So, as most people know by now... I got into UT Austin for Astronomy. It surprised me a lott because UT was very high on my list of 14 schools (#4 before I got accepted) and has since then made its was up to the tied #2 spot (shared with UWisc-Madison and leaving UWash behind). It has been partly a financial decision (UWash pays just over half what I would get at Austin from what I can tell from last years offers), but mostly research. Looking over and over again at the UT website and reading about how the students get 24% of the time on the McDonald Observatory, that the qual exam is a presentation and that you get a running start on research had just convinced me. Austin, the blue spot of Texas, as I like to call it, is just a great place to spend a couple years of my life. The weather might just be the same as LA in the long run, but I don't need a car to get some descend food or do whatever, I get live music, I get good food, and I get descendly priced places to live in what could I want more.
Stanford may still be #1, but I only have faint hopes of getting accepted with my 700 PGRE and I certainly am considering UT over Stanford to some extend. Yes, I do have connection to Stanford. Yes, I have been working with their systems. Yes, I adore the location and the campus. Yes, I do get along with my future advisor. But some things just turn me off about Stanford. For one this elitist attitude that seems to be worse than Harvard or Yale at times, i.e. getting told things like "The PGRE score correlates highly with the result on the qual exam, " where I just got "Who in the world will care what I scored on my qual exam when I passed it" and then having an average PGRE score lower than all other Top 10 schools. Great you have Noble Prize Winner, but I honestly could not give a rat's ass about that if you are the biggest ego (read asshole) on campus. The whole Dec 15th deadline pissed the *** out of me, when I get an email saying "we don't decide till march 1st," which basically means "we will keep you waiting because we can because we are stanford." On the other hand, the whole "we will contact you if something is missing" and then sending out emails to some people that their apps are complete, while others (me included) won't even be dignified with an answer. If you don't want me tell me now and not in over a month. Yes, I am bitter about this application because it was due right when most schools have finals, where in the back of my head it goes "we are doing is because we can." Yes it is a ramble about Stanford, but this might change when I get to know more people there during the visiting weekend, if I get accepted of course. Yes, Palo Alto is sort of the crown jewel of the silicon valley, but I would have go to Oakland or San Jose to see live music for most of the shows I go to, and the rent is over the top... everything else is like Austin.
One might wonder what happened to all the other schools on my list, well here a quick summary:
UIUC: If i get in here, I will eat a broom
UHawaii: Yes I know Hawaii, would could one want more location-wise, when you can afford the overprized everything
PSU: Very nice program, also McDonald Observatory, Yes I like seasonal changes, but not between having to go on a polar exhibition and having to strip cause it is too humid
Yale: What should I say.. Yale a very nice campus, lots of facilities, very small department, but New Haven is a rat hole outside of Yale, and I don't care how close it is to NYC
NYU: They can keep their acceptance if I get one, after a 10 minute lecture by the secretary on recommendations, Dec 12th deadline, late information about the important part (money) and hearing that they pay less than UT and that in NYC I will not even bother dignifying them with an answer
USC: My future alma mater... well forget I am sick of living in south central and LA in general, as it sucks without a car
UCLA: Again the "we will tell if something is missing" very erratic in who gets admitted and from what I hear all the spots are already taken before the admissions process has even started
UWisc: Yes contender for #2, Yes, I can work in Italy, Yes the person I want to work with is German, and Yes they pay well, No they are like Novosibirsk and I dount i am getting in anyway
UWash; Yes I have connections, Yes I can work in Germany, Yes it is Seattle and people have the right mindset for me, No they will put be somewhere close to the poverty line, No to the Nov 1st deadline and no word since then and chances of getting are slim to none with my low PGRE score
OSU: Columbus is nice, new building, nice group, German enclave in the department, but I am tired of having to run after the administration and the physics department telling me to wait till late Feb even though I did the fellowship deadline, Nov 30th
Boulder: Yes great town, Yes great school, Yes future advisor works with JILA, No a secretary that is too lazy to update my status online because she can't check her email, No because it is more planetary science than astrophysics and their Dec. 1st deadline and no word since then
JHU: Yes great program, Yes, I can work with SDSS and that can get me into Harvard-Smithsonian if I do it right, yes to funding, No I have spend enough time in the ghetto