As I'm thinking about where to apply to grad school for a PhD (probably in econ), I'm curious to know what distinguishes programs that give good experiences from those that don't. I'm going to start by listing some of the things that come to mind and I'm hoping to get additional comments from those who have gone through such a program.
1) Funding. Those programs that offer $25K or less of funding in an expensive area to live seem to compile the stress of studying and research. Those programs that offer more might be much more pleasant to be at.
2) TA/RA Work. Those programs that give pure fellowships (at least for some years) rather than requiring you to be a TA or RA seem to have less stress and be more enjoyable. You can focus on studying and research.
3) Location. It is great to be in a location that you enjoy.
4) Support. If you have to struggle to find faculty who will take the time to talk with you, that seems like it will be a bad experience.
5) Attrition. Along the lines of (4), if you are in a large program where they expect a large fraction of incoming students to be weeded out, that will likely make for a less enjoyable experience. It seems better to be part of a program where they do all they can to help you succeed. I suppose this would show up in their completion numbers.
6) Physical environment. It is better to be at nice facilities than dilapidated buildings.
7) Placement. It is hard to be at a university where you know that you will have a hard time finding a good job at the end. I suppose you'll find your motivation drained from you when you see people getting their PhDs in your program and then struggling with employment.
How would you rank the relative importance of these factors? Are there others I am missing.
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