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MarieG.

Master of Public Policy (M.P.P.) Decision!

12 posts in this topic

Posted (edited)

Hi all,

Thanks in advance for your input. I could really use it!

I've been accepted to the following schools for the Master of Public Policy. I intend to study education policy.

UVA (with sizable scholarship)

Berkeley (no scholarship)

Columbia (1/4 scholarship)

Duke (about 1/2 scholarship)

UChicago (about 1/4 scholarship, but could change)

Michigan (about 1/3 scholarship, but could change)

Carnegie Mellon (about 3/4 scholarship)

Vanderbilt (very small scholarship)

I was also waitlisted at HKS.

Because of financial concerns, I'm prioritizing UVA, Duke, UChicago, Michigan, and Carnegie Mellon. However, Berkeley's got such a wonderful reputation... What are your thoughts?

Edited by MarieG.
Grammar

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You might get some more help if you post this in the Government Affairs section. 

My thoughts:

If you're planning to work in K-12 public education policy areas after graduation, you really need to heavily consider the debt aspect when combined with a program that can support your interests and needs. Ideally you want to be able to balance both, without sacrificing one for the other. However, I probably wouldn't go anywhere that doesn't offer at least 50% funding based off your current offers because you (or anyone else planning to work in the public interest sector) are going to have a more difficult time paying off the debt.

All of these are well-respected programs, but if I were you, based off your current funding situation and career path, I would say Duke is the best option. Though CMU gave you the most money, I don't know how well known they are for education policy as compared to Duke, UChicago or Michigan, but then again I don't know that much about CMU anyways (so take that as you will, and definitely ask around on that!). If CMU is well-respected on the educational/social side of things, then that is a no-brainer to me, and you should go to CMU. If you could get a decent amount more out of UChicago or UMichigan, they could also be very strong contenders.

I hope this is helpful. 

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Hi MarieG! I'm a current second year MPP at Sanford.

First, congratulations. You've got a tremendous spate of acceptances from the top policy schools in the country! 

Your decision boils down to which school will best enable you to achieve your professional goals, or at least propel you along the path you'd like to follow. Duke is a very strong education policy school, and I have many friends currently in the program with me who plan to use the knowledge and skills acquired here to become leaders in education policy in May and beyond. That said, we're not the end-all, be-all. BUT. In combination with the financial aid offer, our expertise in your preferred area of study makes Duke your best option, in my biased opinion. Objectively though, among the schools you have to choose from, none has such disproportionate prestige that it makes sense to take on tens of thousands of extra dollars in debt. 

Each school should be viewed in terms of its ability to get you a job in your desired profession, and make sure to consider geography in this equation. If you're looking to do federal policy, it's hard to beat Duke among your options. UVa is closer, but also newer, with a smaller alumni network. Duke alumni in DC are everywhere you look, and in prominent positions. 

I wrote this to another accepted student, but it really applies to everyone in your position: In the end, what drove my choice two years ago was the people: which people did I see myself learning from? Which peers did I want to spend time with and build my future professional network from? Which thought leaders/academics/practitioners would best prepare me to succeed? I obviously chose Duke, and that choice was solidified by visiting campus and meeting those people. I strongly urge you and everyone else reading this to do everything in your power to visit the schools you're seriously considering and soak in as much information as possible. I hope to see you at Sanford's admitted students open house at the end of the month (widely regarded as the best and most comprehensive/competent open house among peer schools). 

If you have any specific follow-up questions, I'd be happy to answer them (hdb4@duke.edu). Best of luck with your decision!

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Thank you both so much for this input! Duke's certainly moved up to the top of my list. I spoke with a former CMU professor who taught ed policy and he explicitly said not to go to CMU if I'm looking to study education policy, so I can cross that off my list.

 

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As an alum of UVA's program, here are some specifics as to Batten and some more general advice:

Cost is certainly one of the most important factors and it is not worth thousands of dollars more to attend a more "prestegious" school to earn this degree, in my opinion. Public Policy school teaches important foundational knowledge and skills, but salaries at this first-professional school are typically quite lower (at least to start) than Law or Business degrees at any prestegious school. Please consider that “Average net price for Batten School M.P.P. students in 2014-15 was $7,004 for in-state students and $12,942 for out-of state students, which equates to a discount rate of 54%.” (http://www.virginia.edu/bov/meetings/'15Mar/March%202015%20Finance%20Book.Final.pdf, page 13). If you have an offer that requires tuition at Batten above this at all, it would be wise to renegotiate or consider attending another school. This also indicates, however, that they're game to dole out money so press for more (up to and including a full ride) if you consider going there at all.

