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somewhatslightlydazed

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About somewhatslightlydazed

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  • Location
    Washington, DC
  • Application Season
    2019 Fall
  • Program
    MA in International Affairs

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  1. Visited HKS and WWS this past week - thoughts below! Harvard Kennedy School Faculty and Classes: I sat in on three classes and really liked all of them. They were larger than many of the classes I've sat in on at other schools (35-50 students in non-core classes; the cores are closer to 70, though some electives get as low as 15-20) but the professors all seemed to handle it well and make sure there was student involvement. We had a sample lecture on ethics in crisis decision making and it was fantastic. Curriculum: Most of the first year involves the core, but there's still room for at least one elective a semester (and the second year is way more focused on your field of interest and there's a lot of flexibility). All core classes seem like they would be useful. Geographic Spread: There are a lot of students from all over the country and a good deal of international students, which seems to add a lot to class discussions on international policy. Facilities: The building is super nice - it used to be 4 or 5 buildings but they recently completed a renovation that connected all of them, which seems like it would be super helpful in the winter. Access to facilities from all other Harvard grad schools, which is a big plus. Students: The current students were a lot friendlier and down to earth than I honestly expected them to be. They seem super happy with the program and didn't seem to think that the large class sizes (my main reservation about the program) was a negative, instead pointing out that it leads to interesting class discussions because there's such a broad range of experiences. Cost: HKS is obviously expensive, and some people get generous scholarships but it's not common. The administration was selling the high cost as an "investment," which I wasn't particularly impressed by since they want their students to go into public service, which isn't known for careers that pay enough to cover six-figure debt. Diversity & Inclusion: The administration didn't really talk about this much, which was disappointing. When I asked current students what they didn't like about the school, pretty much all of them said that the administration didn't value diversity as much as they should. Location: I grew up a short drive from Cambridge and love the area. It has the advantages of being in/near a city but is relatively quiet, which I really like. Career Services: There was a panel on careers after HKS and I honestly don't remember much of it, which probably says a lot... Extracurriculars: I was impressed by the number of student orgs, and it seems like there a ton of opportunities for students to get involved, either through clubs or research. Almost everyone I talked to belonged to at least one org and had been a research assistant for a professor, which seemed super cool. Overall Impressions: I really liked the school overall. The size of the student body was the biggest plus and the biggest minus. You get to learn with a super diverse group of people with experience in a bunch of different areas. However, it can be hard to connect with the administration and professors because there are just so many people competing with you for opportunities. Princeton Woodrow Wilson School Faculty and Classes: I sat in on two classes and really liked both. The econometrics professor did a great job of answering all the students' complex questions, and the Middle East seminar professor was particularly impressive. He has decades of experience in the region but used that to guide a discussion of current and recent events rather than focusing on lecturing. Curriculum: The first semester is only core classes, and it was a bit of a bummer to hear that there was no room for electives at first. However, there's some space in the second semester, and the entire second year is completely flexible, which was great to hear. One downside is that because it's such a small program, the class selection is more limited than the selection at some other schools. However, they allow students to take classes at Princeton's other graduate programs (or potentially upper-level undergraduate classes) if there's a topic that's not adequately covered at WWS. Geographic Spread: I met students from across the US and Canada, and a few international students though not as many as I was hoping for. Facilities: The campus is beautiful and there are a ton of resources for students on campus, which all seemed great. Students: I loved all the current students I spoke to. They were super available to talk to us, and they were super open about the things they liked and didn't like about the program, which I appreciated. I felt like I got a really balanced view of the school, which made me more confident about my decision to go! Cost: WWS gives full rides to all its students, which is fantastic particularly since it puts everyone on similar levels financially and no one has to worry about racking up debt. Diversity & Inclusion: The WWS administration talked pretty openly about how there was still a lot to be done in terms of diversity and equity, and the students said similar things about the school still having a long way to go. But I appreciated that the problem was at least talked about openly! Location: Princeton is a super cute town, but obviously pretty suburban without a whole lot to do. But it seems like both NYC and Philadelphia are super accessible - it seems like it's common for MPA students to spend a day or two a week interning in New York. Career Services: I was disappointed that career services wasn't represented/given a panel at new admit weekend, but from everything I've heard it seems like they give a lot of planning and financial support for internships and jobs. Extracurriculars: Because WWS is a small school, there's a relatively small number of student orgs, but there are interesting ones. Plus there are student orgs that are for all Princeton graduate students, which widens the opportunities quite a bit. Overall Impressions: I really loved the vibe I got at Princeton. Things obviously aren't perfect, but people were great about telling me the issues with the school while still making it clear that they were loving their experiences there. The cohorts seem super close, and all of my experiences over the weekend made me really excited to attend next year!
