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Wubbalubbadubdub

Help!! I can't decide which school to choose

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Hi all,

I am having the most difficult time deciding between UC Santa Barbara and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign for PhD in mechanical engineering. Here is a pro/con list for both schools that I made:

UCSB -- Pros: Awesome adviser, flexibility in choosing adviser, full funding, great research project which is unexplored, great weather, beaches and mountains, close to LA, will be involved in both computational and experimental work (which I wanted) 

              Cons: Very high cost of living, not as prestigious as UIUC

UIUC -- Pros: Known as one of the best eng programs, awesome adviser, full funding, fun research topic which has momentum behind it, surrounded by the best of the best, super low cost of living

             Cons: pretty bad weather, far from nearest big city, project will be heavily experimental with computational being an option if something arises

 

As you can see, I can't really complain about my situation too much. For me, this is a very hard decision as the research at both places interests me. I'm posting here to hear some of your advice and possibly experiences so that I can make the most informed decision. Thanks!

 

Edited by Wubbalubbadubdub

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Definitely weather should not be a major factor in deciding which school to attend.

In terms of prestige, it depends on what your long term plans after graduation are. If you plan to stay in academia, prestige can be a factor in your post graduation position although it is not the determinant. But for industry, your skills matter the most and name of the school can't help you if you don't have the necessary skills for the job that you intend to apply. 

The most important factor should be your research interest. Your PhD tenure will most likely set course for your future career so you want it to be something that you truly enjoy.

Edited by Neuronophil

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8 minutes ago, Neuronophil said:

Definitely weather should not be a major factor in deciding which school to attend.

In terms of prestige, it depends on what your long term plans after graduation are. If you plan to stay in academia, prestige can be a factor in your post graduation position although it is not the determinant. But for industry, your skills matter the most and name of the school can't help you if you don't have the necessary skills for the job that you intend to apply. 

The most important factor should be your research interest. Your PhD tenure will most likely set course for your future career so you want it to be something that you truly enjoy.

Your environment can be a factor in your quality of life, dont want to discount it. But I havent given it that much weight.

Im definitely geared towards a research job, yet Im not sure if academia or industry is better for me. This is something i plan to find out early in the PhD.

Im lucky that the groups at each school research topics that I am highly interested in. Which makes this decision so hard. 

 

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I agree that weather can play an important role. I personally loved UIUC when I visited, but I haven't had the chance to go to California so I can't provide a good opinion. As for big cities, well Urbana-Champaign isn't bad, they have got some nice buildings so you don't feel in the middle of nowhere at all. Plus I doubt you will really have that much time to visit other places anyways, I live 30 minutes from Dallas and I hardly ever go since I simply don't have much to do there and I have lots of work to do. For me, it would be UIUC without a doubt. In fact, it was my top choice (I had no funding though), and then I got a fully funded offer somewhere else. 

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28 minutes ago, luisalasnjr said:

I agree that weather can play an important role. I personally loved UIUC when I visited, but I haven't had the chance to go to California so I can't provide a good opinion. As for big cities, well Urbana-Champaign isn't bad, they have got some nice buildings so you don't feel in the middle of nowhere at all. Plus I doubt you will really have that much time to visit other places anyways, I live 30 minutes from Dallas and I hardly ever go since I simply don't have much to do there and I have lots of work to do. For me, it would be UIUC without a doubt. In fact, it was my top choice (I had no funding though), and then I got a fully funded offer somewhere else. 

I like to think that I'm going to treat grad school like a job. Only gonna work from 9-5 with some flexibility of course. Therefore, I feel like I should have enough free time to date, have serious hobbies, as well as go places on the weekends. For example, if I was at UCSB, I could easily drive to LA for a day or the weekend. I'm not sure there is any such option being at UIUC though. Correct me if I'm wrong please. 

i guess that I'm afraid that I will pass up the better option (which is eating me alive!!). I should be grateful that I was offered such positions and I'm sure I would be happy with either of them. But I will always think about what I missed out on. 

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Well, the drive to Chicago is exactly 2 hours, but then you have to include the time you spend dealing with Chicago's traffic. Also, I looked up UCSB, wow, it looks like a great place, and if you feel like the research there is something that is closer to what you like, then go for it! There is nothing worse than doing something that you do not enjoy at all. However, the Mech Grad program seems rather small compared to UIUC. 

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Weather is a very important factor IMO. I'm gonna suffer if I have to wake up, wrap myself with two coats and three scarves, dig my car out from the 30-inch snow, and then drive to the lab. PhD students suffer enough already. That's why Caltech rules!!! jkjk

While the school's name may not be that important, it is sort of important that your PI is famous/prestigious in your field if you want a career in academia.

 

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tbh if you choose PhD program based on weather then you should rethink your career choices. First figure out what your research interest is, then go to the place that is stronger in that field.

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On 4/14/2017 at 8:11 PM, Neuronophil said:

tbh if you choose PhD program based on weather then you should rethink your career choices. First figure out what your research interest is, then go to the place that is stronger in that field.

Nobody is saying weather should be the strongest determiner of one's choice. But to completely discount what environment you'll be in during what will likely be a very challenging period of your life seems a bit naive to me. You might look back and regret saying this after pursuing your graduate studies in Baltimore.

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7 hours ago, aegis921 said:

Nobody is saying weather should be the strongest determiner of one's choice. But to completely discount what environment you'll be in during what will likely be a very challenging period of your life seems a bit naive to me. You might look back and regret saying this after pursuing your graduate studies in Baltimore.

I'm pretty sure I'll forget what the weather is outside when I publish a couple of top notch papers ;).

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