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Decisions and Dealbreakers


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I've got a question about epistemic positions in the decision-making process.

Let's suppose there's a candidate who was admitted to several excellent programs. Near the end, their decision has come down to NYU, MIT, or Rutgers. For some of us, this would be an obvious choice. For others, this would be an excruciatingly difficult choice to make. 

In cases like these, is there a way that an onlooker could reasonably predict which choice the person makes? Certainly there are big/obvious factors, like interest fit, faculty they'd like to work with, location preference, and so on. However, it seems that there has got to be a sizable gap of information that onlookers can't really gauge. This is basically the position of any very curious waitlistee.

If you were in a position akin to that of the admitted candidate, do you have certain dealbreakers that would sway you one way or another? Or do any of you have anecdotes regarding either having made this decision, or being in the process of making a decision like this?

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Oftentimes personal reasons can factor into the decision in ways that an onlooker would have no way of predicting. At the end of the line my decision was between Harvard and UCLA, and I can tell you that a lot of people saw the former as the obvious choice. For reasons of fit, though, and perhaps more importantly for a host of personal reasons with no academic import whatsoever, I chose the latter.

Unfortunately I don't know that there is a reliable method of predicting the choices admits will make beyond very holistic references to perceptions of quality and fit.

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I made my decision between three largely equivalent programs mostly on the basis of yearly average temperature, and secondarily on a desire not to move back to the city I grew up in. You might be able to guess something like the first criterion. But weird individual things like the second? Good luck. Get to the Winchester, have a pint, and wait for everything to blow over.

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