I cannot speak to its specific strengths and weaknesses of other programs, but here is some information about UVA's program from my experience and public source data. First, compare the course offerings from public source information for each program, both in total and for policy areas in which you are interested. Batten offers a total of 10 electives for the upcomming fall semester (http://rabi.phys.virginia.edu/mySIS/CS2/page.php?Semester=1178&Type=Group&Group=PPOL) - this is far lower than other programs you're considering. Also, you've expressed an interest in Education Policy, but there are no such courses offered for the fall. In fact, UVA historically teaches one Ed Policy course per year, so you're likely to have precisely three credits in ed policy from that school for your two years of work. Second, class size is important in developing relationships with both professors and classmates. Using the same source, you can anticipate being in classes of 40-50 students for your core courses at UVA. This is way too large and will make building relationships with professors quite difficult. Also along these lines, how are your quantitative skills? I found that many of my classmates struggled in this area and a lecture of 45+ students was not the best learning environment for them.

The administration will try to sell you on "well, we don't teach many ed policy courses, but you can always take courses in the education school." It is true that, in theory, you could take classes at “all” of UVA’s professional schools as a Public Policy student, but in practice this can be quite difficult. MBA and Law classes were almost impossible to get into for students not dual-enrolled with these schools. Often their registration processes made it so that Policy students had to forego courses in the Batten school to try (and fail) to get into interesting/relevant Law and MBA courses. The education school is more flexible, but since you're not a student in the ed school enrollment is not guaranteed. Each school is quite territorial and this could result in you missing very interesting/relevant ed policy courses and force you to take courses in areas which you have zero interest.

Finally, they will give you a list of end placements for grads that seems very wonderful. It is true that many Batten graduates do end up in renowned organizations, but, at least in my experience, this is almost exclusively a result of individual hard work to obtain these positions. UVA’s Public Policy school has very few pipelines to place or recommend graduates at elite institutions and professors are generally not willing to share professional contacts outside of their favorite students (back to the point about large class sizes making it difficult to make relationships with professors). Expect to cold call and drop resumes via USAjobs or other sites a lot. I also think that location is one of the biggest factors in choosing a school. If your goal is to work in a federal agency you should strongly consider a policy school in/near DC. Likewise, if you want to work in a specific state office, choose a school in or near that state capital. The reason for this is that many agencies offer academic-year internship programs that provide direct access to both experience and non-competitive hiring. Though a few of my classmates were able to take advantage of such offers at UVA, this was definitely the exception and it came at the expense of academic opportunities due to commuting to and working in the DC or Richmond area. Other schools offer multiple night courses that allow students to be more fully engaged in both academic and work life.

Overall, my advice to anyone planning to pursue an MPP is as follows:

  • What is your career goal and how will your chosen school get you there? (Have a specific job title/path in mind. This can change, but given the time and money involved it’s important to have a firm idea of what the end state is up front.) Be intentional about your courses, internships, and extracurriculars to reach that goal.
  • Arrange/negotiate your financial aid prior to enrollment. Do not wait for or rely on advertisements of future scholarships or assistantships from the school. Also, if schools advertise research assistant positions, ask how many and with what professors and demand to know the process in hiring (i.e. how do professors select students for these positions and how often are such positions advertised?).

Ask the following of admissions officers and demand specific and quantifiable answers:

  • How many students will be in my core classes?
  • How much post-doctoral teaching experience will my professors have? Will my core academic classes be taught by an individual with a terminal degree in the field taught? (schools love to plant fresh-out-of PhD professors to teach core classes while holding back award-winning/experienced teachers to do research. Batten, in particular, has also been known to have individuals without terminal degrees teach core academic classes. This is your time and money, demand the best the school has for it.)
  • Do professors grade and give substantive feedback on assignments (as opposed to graders/TAs—especially course capstone assignments)? This is important as you will have to provide writing samples for many employers.
  • Do professors offer professional contacts to help students get jobs? How? (Yes, you will have to do some work to develop relationships with professors, but you are also investing a significant amount of time and money here. It should not be a tough process to have the people whom you both pay and work hard for academically invest in your success.)

