I am an economics undergraduate, and I applied abroad for my master’s. Luckily, I was admitted to two top schools – one in Germany, other in France. I have spoken with students from both schools, their programme directors, my professors and, in general, weighted the pros and cons of living and studying in them.

The result from all this is that I am still very uncertain which programme to choose. There are plenty of differences, but the most important distinguishing factor is that one is a PhD-programme (MSc included) with funding while the other is a MSc and no funding (However, entrance to PhD-programme with funding after first year is guaranteed if grades are good enough. On the flip side of the coin, funding as well as the right to continue PhD studies ceases in the other programme if grades drop below a certain threshold.) For completeness, I should add that I am very interested in doing a PhD but I am not interested in an academic career.

I have decided to visit both schools in person in the near-future and make my decision after that. My question is that is this a good idea and second, are there specific factors or things that I should pay attention to in my visit? I am wondering if there are certain things that I can and should investigate better in-person.

  • So if you go with option B, you have to do one year without funding; option A covers this. What is the cost differential here, in Euros? I assume tuition is minimal, so "funding" refers to a stipend that covers your living expenses, probably 20K euros or so?
    – cag51
    May 5, 2022 at 14:18
  • Exactly. For two years the cost differential of choosing B is approximately -30K (including the stipend + tuition fees).
    – Leksa99
    May 5, 2022 at 18:28

2 Answers 2


First, if you want a doctorate (for any reason) then I'd weigh the actual doctoral program quite a bit higher. Language might weigh one way or the other also.

But for the question itself, I'd think the most important thing is that you find a way to speak with some faculty and get an idea about how it would be to work with them. Visit a class if possible to see them in action. Visit the coffee lounge if there is one and listen for interactions. Often grad students are welcome there. If language is a consideration, consider how comfortable you are, especially if you aren't proficient in one or both languages.

Then, talk to some graduate students to get a sense about how they feel about working there. Helpful professors? Any frustrations? Seminars available and useful? Have coffee with a few students. Adequate office space? Private? Shared? Or just a desk in a big room.

It is probably also worth the time to walk around the local community/city and get a sense about what it would be like to live there for a few years.


You wrote in the comments:

For two years the cost differential of choosing B is approximately -30K (including the stipend + tuition fees).

Unless you are already wealthy, this is a huge amount. Especially if you’d have to take out loans to compensate for the lack of funding. So, it is already clear (to me, at least) that you should attend option A unless there is something huge problem that makes success at option A very unlikely.

I see no reason not to go visit as you suggest. Especially if (as is usually the case in Europe) this would allow you to meet your prospective advisor. But I think there is only one real consideration: is A so much worse than B that you’re willing to give up $30k at such an early stage of your career.

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