Oh the joys of choosing a place to live (and research) for four long years …

I’m in the middle of deciding which school I want to attend for my PhD. Sometimes, I wish the schools had made it easy for me by only accepting me at one place, so then the decision would be made for me; but alas, that is not the case. So now I am visiting them to meet faculty, see the location (which, of course, is typically in the middle of nowhere) and try and figure out if I can tolerate the place for at least four years.

Tomorrow I fly to Michigan, and I must admit, I’m a little nervous at the prospect of living in the Midwest for four years. I like a little snow, but I don’t think I’m prepared for the winters they have along the Great Lakes. This (left) is what I think of when I think of the northern parts of the U.S., and in some cases, I may not be too far off. Okay, fine, I’m probably far off everywhere except northern Alaska. But still! I’ve been spoiled by living in the Mid-Atlantic and the South my whole life. I’ve never put chains on my tires. In fact, I try to avoid driving whenever there’s even a chance of snow!

So here’s my dilemma. What criteria do I use to choose a program and how much weight do I give to each factor? Location is important, but so is the strength of the program. Will it help me more to get a job if I go to the ivy league school with the ok program or the ok school with the better-known program? Should I go where the professor I want to work with is regardless of other factors, or should I put my ability to survive in that city first?

This is what I have been thinking about the last few weeks, and probably what I will continue to think about over the next month, as I try to make my final decision while finishing my master’s thesis. So if you have been through this before, I would love to hear your advice/story/etc. Anything to aid me in making this rather important decision.


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