  2. Congrats on the Kennedy scholarship! I also got significantly more money from HKS and WWS than I did from SAIS or SIPA, so I'm deciding between those two even though they don't have as much of an international focus as the others I applied to (that I originally liked better). There are still a ton of internationally-focused classes, you're just surrounded by proportionately more domestic-focused students, which I don't think is necessarily a negative. There are certainly benefits to going to an IR-focused school rather than a school focusing on public policy in general, but IMO following the money is almost always the way to go.
  3. I applied to 9 schools, and I don't have any regrets. As others are saying, there's not the same need for "safeties" in terms of getting admitted like there is for undergrad. However, funding packages vary widely, and that's where I wanted to hedge my bets and give myself as many chances for scholarships as possible. I went into the application process thinking that the lower-ranked schools on my list (Middlebury, American, GW) would give me the most funding because the programs themselves were less competitive, and I doubted that I'd get significant funding from schools like SAIS or Harvard, but I decided to throw my hat in the ring anyway to see what would happen. I ended up being really surprised with the results; the less competitive schools gave me relatively little money, and the most competitive programs gave me the most. I may not have originally had Harvard or Princeton at the top of my list (since they're less internationally-focused than the others), but because they both gave me full rides or close, now they're the two programs I'm deciding between and I'm really excited about both options! So in my personal experience, I'm glad I applied to a relatively high number of programs because I couldn't predict the results as well as I thought I could, and applying to a lot of schools gave me a lot of chances for good funding packages. Definitely don't apply to schools that you know for sure you wouldn't go to (unless they've waived the application fee and you can reuse essays - I didn't like GW's program but applied because it was free and I figured that if they gave me funding, I could use that as leverage for schools I liked better), but I think it's worth applying to a lot of schools to give yourself the best chance at scholarship money.
  4. Hi all! Hoping to hear any thoughts you have on the two programs I'm deciding between: I've been accepted to Master of Public Policy/Public Affairs programs at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School and Harvard's Kennedy School. Princeton offered me full tuition and a $29k/year stipend, while Harvard offered me full tuition and a $10k/year stipend. So Princeton would be free, and Harvard would cost about $18k/year (which I can cover with savings). So I'm leaning Princeton because it's free, but I'm still slightly conflicted because the vibes and opportunities are so different. Though some things are program-specific, I think it mostly comes down to the benefits of a smaller program (Princeton) vs a larger one (Harvard). Pros for Princeton: There are only 60-70 MPA students entering each year, so the class sizes are super small and it's easy to get into any classes of interest and connect with professors. Because the program is so intimate, the school is able to devote a lot of time to each student in terms of academic and professional advising and connecting students to interesting research/internship opportunities. Pros for Harvard: Because there are 200+ MPP students entering each year, the class sizes are bigger in general but the course selection is much broader. Specifically of interest to me, there are 10+ courses on human rights policy vs. only one at Princeton. They also have the Carr Center for Human Rights, which does a lot of research that I'd be interested in supporting (but if any positions open up, I'd be competing with a much larger group of people with them). Basically with Harvard, the number of academic and professional opportunities is larger, but each specific opportunity may be harder to access because there are so many other students. What do you all think about the merits of a small, intimate program where you don't have as many classes/professors/research projects of interest but you have a lot more community support vs a larger program where there are a lot more opportunities but it's easier to get lost in the crowd? Thanks for sharing any thoughts you have! 😃
  5. Good to know, thanks! I was particularly curious about on-campus housing (which seems cheaper than the off-campus housing options) because I'd love to be close to other grad students, plus having the school as a landlord is just really convenient. But it's good to know that there are affordable off-campus options and that you think there's enough to do in town! I'm a bit hesitant about living in suburbia (the other option I'm considering is in Cambridge so more of an urban setting, but they gave me less aid so it's hard to justify), so it's nice to hear that you think it's a cool place to be.
