I am starting my PhD in astronomy this Fall and I have been accepted to Umass Amherst astronomy, UIUC astronomy, UT Dallas Physics and few other programs. But I am looking forward to attending either Umass Amherst or UIUC. I am interested to know if you can share any first hand experience about astronomy graduate program in either of these two institutes. I already visited Umass and I liked their groups, faculty-student relationship, research window and overall environment. I will be visiting UIUC soon. But even after these two visits I think I will still be confused on which program will be very well suited for me.
A little background from my side:
(*) I did my Bsc in Physics and masters in Physics from Umass Dartmouth, so I am techanically from Massachusetts now.
(*) My masters thesis was on computational astrophysics, but I would like to keep myself open to theoretical and computational astrophysics to observational and instrumentation, whatever suits me on the way.
(*) Amherst offers $29,600 for 12 months, with 95% coverage on health insurance
(*) UIUC offers $22,900 for 12 months, no health insurance coverage
It will be very helpful for me if you can point out pros and cons of these universities to help me make the right university choice.