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About kb6

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    Espresso Shot

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  • Location
    Washington, DC
  • Application Season
    2013 Fall
  • Program
    SAIS graduate

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  1. Taking a course sounds like a great idea if you're trying to get into grad school. I did something similar for what I thought was a middling GPA. And the fact that you're a few years removed, did very well on the GRE and have pretty great work experience puts you in a good position. You're still going to have to explain that 2.41 GPA at some point, though. Was there some kind of family or mental health crisis? Did your grades improve throughout your years there? Were you just really immature and partying all the time? There should be a section in each application for "additional informat
  2. Don't get an MPA to work on the Hill, unless you have money to burn and just want the education. Have you looked at the backgrounds of people who are currently in positions you might want? I deal with a lot of Congressional staffers for work. Those in the 22-35 range typically have no more than a bachelor's degree. If they have an advanced degree, it's usually a JD. And no matter what, the salary is pretty terrible.
  3. My GPA wasn't much better than yours, and my work experience was decent but less international than yours. I rocked the GREs and ended up at SAIS with a significant scholarship. These programs aren't as competitive as you think. Also, for what it's worth, Peace Corps gives you a huge advantage because you get preferential hiring for the federal government. This significantly boosts your chances of prestigious employment post-grad school, which admissions committee members know and see as a major asset.
  4. Of course the director of a program told you the degree is useful. How old are you, and what is your current job? What kind of program do you think you could get into? These are important factors. There are certain career paths where a master's (any master's, an MPA will do) is really important to moving up. The problem is the price tag of the degree in relation to its potential to boost your earning potential. If you're already working at a low level in the nonprofit or gov sectors, and have been explicitly told you need a master's to move up, then I would go for the degree as chea
  5. This part could not be more true. It's important to remember that this isn't law school or med school where the degree is going to give you a credential that opens up previously inaccessible employment options. Nor is it like an elite MBA where the job market assigns it a very high value, whatever the merits of that may be. In my current office, I'd say 2/3 of people under 35 have master's (that figure drops to about 1/4 for people over 35, by the way, which says a lot about the contemporary US job market), but only about half are in public policy or IR. Most people I know who went strai
  6. Unless you can get a full ride, don't go. You may think you know what you want, but even the best internships do not adequately prepare you for what it's like to have a full-time office job where you're doing the same thing for years on end. It sounds like you'd be in a great position to get a job with a non-profit or local government agency after you graduate. Do this for a year or three and you'll have a much better idea of whether that kind of career suits you. You'll also have a stronger application and a better shot at getting $$$. You don't to plunge yourself 50k or - god for bid -
  7. Damn, sounds like that author had an axe to grind. I have plenty of criticisms of policy programs and I thought the article brought up some interesting points, like the trend of policy students preferring the private sector, and the perhaps too-cozy relationship between HKS and some powerful people (I witnessed this to a degree at SAIS). But the tone was really over-the-top, and some of the logical leaps were a bit specious. The article argued that HKS has somehow lost its way, but it never really defined what this superior prior era was, other than suggesting there might have been fewer
  8. A lot of topics have been covered here, and I'll add one more to consider. I think you're vastly overestimating the prestige of Cornell CIPA's program. Yes, Cornell is a well-known school generally speaking. But in US policy circles, CIPA is a decidedly second tier program in an oversaturated field. At the risk of causing offense, that's probably why they gave such a hefty scholarship to a candidate with one year of work experience, a below-average GPA, and an unspectacular GRE score. If you were just trying to get a US brand name school on you resume to go back to Pakistan, it migh
  9. Of course. I think most people going for MPP/IR degrees are looking to find meaning and impact in their work. But some do so at their long-term financial peril. Take it from someone who's on the other side. Most of my SAIS friends who have debt routinely talk about the financial stress they're under. In many cases, that debt has prevented them from taking the exact kind of jobs that they supposedly got the degree for (i.e. non-profit and/or public service-type jobs). It's really easy to think you'll just "figure it out" after graduation, but if you take out 120k in loans for a degree wit
  10. Yeah. I also think it's really easy to dismiss money concerns when you're applying for these programs in your early-to-mid-20s. $60k/yr sounded like a ton of money to me when I decided to go to SAIS. At that point, I was happy to be living with roommates in a cheaper city in a building with no laundry facilities. Socializing usually meant going to friends' houses or a dive bar. I actually started closer to 70k after SAIS, but it didn't really feel like that much after higher rent in DC, loan payments, having to buy a fancier work wardrobe, increased "adult" expenditures (like my pare
  11. I think this is a great choice - I sort of wish I had done the dual degree. Without exception, my friends who did the joint MA/MBA at SAIS have the highest salaries, usually for pretty interesting rolls. Unfortunately, there are very few jobs where an MPA/MA-IR/MPP is preferred over an MBA, but many jobs where the MBA is preferred over an MPA/MA-IR/MPP.
  12. I explain the differences between DC and Bologna on the first page of this thread. When I was in Bologna, the IDev concentration there seemed to be quite strong, but not sure if that's changed over the past 3-4 years. On the whole, Bologna felt more like a residential academic grad school experience, whereas DC felt more like a professional program where everyone was rushing off to internships. If you're interested in taking classes or languages related to Asia, or if you want to focus on econ/finance, DC is probably the better choice.
  13. Yes, I definitely know people taking advantage of IBR to make their day-to-day lives manageable - as far as I'm aware, there are no SAIS grads sleeping under a bridge! But with the exception of those who qualify for PSLF, I think a lot of them are going to feel pretty bitter when that massive tax bill comes due in 20-25 years. Depending on the loan amount, IBR might not even cover the interest payment, allowing the total amount owed to actually increase over time... Again, my intention is not to make people feel bad about the debt they've already taken out, but more to warn prospective st
  14. I'm from the US and don't work for the World Bank, so this is not personal bitterness. I'm just repeating what friends have said after a beer or three. Perhaps I've gotten a bit carried away, but I think it doesn't hurt to counter the narrative a lot of these schools push that signing away your life to Navient is no big deal because you're going to be changing the future of the world with your prestigious and deeply meaningful multilateral job. I came out of SAIS with a relatively low level of debt and on the whole think it was worth it - I would not have my current job or salary without
  15. Very quanty undergrad and native-level fluency in three in-demand languages. ETA: also the kind of person who doesn't mine occasionally staying at the office until 11 p.m. to help the boss
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