Ah, you just ruined my calmness! I was just about to accept the offer from Notre Dame, trying to convince myself that astrophysics there is better than in UT, but so many people keep telling me that UT is one of the top schools in this field...I'm not sure about HEP, but in astro they are one of the big 5 powerhouses of reserach in the world.
However, I'm still favoring Notre-Dame for a number of reasons. It is located in the USA where I intended to study originally, it has times more funding, the people are really interested in working with me (I have received independent e-mails from 3 professors already who offered me to work with them, while in UT they even don't answer my questions about when I should expect the decision; I am quite shocked by their responsiveness, by the way, I didn't expect such slow reactions from #20 university in the world), and the amount of TA (a minimum of $2,000 a month) is much higher than in UT ($1,300 a month), although in UT it is just a "clear" stipend, I won't have to lead seminars/labs.
Well, I would love to do it, and I even considered it before starting sending applications. However, after applying to 16 schools, I completely ran out of money, I literally only have around $500 right now, and this money is going to be spent on visa, on DHL (I still have to send the official transcript to the school I will select), and I will have to accumulate some money for the flight ticket and for the first 2 months, until the TA starts being paid. Even if they agree to fund my travel fully (which I doubt since they already are offering me fantastic financial benefits), it will take some time, and I need to decide quite soon.If at all possible, I'd reccomend visiting some the schools even if you think you wouldn't pick them right now. Ask about travel reimbursements within the US, you might be surprised and some may even totally fund your travel and lodging to help you with the decision. One of the 2 schools I got accepted at offered this and I'm a semi-international, the other didn't because I hadn't told them I would be in the US around that time (thus making it sensible to offer me transport assistence) but still managed to squeeze me in their open house day with some lodging.
Also, I have a problem now. Some universities (specifically, University of Kansas and New Mexico State University), having been told by me that I am favoring ND over them, started raising their offers. In KU they offer me very high TA, monthly Fellowship and one-time Scholarship, which is absolutely fantastic; I have also been contacted by 2 professors and they are trying hard to convince me to choose their university (very politely, of course). Something similar has been offered in NMSU.
I do not know how to politely refuse their offers. I have completely decided that I will go either to University of Notre Dame or in University of Toronto (provided I'm accepted), but I do not want to send the official declines yet - I want to have some room for action in case of some emergency. However, keeping telling them that I really appreciate their offer but cannot yet tell them my final decision only seems to nudge them to try harder to convince me. I don't know how to make it clear that I am not considering them really, and yet I do not want to officially decline yet.
I have read that it is possible to recommend other students for this offer. I have a friend who also works in T2K group and also dreams of studying in the US, and he would be really happy to study in KU - but he hasn't taken GRE General yet (he has taken two other tests though) and he hasn't applied to KU or to any universities at all. Can I recommend him in these circumstances?
Finally, I have something that bothers me. In my Statement of Purpose for each university I wrote that I was interested exclusively in working in High Energy physics. Now that I am seriously considering astrophysics, I have worries that it can get me some problems. The universities accepted me based on my interests, among other things. Is it OK to choose astrophysics anyway? I know that it won't be a problem when I arrive and actually start studying - many people change their fields from time to time. But, as of now, is it OK to honestly write to faculties that I am interested in astrophysics? Won't they take it as a lie in SoP in order to raise chances to get accepted?