deciding between schools

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Samual_Adams
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Joined: Tue Mar 04, 2008 5:01 am

deciding between schools

Postby Samual_Adams » Fri Mar 07, 2008 2:19 am

So... I have gotten only acceptances, which seems great on the surface. Now, though, I need to decide where to go.

I got into U Washington, Berkeley, Caltech, Stanford, Princeton, and Rutgers.

My main interest area is Cosmology.

Everyone I've talked to has refrained from actually giving me advice about where to go, and I'm having trouble even deciding what are important criteria: Location, Stipend, Coolness of potential advisors are all of the list, but I'm not sure which are more important.

Any suggestions on how to choose?

rooibos
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Joined: Tue Feb 26, 2008 10:58 pm

Re: deciding between schools

Postby rooibos » Fri Mar 07, 2008 3:24 am

eeny meeny miny moe...

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fermiboy
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Re: deciding between schools

Postby fermiboy » Fri Mar 07, 2008 3:38 am

For some of us, the algorithm has been greatly simplified by the admissions committees.

christopher3.14
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Re: deciding between schools

Postby christopher3.14 » Fri Mar 07, 2008 4:14 am

Samual_Adams wrote:Everyone I've talked to has refrained from actually giving me advice about where to go, and I'm having trouble even deciding what are important criteria: Location, Stipend, Coolness of potential advisors are all of the list, but I'm not sure which are more important.

Any suggestions on how to choose?


Yeah, it's such an iffy thing choosing a school. I think you should try to visit all the schools you're seriously considering. All other things being equal, walking around the place and meeting the people just might give you that "this is the place"-feeling.

ibbgs
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Re: deciding between schools

Postby ibbgs » Fri Mar 07, 2008 8:25 am

I would take the advice above and visit all those you are most serious about. All the factors you mentioned are important. The other thing I would say is try not to stress over it. If you got into all of those schools you are probably a very good student and they are pretty much all very good schools, meaning you would probably do well at any one of them. That all in mind, just visit them and go with your gut.

You have six schools which is the same as the number of sides on a die. If it came down to it just assign each school a number between 1 and 6 and roll for it (I was actually thinking of flipping a coin for my two top choices for a while, but in the end I made my choice to optimize the two-body problem).

400nm
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Re: deciding between schools

Postby 400nm » Fri Mar 07, 2008 11:25 am

.
Last edited by 400nm on Sat Jul 12, 2008 11:01 am, edited 1 time in total.

excel
Posts: 257
Joined: Tue Feb 19, 2008 2:33 am

Re: deciding between schools

Postby excel » Fri Mar 07, 2008 11:58 am

Sam Adams, I know how you feel. Every time I try to talk to someone about making the decision, they just tell me that all my choices are good, so I can't make a wrong decision.

Too true :roll: :lol:

How to use your visit to arrive at a decision? Here's the "Excel Method":

Efficiency of student services: operationalized by "Time taken for reimbursement" (T)--ask them if the visit is in late march or early april.

Niceness of department towards students:
N= Average Cost per head during the program dinner * Av. Cost of hotel room/no. of students per hotel room

How much the program appreciates you: A=Stipend*no. of years of guaranteed support.

Quality of Life: Q= No. of free food opportunities per year*No. of cheap take-outs near the campus

Formula: Score= A*R*exp(N/N_av)*exp(Q)/exp(T/T_av)

where R=U.S. News peer assessment rating of the program, N_av is the average N of all departments that want you, T_av is the average T of all departments that want you.

Yes, the unit of the score is dollar.

The formula will be updated with terms representing fit of program, advisor-advisee match etc. will be added by and by...when I want to waste some more of my time.

Warning: Use of the Excel Method may lead to minor side effects such as a bad grad school experience.
Last edited by excel on Fri Mar 07, 2008 9:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Samual_Adams
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Joined: Tue Mar 04, 2008 5:01 am

Re: deciding between schools

Postby Samual_Adams » Fri Mar 07, 2008 1:45 pm

Thanks for the suggestions (and for adding a bit of humor to this whole thing)!

I guess part of the problem is that I'm not sure I can go visit all these places; that's a lot of travel, and a lot of scrilla to lay out (ie: I don't have enough liquid cash or credit to cover the trips, even though I know I'll be reimbursed later). I think I can probably manage to visit most (especially those that are near each other), and I agree that that seems like the way to go.

I'm also not sure about the reputation difference between these places. Will a Berkeley PhD really carry similar weight as one from Caltech or Princeton?

