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mppbluedevil13

The (un)official Duke Sanford MPP Thread!

66 posts in this topic

Hi everyone! I'm a current first-year student at Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy and I remember that this time last year was challenging trying to decide among various options. As such, I thought I'd get on here and try to offer any and all insights that I have on why I ended up choosing Duke. Feel free to write back to this thread about anything you want - program components, curriculum, specializations, electives, extracurriculars, people, Durham as a city, social life, anything - and I will be happy to help. It may not be an instant response, but I'll certainly get back to you all as soon as possible.

 


Cheers,
MPPBlueDevil

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Hi MPPBlueDevil,

 

Thanks so much for starting this thread.  My fiancee and I have  been accepted to the program and are looking forward to attending the open house on April 5th.

 

I've looked on the website and have had difficulty finding employment statistics.  Specifically, I'd like to know what the average or mean starting salary is for graduates.  Do you have access to these statistics or know where they can be found?

 

I'd also like to go apartment-hunting when I'm in Durham for the open house.  We were sent a list of housing options shortly after receiving our admissions letters, but it looks like the information is a little out of date (circa 2010).  In talking with a couple of current students, it sounds like a lot of new apartment complexes have come up more recently.  Do you know if there is an updated list of places where students tend to stay?  If not, I'd still appreciate any first-hand or anecdotal experience you may have.

 

Regards

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Hey Juhual, 

 

Great questions!  I think there might be information on internship and/or job placements in the career services section of Sanford's website.  I'm not sure about starting salary but I know that a lot of folks go into government (at all levels), NGOs, and the private sector (consulting etc.).  

 

Durham has some pretty solid housing options.  I would check out this site for some current options:  http://studentaffairs.duke.edu/forms/chouse/search.php

 

I hope this is helpful and best of luck with the decision-making process!

 

Cheers,

MPPBlueDevil

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Hello. MPPBluedevil,

 

I also have a question to ask.

 

Could you inform me with assistanship opportunities at Sanford?

 

And, also, it would be thankful if you inform me about other channels to

support my tuition fees.

 

Thank you.

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Hi MPPBlueDevil

 

I got in the MIDP program and was wondering if you could provide me with some insight about it. I am especially interested about employment opportunities after the program or internship opportunities. Do you know how is the reputation of the program? Also is there some interactions between MPP and MIDP or are the two programs pretty much separate? And how's the student life within the program?

 

Thank you!

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o1lo1l, 

 

Those are great questions!  In terms of assistantships, they are certainly available and my sense is that a good number of first-year MPPs have one.  The assistantships can be teaching assistantships (assigned to a specific class and mainly facilitates small group discussions/study sessions with students, grades papers, etc.), research assistantships (assigned to a specific professor to support them with a current research project) or graduate assistantships (assigned to a particular administrative department within Sanford and support their efforts in event management, marketing, PR, writing etc.).  I believe the assistantships pay approximately $4,000 a semester.  In terms of other ways to help pay for tuition and fees, there are opportunities for part-time work/paid internships during the year. Although being a full-time student takes up a good amount of time, I do know some MPP students that have outside jobs and are doing fine balancing their studies and outside work.  It really all depends on what your preferences and priorities are.  

 

Marie, 

 

How are you?!?  I think I responded to some of your questions in another thread started by someone deciding between Sanford and SIPA.  Nevertheless, I just wanted to reiterate that the MIDP program at Sanford is really strong.  Unfortunately, I don't know too much about employment opportunities after the program.  However, I think that the MIDP students are very impressive and I would be surprised if the vast majority didn't find meaningful employment in prestigious public and multilateral institutions.  In terms of interaction between the MIDP and MPP programs, I think that there is a healthy amount.  However, I would say that the MPPs interested in international development are the ones that most interact with MIDP students and vice versa.  Many MPPs take MIDP classes and vice versa. ALso there are a couple of joint MIDP-MPP intramural sports teams.  Socially, both the MIDP and MPP programs have close-knit communities that are very active outside of class.  

 

Hopefully this is helpful and please do not hesitate to ask me any additional questions!  Best of luck in the decision making process!

 

Best, 

mppbluedevil13

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Hi MPPBlueDevil,

 

Again, thank you for your answers.

 

Then, are there no tuition waivers for assistanships(TA or RA)?

 

Best,

o1lo1l

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Hey o1lo1l, 

 

Good question! I don't think there are tuition waivers per se for assistantships.  Instead, you would be paid for the assistantship and you could spend the money on tuition or however you best see fit.  

 

Good luck with everything and please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any other questions about Sanford!

