Well my Micro class got cancelled today so in my boredom (I mean sincere altruism) I'll go through and try and add my two cents where I feel I can. As a disclaimer much like most of you in here I am also someone who will be beginning their program in the fall of 2019 so I'm not claiming to be an expert or anything. Depending on how long this gets I may have to break this up into two separate posts but we'll see.
@bac I think deferring for a year sounds like the right call for you in this case. A pregnancy is a huge uncertainty hanging over a families head and so trying to move with that hanging over you sounds like a major hassle, especially given how it seems pretty tough to put one of UT or USC over the other atm. I would definitely agree that raising a family sounds more preferable in a city/state with a lower COL like Austin/Texas, but I think another advantage of deferring is that you'll have a much better sense of where it would be better to raise your family long term after having your child. Plus another year of savings doesn't hurt either. I would sure hope that schools would allow for deferrals for a spouse's pregnancy so I hope that whole process works out for you.
@sdb12014 From everything that I've read/heard about, it seems like federal gov work in a place like D.C. is achievable through just about any D.C. based school due to the lcation which allows you to do heavy networking + multiple internships in addition to the robust alumni networks in the area. With that being said, based off of your current offers SAIS is both most well known D.C. program you've been accepted to and the only one that has offered you funding thus far. So as of now I'd go with SAIS unless American comes through with even better funding since fed gov is also doable from there as well. And if American doesn't initially offer you funding that is comparable to SAIS then use the SAIS offer to try and negotiate with them. Even if you get off the MSFS waitlist I still wouldn't advise it unless you received funding on top of it. But even if nothing changes between now and the day of your deposit, a somewhat funded SAIS degree is a phenomenal outcome for someone wanting to do federal government work in D.C.
@MPA/MPP Applicant Heinz and Sanford are both great funded offers to have if you want the option to be in D.C. as well since they both have pretty solid alumni networks in that area. Sanford routinely places half or close to half of its grads in D.C. if I'm remembering the numbers correctly while the % is around 25 at Heinz. But Heinz has a larger class size and a more recently created D.C. track so the disparity in alumni presence isn't probably as big as the percentages make it seem. If you're fine with D.C. as an option then Heinz is a completely justifiable choice given the funding. That being said if your heart is truly set on the Bay Area then I think Price makes way too much sense for you given that their funding offer is the same as Heinz + their tuition being lower which helps offset the higher COL.
@somewhatslightlydazed Quite frankly your options are so good across the board that it's making it really hard to pick just one lol. In that sense there's technically not an incorrect choice in there either. If SAIS comes back to you with full funding you could certainly justify that pick but otherwise I would pick one of HKS or WWS depending on which one you think is a better choice for your future goals. WWS is less than 3 and a half hours away from DC so I would imagine that they have a solid enough presence in D.C. which might alleviate your concerns a bit. I couldn't find any exact geographical breakdowns online but if you emailed someone from WWS I'm sure they could tell you what % of their grads end up in D.C. Any number above 20-25% would give me confidence in having a healthy alumni network to tap into in the D.C. area. Also although this is just a hunch on my end, I feel as though it would be easier to get to D.C. from WWS than it would be to get to NY from SAIS although both routes are certainly more than possible. Based off of the HKS employment reports for 2016 and 2017 it looks like they also have a very strong alumni group in D.C. as well which is to be expected given their class size and history. So while it would certainly be easier to secure certain connections in D.C. thorough SAIS, ultimately I think WWS and HKS will get you to D.C. all the same. If you have no preference for one over the other then I would advise picking based on whether you prefer the location of one over the other or to simply take WWS fort he larger stipend. But no matter what you end up picking just know that there isn't a bad choice to make. Congrats on all of the amazing offers.
@HoboPresident LBJ does have a D.C. track so I do think that it wouldn't be too difficult securing D.C. based employment from there. The brand name argument is a bit tough to dissect however because while there may be some fields or specific programs that penalize you for having two state schools on your resume, I want to say that most wouldn't care. I think for most Phd programs (even top ones) your grades, gre scores, research experience, essays, and overall fit matter much more then the name of the school. And if you want to do your Phd in a field similar to the one you're pursuing now, then I think most of the top programs would recognize that LBJ is a strong program. That being said if you want D.C., a brand name, and a somewhat affordable cost then Cornell might end up being your best compromise. Its base tuition is much lower than many other top programs, and with additional funding it could end up being very affordable for you. They also have a surprisingly strong base in D.C. based off of their employment reports, and you can do a one semester externship in D.C. as well if you want to have several months to network there. I don't know enough about Tufts and its D.C. connections, but I feel like unless its base tuition was fairly low to begin with then it will still be fairly expensive even with 25% funding.
@Spurs Keough is still a fairly new program so I really don't know if it has the connections necessary to break into the World Bank or the UN. Harvard could definitely get you to these places, but paying off that debt even on the salaries that those two organizations provide would be quite depressing. Are there any other schools you applied to that can act as a sort of middle ground? If for example you applied to and received funding from SAIS or SIPA then I think either option would be a good middle ground. If you applied to SAIS or SIPA but just didn't receive funding, I would try negotiating with the Keough offer even if it is a bit of a long shot. If there are non WB/UN related jobs that you would also be satisfied with then I would take Keough over HKS but I can definitely understand why it would be hard to turn HKS down.
Welp I'm halfway through page one so I'll probably stop here and pick up the rest of it a bit later. Yikes this took longer than I expected but it was still fun comparing and contrasting how everyone evaluates their decisions.