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On 3/24/2017 at 8:08 AM, alan2016 said:

As an alum of UVA's program, here are some specifics as to Batten and some more general advice:

Cost is certainly one of the most important factors and it is not worth thousands of dollars more to attend a more "prestegious" school to earn this degree, in my opinion. Public Policy school teaches important foundational knowledge and skills, but salaries at this first-professional school are typically quite lower (at least to start) than Law or Business degrees at any prestegious school. Please consider that “Average net price for Batten School M.P.P. students in 2014-15 was $7,004 for in-state students and $12,942 for out-of state students, which equates to a discount rate of 54%.” (http://www.virginia.edu/bov/meetings/'15Mar/March%202015%20Finance%20Book.Final.pdf, page 13). If you have an offer that requires tuition at Batten above this at all, it would be wise to renegotiate or consider attending another school. This also indicates, however, that they're game to dole out money so press for more (up to and including a full ride) if you consider going there at all.

I cannot speak to its specific strengths and weaknesses of other programs, but here is some information about UVA's program from my experience and public source data. First, compare the course offerings from public source information for each program, both in total and for policy areas in which you are interested. Batten offers a total of 10 electives for the upcomming fall semester (http://rabi.phys.virginia.edu/mySIS/CS2/page.php?Semester=1178&Type=Group&Group=PPOL) - this is far lower than other programs you're considering. Also, you've expressed an interest in Education Policy, but there are no such courses offered for the fall. In fact, UVA historically teaches one Ed Policy course per year, so you're likely to have precisely three credits in ed policy from that school for your two years of work. Second, class size is important in developing relationships with both professors and classmates. Using the same source, you can anticipate being in classes of 40-50 students for your core courses at UVA. This is way too large and will make building relationships with professors quite difficult. Also along these lines, how are your quantitative skills? I found that many of my classmates struggled in this area and a lecture of 45+ students was not the best learning environment for them.

The administration will try to sell you on "well, we don't teach many ed policy courses, but you can always take courses in the education school." It is true that, in theory, you could take classes at “all” of UVA’s professional schools as a Public Policy student, but in practice this can be quite difficult. MBA and Law classes were almost impossible to get into for students not dual-enrolled with these schools. Often their registration processes made it so that Policy students had to forego courses in the Batten school to try (and fail) to get into interesting/relevant Law and MBA courses. The education school is more flexible, but since you're not a student in the ed school enrollment is not guaranteed. Each school is quite territorial and this could result in you missing very interesting/relevant ed policy courses and force you to take courses in areas which you have zero interest.

Finally, they will give you a list of end placements for grads that seems very wonderful. It is true that many Batten graduates do end up in renowned organizations, but, at least in my experience, this is almost exclusively a result of individual hard work to obtain these positions. UVA’s Public Policy school has very few pipelines to place or recommend graduates at elite institutions and professors are generally not willing to share professional contacts outside of their favorite students (back to the point about large class sizes making it difficult to make relationships with professors). Expect to cold call and drop resumes via USAjobs or other sites a lot. I also think that location is one of the biggest factors in choosing a school. If your goal is to work in a federal agency you should strongly consider a policy school in/near DC. Likewise, if you want to work in a specific state office, choose a school in or near that state capital. The reason for this is that many agencies offer academic-year internship programs that provide direct access to both experience and non-competitive hiring. Though a few of my classmates were able to take advantage of such offers at UVA, this was definitely the exception and it came at the expense of academic opportunities due to commuting to and working in the DC or Richmond area. Other schools offer multiple night courses that allow students to be more fully engaged in both academic and work life.

Overall, my advice to anyone planning to pursue an MPP is as follows:

  • What is your career goal and how will your chosen school get you there? (Have a specific job title/path in mind. This can change, but given the time and money involved it’s important to have a firm idea of what the end state is up front.) Be intentional about your courses, internships, and extracurriculars to reach that goal.
  • Arrange/negotiate your financial aid prior to enrollment. Do not wait for or rely on advertisements of future scholarships or assistantships from the school. Also, if schools advertise research assistant positions, ask how many and with what professors and demand to know the process in hiring (i.e. how do professors select students for these positions and how often are such positions advertised?).

