So I am currently holding 3 offers for physics grad school and while a few days ago I was pretty sure where I wanted to go, some new developments have made me question things a little bit. The options are: big midwestern public school, East coast school A and East coast school B. The first two have similar research programs and I am visiting them in that order (2nd one this week). These two are in the same category for me and I was hoping this week's visit would help me decide. I had almost entirely ruled out East B, but they offered me a new and very generous 3-year fellowship with conference travel money that would eliminate the need to TA, contingent on working in a specific group. The thing is that out of that research group, I would only be interested in working with 1-3 members, 1 of which is relatively new which makes me a bit uneasy (actually, the entire research program is less than 10 years old). Midwestern school has a roughly equally sized number of faculty with one big name in this line of research, plus a slew of established faculty in another line of research that I am very interested in, which East A is also strong in. So basically, the midwestern (which I visited) has 2 real research options I like but I would not get much research done until my qual. Same goes for East A, which is equally strong in one of those research areas, while East B has the other with the added bonuses I described so I could start research straight away. I fear it is only going to get harder to pick a school. I am thinking of using alumni records (to know where they ended up) as a tie breaker if I cannot eliminate one school by next week, but I fear this would bias me heavily against East B since they have such a small sample size. Is going to a young and not-too-established department generally a bad idea? What other criteria besides quality of life (which I am getting to see by visiting the schools and doing the stipend vs costs arithmetic) could I use to discriminate at this stage? Is getting to opt out of TA'ing with a fellowship going to make me a better researcher, given that I'll have a full 5 years or so to dedicate purely to research, irrespective of the department's youth?