Many of us seniors are currently choosing among PhD programs. As you probably know, we are expected to come to a decision by April 15.A great question but one where I have a conflict of interest—In my view you should all have Chicago as your first choice.
Would you mind sharing with us your advice on how an aspiring theorist should go about making this very difficult and important decision? I personally would find such a post very informative, and I'm certain many others would agree.
Choosing an university can be sometimes easy, sometimes hard. You may choose a university because there's a particular faculty member that you want to work with. That's risky, because often there's no guarantee that the faculty member will be able to take you on as a supervisor. As a general rule, it would be best to choose an university with a reputation for high-quality research results. This can be measured, well, by your opinion of different research papers. If you look at some papers, and you find some that you think are good, look where those authors are from. This may be difficult for a student who has yet to begin a research career: then the advice of faculty members at your undergraduate institution can help. I think it is generally a good idea, although I didn't follow this advice, to study for a graduate degree at a different school than your undergraduate institution, because you'll get a different point of view from the faculty, as you will meet many new potential collaborators. In choosing a graduate school the most important thing is that you understand what it is that you want to study.Let me add that you should, if all possible, visit the schools you are interested in, talk to the faculty and current students. Make sure that you will feel comfortable in that environment, it will make for a much more enjoyable graduate experience.