I'm interested in experimental condensed matter physics. I have offers from Purdue, Vanderbilt, and U Mass Amherst for Physics PhD programs (with funding), and I'm on the wait list for a few other schools (U Minnesota, Stony Brook).
I visited Vanderbilt and enjoyed it, but generally speaking Vanderbilt has lower rankings than Purdue. How seriously should I take these rankings? I'm assuming I can be successful with a degree from either program, but I've heard that grad students at larger schools generally have a harder time getting individualized attention from PIs / get worked to death with TA-ing huge classes / use their qualifying exam to just weed out the weaker students after a few years of teaching undergrad labs. Vanderbilt seems to have good faculty and facilities (I haven't visited Purdue) - can anyone out there compare the two?
I don't know if it matters, but I've also heard that outside of Purdue/UMass Amherst there's essentially no city at all...I'd like for a more urban environment and Vandy delivers there.
Thanks for the input.