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Thread: UW Seattle vs UC Irvine

  1. #1
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    Question UW Seattle vs UC Irvine

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    Hi guys, so while I'm still waiting on a couple of decisions to come back, I could use some help deciding between my current options. UW and UCI are my two best options at the moment (also have a good offer from Syracuse but unless I'm very impressed with faculty meetings I'm probably going to decline). I'm interested in labor, but also macro, political economy, and economic history. I know UW is ranked higher than UCI (35 vs 47), but there are a couple of things that keep me from choosing it immediately.

    Funding: UCI offered me five years of guaranteed funding, whereas UW only offered me 4 years of funding. UW said they expect the 5th year could be filled with some type of fellowship, RA work, or working in some other department, but that they simply can't guarantee department funding. This seems kinda sketch to me, especially considering the stipend isn't that much for Seattle (around 22k). If I didn't get funding for the fifth year, I'd have to take out loans for tuition and probably drain my savings for living expenses.

    Placements: This is where I could really use some help. Looking at the placements for UW and UCI, I don't honestly see that big of a difference. I'd prefer to go Academia > Government > Industry, and it doesn't really look like UW has better placements than UCI overall (UCI almost appears to have slightly better placements). Is there a point to going to a higher ranked school if the placements don't seem that much better? Or am I off about UW not placing better than UCI?

    Housing: This may seem like a small one, but UCI guarantees housing for graduate students, and at very good rates actually. Their stipend is around the same as UW, but due to the low cost of their graduate housing, it comes out to more effectively. I like the idea of not having to worry much about getting housing at good rates, close to the school, and with other graduate students. I know this shouldn't matter, but I also don't want to be miserable/having to dip into my savings to get housing at UW.

    Location: Again, I know people say it shouldn't matter, and normally I wouldn't care too much, but part of the reason I applied to UW in the first place is because I have family nearby. I don't actually care for either location much, but aside from the proximity to family I think I'd prefer Irvine more.

    Anyway, considering all of this, which do you all think is better? Appreciate the help.

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    Re: UW Seattle vs UC Irvine

    Congratulations on being accepted to these programs. I'm not going to say which I think is better. That would be inappropriate, but I also think you need to figure out which is a better fit for you.

    Regarding funding, you need to ask what fraction of 5th year students did not have funding. Ask about the fraction of sixth year students who did not have funding. Ask how many students graduate in 5 years, 6 years, or more than six. Ask if they provide tuition waivers for students who do not get funding. I would ask your program contact, but also ask the current students what their impression is about the availability of funding for 5th and 6th year students.

    Nothing sketchy about how UW worded their offer. We professors simply cannot guarantee anything. You aren't signing a contract with the university.

    At this point you should ignore the rankings. Econ department rankings are not that precise. They are a popularity contest. US News asks us to rate every school on a 1 to 5 scale. The rankings are just the averages. They aren't based on faculty research, placements, fields, etc. They are useful for getting a broad sense.

    You want to be happy and mentally healthy in graduate school. Location and disposable income may matter. But keep it in perspective. You will likely make over $100,000 a year during your first year on a job after graduation. Small differences in the stipend and costs of living shouldn't matter that much.

    It sounds like you haven't talked very much to current students. They are a tremendous source of information. Ask for the contact information for five students from each school who are at different points in the program, ideally working in your fields of interest. Ask the students if they are happy, what they like about the program, which professors are good instructors, which are good advisers. Ask who teaches the field classes in your areas of interest and who advises students in these areas. Do students struggle to get time with faculty?

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    Re: UW Seattle vs UC Irvine

    I think you're right not to focus too much on the difference in US News rankings across that range. I wouldn't worry about 5th year funding too much -- not sure why they can't guarantee it atm but I think it would be very unusual for a program to deny a 5th year student in good standing funding. I'm working through the same question on placement (with the same preferences). I think this is a good thing to talk to people there about; you can get a feel for how often students turn down academia for industry. Also by looking at placements and talking to current grad students you also might be able to figure out which advisers have better records of placing in academia.

    Don't really have anything to add about housing (which is really just funding) and location. I think research fit and placements are probably top two criteria but this is a 5 or 6 year commitment so make sure you're setting yourself up to be happy while you're there.

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    Re: UW Seattle vs UC Irvine

    Quote Originally Posted by tbe View Post
    Congratulations on being accepted to these programs. I'm not going to say which I think is better. That would be inappropriate, but I also think you need to figure out which is a better fit for you.

    Regarding funding, you need to ask what fraction of 5th year students did not have funding. Ask about the fraction of sixth year students who did not have funding. Ask how many students graduate in 5 years, 6 years, or more than six. Ask if they provide tuition waivers for students who do not get funding. I would ask your program contact, but also ask the current students what their impression is about the availability of funding for 5th and 6th year students.

