Ohio State vs Penn State vs UBC

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Ohio State vs Penn State vs UBC

Post by hopefulastro » Fri Jan 24, 2020 7:05 pm

I now have 3 offers for Astronomy PhD programs: OSU, Penn State, and UBC. I’m very happy about this (last year I didn’t get into anywhere I applied), but am starting to feel overwhelmed about how I’m going to decide! Of course I’m going to attend each of their open houses, but in the meantime I sort of want to have a better idea of each of their pros and cons and reputations in astronomy.

According the US News & World Report rankings in space sciences (which includes astronomy), OSU ranks at 15 in the world, Penn State is 23, and UBC is 27. However, I know I can’t just take one rating system (or any) as the absolute truth. For anyone that knows about the astronomy departments at these universities — what would you say are their main pros and cons (research, TA hours, courses, etc)? This can also include quality of life aspects, like living in that specific area. And also, which of these do you think has the best reputation in astronomy (I want to do observational cosmology)?

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Re: Ohio State vs Penn State vs UBC

Post by Mizar » Fri Jan 24, 2020 7:51 pm

First off, congratulations! I'm sort of hoping I don't get into very many places to make the decision easier (not really, lol, but sort of).

I can't speak to the reputation of those schools' astro programs, but I would suspect they are all very good. It then becomes a question of where YOU are going to be happiest. Perhaps you should focus on finding a research group and advsior that best fits your personality and interests. If you haven't yet, maybe start reaching out to faculty at those schools and seeing what sort of vibes you get from those people and their groups. If they give you contact info of their current grad students, that's a good sign.

Another thing to consider are the financial packages. I also got into UBC--one of my top choices--but the financial package isn't that great. $25k in Canadian amounts to about $19k US, and that's in Vancouver, where cost of living is really high. Something to consider.

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Re: Ohio State vs Penn State vs UBC

Post by Nishikata » Sat Jan 25, 2020 12:08 am

Now that they have sent the offers, you may want to contact the Labs you are interested in to check if they really have an opening for new students this year and what projects are available. Going to open house is a good idea. Make sure to know that the prof you want to work with is accepting students so you don’t end up in a project you don’t want.

Reputation-wise, as an outsider, I have only heard of UBC honestly.

Since you are a domestic applicant, going to UBC means living internationally. Is it an attractive opportunity for you? It is not easy living as an international student, although US to Canada may be still quite close.

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Re: Ohio State vs Penn State vs UBC

Post by geekusprimus » Sat Jan 25, 2020 12:05 pm

I don't know much about the quality of those schools, but I applied to Penn State's physics program myself. State College is going to be fairly rural compared to the other two. You've basically got Penn State and a community to support it, but it's a few hours away from any big cities. That being said, the cost of living is pretty low. I'm sure Columbus probably isn't too bad compared to other big cities in the US, but I know Vancouver is pretty expensive. Plus, State College has a Wegman's, the greatest grocery store known to mankind.

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