Anyway, thanks again. And, if anyone else has any ideas (since most of the readers of this forum are going through exactly the same thing...), please let me know!

myass
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Re: deciding between schools

Postby myass » Fri Mar 07, 2008 5:21 pm

Your field of interest is Cosmology. Maybe it helps you making decision if you can dig a bit more.

My interest is in particle physics, and I can say I'm interested in both theory and experiment. However, now I like experiment more regarding particle physics (simply I consider there are a lot more to be done in experiment). While accelerator physics is getting old and almost die out (again this is according to some faculties and doesn't have to be in general), I believe that one path of particle experiments in future is along low energy experiments and/or astrophysical particle physics experiments. I chose neutrino physics experiments from these reasonings and also from my interest developed through my research work in a neutrino oscillation experiment. Theories of leptogenesis, seesaw mechanism and other topics regarding neutrino properties are very, very interesting for me and thus along with my field of study.

Once I came down to this far, it's easier to see what university I'm into. The forefront neutrino experiments are along with theories I am interested in; clarification of Majorana/Dirac nature, completion of one remaining neutrino mixing angle, absolute scale of neutrino mass, neutrino mass hierarchy, and the degree of CP violation in neutrino sector. Accordingly, I look for experiments like Double Chooz, Daya Bay, KATRIN, CUORE, MOON, EXO, Nova, T2K, Super-K, KamLAND, Majorana, Zerda, NEMO,,,, and more.

Then I think about two things:
Which of these experiments are likely to give opportunities to write a thesis in next 5 or 6 years?
Among institutions that gave me admission, which contributes in which at what level?

In my case, Double Chooz, Daya Bay, KATRIN, CUORE and EXO are active and next a few years would be a good timing to join. Others have either difficulties to proceed experiment or bad timings to join.

Berkeley provides opportunity in Daya Bay and CUORE. MIT for KATRIN, Stanford for EXO, and Columbia and Chicago for Double Chooz. EXO is a bit weak candidate actually since they haven't established the core technique that they need to acomplish the experiment. But it got a funding for further R&D. I am visiting those institutions as well as Yale and Princeton (since they have open house close to Columbia).

I had a bit negative overview about CUORE, but now one of Berkeley faculty personally gave me a long long talk (like 3hrs) about CUORE and how good the timing to join the group would be for me. Now I'm more motivated to join CUORE. I think same thing could happen when I visit open houses and ask professors in each of experiments I'm interested in. In my experience, they can tell me something more than what I know from reading their published papers.

Sorry for writing long, but above is my strategy to choose an institution and also to make visiting some open houses (instead of all) more meaningful.

Hope it helps instead of get you bored. I'm not making any progress in my work today...

jburkart
Posts: 22
Joined: Tue Mar 04, 2008 5:28 am

Re: deciding between schools

Postby jburkart » Fri Mar 07, 2008 9:34 pm

i'd probably just do a bunch of scoring: score them by us news rank in physics, by us news rank for undergrad (general academic quality, might be important to some), by money, by location (maybe once you've visited), by research interest, etc. then assign weights and average across schools. that'll give you some sort of general ranking, and you can go from there. that's what i'd do if i wasn't dealing with, to quote others, the two-body problem. :)

it's good to be a scientist.

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Helio
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Re: deciding between schools

Postby Helio » Sat Mar 08, 2008 3:40 am

myass wrote:Your field of interest is Cosmology. Maybe it helps you making decision if you can dig a bit more.

My interest is in particle physics, and I can say I'm interested in both theory and experiment. However, now I like experiment more regarding particle physics (simply I consider there are a lot more to be done in experiment). While accelerator physics is getting old and almost die out (again this is according to some faculties and doesn't have to be in general), I believe that one path of particle experiments in future is along low energy experiments and/or astrophysical particle physics experiments. I chose neutrino physics experiments from these reasonings and also from my interest developed through my research work in a neutrino oscillation experiment. Theories of leptogenesis, seesaw mechanism and other topics regarding neutrino properties are very, very interesting for me and thus along with my field of study.

Once I came down to this far, it's easier to see what university I'm into. The forefront neutrino experiments are along with theories I am interested in; clarification of Majorana/Dirac nature, completion of one remaining neutrino mixing angle, absolute scale of neutrino mass, neutrino mass hierarchy, and the degree of CP violation in neutrino sector. Accordingly, I look for experiments like Double Chooz, Daya Bay, KATRIN, CUORE, MOON, EXO, Nova, T2K, Super-K, KamLAND, Majorana, Zerda, NEMO,,,, and more.

Then I think about two things:
Which of these experiments are likely to give opportunities to write a thesis in next 5 or 6 years?
Among institutions that gave me admission, which contributes in which at what level?