    Nothing sketchy about how UW worded their offer. We professors simply cannot guarantee anything. You aren't signing a contract with the university.

    At this point you should ignore the rankings. Econ department rankings are not that precise. They are a popularity contest. US News asks us to rate every school on a 1 to 5 scale. The rankings are just the averages. They aren't based on faculty research, placements, fields, etc. They are useful for getting a broad sense.

    You want to be happy and mentally healthy in graduate school. Location and disposable income may matter. But keep it in perspective. You will likely make over $100,000 a year during your first year on a job after graduation. Small differences in the stipend and costs of living shouldn't matter that much.

    It sounds like you haven't talked very much to current students. They are a tremendous source of information. Ask for the contact information for five students from each school who are at different points in the program, ideally working in your fields of interest. Ask the students if they are happy, what they like about the program, which professors are good instructors, which are good advisers. Ask who teaches the field classes in your areas of interest and who advises students in these areas. Do students struggle to get time with faculty?
    Thanks a lot for your reply, it's very helpful. Those questions seem pretty useful to ask. I wasn't sure about pressing them too much but I suppose they should expect I could be wondering about these things. Actually, I have a virtual visit with another school coming up soon and I have no idea what to ask, so this helps a lot! Thanks again

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    Re: UW Seattle vs UC Irvine

    Quote Originally Posted by Wahasky View Post
    I think you're right not to focus too much on the difference in US News rankings across that range. I wouldn't worry about 5th year funding too much -- not sure why they can't guarantee it atm but I think it would be very unusual for a program to deny a 5th year student in good standing funding. I'm working through the same question on placement (with the same preferences). I think this is a good thing to talk to people there about; you can get a feel for how often students turn down academia for industry. Also by looking at placements and talking to current grad students you also might be able to figure out which advisers have better records of placing in academia.

    Don't really have anything to add about housing (which is really just funding) and location. I think research fit and placements are probably top two criteria but this is a 5 or 6 year commitment so make sure you're setting yourself up to be happy while you're there.
    Thanks for your response! The funding and placement are definitely the biggest two issues for me. Looks like I'll definitely have to reach out to talk to some current students.

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    Re: UW Seattle vs UC Irvine

    Sorry to distract from the point of the thread here, but when did you hear back from Syracuse? I still haven't heard anything from them or a couple other places and I'm wondering if it's just an IR at this point.

    UCI's also on my list--I'm between them and Michigan State. I realize the latter's better ranked, but in terms of my interests (and area livability), UCI might be better. This thread's been good for things to think about in making the choice.

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    Re: UW Seattle vs UC Irvine

    Quote Originally Posted by alexanderplatz View Post
    Sorry to distract from the point of the thread here, but when did you hear back from Syracuse? I still haven't heard anything from them or a couple other places and I'm wondering if it's just an IR at this point.

    UCI's also on my list--I'm between them and Michigan State. I realize the latter's better ranked, but in terms of my interests (and area livability), UCI might be better. This thread's been good for things to think about in making the choice.
    No worries. I heard back from Syracuse Feb 17th. They're having a virtual visit event later this week for admitted students. I wouldn't count yourself out yet since other admitted students (and myself) might turn down the offer, especially after the event.

    Yeah I'd probably be torn between those two choices as well. I can't help but feel like I should choose UW, but I feel like I'd be happier at UCI. Congrats on your acceptances though!

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    Re: UW Seattle vs UC Irvine

    Thanks! Congratulations on yours as well!

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    Re: UW Seattle vs UC Irvine

    Congratulations on your acceptances! I don't have any advice to offer, but I would love to know when you heard back from UW about your acceptance there. I have geographic constraints, and only applied there. Haven't heard anything yet, and feeling pretty desolate.

    Good luck figuring out what's the best choice for you!

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    Re: UW Seattle vs UC Irvine

    Quote Originally Posted by 786 View Post
    Congratulations on your acceptances! I don't have any advice to offer, but I would love to know when you heard back from UW about your acceptance there. I have geographic constraints, and only applied there. Haven't heard anything yet, and feeling pretty desolate.

    Good luck figuring out what's the best choice for you!
    Thanks! I first heard back from UW around Feb 23. Sorry to hear you haven't heard back, I can imagine that's pretty rough if it's the only school you applied to. As you can tell I'm still mulling the decision over myself, and I'm sure there are others in a similar boat as well. So you still might hear back from them at some point! If I don't choose UW (or whatever school) I do want to make the decision as soon as possible for this very reason.

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