HWta school + GPA cause if it aint Big1 or law or finance Id ont care and ur an idiuot Good idea, IMO, given your love for research and zeal for learning. I'd suggest the following: - Go to the school that provides an accomplished faculty who are doing research in your areas of interest. - Make sure that the school will provide you with full multi-year (3-4 years) funding (i.e., tuition, competitive stipend, and insurance). More funding may be available via grants ranging from internal grants for travel and research to federally funded grants. - Make sure that faculty work with graduate students and share authorship with them on collaborate projects. - As someone else posted, talk to current graduate students to hear what they say about the program, their quality of graduate student life, and the opportunities made available to them. - Look at where recent graduates have been placed and the average completion rate for the program. Take your time and find a school that seems to be the best fit for your interest and ambitions. Good luck! Yeah, all good advice, been looking at pretty much most of those. What do you want to do for a career once you've got the PhD? It probably makes more sense to figure that out first before deciding if you need the doctorate. As a current PhD student, my vote for you is "no". JayJay's note makes a lot of sense. Programs in which everyone competes every year for fellowships are notoriously miserable. Why are you interested in a PhD? Are you interested in an academic career? Ideally I would like it to be something like 20% teaching 40% research 40% outside work/consulting/etc. I've had enough exposure to academia, including on a graduate/phd level to have an understanding of how things work and to formulate a strategy for exactly what I would like to do/accomplish. Getting older, gaining perspective, and learning from your old mistakes is a bitch, but it's also pretty fucking great - I am much more clear on what I want out of life and my career at this point. Basically I am looking to set myself up for doing something enjoyable and productive for the next 40-50 years. Also, it would have to be one of the top schools or nothing at all. My credentials are competitive, but you never know with 20-50 people competing for each spot . I have about 6 months to put a solid application together, and that's that.