and produced a strong writing sample/proof that I was capable of research at this level for my PhD apps.

That's my two cents. Good luck!

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