The two-body problem (youngfuturefemalescientist's question)
In response to a comment on the previous post-
There are lots of ways to answer this.
The shortest answer may not be the right one, but here it is:
My gut says your bf should follow you. I say this because I have a friend who was in a similar situation, bf followed her and worked as a tech, got a Cell paper and got into the U that he wanted.
Put another way, there are a lot more potential bf's out there than chances to get into the grad school of your dreams. If he's not able to see that, you should upgrade. You can replace him a lot more easily than you can get a do-over on this choice.
On the other hand, it sounds like the two of you went about this the wrong way?
If you had done it the right way, the two of you would have applied only to schools in cluster areas, e.g towns that have at least two, if not three or four schools in close proximity.
That way, if you're an upper echelon candidate (better grades/GREs? maybe a publication or few?) and he's more of an average candidate, at least on paper, you would have had more options in the same location, and none of this headache.
Maybe his field is more competitive, or there are fewer places that have the kind of program he wants.
Either way, from what you wrote, I'm hearing that he's limiting you, not that you're limiting him.
Anyway I guess I thought everybody knew the cluster-town approach is the best and easiest way to deal with the whole two-body problem? Is that not common knowledge now?
The longer answers are below. Given what your options are now, you have to break it down and play out the possible scenarios.
Scenario 1. You follow him.
1A. Things go well.
Hooray! Now you're a rockstar in a small pond, as it were.
Will this hurt you in the long run? Nope. Not one bit. It's MUCH more important to get Cell papers than it is where you got your degree.
Caveat 1: it's harder to be a rockstar at a place with less resources (that includes options for good advisors/famous well-connected advisors).
Caveat 2: it's harder to be a rockstar if you're bored or otherwise unhappy.
Note that I say "harder" but it could just as easily be "MUCH harder" or "nearly impossible".
There is no way to know in your particular case, until you try.
1B. Things go badly.
Boo! You hate it! The school sucks!
Worst case scenario: you quit science because of it (don't laugh, it happens a lot).
You resent him. You resent yourself for following him.
Best case scenario: you stick it out, but you're not a rockstar. The two of you stay together and your personal life is great, but you always wonder if you would have been happier at the other place.
Somewhere in between: you're miserable enough that you transfer to the other school and have some kind of long-distance thing to hold your personal life together (see below).
Scenario 2. He follows you.
Scenario 2A. Things go well.
You are a rockstar among rockstars. You are working your butt off, but you love, and you look down the hall and see an endless parade of doors opening before you.
Your bf is happy enough working, and eventually gets into school. He's now a year or two behind you and will take longer to graduate unless a PhD in his field is faster than in yours.
(And then your next move, assuming you both want to have careers, will be just as confusing and difficult as this one. It could be worse if you're even more asynchronous, depending on whether he also wants a postdoc-requiring type of career.)
On the other hand, he might not be all that happy. He might resent you. He might be jealous of your success. He might be threatened by it. He might quit science. You still might break up.
The good news: You'll get your degree and your chance at being a rock star, and you'll have that whether your personal life with him is good, or not.
The other good news: There's plenty more guys to choose from. Upgrade!
Scenario 2B. Things go badly.
Contrary to popular belief, Big-Name U is not utopia. You hate it.
You're a small fish in a big pond full of rockstars.
BF is miserable, and you feel guilty and/or angry at yourself and at him.
The good news: If you push through, you'll get a degree with a little bit of "pedi" in front of it.
This will help you slightly, especially if your publications turn out to be less than stellar. But then the pressure will be on to do a really good postdoc if you don't want to give up your rockstar dreams. Having a PhD from a "good" school alone will not open all the doors for you.
The person who commented (somewhat snidely) about having the right boss, has a good point. There are all kinds of advisors at all kinds of schools. Unfortunately you don't really know until you do your rotations, and even then sometimes it's hard to tell what lab will be a good fit.
But which lab matters a lot more than the school, and the lab might move. Make sure that, before you make any decisions, you ask your potential future advisors point-blank if they plan to stay at Big-Name U forever. You might be surprised to learn that labs move all the time.
All your planning might be moot if he follows you, and then your lab moves!
Scenario 3. You break up and go your separate ways.
It might not seem like it could ever happen, but note what you said:
You're very committed to him. That's what you said.
You didn't say, "We're very committed"
You didn't say, "He has offered to follow me, because he knows it is harder for women in science so I have to take every advantage I'm offered"
Or anything like that.
But I digress.
Many of my friends, and myself included, tried to do a long-distance thing with our college sweethearts.
We all failed. Miserably.
Trust me when I tell you that in every story like this, the first year of grad school was a bit of a blur, starting with long phone calls and exhausting visits, followed by the agonizing decision to break up, followed by crying a lot, and finally ending in the inevitable rebound dating new people at the new place.
Ugh, rebound dating. Very distracting. Not good for lab productivity!
But seriously though, I have one friend who is doing a long-distance thing right now, and a few others who carried them on for quite a while, but in no case did it work out in the magical fairy-tale way they had hoped. So far. We can still hope it will work out for them.
But I personally do not recommend the long-distance option, and you don't sound like you would consider it seriously.
But it is an option.
I guess my question is, if you're this ambitious, why are you even considering following this guy to a school you didn't like?
Why? I kind of don't get it. I mean, I get it. I really do. But you should seriously talk about the possibility of him following you. It sounds like he wouldn't mind going to Big-Name U, if he can get in.
I guess what I don't see is why you should compromise your dreams to make up for his (potentially temporary) under-achievement?
My very very short advice: stay away from a school you visited and didn't like!
At. All. Costs.
(fyi, you do sound a little bit conceited in some of your word choices, but the fact that you're even considering following him makes me think you don't have complete confidence about your abilities or more importantly, your relationship.)
Good luck and let us know what you decide.