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Spring 2003
Going After the Best
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THE GRADUATE DILEMMA

By Jim Turner

JANE WAS AN OUTSTANDING PROSPECT, the kind of brilliant graduate student who engages faculty, elevates the level of scholarship and fortifies the reputation of the institution. In addition to UCLA, she applied to Ph.D. philosophy programs at Princeton, Harvard, Stanford and Duke and was admitted to all. UCLA’s philosophy department ranked Jane as their No. 1 recruit. Both UCLA and Princeton had faculty whose work was directly related to Jane’s scholarly interests; for personal reasons she wanted to live in Southern California, so UCLA started out with an edge. We offered fellowship support for her first and final years and employment as a teaching assistant for three to four additional years. Princeton guaranteed her five years of fellowship funding, including support during the summer. In addition, their fellowship stipend provided an average of $3,500 a year more than UCLA’s package. Jane chose Princeton.

Another graduate candidate, Noah, applied to physics departments at seven major research universities, including UCLA and Stanford, his top choices. With an undergraduate degree from Caltech and a 4.0 GPA, the UCLA physics faculty ranked him second among the 79 students the department admitted. UCLA offered a fellowship for the first year, then employment as a teaching assistant for two or more years, and potential employment as a research assistant during his advanced years of study. Stanford offered fellowship funding for Noah’s first three years and employment as a research assistant once he joined a faculty member’s lab. Stanford’s fellowship stipend for the first year was $3,000 more than that offered by UCLA. Despite the fact that his girlfriend had selected UCLA for her graduate work, Noah went to Stanford.

These case studies illustrate a major concern at UCLA. While our world-class reputation continues to attract outstanding young scholars from throughout the nation and the world — 8,463 applied to doctoral programs in Fall 2002 — some of the best students, in spite of the wealth of resources and opportunities that are available to them here, go elsewhere because our student-support packages may not be as competitive.

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