Revolutionary got a reaction from CPRMPA in Stuck in dilemma (international student admitted to CIPA at $20k/year)
Thanks for the message.
I didn't mean to be offensive and I agree that doing a PhD requires incredible focus, commitment, passion and planning. I agree with you, though I'd like to add that you shouldn't underestimate the will-power and tenacity of us Asians (including especially the Chinese and Indians) to just simply do anything and everything to climb out of the ditches that the cosmic lottery blessed us with. I'm showing a bit impatience and immaturity by wanting to come just 1 year out of grad school, but I'm sure that completing a PhD once I set my mind to it won't be the biggest challenge I'll have to face in the world, or that it's insurmountable.
You may be right about the North American academic job market, but this bit; "Sorry to be harsh, but you have no experience and no actual academic interests"... that's not true. The problem is I have a lot of academic interests, I'm just confused about what to specialize in. For example, I'm passionate about socio-economic structures and policy instruments, inequality and welfare economics, but at the same time I'm also interested in natural resources and food policy. My very attraction towards an MPA/MPP degree is that I'm an inter-disciplinarian, as most people are in this field.
Revolutionary reacted to DogsArePeopleToo in Stuck in dilemma (international student admitted to CIPA at $20k/year)
If you can make a genuine case for being an outcast whose religious or political views put him at risk of persecution, you can apply for asylum once you're in the US. Compared to the EU and Australia, the US asylum regime (narrowly defined) is better for people of your background and so far largely untouched by Trump and Bannon. (But you'll need to have better reasons for your asylum application than "no girls, no relationships, just a boring job" - that's half the world's guys in every country, the US included.)
There are downsides to the US asylum regime because you won't have government-provided pro bono legal aid and won't have work authorization until a few weeks to months after your application is in, during which time the government offers you no support...you'd be lucky if you got NGO support for basic subsistence. But if you're at Cornell while you apply, you might convince CIPA to keep you as a student despite your change of status from F-1 or J-1.
By the time you finish CIPA, you will have become a permanent resident. Jobs will have become easier then.
But I digress.
As someone who lives in an Islamic Republic next door to yours - and who lived in your country for over a decade - I would advise you not to overthink the difficulty of your situation. Correct me if I am wrong, but you seem like someone who doesn't have major financial problems, doesn't have 7 sisters to feed and marry off like some young men in Pakistan do, etc. The dust, broken roads and noisy mullahs are irritants but 180 million Pakistanis put up with them. I would imagine you could as well, at least for another year. You're in Lahore, not North Waziristan. Unless you have crippling dust allergies, you can live with it.
The various degrees at the Kennedy School require up to 6 or 7 years of work experience. Your GPA can't be changed, but gaining more work experience will definitely help with HKS or any other school, especially if you can improve your scores by a few notches, which you can because you have a whole year ahead of you. Everyone does it with a 9-5 job or a full course-load. That's just the way it is.
The biggest life advice someone gave me right out of undergrad was not to rush it. Take your time. Go out in the 'real world.' Spend some time in the sun to fully ripen. Then go back to school.
One year out of undergrad, you strike me as someone who is still in his early 20s. If that's the case, I would take a year, maybe two. You're still early in your career. One to two years at a job is ideal at this stage. Change jobs. Gain multiple experiences because this will give you different policy vantage points. It will make you a better applicant and job candidate.
I am sorry if this is a bit preachy, but I was in your shoes several years ago when, after six years in the US, I dreaded returning home for the exact reasons you outlined in your post. Five years into the dust and grime of my country and a few close security encounters later, I'm grateful I returned. I will be going back to the US for grad school this fall, and I am secure in the knowledge that I have real-world experience in a tough country -- knowledge that will enrich any conversation in a policy program (I got into CIPA as well, but I will be going to another grad school).
I would imagine that the beer I'll drink and the girls I might fraternize with will be all the sweeter. And the air...ahhh, I can finally go out running again.
ADDENDUM: The challenge of the position you're in is to see beyond your current situation, to incorporate contingencies into your planning. Here's one contingency: If you choose to go to CIPA, chances are that your view of Pakistan might actually change. Two years is a long time - you might miss Pakistan, might develop new perspectives. If you get a job right out of CIPA, that'd be great; if not, you can always return to Pakistan to much improved job prospects with an Ivy League degree in hand...and apply for an H1B the following year. I know more than a few foreigners - Pakistanis included - who returned home after a stint in the US. Many of them are happily working there.
Revolutionary reacted to Ella16 in Stuck in dilemma (international student admitted to CIPA at $20k/year)
Revolutionary, I think you need to figure out what you prioritize, moving away from Pakistan no matter what you have to do or getting into policy even though it might take longer and mean you wont get a job abroad. As others have mentioned policy is not the type of career that will enable you to easily get job sponsorships abroad, especially not in the US at this point in time.
