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Mar 3, 2020
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I've been debating over UIC and UConn for a while and I would love some input from others. When I interviewed, the schools seemed like polar opposites in a lot of respects. Culture is important, but I also want to get the best training for what I'm interested in without boxing myself into something (in case I change my mind).

I have a background in genetics, signaling, pharmacology, and neuro/ophthalmology. My clinical interests currently center around the aging population, which could honestly take me in any direction. I know a lot of students typically veer down a completely different path after their first two years of medical training, so I hear breadth over depth is often the best choice in a lot of cases. I'm under the impression that UIC has more opportunities available, but UConn definitely has a community that will fight for me if I need them to (plus they have a strong history of collaborating with the Jackson Lab for Genomic Medicine on their campus). The director of the Center on Aging at UConn called me personally after interviews to have a conversation about their research directions, and it just seems like they're working really hard to recruit me. I'm just not sure how much stock to put into MSTP funding vs. recruitment efforts, though I've had a PI contact me from UIC as well. Both places have a personal touch that makes me feel like I'm not just a number, which is why I'm struggling to choose.

Both programs have gone through curriculum overhauls within the last couple of years, so it's a little scary still being a guinea pig for those. There seems to be a stronger emphasis on active learning at UConn, which is typically more effective. The structure of the curriculum at UIC definitely seems more detailed though. UIC ranks #50 for research and #48 primary care by US News. UConn ranks #52 in research and #31 in primary care. Again, I don't know how much this should be taken into account in my considerations. (Avg STEP 1 score for UIC was 228 vs 234 at UConn, though I know they're probably switching to P/F soon)

The stipends are comparable, although I know the cost of living in Chicago is a lot higher than in Farmington. I also like the community of students at both schools, though student life is very different. Chicago's a big city and Farmington's a small town outside of Hartford. In terms of lifestyle, I'm not quite sure what fits me best. I've lived in the Research Triangle in Raleigh all my life. The demands of research typically mean I enjoy my time by studying at coffee shops, exploring new restaurants, or going to nature parks for walks/hikes.

Based on what I've written, I know it sounds like I'm leaning a lot more toward UIC, but I hesitate because their strengths (though they have many) are in areas that I have no experience in (MRI, NMR, cardiology, autism research) and they rank lower in primary care and STEP scores. I'm also just not sure how well I'll adapt to big city life. My current research interests seem a lot more in line with UConn (holistic approach to aging research, genetics/genomics) and I feel like the environment is closer to what I'm used to, but again, I don't want to box myself into anything just yet.

Thanks in advance!
(There's also the tiniest chance I might make it off the waitlist at University of Rochester's MSTP program, so I'd love feedback on that comparison too.)

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