  6. Anyone else on here trying to decide between HKS and WWS? Kennedy would cost me ~$18k/year (offered a stipend that wouldn't fully cover living expenses), which is doable but would deplete a lot of my savings, while WWS would be completely free. Pros for HKS: As someone who's eventually hoping to work in human rights advocacy, I really like the idea of being able to work with/attend events by the Carr Center, and HKS offers a lot of courses focused on human rights (WWS offers a single class on the topic) They have a much broader range of classes; WWS's curriculum is much more limited because it's such a small program In terms of day-to-day living, I think I'd prefer living in Cambridge to the New Jersey suburbs (I grew up in MA so I already know I like the area) - and if I want to intern at local nonprofits, it'd be a lot easier to get to them Pros for WWS: The additional funding would make it super hard to turn this down. I wouldn't have to spend any savings, and I could afford to live on my own and get a car (which would make it easier to deal with living in suburbia) The community seems incredible, with the administration and professors really invested in their students' success I want to explore the multilateral sector, so being in Princeton would allow me to intern at a UN agency in NYC during the year relatively easily (it'd be a rough commute of about 2 hours each way, but if I was only going in 2 days a week it would be doable) I'll be going to both admitted students days, so hopefully that'll help me decide. In the meantime (because I can't stop stressing even when I know I'll have more information within a week or two), I'd love to hear any of your thoughts on what factors I should be weighing the most!
  7. I think it really depends on how confident you are that you want to focus specifically on East Asia policy. If you know for sure that that's what you want to do, then Georgetown's program seems better for that path. If there's a chance that you'll want to focus on foreign policy more broadly, then a SAIS degree with a regional concentration (and if you'd be able to study in Nanjing, that could be super useful) will be more versatile. Bottom line, is that they're both great programs. If you're still conflicted as you get closer to the deadline, I'd say pick whichever one is going to be cheaper. I don't think you can go wrong between these two options!
  8. FWIW I tried to negotiate with SAIS and they said I could fill out a form for reconsideration but they wouldn't be able to offer additional funding until after the April 22 deadline to put down a deposit - but I think the deadline for people who haven't gotten funding offers is later, so you might have more luck getting a decision in time than I did! (But if you aren't willing to go unless you get funding, you may have to put down a deposit at another school in case they aren't able to offer you anything)
  9. Bumping this up for 2019 I'll likely be starting Princeton next year (a 2-year MPA through the Wilson School). This thread has been really helpful for giving me a sense of the Princeton community! I was curious, is it still the case that non-married incoming students have almost no shot at getting a studio or 1-bedroom? I'm coming from DC so the idea of paying $900-1400 to have my own place is super exciting. If I don't have a chance at my own place, I'll probably try to reach out to potential roommates to share a 2 or 3-bedroom because the idea of going back to dorm living is not at all appealing to me.
  10. Hey! So I don't have experience with the Boren Fellowship but I did complete a Boren Scholarship program at the end of undergrad, and while it funded a really cool opportunity for me, I'm not sure if I'd recommend it. In my experience and that of a few dozen Boren alumni I've talked to, NSEP really over-plays the amount of support they give you in the federal job search and the degree to which having Boren's hiring authorities (Schedule A and NDAA'13) helps you get hired. I have multiple friends who are considering paying back their $20k loans because it's so difficult to meet the service requirement right now (though to be fair, for some of them this is because my cohort applied in early 2016 under the assumption that we'd get to serve under the Clinton Administration, and now many federal jobs are no longer nearly as appealing). It worked out fine for me in the end - my nonprofit job got approved as tier 3 service - but it was a stressful process and if I had to do it again, I might have skipped Boren. Obviously everyone's experiences are different, and it might absolutely be the right call for you! I just personally feel like I was misled about the opportunities that Boren would open up for me, and I wish someone had warned me about the downsides before I committed to it. Feel free to message me if you have any questions or want to discuss my Boren experiences more
  11. I think either SAIS or Georgetown could be good options for you - I was originally going to say SAIS is better because it's $20k less, but if you're able to balance working full time with attending Georgetown, that sounds like it could be the better financial decision (though exhausting). Have you tried leveraging your financial aid from SAIS to see if Georgetown can offer you any funding? That might help make it more affordable. Also, if you're leaning towards SAIS, one note about housing costs: even if you would no longer be splitting rent with a partner, you might still be paying less than you are now - when I visited the Bologna campus and met with students, the ones with their own apartments were only paying around 600 euros (~$700)/month. People splitting apartments with roommates were paying more like 300-400 euros month, so you could save some money there. One other option would be just waiting another year and applying again next year as your IMF work is wrapping up. Gaining another year of experience could make you more competitive for merit funding (and give you time to save more money). But if you're set on beginning grad school next year, I think any of your options could work out well!
  12. Interesting, where on the portal do you see that? On my portal I see that the latest update was from February when I found out I got in, no notifications of funding that I can see (though maybe that just means I got no funding from them?)