IOs are really the best option for internationals because of how hard it is to get a visa, but again those jobs don't grow on trees and with only one year experiece you will be competing with all of your classmates and people from other top degrees who have more and better experience than you. Simply having a Cornell degree wont make you a shoe in. It's not even amongst the top top top policy degrees in the states... I think you might be overestimating it a bit cause it's an Ivy (not saying that it's bad, there are just bigger names out there for this).
It seems like your heart is really set on Cornell and ultimately you're looking for people to justify your decision, as you hace noticed by now very few of us agree. However, there is no one path to success. Having 3-4 years of experience, great volunteering, 5 languages and whatever else people say you need to succeed won't guarantee you get a dream policy job in an amazing place and that you'll be happy. Although I agree that this degree right now is a big risk and seems financially irresponsible sometimes you gotta take the leap. If you do make the decision to go, make sure that you're going with your eyes wide open and that you are prepared for a scenario in which you don't get a visa in the US or elsewhere, don't get into a Phd of your choice (which i agree you should never do just for the heck of it) and will have to move back to Pakistan anyway.
Revolutionary reacted to ExponentialDecay in Stuck in dilemma (international student admitted to CIPA at $20k/year)
@MBR given OP's goal is to stay in the States, this degree might as well be art history (which, insofar as "hard skills" go, is not that far removed from policy programs). It is difficult for someone who is not an immigrant to understand how many more problems and how many fewer safety nets F1 students have, to the extent that I think people who are not international students are being irresponsible when giving advice on this matter. The only scenario where OP should "just go" is if this decision wouldn't cause financial strain on his family (i.e. they are very wealthy). Otherwise, no, they shouldn't YOLO because someone who can get their loans forgiven and get a job at any gas station told them to just do it.
OP, I came here on an F1 from a similarly socially suffocating country which has strained relations with the US, studied a similar major to yours, and I now work in policy. I also know a lot of people who are working or are trying to find work in the US, UK, or EU on a visa. I can only speak from experience, which is colored by my individual perceptions, dis/privileges, and abilities, but I hope it helps.
The first thing to realize is that your job search will look nothing like citizens' or green card holders, as will your financial risks. So take any general statistic, from placement statistics to minimum GPA requirements, with a grain of salt - they are not representative of international students' experiences. When it comes to getting an H1B, you face two major hurdles. The first is finding an employer who is willing to sponsor you for an H1B following your 1-2 years of OPT (because any decent school will make it possible for you to use OCT for internships). These employers are mostly big companies with lots of money, lots of lawyers, and lots of experience with the H1B process (though small companies sponsoring because they really like you as an individual and want you specifically has happened once or twice among my acquaintances). They mostly want to hire people with technical skills or at least work experience. Economics is probably the least quantitative that you can afford to go if you want to be competitive, which is why I personally would think twice about an MPA; the mathier, the more opportunities you are eligible for (which is not the same as getting the job, of course). The second hurdle is getting the H1B, where, assuming your company wants to sponsor you (i.e. pay for all the paperwork and go through the long bureaucratic process), you are admitted into a true lottery. I know people who have had to go home after working in M&A at Goldman Sachs because they didn't win the lottery, and rebuild their career from scratch. This was before 2009, when Obama cut the H1B quota to a third. H1B is a bloodbath, no matter where you work or what qualifications you have. You have the same chance as anyone else in that barrel, and if you don't get it, some companies will transfer you to an office outside the US, and some will just let you go.
People who are telling you to consider routes to UN-type jobs are absolutely correct (though a degree from SIPA is by no means a guarantee), because that makes you eligible for a G-type visa, which has many perks beyond the chief perk that it is not capped and makes you eligible for a green card after a certain number of years.
With that in mind, let's discuss degrees. Policy degrees are pretty frou frou, and I disagree that the skills they impart are particularly hard (please, tell me what a ~~quantitative analyst you are when you don't even understand the functional form of the model you are estimating). The problem is that the master's offering in the US is pretty bare - there aren't (m)any quality academic masters in social sciences that are valued by employers, because the market is dominated by professional degrees and there is a tradition for talented undergrads to work in a research position out of undergrad for a couple years and then go straight into the PhD. Then there's the problem that everything is so damn expensive. This is a serious problem, because you can't (imo as a person with a very low risk appetite) justify taking out 6 figure debt unless you are absolutely certain you can pay it back, but you can't be absolutely certain due to the effectively random H1B lottery outcome, and I know of no country in the world besides America where you can pay off that kind of debt, no matter what job you get. In my country, if you emerge with 6 figure debt and no US job, your life is fiscally ruined. For that reason, I wouldn't consider an MBA in America unless an employer were covering it.
