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Edited Version

  • What are the main characteristics and qualities that you would consider if you were going to choose a PhD program in theoretical computer science (or related areas) today (based on your experience) and why would you consider them important?

  • What are the credible sources that I can get information about those characteristics of PhD programs?


Especially I would like to hear your opinion about the following two issues:

  • If you had to choose between a program with a global and better brand name and another one with a strong research focus, which one would you choose? why?

  • Which of the following two is more important in your opinion: availability of specialization one wants vs general teaching/research quality of faculty?

Thanks.

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    $\begingroup$ The question is too broad. Voted to close as not a real question. $\endgroup$ – Tsuyoshi Ito Feb 21 '11 at 17:33
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    $\begingroup$ Tsuyoshi is correct. StackOverflow type sites work much better with narrow questions. If you ask any of your bullet points as its own question (even the first one; I've been persuaded that's OK), you will be likely to get some good answers. $\endgroup$ – Peter Shor Feb 21 '11 at 18:52
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    $\begingroup$ @Suresh: My reason to vote to close has nothing to do with the scope. The question basically asks for anything about evaluating doctoral programs, which is simply too broad a topic to discuss in one question. In its current form, it is a topic for a blog post, not a question on a Stack Exchange site. $\endgroup$ – Tsuyoshi Ito Feb 21 '11 at 21:54
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with Peter and Tsuyoshi, I am (virtually) voting to close the question, it is too broad and subjective in its current form. I think OP needs to be more specific about what is important for her/him. Otherwise the general criteria are mainly those listed on CRA's (outdated) evaluation of PhD programs. Also see Lance Fortnow's related blog posts. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Feb 22 '11 at 4:18
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    $\begingroup$ Hi, I guess the post violates some rules in here. I have no idea how remove the post, I did click the delete link but, it seems, it does not allow question with answers. If some of you have privileges please go ahead. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – check123 Feb 22 '11 at 15:14
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  • What are the parameters that one should look for?
    Number and quality of the faculty working in your area of choice or related areas, ease of finding an advisor, opportunities to collaborate with different people in the program, how well funded the program is, quality of the students, how successful are graduates in finding jobs/positions that you would be interested in after graduating, etc.

  • What are credible sources other than institute website/provided materials to get information about the course or program?
    Other students in the program are one of the best sources of information. Most schools should have an Open House for admitted students. Highly recommend you go to them.

  • Do brand names really matter? (As in if you had to choose between one with a global and better brand name and other with a strong research focus)
    The story I've heard is that brand names matter in the sense that you'll likely find an excellent and diverse faculty body making it easier to find an advisor and do good work in your field. In addition, on average, the quality of students at such universities is likely to be higher which can be important as at least in my experience, I tend to learn a lot from my peers and work harder if people around me are working hard too.
    You'll also have an easier time getting a good CS job and can also help when looking for a postdoc/faculty position if only because it would be easier to collaborate with a well known faculty member who could write you a great rec.

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Addressing the last point, it's stupid to go to a graduate school, no matter how highly ranked it is, if there are no professors there working in your desired area of specialization (assuming you know what it is). One of the most important pieces of graduate school is your advisor. If you know what area you want to work in, either you should make sure there is one professor there in the area you want to work in that you know you are compatible with, or several professors there in the area you want to work in, so you have a choice. If you don't know what area you want to work in, you should go to a school which has a broad enough program that you have a reasonable choice.

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