In my case, Double Chooz, Daya Bay, KATRIN, CUORE and EXO are active and next a few years would be a good timing to join. Others have either difficulties to proceed experiment or bad timings to join.

Berkeley provides opportunity in Daya Bay and CUORE. MIT for KATRIN, Stanford for EXO, and Columbia and Chicago for Double Chooz. EXO is a bit weak candidate actually since they haven't established the core technique that they need to acomplish the experiment. But it got a funding for further R&D. I am visiting those institutions as well as Yale and Princeton (since they have open house close to Columbia).

I had a bit negative overview about CUORE, but now one of Berkeley faculty personally gave me a long long talk (like 3hrs) about CUORE and how good the timing to join the group would be for me. Now I'm more motivated to join CUORE. I think same thing could happen when I visit open houses and ask professors in each of experiments I'm interested in. In my experience, they can tell me something more than what I know from reading their published papers.

Sorry for writing long, but above is my strategy to choose an institution and also to make visiting some open houses (instead of all) more meaningful.

Hope it helps instead of get you bored. I'm not making any progress in my work today...


very nice post i must say

Just quick thing... theory or observation? That is like day and night with cosmology at times

Samual_Adams
Posts: 11
Joined: Tue Mar 04, 2008 5:01 am

Re: deciding between schools

Postby Samual_Adams » Sat Mar 08, 2008 3:48 pm

Observational cosmology.

forecast8
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Joined: Wed Feb 27, 2008 9:55 pm

Re: deciding between schools

Postby forecast8 » Sat Mar 08, 2008 9:32 pm

What I don't see in any of your posts is clear statement of what you want to get out of the grad school experience. If you can clearly describe this, the important and irrelevant factors may become more clear.

you may be thinking, its obvious: I want to be a successful physicist. I suspect however that what it means to you personally to be successful is a little fuzzy. Even with a PhD in cosmology there is a VERY wide range of what you might want out of life. The most respected professor in my physics department grew up in a small town, went to my school for undergrad, when to a major university for astronomy and upon graduation applied for a tenure track position back at his undergrad school. He took the job and for 18 years has made a pittance working with mostly sub par students. But he lives 10 miles from where he grew up, his kids see their grandma every day, he never flies anywhere for Christmas, thanksgiving etc and he spends his summers sailing. He considers himself very successful even though his choices ensure you have never heard of him. Consider what you think would be successful, maybe some of these resonate more than others.

1. I want to be world famous for my research.
2. I want to have a high paying job
3. I want to live my life after 30 someplace warm and sunny
4. I want to do whatever research I find interesting without needing to worry about funding or other pesky details
5. I want everyone around me to think I'm smart
6. I want to work 40 hours a week and spend the rest of them with my family, dog, etc
7. I want to have fun, even in grad school
8. I want to get a job that gives me 5 weeks of vacation from year 1
9. I don't want to do a post doc

Some of these goals will lend themselves to certain institutions. For example if you want a high paying industry job, roll the die any of the six choices will equally empower you for that. If you always want to be the smartest person in the room, Princeton might be a stretch.

Anyway sit down and write 500 words on what you want your life to look like when you are 35 or 40. Now you might be thinking, isn't that what my SOP was for? More than likely your SOP was combination of an apologetic explanation of your life and interest in physics and some statements about what you want to do in grad school.

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grae313
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Re: deciding between schools

Postby grae313 » Sun Mar 09, 2008 3:57 am

I want to add that after visiting my first school, I am now of the opinion that it is an amazing experience and essential to the decision process. When you visit, you will talk to people who bore you, and you will talk to people who light up your imagination for several hours. Doors will open, and what you thought you were sure you wanted to do may change. You will learn more information in during the visiting period than is contained in the entire department webpage. Borrow, steal, do whatever to go to the open houses. Plus, they are reeeeaaallly fun.

kwxl
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Joined: Mon Feb 25, 2008 12:51 pm

Re: deciding between schools

Postby kwxl » Thu Mar 13, 2008 2:54 am

Visiting is extremely important.

The real resources of a university are not the funds, facilities, or location, but the people who work there. Without visiting you cannot gauge this factor at all.

I recently visited a program that was not high on my list because it is not as good in the specific field I want to do. But after talking with some of the professors, I got some very creative suggestions about how to synthesize my interests with the strengths of the program. Their ideas were not only more interesting than what I had in mind, but would also produce results much more significant to the physics community. Meeting the faculty moved this school from, say, third on my list to first.

I think that if you are asking the right questions during your visits (and those probably differ for each of us), you should be able to identify which school is right for you much more easily than from any rankings.




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