As regards what you would learn in an MPA vs an MBA program, I think you have a slightly unrealistic idea of both as well as an unrealistic idea of the realities of the US academic/job environment. Firstly, whilst I'm sure you learned a lot in undergrad and that the curriculum at Cornell or wherever is fascinating, these are professional programs, the point of which is to get a job. The strength of the curriculum is negligible compared to how effective a program is at achieving the latter. These aren't programs you go into to ~~find yourself or learn about the field. A lot of your classmates will already know 90% of what you're being taught, in technical or content classes or even both, and will be using this time to build their professional networks and work on projects that they can show employers or PhD programs (so, not exactly student work). If you go in without at least knowing what policy field you want to pursue as well as something academic or practical about that field, you will be lost. Secondly, and this probably goes for everyone, but especially for international students who haven't studied/worked in an American environment, one of the things you need to achieve in these programs is learning how to exist in your professional cohort, which includes building a personal brand/niche/narrative. Don't believe anything to the contrary: the US work environment is incredibly insular, and if you do things not how people are used to them being done, people will think you're weird, which will negatively affect your career progression. Another factor is what my foreign family call Americans being duplicitous, which is their naive way of saying that how people express themselves in America and how people express themselves in my culture are different, so unless you've been immersed in this culture for a while, you won't know what your cohort thinks of you, which is bad bad bad in this relationship-based business. There is still a classist, xenophobic notion here for what constitutes educated, unfortunately. For instance, a precious few of my colleagues are sympathetic to people who don't speak/write good English. Few bother to investigate whether an ESL person can't construct an argument or just doesn't have enough facility with the language, and just assume it's the former. On that note, writing well is the #1 most important skill (right up there with presenting/interacting with people well), not Stata. You may think you write well, but policy writing in the US is its own register. This field has a culture, and you will lose out if you don't know what's up. Especially the big players that everyone here wants to work for are snake pits, where no one will give you more than one chance, no one expects less than perfection, and a few people will screw you over just because they can. Don't get me wrong: I have a fantastic work environment with people who are invested in my success, but among my entire acquaintance, I am the only one who is this lucky.
As for what you should do, the main red flags to me are that you aren't 100% sure what you want to study, and that you graduated college last year. imo you need to be about 2 years further along in your career than you are, both so you can get better offers and so you know yourself better and have a better idea of how to make the best of this opportunity. This is a lot of money to spend on something you're not totally sold on, man. My first year out of college, I was similarly discombobulated and unhappy, but I'm glad I rode it out. I learned about how much I didn't know I don't know, and simultaneously I got a much better handle on where I want to take my life and career. GL.
Revolutionary reacted to Obecalp in HKS 2017
Twas the Day 'Fore Admissions
'Twas the day 'fore admissions, and all through the forum,
Not a person was working, they'd built quite a quorum.
Their essays were written, with pride and with care,
But would they get in? Not a one was aware.
They paced through their offices and homes oh so stressed,
While their little hearts beated away in their chests.
They gnawed at their nails and rended their flesh,
They rapped on their keyboards, and tapped at refresh.
An email arrived! The time! It has come!
Oh, no, wait, it's just a letter from mum.
"Ugh, Mom!" they did shout. "Can't you see that I wait?
For a letter from Harvard to come on this date?"
And far off in Cambridge, the admissions committee,
Laughed and sneered and guffawed without pity.
They sipped on their mai tais and laughed at the plebs,
"Having fun waiting, you dorks and you dweebs?"
But at last they decided, long enough they had waited,
They'd read and reread, discussed and debated.
They gave off a shout and it rang through the city
"Behold a decree from the admissions committee!"
They turned to the students at The Grad Cafe
Who'd fretted and talked, and stopped working all day,
"We think you're quite swell, and you're so very cool
Welcome to Harvard's John F. Kennedy School!"
Revolutionary reacted to datik in Stuck in dilemma (international student admitted to CIPA at $20k/year)
Just to chip in, I will say that it is great that you come here looking for advice. Take my advice as a grain of salt, considering that I haven't started my MPP yet (but I do have several year of work experience and I've spent well over a year researching this).
First of all, 1 year may seem like a lot to wait if your situation is shitty right now, but in the long run it will be nothing if it ultimately helps you make a better choice. You do not want to take your graduate studies lightly. I know that Pakistan can be a suffocating place, but I think you can have it in you to just lay low for twelve more months.
Regarding GRE, the quant section is actually the easiest to improve, specially if you have several weeks. Just do Magoosh for 30 minutes every day and correct your wrong answers and you will see your score get much higher. (In contrast the verbal section is greatly limited if your english is not up to par or if you weren't an avid reader before-hand). However, also keep in mind that GRE is a very small part of the application, and the one extra year of work (if relevant and you stand out) can do much more difference).
Regarding MBAs, money and positions may not seem like a factor now, but in 2 years they will be, trust me on this. If you go to grad school your primary focus should be on what you want to project your career. That doesn't mean that MBA is the only correct answer here, but you should take into consideration what you want to do. For example, most big non-profits value MBAs more than MPPs. But an MPA may be more valuable for public sector work. Never forget the huge financial undertaking that this choice signifies! Personally, if I could start again and money wasn't an issue I would consider a joint MBA/MPP, but that's just me, given my own preferences and outlook.
Are you competitive for other schools in one more year? Depends. The GRE is not as relevant as you think, as I said above. You say you are passionate, but can you tell a coherent story through your work experiences and volunteer work? Can you get relevant work experience in an extra year?
Best of luck