You’ve been accepted to more than one “dream school” and you don’t know how to make the decision on which one is the “right choice”.
First off, congratulations! This is the classic “poor you but not poor you” situation. That doesn’t make it any less challenging. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that you have two top choices. (If you have three, amazing work!) First off, have you done your school visits? If not, it’s time to hop on the plane, train or automobile and visit those programs. The best way to get a really sense of the place and the people is to be there in person and there’s really no substitute for it. While visiting, ask students what their favorite and least favorite things are about the program and don’t only ask first years. If it’s a two year program, a lot can change between the first and second years and you want to get a sense of both. Find out what your peers are like and whether and how you’ll fit into the student body. Talk to any professors you’re hoping to work with. You’ll get an idea about the program while also beginning to build relationships with your future mentors. If you haven’t already done so, reach out to alumni. Find out where they are now and how the program specifically helped them get there. Did they get their amazing job at the World Bank because they were a rock star candidate to begin with, or did the grad program help propel them there? What did Career Services do for them? Internships they got through the school? ind out as much as possible about your job prospects after graduation. That is the point of all this after all, right? Which school is more likely to build a bridge to your dream career? It’s not enough that one school is good in general. You want it to be good for you and for students in your specific field. Then there’s the money question. Did either of the schools offer you funding? If they’re both top school as one offered you significantly more money, unless there are major red flags, take the money! Seriously. Grad school is crazy expensive, particularly in the US and most of my friends are still paying off tens of thousands of dollars (if not hundreds of thousands of dollars!) in grad school loans six to ten years out. If you can get a great education that opens doors for a lot cheaper, really, you should do it. It’s trickier if the amounts are similar or neither offered you funding. Either way, look into second year options. Some schools may not offer much in the first year but strive to make sure all their students finish the second year and offer generous fellowships and work study options. Once you feel you’ve done your due diligence hopefully one program will rise to the top. But if it doesn’t, it’s time to go with your gut. Did you just get a better feeling at one of the schools? Did you connect well with one professor? You’ll be fine with either of the choices, after all they’re both top tier schools, and you’re going to need to trust your gut on tough decisions throughout your career so it’s time to start now! Once you’ve made your decision, no more second guessing. You’ve made it! You’re now an incoming graduate student. Congratulations!