 

Best,

mppbluedevil13

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Greetings mppbluedevil13,

 

I'm a little concerned about the rigor of Sanford's program.  It's been a while since I've been in school, and it worries me that I'll have to take so many credit hours per semester.  I'm confident in my abilities, but my background is in the humanities.  Can you speak to the difficulty of the program, especially for those students that lack a background in quantitative analysis?  Are there many students that drop out after their first year?  Are there many students that need more than two years to complete the program?  Thank you so much for your help. -David

Edited by davidthegnome

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Hey David, 

 

Thanks for the great questions! I definitely know where you are coming from as I certainly asked myself the same questions before coming back to school.  In general, I think policy school is pretty heterogeneous in terms of backgrounds and experiences.  Here at Sanford, there are a lot of very bright and impressive people - some of which came in with strong quant skills and others who might have only taken one or two stats/econ classes in undergrad.  Given the wide range of quant experience, I think our quant (e.g., stats and econ) professors do a really good job with the pace and content of the courses to make sure that all students are keeping up and learning.  Plus, there are several opportunities to receive instruction or help outside of class through TA sessions and office hours with the professors.  Students form study groups almost immediately and in the second semester there are several group assignments for the quant classes.  In the end, given the tight-knit nature of the academic community here at Sanford, even if you wanted to, I think it would be very difficult to not perform at a high-level because your professors, TAs, fellow classmates wouldn't let you! 

 

In terms of the difficulty of the program, it is challenging but manageable.  I have definitely been pushed, but have never felt that I have been given impossible tasks.  I do not have official statistics about dropout rates but I assume they would be almost 0.  I don't know anyone who has dropped out of my class and my sense is that the overwhelming majority of folks in my class really like it here.  Unfortunately, I also don't know how many students need more than 2 years to complete the program - although, I would guess it's probably a pretty low number. 

 

I hope this is helpful and please feel free to shoot any additional questions my way!

 

Best,

mppbluedevil13

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Hey David, 

 

Thanks for the great questions! I definitely know where you are coming from as I certainly asked myself the same questions before coming back to school.  In general, I think policy school is pretty heterogeneous in terms of backgrounds and experiences.  Here at Sanford, there are a lot of very bright and impressive people - some of which came in with strong quant skills and others who might have only taken one or two stats/econ classes in undergrad.  Given the wide range of quant experience, I think our quant (e.g., stats and econ) professors do a really good job with the pace and content of the courses to make sure that all students are keeping up and learning.  Plus, there are several opportunities to receive instruction or help outside of class through TA sessions and office hours with the professors.  Students form study groups almost immediately and in the second semester there are several group assignments for the quant classes.  In the end, given the tight-knit nature of the academic community here at Sanford, even if you wanted to, I think it would be very difficult to not perform at a high-level because your professors, TAs, fellow classmates wouldn't let you! 

 

In terms of the difficulty of the program, it is challenging but manageable.  I have definitely been pushed, but have never felt that I have been given impossible tasks.  I do not have official statistics about dropout rates but I assume they would be almost 0.  I don't know anyone who has dropped out of my class and my sense is that the overwhelming majority of folks in my class really like it here.  Unfortunately, I also don't know how many students need more than 2 years to complete the program - although, I would guess it's probably a pretty low number. 

 

I hope this is helpful and please feel free to shoot any additional questions my way!

 

Best,

mppbluedevil13

 

Thanks so much for this response!  You've been very helpful. -David

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mppbluedevil13,

 I'm currently deciding between Sanford, and other programs that offered better funding. Have you ever heard of students successfully negotiating additional funding?? Do you know if there is any chance in increasing your funding 2nd year?

Thanks!

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Hey SS1987, 

 

Great question.  Unfortunately, I don't really know! I think your best bet would be to shoot an email to mppadmit@duke.edu with your questions.  Will you be coming to the Admissions Office's Open House on Friday? From what I understand, there will be financial aid representatives available throughout the day who could probably help to answer your question.  Sorry I couldn't be of more help SS1987 but best of luck and please feel free to ask me any other questions you might have about Sanford!

 

Good luck!

 

Best,

mppbluedevil13 

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Hello,

 

So I know that I'll be reviving this thread after a long dormancy, but I hope some of you are still around. I'm applying to Sanford this fall, and I had a few questions:

 

First, is anyone in the global or social policy specializations? These are where I want to focus most. Where do people who graduate in these specialization go on to work?

 

Would you mind posting your GPAs and GREs and how much financial aid you received? Sorry if that's a little personal! It would just give me some peace of mind (or the opposite) to know where I stand in relation to students who've made it into the program.

 

What sort of employment experience did you have going into the application process?

