Pondering in Portland asks the toughest question I've ever had on the Blog:
Here’s my debacle: I’m a poet. I got into LSU, but I have safety concerns about Baton Rouge right now. It seems like a weird point in time to be going down there, but the funding is amazing, professors are caring and impressive, and the opportunities (to teach, to edit) rock. But crime statistics are up (post-Katrina’s population influx), everything is kinda hurricane-centric, and the females in the program I have spoken with have all had - what’s a polite way to say this – “run-ins” with unsavory characters. That’s scary.
My other favorite program is not so favorite anymore. Davis, who just had their recruitment weekend, is amazing on paper (or html) but a little less thrilling in person. The faculty is amazing, but I am not so thrilled about the students in the program. (Let’s just say there is a lack of diversity amongst the students [incoming students were cool and interesting, but many have decided to go elsewhere]) It really bummed me out. Also, funding is not equal. I think that’s very important for your readers to know. Not everybody gets the same amount of funding. You are guaranteed a TA’ship your second year, but for the first year, you may be winging it. That’s worrisome.
How do you prioritize in this kind of situation? Great program, crappy peers? Or wonderful program, with physical safety concerns? I’ve got other options, but one of my hero’s is at Davis, and LSU totally puts students first.
I seek your infinite wisdom and counsel. Preferably before April 15.
Well PiP, I'll give you my opinion, though as often, I'm man-facting here. I don't know anything about the situation in Baton Rouge outside of what you've told us, but it sounds to me that your concerns are very much legitimate. My sense is overall that you need some new information before you make the decision. If I were you, I'd contact the program director at LSU and communicate your concerns. The program may have some insights one way or the other. Surely, you won't be the first student to ask about this.
That said, I'm also concerned about your experience at Davis. I think highly of that program, and I know two students there. They like it very much. But your gut reaction is the most important one here. My sense is that you're not very enthusiastic about it, and that's not at all the situation you want in entering a program.
As for the safety issue in Baton Rouge: I know my personal safety is a big issue in deciding where to live. I don't want to live with a sense of fear. Again, I'd contact the program director. And perhaps another student who you haven't yet heard from. See what they have to say.
I'd hate to advise any student with two acceptances to decline both of them. That said, you need to be in situations that you feel good about. Otherwise, on a very basic level, your writing is not going to prosper. If I were you, I'd want to feel comfortable with the LSU situation. Otherwise, I'd consider re-applying to other programs next year.
Sorry I can't provide a clearer answer. But it's a tough question, and a good one. I hope others will offer their insights and opinions. Let us know what you do, PiP.