Every once in a while, people write to ask me this question, so I decided to answer here:
Yes, seriously. Here is why:
1. They have the best funding. Cornell’s funding is almost as good but the place is depressive. Harvard has a great package but they don’t push you out fast enough. Brown is spotty in terms of funding. I don’t know about Princeton because whenever I ask, people who’ve gone there go to a very dark place in their minds and take forever to emerge.
2. The reputation of the school helps you get hired. It’s not a guarantee but it helps.
3. The library will blow your mind.
4. The program is very undemanding. And before you curl your nose, consider how great it must be not to be given useless hoops to jump through as you make your way towards your goal.
5. Nobody was accepted into the program this year, so the department will be eager to admit good, promising people.
6. And most importantly: I’m always here to give you helpful suggestions on how to handle being in the program.
I hated my experience at Yale. But that was nobody’s fault but my own. I had a set of naive, childish expectations both about the university and the country that buried me under the shards when they were smashed.
If you remember that this is a very poor and ugly region and abandon the idiotic fantasy of famous professors who will mentor you, listen to you, and talk to you, you will be much happier. Any hope of finding yourself part of a community of scholars, people who will have profound conversations with you, who will not shower you with endless platitudes should be abandoned immediately.
The best one can hope for – at Yale or anywhere – is to find one or two people who are in tune with you and will help you not to feel completely lonely.
Learn to work alone, use the Internet for meaningful discussions, identify those two intelligent people on campus you will enjoy being around, learn to smile vapidly through endless conversations about nothing, come up with your own career plan, try to find a mentor somewhere on the planet, and you’ll be fine.
And remember: this is the most rewarding, wonderful career ever. The prize awaiting you is huge, so keep your eyes on the reward and let that help you through.