Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

difficult decisions  §

This gig is providing me with a good opportunity to work on my grad school plans and try to research my options. Important faculty members in whom I have great faith say that I should apply to “people, not places,” yet with my limited experience in and knowledge of the entirety of the social sciences, I am lacking criteria for selection, beyond mere fame of a few names I know well and have read and appreciated.

Searching the faculties of the top schools and their (rather thin) descriptions, I have found nearly 80 faculty members that might share my interests and research goals/plans. Am I seriously to survey the publications (in any useful depth) of dozens of academics? Some of us are not independently wealthy and have to spend our weeks making a living…

Of course, the people-not-places notion isn’t even applicable outside of academics. If I decide not to be a professor at any point, a degree in garbage collection from Harvard’s janitor is going to be worth more than a Ph.D. from a top scholar at Colorado State. That’s just the way the real world works. So in order to maximize my future viability along all potential career paths, I need to consider prestige and name recognition as well.

Even that isn’t clear, though… Schools like UCLA or NYU seem to hold weight only in their own neighborhoods, and aren’t particularly highly regarded in the private sector in other geographic regions (and sometimes not even in academics in other geographic regions).

It seems that before I begin to decide on my schools and plans, I need to consider the following:

– The likelihood I’ll stay in academics vs. likelihood of other employment.
– The half of the country where I think I’ll spend most of my time…
– …or even whether I’ll spend a lot of time out-of-country.

Bleh. Maybe I just make choices at random. Why not?

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