 

I graduated with a degree in psychology; I thought I wanted to go to med school or get a PhD, so I spent my first two years out of school in a hospital. I realized what a mistake that was and how much more I care about politics and social issues. Since then I've worked for one federal agency working in policy and currently work in policy at the state level, so I do have two years of policy related work under my belt. Still I'm a little worried about my employment background.

 

Do you think it will hurt my chances at landing good financial aid if I only apply to Duke? I live in Durham and my wife doesn't want to leave her current job for two years. I figure if I don't get into Duke I'll just stay at my current position and gain more experience while doing a public policy certificate at NC State to get a more recent academic recommendation. Still, from a negotiating standpoint it doesn't look good to have all your eggs in one basket.

 

I'd feel pretty silly applying to another school just for bargaining purposes though lol.

 

I think I'll like Duke. I visited once and I've taken some Coursera courses with Sanford Profs.

 

Thanks so much for any responses, they are much appreciated!

Edited by TimB

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I also have a question, which may be well answered by other Duke applicants. The part that I'm most intimidated about completing in the application is the video essay. I know it's "optional," but from my background working with college admissions, I understand "optional" to really mean "optional if you don't care about getting in."

 

What have other essays been about? How do people approach this? Should I script and direct a minute-long thing à la Elle Woods? Does anyone have any pearls of wisdom? What are they really looking for here that wouldn't be communicated in my essays? Is this a substitute for an interview? Okay, you get the idea. Hope someone has some ideas. =)

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I didn't do the video essay for my NYU application and I still got in to Wagner, so I don't know how mandatory it is. For Duke I plan on doing one; I'm going to focus on my experience as a leader with my mountaineering experience in the Andes and my experience in the States as a climbing/backpacking guide. I figure it's a unique skill set and an example of fortitude and perseverance right? IDK if that's a good idea, not being an admissions expert, but I figured that I'd want to show them something to set me apart. 

 

I do fire poi, that thing where you dance around swinging balls of fire on chains, and it's a pretty unique cool looking talent so I might try to fit that in at the end. I hope they don't think I'm crazy :(

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In case any current Duke students are still reading this, or any former Duke applicants with some substantial impressions of the school, I'm interested in hearing more about this school in general. I've managed to find some alums of all the other schools I'm applying to and talk to them about the atmosphere and the community/ cohort feel, but I've have relatively little contact with Duke people.

 

If anyone out there attended/attends the Sanford School or have visited and met alums or faculty, I'd love your opinions and thoughts. Thanks!

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This years admission results are out.. Does anyone know how many are placed on wait list and what are the chances of converting a wait list into an admit??

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I feel it's only fair to bump this thread, because I got so much useful information from Grad Café when I was looking to apply to grad school! It's now two years later, and in fact, @TimB and I know each other quite well, having been teaching assistants together this past semester for the same undergraduate class. =) Small world! That video essay I was so anxious about? Two of my best friends in the program and I just watched each other's videos last weekend and laughed ourselves silly - we showcased ourselves traveling (me), renovating a house, and hiking the Appalachian Trail (for real). =) 

I'm now a second-year MPP at Duke Sanford with a strong interest in education and labor policy, public finance, and evaluation. I didn't visit before I accepted my spot here, and I feel like I've really lucked out! I've enjoyed my time here a lot, and gotten a lot out of most of my classes. It's a really great, small program with a tight-knit community of folks and a lively social scene. We work hard and play hard. If you're considering the program or have questions, feel free to send questions! 

For those who want to read past threads, I also suggest this one: http://forum.thegradcafe.com/topic/61050-duke-mpp-2015-hopefuls/

Edited by chocolatecheesecake
Added a link for reading pleasure!

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1 hour ago, chocolatecheesecake said:

I feel it's only fair to bump this thread, because I got so much useful information from Grad Café when I was looking to apply to grad school! It's now two years later, and in fact, @TimB and I know each other quite well, having been teaching assistants together this past semester for the same undergraduate class. =) Small world! That video essay I was so anxious about? Two of my best friends in the program and I just watched each other's videos last weekend and laughed ourselves silly - we showcased ourselves traveling (me), renovating a house, and hiking the Appalachian Trail (for real). =) 

I'm now a second-year MPP at Duke Sanford with a strong interest in education and labor policy, public finance, and evaluation. I didn't visit before I accepted my spot here, and I feel like I've really lucked out! I've enjoyed my time here a lot, and gotten a lot out of most of my classes. It's a really great, small program with a tight-knit community of folks and a lively social scene. We work hard and play hard. If you're considering the program or have questions, feel free to send questions! 

