There a quite a few threads out there about the big name theory schools but very little info on the rest of the top 25. Suppose I want to study formal theory (say, string theory) and am aiming for Harvard, Princeton, Caltech, etc, what should my backups be? More helpful than a list (though I'll take a list) would be a brief description of the program at a particular school: who are the best thesis advisers; does research in the department have an overall emphasis? Anything else I should know? I realize this question has likely been asked before (though I couldn't find it), so feel free to direct me to other threads/resources that you know of.