Ask the following of admissions officers and demand specific and quantifiable answers:

  • How many students will be in my core classes?
  • How much post-doctoral teaching experience will my professors have? Will my core academic classes be taught by an individual with a terminal degree in the field taught? (schools love to plant fresh-out-of PhD professors to teach core classes while holding back award-winning/experienced teachers to do research. Batten, in particular, has also been known to have individuals without terminal degrees teach core academic classes. This is your time and money, demand the best the school has for it.)
  • Do professors grade and give substantive feedback on assignments (as opposed to graders/TAs—especially course capstone assignments)? This is important as you will have to provide writing samples for many employers.
  • Do professors offer professional contacts to help students get jobs? How? (Yes, you will have to do some work to develop relationships with professors, but you are also investing a significant amount of time and money here. It should not be a tough process to have the people whom you both pay and work hard for academically invest in your success.)

Any advice on negotiating funding? I never knew this was negotiable and don't know if this is done with Financial Aid, Major Dept, or Grad Admission. Any guidance would be greatly appreciated. 

 

 

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On ‎3‎/‎24‎/‎2017 at 11:08 AM, alan2016 said:

I'd direct any such questions to the school/department graduate admissions or financial aid office. I'd be deliberate about it and only engage a program in this if it's actually on that you're considering attending. I think it's best to take the attitude that they've accepted you so that means the school wants you there and the worst they can do with your request for additional is say "no".

 

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Follow-Up Question:

Berkeley alumni have said they were able to get assistantships fairly easily; I reached out to the woman who directs them, and she confirmed that I'm "highly likely" to secure one for all for semesters. This would cover most/all of tuition for Berkeley. Would that/should that move Berkeley up my list?

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10 hours ago, MarieG. said:

Follow-Up Question:

Berkeley alumni have said they were able to get assistantships fairly easily; I reached out to the woman who directs them, and she confirmed that I'm "highly likely" to secure one for all for semesters. This would cover most/all of tuition for Berkeley. Would that/should that move Berkeley up my list?

My understanding is that the GSIs at Berkeley cover about 40% of tuition for out-of-state students, so I'm not sure how that works out to most/all tuition.  I highly recommend talking to current students or reading through the Goldman thread to get a better idea of the reality of obtaining a GSI.  I know that many students are desiring one, so it may be more competitive than this woman is letting on.

Here's the Goldman thread.

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If you're "highly likely" to secure one for all semesters, why have they not offered it yet? I'd be very wary of an admission's officer's pseudo-promises as their sole job at this point is to get you enrolled.

I found the following with a couple quick google searches: This year they're offering 13 fall GSIs and they offered 17 for spring 2017. (Sources: https://gspp.berkeley.edu/assets/uploads/page/2017_Fall_GSPP_ASE_Positions_Listing.pdf and https://gspp.berkeley.edu/assets/uploads/page/2017_Spring_GSPP_ASE_Positions.pdf)

That sounds like a lot of spots until you realize there are 95-100 students in the class, and some simple division brings the "highly likely" claim into serious question. Perhaps you have desired skills/background for teaching some sections and that's why the individual made that claim. If not, then make sure you're very comfortable with full tuition, fees, and Bay-area cost of living before attending Berkeley and view this as a hope rather than a likely event. Right now, with no aid offer, you're not a priority for them, but instead a nice funding source to help them make budget. 

In my opinion, you look to be well credentialed and desired by a lot of schools. Either make Berkeley pay for the privilege of your attendance or take the money and attend one of these other great schools.

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Bottom line: Berkeley's rep is not better than Sanford's, Harris's or Ford's, especially outside of the west coast.  So if "reputation" is the only reason you're trying to fit that square peg into a round hole, you should re-channel your energy.

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Thank you so much for this input. It's good to get an outsider's perspective on these "pseudo-promises" they've been making. I'm heavily leaning towards Duke. @3dender - I'll message you privately, as I see you chose Sanford.

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