For those who want to read past threads, I also suggest this one: http://forum.thegradcafe.com/topic/61050-duke-mpp-2015-hopefuls/

Would you be able to read my SOP if it's not too much of a hassle for you?  I would really love some feedback

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On 12/19/2015 at 10:55 PM, sp108 said:

Would you be able to read my SOP if it's not too much of a hassle for you?  I would really love some feedback

Hi @sp108, sorry for the late response since I was out of Internet range for a while. I highly suggest that you send your SOP to people who know you best. That's because while an SOP might look impressive to someone like me, people who know you will notice missing pieces or tell you how to rephrase your involvement with some things, because they saw you doing it or they know what was involved. I'd be able to give you the rough outlines, but at this point, the help you need you should come from people who know you. I hope that makes sense. Good luck! 

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Hello MPPbluedevil

Dont know if you're still answering questions - but do you have any tips for the video essay required for MPP candidates?

Thanks

 

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Posted (edited)

Hi everyone,

I know this thread is a bit old - but I have a few questions related to Duke that I can't find on the website or elsewhere. As my ultimate decision will include a bunch of factors, I am trying to get a jump-start on learning as much as possible prior to admissions and funding decisions in March.

  1. Do you know of MPP students taking undergrad language courses at Duke? Is this advisable with the courseload? I know at other schools this is possible, and it's important to me that I be able to learn Hindi while completing my master's so that I can converse with my spouse's family. 
  2. What about a part-time job/volunteering? Again in the vain of is this advisable with the course load? I am used to being quite busy with things outside of academia, and would like to be able to continue that to an extent. I know that this is of course an option and there are lots of student organizations, but I am curious if the course-load is so heavy that you don't really have time to do much outside. 
  3. Family/Work/Life Balance given the courseload and the Durham area? I would be moving with my spouse and hoping for a decent family/work/academia/life balance, but I am not sure how family friendly the program is. 

I think that's it! Thanks for any and all insight you might have!

Edited by sturdyelm

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On 1/6/2017 at 2:15 AM, sturdyelm said:

Hi everyone,

I know this thread is a bit old - but I have a few questions related to Duke that I can't find on the website or elsewhere. As my ultimate decision will include a bunch of factors, I am trying to get a jump-start on learning as much as possible prior to admissions and funding decisions in March.

  1. Do you know of MPP students taking undergrad language courses at Duke? Is this advisable with the courseload? I know at other schools this is possible, and it's important to me that I be able to learn Hindi while completing my master's so that I can converse with my spouse's family. 
  2. What about a part-time job/volunteering? Again in the vain of is this advisable with the course load? I am used to being quite busy with things outside of academia, and would like to be able to continue that to an extent. I know that this is of course an option and there are lots of student organizations, but I am curious if the course-load is so heavy that you don't really have time to do much outside. 
  3. Family/Work/Life Balance given the courseload and the Durham area? I would be moving with my spouse and hoping for a decent family/work/academia/life balance, but I am not sure how family friendly the program is. 

I think that's it! Thanks for any and all insight you might have!

Hi @sturdyelm! I am happy to share some experiences about Duke Sanford. I graduated in May, and it was an incredible two years there.

  1. I did have a classmate who took undergraduate Arabic classes at Duke. While it's possible (you have 4 core courses each semester first year, but can take up to 5 full classes per semester), it's important to know it doesn't count toward your degree. To satisfy graduation requirements, you will have to take 5 public policy classes for at least one semester during your two years.
  2. You can definitely work part-time and volunteer. I graduated Duke with a 3.75 GPA, and I worked part-time for three semesters. My first year, it was an internship with a think tank in Raleigh, and I also did two teaching assistantships (almost everyone gets those). Friends also worked on campus or as research assistants. Volunteer opportunities abound, especially through student orgs. I ran two student orgs (Sanford Women in Policy, Bridging Communities) my second year (which was a bit busy). An excellent student org/ volunteer opportunity is the Sanford Board Leadership Initiative, which places you on a nonprofit board for a year. While it was never easy, I really thrived on being able to work, study, and volunteer at the same time throughout my time at Duke.
  3. Family/work/life balance is always a tricky thing. What you should know about Duke: the MPP cohort is younger, but quite a few people were married, and a few do have kids. It's convenient to bike to school or take a bus, so the commute isn't long. It takes 15 minutes to drive anywhere in the city. =) It's a tight-knit program, and I was constantly visiting friends for parties, pet-sitting, clothing swaps, or game nights. You can be as integrated into the community as you want, and your spouse will be welcome. In general, Durham is a very affordable and nice to live in (nearby state parks, walkable downtown, craft breweries, brunch places). A bunch of my friends and Sanford alums are still around, in fact, after graduation, a fact which speaks louder than any testimonial. =)

I really encourage you to visit, and to reach out to the Admissions office to see if you can connect with some current students. Good luck with your decision-making! 

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