(Closed) PhD choice: WWYD?

posted 6 years ago in College
Post # 3
Member
4824 posts
Honey bee

When it comes to school, I would always go with the better recognized name. Sadly, where you go to school does make an impression and even more so, its who you meet there. The “better the name” the stronger the alumni network.

 

Post # 4
Member
1798 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: August 2011

I’d go to college 2. The strength of the program really determines the value of your degree, so IMO its worth it to go for the best program.

Post # 5
Member
1628 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: July 2012

In all honesty, I’d pick School 2 based on the information you have. It seems like the main draw for #1 is the social connection, and you have no info on that for #2 to compare, but otherwise #2 is the better choice.  I’d email some grad students at #2 and ask them what the level of sociality/cooperation/competitiveness is like out there.  I think unless the people at #2 are miserable (and if they are at all unhappy, the grad students will tell you the truth), then your better option for long-term research and career prospects is #2.  Also, you will begin to resent a program where you’re really hamstrung by what research you can do (i.e., trapped into certain methodology, or with an advisor who isn’t really into what your specific research interest is)

I’m currently in a PhD program that is a 2.5 hr flight away from where my wedding is being planned…but it’s been fine (and in many ways worked to my advantage…I could have a lot of decision-making power without checking in with people because decisions HAD to be made quickly while I was home on short breaks or I could pick things without having to deal with tons of people wanting to come with, which I’d hate).

Post # 6
Member
7293 posts
Busy Beekeeper
  • Wedding: October 2011

I think it depends what you want to do After school!

I’m all for the cheaper, less stressful situation. However if the only way you are going to land a job is with a super specific background or a prestigious name- then I guess you have to go higher.

Personally, I don’t trust any job stuff in this economy. Hopefully by the time you finish your phd things will be different!!

Post # 7
Member
131 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: January 2016

Honestly, the fact that you are even asking this makes me think a PhD might not be the right choice for you.  I’m not saying that to be mean, but because I’ve been down this path myself and know many others who have.  (Seriously regretted their choice to do a PhD and/or dropped out).  To thrive in a PhD program and in academia you have to have the kind of single minded dedication to your career that would make school 2 the obvious choice for you.

Edit:  and by thrive, I don’t mean be able to succeed academically, but in the sense of having it be the right choice for your life.  

Post # 8
Member
320 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: January 2012 - Wynn Las Vegas/Bouchon Bistro

@laurelina:  Whoa, now. It depends on what field the OP wants to go into, and what she wants to do after graduation. If she wants to go into academia? School 2, no question. But if she wants to work in industry or private practice (or even teach at a community college), it’s less of an obvious answer. It’s especially not obvious enough where people should immediately question her dedication to this educational path.

I was in a PhD program for six years, and there is a LOT to be said about spending that time somewhere where you feel supported, happy, and fulfilled.

That being said, from the way that you present the information right now, school 2 does seem like a better program for you. I’d wait to decide how you feel after vising and talking to people.

PS. Be sure to ask how funding works at both schools, as that will be important. Is your stipend at School 1 tied to a TA/GA position? Is it guaranteed for X years? What about at School 2? My opinion is that you should not enter a PhD program without the guarantee of funding for an amount of time similar to the amount of time it will take to graduate.

Post # 9
Member
716 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: March 2014

School 2. For sure… having a school that can get you in’s is very very important

Post # 11
Member
4682 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: January 2014

How small of a city is school 2 in? Could your Fiance find something in the area for him, both professionally and socially?

How much freedom does your presumptive advisor give the students in the lab?

Post # 14
Member
320 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: January 2012 - Wynn Las Vegas/Bouchon Bistro

@hyperJulie:  Ah, so your additional comments make it seem like the schools aren’t actually that far apart in placements or publications. That makes things harder for you. 🙂

I probably can’t speak for your field, but in my discipline it would be a huge red flag if schools are being less than fortright about funding to a prospective student (all three of the programs to which I was accepted offered me contracts with X years of guaranteed funding at Y with either GAs or TAs after year Z, obviously based on my own appropriate progression through the departmental requirements).

Do you have mentors or advisors with whom you can talk about the pros/cons of each school?

Post # 15
Member
131 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: January 2016

@mole:  See, if she wants to teach at a community college, I would tell her that she doesn’t need a Ph.D. to do that.  If she wants to go into private practice (I don’t know what field she’s in, but say she wants to be a therapist) – I’d tell her that she doesn’t need a PhD to do that, insurance companies don’t pay for PhD psychologists, and that she’d be better off either going to med school or getting an LCSW/MFT etc.  I realize there are some exceptions depending on the field but I think probably 90 percent of the time it doesn’t make much sense to get a PhD unless you want to go into academia.  It’s not that I am questioning her dedication, it’s more that based on my observation, the people who end up being glad that they went into PhD programs are people who are super devoted/single minded in pursuit of research goals/etc.  

@hyperJulie:  I think you are definitely smart to be concerned with pragmatics.  From your initial description it sounded more like you’d have better career options coming out of school 2 but now with your further comments it does seem like more of a wash esp. with the publications issue.  I do think that when you’re talking about academia, the reputation of your specific advisor in the niche you want to go into matters more than the overall reputation of the school.  But the fact that you may end up without funding at school 2 is definitely a problem.

Post # 16
Member
1856 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: March 2013

I would weigh things out *very* carefully in terms of the academic side, in terms of potential supervisors, the research experience you’ll come out with, etc. BUT I would not discount the importance of being able to live well and with support – meaning that the funding issues, the potential for living comfortably (financially and socially), and the options for your Fiance are important.

I accepted a place in my PhD program without full info on funding (which happened to nearly everyone both in my cohort and the previous and later cohorts, too), which would have changed my decision. Honestly, $16,500/year-$20,000/year isn’t that much to live off, and if it’s tied to specific tasks (teaching assistantships, for examples), some of it depends on the availability of that work in your department. If you can live at home (I totally would if I could!) at least for the beginning of your program and avoid the difficulties of moving, separation from what you’re used to, and learning to live off a fairly small amount of money, it might be worth considering school #1, if you feel that overall the program will be as beneficial.

I personally would tell you not only to focus on the name and branding of the school. Look at who you will be working with, who they’ve worked with, what support they will provide you in getting you research experience and getting published. What’s the reputation of your potential supervisor? In my personal opinion (and experience), it matters more who they are rather than the rep of your school. Although this probably does depend on your field, obviously – this has been my (and others) experience in the social sciences.

The definite problem I see here is that your funding package won’t be assured until after you make your decision – I’ve been in that same position (and am again… ugh) and it’s really frustrating. Personally, I would take that out of the picture in trying to make the decision. Your yearly stipend otherwise is comparable in both schools, and if there’s the possibility this fellowship won’t come through, you’ll be looking at living off a similar amount in either case.

Good luck making your decision! It’s exciting to start this new chapter 🙂

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