- School 1: top 10, not the best research fit but there are a few projects that I'm interested in. Not a great fit in terms of the living location either, but that's mainly because it's far from my significant other.
- School 2: top 20, many research projects in areas that interest me (two of which the school is the lead institution on). However I am a little concerned because the faculty I met with all had only 1-2 graduate students, and I don't know if this is because they scare students away or are just small in that field. Not a great living location.
- School 3: top 30, haven't made my visit yet but I already know I like the surrounding area. I believe there's interesting research going on here, and a few options for me.
- School 4: top 40, two possible projects, one of which sounds really exciting (and the school is the lead institution on). Good living location for me.
My professional goal is not to become a faculty, but to become a staff scientist at a national laboratory. I feel like there will be opportunities at all the above universities for me to advance my career. However, I know that the reputation of the school may matter when applying for grants and post-docs. Would I be shooting myself in the foot by not going to the best school I got into? I appreciate your feedback and advice.