Wednesday, April 4

The Paradox of Too Many Choices

Lynn wanted me to share this reflection with y'all.  Hope you enjoy!
The Paradox of too Many Choices

            What a fantastic predicament to be in.  Not only am I accepted to multiple graduate schools (Western Michigan, Ohio, Wayne, Michigan State, and Northern Illinois) but I have two that are offering essentially the same funding package.  Instead of worrying about pursuing my Ph.D., I have the problem of picking which one is better.  It’s absolutely great.
            To assist in my decisions, I’ve created a score card of sorts. The easy and conformable choice is Western; it’s close to my mother’s house, my hometown, and I am very familiar with Kalamazoos.  It is also a bigger program, closer to archives and outstanding libraries, and lies on the Amtrak train line between East Lansing and Chicago.  But it is not Ohio University, which offers a very neat professor who is widely published and close to my specialty.  It is also, or at least used to be, a more prestigious program.  I have some very tough decisions indeed.
            Here is a brief description of each of my criteria.  I am ranking them on a plot of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most desirable or best fit.  Although I won’t only use this tool as my decision maker, I will see how these two programs rank up in a qualitative way.
  • The actual size of the Library with regards to books and collections.
  • The number of Americanists on staff, whether tenure, tenure track, or adjunct.
  • The number of possible professors I could work with.
  • The prestige and rank of the institution.
  • The access to archives that are close to my field (labor, radicalism, political left wing).
  • The number of Ph.Ds conferred.
  • The number of history faculty, which will show the strength of the department.
  • The number of current Graduate students.
  • The quality of the professors (this is where I will give big points to the program that has super-duper professors).
  • The cost of living
  • The cost of rentals
  • The intellectual culture (does the program have a speaker series, does the college bring in speakers, etc.)
  • The social and cultural life I may have in that town (restaurants, neat shops, artsy-fartsy things)

So at this point I find myself back and forth between two seemingly equal programs.  Although Ohio has a perfect professor, Western has many really good professors.  Although Ohio is ranked higher, Western has a larger department, both overall and in US history.   It will be very interesting to see how this all shakes up.  I’ve decided to choose by next weekend (April 6).

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