Trouble choosing between programs (conflict of heart vs brain)


2+ Year Member
Sep 17, 2017
I know it is early and I know I am blessed, but I'm struggling to choose between programs. I don't know if the programs matter, so I won't say which unless it's important. They are both pretty much equally ranked.

School A:
- 20 minutes away from my family, but in an expensive area (I'd like to live alone)
- Has the research I want + lots of diversity in case I change
- I like the medical program structure; you take Step 1 and 2 before beginning your PhD

School B:
- A different state, airplane trip away, but cheaper COL and high crime rate
- Has the research I want but to a greater degree... the diversity within this area at this university is astounding
- More traditional program, which is good because it's not as condensed, but I like School A's more

My heart says School A because it's close to home and I like the program structure. My brain says School B because of its cheaper COL and the research opportunities line up with what I want more. Pretty much every professor I asked has said School B. But I'm worried if I go to School B because of that, I won't be as happy. Is there anything else I should consider?

I know it's early still. It's just been stressing me out a lot. These programs were individually my dream programs, and I never imagined getting into both. I knew this might present an issue, but I thought I'd get accepted to one place and the decision would've been made for me.

I wish COVID didn't prevent me visiting the schools :/


2+ Year Member
Sep 17, 2017

First off- congrats! Secondly, I can't really give advice about the rest of it- but as someone who's lived in areas with cheaper COL and high crime rates (StL, Baltimore), cheaper cost of living makes a huge difference in quality of life and living in places with high crime rates has never once made me feel less safe than when I lived in more affluent areas (so don't let that impact your decision)
Thanks! I forgot to add that the higher COL school gave me a few extra thousand a year for the stipend, and I *think* they'd be about equal (though I'm sure higher COL will still be an apparent factor).

I'm not really scared of high crime rate, as I come from a poor area and I've had my fair share of break ins, theft, local shootings, etc. My family cares a lot, though. I know it's my life, but culturally my family's opinion matters to me, and they'd be terrified if I went to an area with an even higher crime rate than our current one. I don't want them to worry.
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School A

The heart is usually right. You are experiencing this because your brain is likely weighing family and environment greater than the research opportunities in terms of importance. In general, I think you should be guided by the heart and then solve the logistical issues that arise with your brain, so that the heart is satisfied. Taking the extreme to make a point, the life of a happy idiot > the life of a jaded genius.
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May 14, 2019
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School A! Go with your heart, plus it seems like you actually like a lot more things about School A. I had a similar dilemma because one school definitely checked the box when it came to research but basically nothing else. I realized I probably wouldn't be happy there. Also if School A is already giving you additional support I would say that's a really good sign!
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