I am split between two graduate schools in my decision. One of them is ranked about 25 places higher on the latest NRC rankings. The higher-ranked school emphasizes research, and over half its graduates get postdocs, while only around 25% of its graduates go straight into tenure-track positions. I spoke to the graduate advisor, who said it would be possible to make special arrangements for me to teach more than once at instructor of record if I desired.

The second school is almost the inverse of the first: over 50% of its graduates get tenure-track positions (most often at 4-year colleges or liberal arts colleges), and only around 23% of its grads get postdocs. Students are allowed to be instructor of record as many times as they want after their first year.

As someone really unsure of which of these paths I'd rather pursue, is there a clear answer on what to do here? Both schools offer many professors in my areas of interest. The lower-ranked school offers a better location, more money, and I felt like it fit me very slightly better when I visited. However, I've heard that if I decide to look for a job at a larger research university, it's difficult to move up the rankings list, while most end up moving down.

I look forward to your advice.



closed as too localized by Daniel Moskovich, Todd Trimble, Andrés E. Caicedo, Pete L. Clark, Ben Webster Apr 14 '11 at 2:44

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    $\begingroup$ I don't think MO is a place for advice in general. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Moskovich Apr 14 '11 at 0:54
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    $\begingroup$ As a side note, the moderators do appreciate people putting in real email addresses, but they should be careful about gravatars (admittedly, I don't recognize the picture of the OP, but it does present an issue for anonymity). $\endgroup$ – Ben Webster Apr 14 '11 at 2:43
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    $\begingroup$ On the subject of your question: this is a very serious question, but you can't expect to get a useful answer from people who don't know you and who don't even know the schools in question. If you really want at all useful advice, you have to supply more details; I can understand your hesitation in doing so in such a public forum, but that just underlines how it is the wrong place. If you really want the opinion of random internet people, send me an email with actual details, and I will answer. $\endgroup$ – Ben Webster Apr 14 '11 at 3:08
  • $\begingroup$ I think the NRC rating really doesn't matter that much. What matters is the strength of your thesis, and whether your advisor is well known. On average, faculty at the higher ranked school might be better known, but there will be exceptions. Consider which is stronger in areas you are interested in. Also, liberal arts hiring committees might care about the nature of your teaching (e.g. a small class with active learning would impress more than a section of calc at a huge place with predetermined curriculum). Lastly, factors like location and quality of life matter too. $\endgroup$ – David White Jun 23 at 12:02

You should go to the higher-ranked school. You are likely to be surrounded by stronger students and learn more math there. Unless the higher-ranked school is one of a very few VERY highly-ranked places, the faculty will be very friendly to and supportive of your ambitions towards LAC teaching, should that be the direction you decide to go.

On the other hand, you should probably not take the NRC rankings too seriously. Ask your undergrad advisor whether the "higher-ranked" department is really a lot higher-ranked.

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    $\begingroup$ +1. Ditto the fellow-student line. $\endgroup$ – Allen Knutson Apr 14 '11 at 1:51

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