Harvard or Columbia?

magdalenasophie
Posts: 12
Joined: Thu Jul 07, 2016 1:13 pm

Harvard or Columbia?

Postby magdalenasophie » Sun Feb 12, 2017 5:43 pm

Hi all! I've recently been admitted to the graduate programs in astronomy at NYU, Toronto, Columbia and Harvard. I'm super happy about it, of course, but I'm very much torn between Columbia and Harvard. I spent a few months at Harvard last summer, and academically it was brilliant but I thought the area (Cambridge) was pretty quiet. I didn't find myself that well in Boston, and the thought of bars closing at 2am the latest is kinda depressing...
In contrast I only visited Columbia for one day but I absolutely loved it, I loved NYC and the graduate students seemed super happy. So I'm kinda leaning towards Columbia, but I'm afraid I am making a mistake saying no to Harvard. Here's an excerpt from my brain at night when I'm trying to go to sleep:

What if I get sick of NYC? 5-6 years is a long time...

But what if I get really bored of Cambridge?

What if the other grad students at Harvard are total nerds and I won't make friends? The Columbia guys seemed super nice!!!

But what if my husband can't find a job in NYC? It's so competitive.

What if I go to Columbia and once I graduate I will have a harder time competing with recent Harvard graduates?

What if Harvard grad school is too taxing? Aren't they all burnt out?

Am I throwing away the chance of a lifetime if I don't go to Harvard?


And so on... Any thoughts?

nullreference
Posts: 1
Joined: Sun Feb 12, 2017 5:52 pm

Re: Harvard or Columbia?

Postby nullreference » Sun Feb 12, 2017 6:00 pm

What matters is the work you produce, so pick where you imagine you'll be the happiest. And yes, Cambridge and is boring... the city closes down at 12, the T no longer runs late at night, etc.

magdalenasophie
Posts: 12
Joined: Thu Jul 07, 2016 1:13 pm

Re: Harvard or Columbia?

Postby magdalenasophie » Sun Feb 12, 2017 6:46 pm

nullreference wrote:What matters is the work you produce, so pick where you imagine you'll be the happiest. And yes, Cambridge and is boring... the city closes down at 12, the T no longer runs late at night, etc.


Thanks! Have you lived in Cambridge/Boston during term time?

theladybug
Posts: 25
Joined: Sun Sep 18, 2016 9:26 pm

Re: Harvard or Columbia?

Postby theladybug » Sun Feb 12, 2017 6:47 pm

You should probably go to Columbia if your husband thinks he can be happy there and find work. You sound really excited about Columbia. They're both good programs and you can probably do better work somewhere you're happy and comfortable.
Are you invited to visit them again before you decide? I don't know how it works for international students.

magdalenasophie
Posts: 12
Joined: Thu Jul 07, 2016 1:13 pm

Re: Harvard or Columbia?

Postby magdalenasophie » Sun Feb 12, 2017 6:58 pm

theladybug wrote:You should probably go to Columbia if your husband thinks he can be happy there and find work. You sound really excited about Columbia. They're both good programs and you can probably do better work somewhere you're happy and comfortable.
Are you invited to visit them again before you decide? I don't know how it works for international students.


I think I will visit both in early March! And yes, I am super excited about Columbia - I think it just feels kinda _wrong_ to turn Harvard down...
How about you? Will you be visiting either of them?

theladybug
Posts: 25
Joined: Sun Sep 18, 2016 9:26 pm

Re: Harvard or Columbia?

Postby theladybug » Sun Feb 12, 2017 8:25 pm

magdalenasophie wrote:
theladybug wrote:You should probably go to Columbia if your husband thinks he can be happy there and find work. You sound really excited about Columbia. They're both good programs and you can probably do better work somewhere you're happy and comfortable.
Are you invited to visit them again before you decide? I don't know how it works for international students.


I think I will visit both in early March! And yes, I am super excited about Columbia - I think it just feels kinda _wrong_ to turn Harvard down...
How about you? Will you be visiting either of them?

You don't need to make your mind up before you visit, then.

Yeah, I feel the same way when I think about Princeton, but I have a really good mentor in my field and he and I had a long talk about the advantages of some other programs and how I should consider them carefully. It is our future, after all. I think a better fit is more important for grad school than choosing whatever school seems most impressive, especially when you get into multiple good schools.

I'm visiting Columbia, but the applied physics open house overlaps with Princeton's, so I'm trying to figure out an alternative time to visit them!

ckitc
Posts: 24
Joined: Mon Jan 09, 2017 4:52 pm

Re: Harvard or Columbia?

Postby ckitc » Sun Feb 12, 2017 9:13 pm

The only tidbit I have: I spent last summer working at CfA, and from my interactions with the grad students they all seemed incredibly happy and not at all burnt out. The faculty are also great and the program seems very low stress compared to many (no quals, guaranteed funding even in the absence of a grant, etc etc).

I realize this probably only makes it harder, but it's the truth! Happy to talk about it more with you (and hell, maybe I'll see you at the visit...I'll be at the second one).

magdalenasophie
Posts: 12
Joined: Thu Jul 07, 2016 1:13 pm

Re: Harvard or Columbia?

Postby magdalenasophie » Mon Feb 13, 2017 8:56 am

theladybug wrote:
magdalenasophie wrote:
theladybug wrote:You should probably go to Columbia if your husband thinks he can be happy there and find work. You sound really excited about Columbia. They're both good programs and you can probably do better work somewhere you're happy and comfortable.
Are you invited to visit them again before you decide? I don't know how it works for international students.


I think I will visit both in early March! And yes, I am super excited about Columbia - I think it just feels kinda _wrong_ to turn Harvard down...
How about you? Will you be visiting either of them?

You don't need to make your mind up before you visit, then.

Yeah, I feel the same way when I think about Princeton, but I have a really good mentor in my field and he and I had a long talk about the advantages of some other programs and how I should consider them carefully. It is our future, after all. I think a better fit is more important for grad school than choosing whatever school seems most impressive, especially when you get into multiple good schools.

I'm visiting Columbia, but the applied physics open house overlaps with Princeton's, so I'm trying to figure out an alternative time to visit them!


Which schools are you considering? Are you considering turning down Princeton? I visited last summer and didn't like it at all... :-/

theladybug
Posts: 25
Joined: Sun Sep 18, 2016 9:26 pm

Re: Harvard or Columbia?

Postby theladybug » Mon Feb 13, 2017 10:34 am

magdalenasophie wrote:Which schools are you considering? Are you considering turning down Princeton? I visited last summer and didn't like it at all... :-/

Princeton is still my top choice, I think, but I got into some other really good schools with interesting research in my field (Wisconsin, Columbia, UT Austin, and UC Irvine) so I'm trying to at least explore my options.
I think the atmosphere is different for astronomy vs plasma physics. I also visited last summer and was pretty impressed. They've been super friendly and welcoming the whole admissions process, one of my friends is already in the program and introduced me to the other grad students and took me out to the pub with them, and two of my other friends might end up there. Plus their plasma program is amazing.




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