I would like some advise about what universities to apply to in the states for PhD programmes in physics. In particular what level of university (as defined by school rankings etc). I've been told that the high end universities can be overly stressful and that they foster a highly competitive approach to study. Can you do an enjoyable PhD in a high end University? Or are you committing to being worked to the bone. I expect that a lot will depend on the university, supervisor and project. To give you all a bit of background, I am Irish and have a first class honors degree in Physics and have yet to do my GRE's. All recommendations are welcome from any level and I would greatly appreciate any words of wisdom from people with experience. Thanks!