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The problem: I am coming up to my final exams after which I am expected to make a prompt decision regarding whether to accept a PhD offer I have, to pursue analytic number theory. For a long time, I have been very much split on whether to take the offer or decline it. The reasons for this are varied.

Having read and posted on the site for a little while, I know a bit about some of the regular contributors and experienced users on M.SE, and I would like to ask their advice. Most have been through this system and I imagine the input of professional mathematicians or PhD students would be invaluable (I have not forgotten MO, though I feel like those on M.SE are usually more helpful/understanding to students not yet in a research environment).

The benefit of StackExchange sites and M.SE in particular is that you often get a well-thought out, comprehensive answer from someone who is both knowledgeable and who genuinely wants to help. This is rare on the Internet. That is why I thought to mention this; I know that this site is very good at addressing queries, even when the answers aren't clear-cut.

So, is there any SE site that would be the right place to post about this? If not, does anyone have any ideas of other suitable places?

Note: Please do not consider this the official question asking for advice on my situation. If I do make a post I'd like it to be in the right area, whether this is on another StackExchange site or another site completely.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't think it's a great idea to ask strangers for advice on such an issue, whether here or on MO or elsewhere. This is a question to ask those who know you better, your advisor or others with a connection who would be more familiar with your specific situation. $\endgroup$ – Qiaochu Yuan May 30 '11 at 14:12
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    $\begingroup$ While Qiaochu's comment is very correct, I would like to say that I do think that posting such questions is a good idea - but everything said there should be taken with a grain of salt. These answers describe possibly [very] different situations than yours; they do give some insight, if written well, which can be useful in the future. They key, again, is remembering that you are in a very different situation (well, in all likelihood anyway). $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila May 30 '11 at 15:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Qiaochu: As usual, a concise and very valid point. Nevertheless I think I'll leave this open for a little longer in case other people have things to say. @Asaf: Thanks for your comment. I am aware of that but it struck me that of all the people I have been talking to, few of them are working mathematicians (I am a little concerned about bringing this up with tutors - I am not sure they would understand, and moreover, the benefit of anonymity is something I value here). $\endgroup$ – Sputnik May 30 '11 at 18:51
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    $\begingroup$ Qiaochu is right. The kind of advice you need if you are deciding between offers is of the form "Prof X is a great supervisor who looks after his students well, but Prof Y isn't". This kind of discussion won't happen on a public website. Your best bet is to talk to your current tutors and to contact phd students in the departments you are looking at. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Towers May 31 '11 at 16:46
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It is courteous of you to ask here first, but if your question is about pursuing mathematics, I suggest just try asking it on MSE, and see what happens.

Take the advice given on MSE with a grain of salt. Most often, the best advice will come from people you know in the real world. Ask a professor you know really well, or someone else who has continued on in mathematics.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks Eric. After thinking about Qiaochu's comment above, I've decided I will give it a couple of days and then post if I still feel it necessary. $\endgroup$ – Sputnik May 30 '11 at 18:58
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Thank you for coming here for vetting the question before asking it.

To me, this seems like precisely the sort of question that the closure reason "too localised" was invented for. The question will be so specialised to your particular situation that the answers are unlikely to benefit anyone else. I also agree with Qiaochu that they are unlikely to benefit you, since you will be asking complete strangers on the internet a very personal question. I would prefer if it if this site was used for questions on mathematics (as is indeed its stated mission) and if you could discuss your question in private with people who know you. A similar question (if I understand your intent correctly) has not fared very well.

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While the sites aren't really meant for advice, do keep in mind that we also offer chat, which I think could suit this purpose nicely. For a bit of background on the chat, check out this and that.

On the sites, the focus is more on the content rather than on the users. In chat, it is definitely more about socializing with the community. Collaborating in real-time about more than just q&a is exactly what the chat is for.

Chat isn't just real-time. You can see and respond to older messages even if you weren't in chat when a message was posted, and you get notifications in your SE inbox when someone alerts you (just like in the comments here, @Rebecca for instance, and only if you've been in the chat).

If you haven't checked out chat already, consider this my encouragement to do so! (:

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    $\begingroup$ Rebecca: I sat several long days with the chat open, I can honestly say that this sort of question will not fit into the chat. Either because there are too little people, or by the fact that most of the participants of the chat are not people who faced these dilemmas for long enough, and not seen the repercussions of one choice or another. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila May 30 '11 at 18:29
  • $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila Sure, if the chat isn't being used, then obviously it won't work unless users are encouraged to check it out. I thought perhaps a few people might check it out as a result of my post. (; $\endgroup$ – Rebecca Chernoff May 30 '11 at 18:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Rebecca: The issue about chats is that they require some consistent flow of active users. I'm not expecting chat.SE/math to become "the new IRC" but it still sits a very long way from being a place for such question to be asked in. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila May 30 '11 at 18:55
  • $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila, some of the chat rooms have activity relatively constantly throughout the day. There's nothing preventing the same happening for this community if that is what it wants. $\endgroup$ – Rebecca Chernoff May 30 '11 at 18:57
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the idea. I haven't actually used the chat yet but I will give it a try soon! $\endgroup$ – Sputnik May 30 '11 at 19:00
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    $\begingroup$ @Rebecca: I truly understand the push you guys are putting into the chat. I did try to push new features into use and I know it can be tough for features to catch on. Sometimes it doesn't fit. The math.SE community is different than the other SE communities in some aspects. This might just be one of them. (I do hope the chat will catch on, I do enjoy it, I just don't see it happens like this and hardly ever a place for such question as the OP is asking for.) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila May 30 '11 at 19:06
  • $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila, I'm not familiar with the community's existing use of the chat rooms or whether it is immediately suitable for the OP's situation. My post is mainly there to say that the possibility exists. It is up to the community to do what they will - or won't - with the information. $\endgroup$ – Rebecca Chernoff May 30 '11 at 19:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Rebecca: Which is exactly where my comments fit in :-) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila May 30 '11 at 19:19
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I agree with Qiaochu's comment. Nevertheless, you may be interested in this blog post by Ben Webster titled "On MathOverflow career advice questions".

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