Monday, June 17, 2013

Grad School Part Six: Decision

When it finally came time for me to make a decision I was mostly deciding in between SAIS and San Diego. I also liked Denver and Columbia, but I figured that San Diego was a little better than Denver at about the same price and SAIS was better for me than Columbia at about the same price. The decision then was whether SAIS was worth the extra 40 thousand or so dollars it would cost over two years. I looked at a ton of stuff. I went over every detail on the SAIS and San Diego websites. I asked question after question of the current students whose e-mail I had gotten. I compared every part of the school and went though the descriptions of every course.

I finally decided on SAIS. I really liked everything I had heard about their program especially the China related stuff. They had a number of great China professors and I could take quite a few classes related to China. I also thought that the more economic focused classes that were required there would be interesting. San Diego looked good as well, but the program didn't seem very flexible and some of the required classes didn't seem as interesting.

So finally having made my decision I was just about to tell SAIS, actually I had pretty much already told them, when Denver suddenly offered me a much bigger scholarship. I was shocked. I hadn't really expected to get any scholarships in the first place. The new offer was a full tuition scholarship and they would give me a research assistant position to boot. The biggest problem was I had basically no time to make up my mind. I had about three days to decided if I still wanted to go to SAIS or if this put Denver ahead. What was more since Denver wasn't one of the last two schools I had looked at I hadn't done as much research about the program there as I had about SAIS and San Diego.

I spent three days rushing to find out as much as I could about Denver. I e-mailed basically everyone I could think of. The people there were really nice about responding really quickly to my panicked e-mails. I looked at the list of professors and descriptions of the school and the classes. I posted about my situation on a couple of grad student message boards looking for advice. I think I called my parents about 100 times. I even e-mailed a couple of professors at SAIS to ask them what they thought about the situation.

One of the most helpful things was when I called a professor at Denver, who was nice enough to spend a few minutes talking with on a Sunday. Most people agreed that SAIS was clearly the better school, especially for China, but quite a few people in all sorts of positions recommended that I take the money and go to Denver. The cost over two years, when housing and everything is considered, could come to $100,000 more to go to SAIS. It just wasn't worth it at that amount.

On top of that Denver is still a really good school and has a lot of stuff I like. It does have some China focus, the program seems really interesting and quite flexible, and everyone I've talked to was very positive about it. The RA position was also a big plus. Since I wanted to go into academia, getting to do some research work is a great opportunity and will look really good on my resume.

I took a couple of sleepless nights, but I eventually decided to go to Denver. The whole processes was exhausting. From the time I started studying for the GRE to finally deciding where to go the better part of a year had passed. I was just glad to be finally done with the whole process. I'll talk a little bit about the University of Denver in my next grad school post.

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