  13. Have you end Duke your offer from UCSD to see if they'll match it or at least increase their funding offer to get closer to UCSD's? That seems like the next step to me. If Duke doesn't increase their funding, I think you should go with UCSD. They have a great East Asia focus, which sounds like something you want, and they're a really highly-regarded program that's offering you a lot of money to attend. And even if a lot of their grads go into the private sector, I'd argue that you'll have an easier time going into the public sector through going there than through going to Duke. If you graduate from Duke with significant debt, it's going to be hard for you to take low-paying public sector jobs when there are private sector ones that'll help you pay down your debt faster. Graduating with no debt will make it much less stressful for you to take the most interesting job regardless of the salary (to a certain extent). Hope this helps a bit
  14. Updated results now that almost everything has come in. Looking through last year's helped me think through my application game plan a lot, so I'm hoping that including my results and the details of my funding will help future applicants 😃 Program Applied To: MPP and IR masters programs Schools Applied To: Johns Hopkins SAIS (first year in Bologna, second in DC), Columbia SIPA, Tufts Fletcher, Georgetown MSFS, Harvard Kennedy School, Princeton WWS, GW Elliott, American SIS, Middlebury Institute of International Studies Schools Admitted To: All, which was super exciting and unexpected! Listed in order of funding: Princeton WWS: full ride (100% tuition + $29k/year stipend) Harvard Kennedy: 100% tuition + $10k/year stipend Johns Hopkins SAIS: 75% tuition Columbia SIPA: $28k/year + $6k for International Fellows Program (first year only) Tufts Fletcher: $25k/year Middlebury Institute: $22k/year GW Elliott: $17k/year American SIS: still TBA but I've decided against attending regardless at this point Georgetown MSFS: no funding Undergraduate institution: University of Maryland Undergraduate GPA: 3.99 Undergraduate Major: Politics & Arabic GRE Score: 168 verbal, 168 quant, 5.0 writing Years Out of Undergrad: 2 at time of applying Years of Work Experience: a bit over 1 year at time of applying (almost 2 now) Describe Relevant Work Experience: I've been working at an international policy-focused nonprofit in DC for the last two years, which was my first full time job after a post-grad year in Morocco. I had a lot of relevant internships and part-time positions from undergrad, including terrorism research and refugee resettlement work. Strength of SOP: I worked really hard on these and I'm glad it paid off! I started each SOP at least a month before the deadline and tried to weave my experience into a narrative that would make sense to the school. I would usually re-use a paragraph or two when talking about a specific work or academic experience, but I very carefully tailored each essay to the school. I also had a mix of people looking over my essays to give feedback. Strength of LOR's: I only read one, but I think they were all good. I picked my current supervisor, my undergrad thesis advisor, and an Arabic professor who I took multiple courses with. So I think the variety gave the admissions committees a well-rounded sense of who I am. Other: I was worried coming into this process that my relative lack of work experience would hold me back, especially at places like Princeton and Harvard that put more of an emphasis on post-college experience. I think a few things helped me overcome that handicap: Having a high GPA and GRE scores presumably helped give the admissions committees more faith in me as a younger candidate. I was able to intern a lot in undergrad, so my experiences working for different organizations may have helped make up for how little full-time work experience I had. I tried to think about what experiences/skills I had that made me relatively unique. For me, that was achieving a high proficiency in a critical language (and spending over a year abroad studying it) and performing independent research for my undergraduate thesis. So I tried to focus on these two things in my essays and resume, which I think helped me stand out a bit. Although in reality I have a few directions in which I might like my career to go, I decided to pick one primary path to focus on in my essays (based on which path I had the most past experience to prepare myself for) and just focus on that. I think this helped me form a more cohesive narrative about what I wanted to accomplish at grad school. Final Decision: Leaning Harvard or Princeton at this point (my original top choice was SAIS, but it'd cost so much more than Harvard or Princeton that I can't really justify going). Planning to attend both of their admitted students events and decide from there!
  15. Glad we're starting up this thread! Could definitely use some advice if anyone has thoughts they want to share: Coming from: Living in DC, where I've been working for two years at a small nonprofit. I studied politics and Arabic in undergrad and spent a year and a half living in the Middle East studying Arabic (a summer and fall study abroad in college, then a post-grad year in Morocco). I love studying Middle East politics but want to expand my expertise and learn more about other regions of the world. I'd love to continue either learning Arabic or picking up a new language, but that's not the top priority for me. Hoping for a grad school that can help me transition from admin support positions to a more policy-focused position, ideally working on human rights advocacy or conflict prevention/resolution. I think I want to work in DC again after graduation, but I'm also open to NYC or other cities! Deciding between: Princeton WWS: Full tuition + $29k/year stipend (COA: free) Harvard Kennedy School: Full tuition + $10k/year stipend (COA: $17k/year) Johns Hopkins SAIS: 75% tuition scholarship (COA: $30-35k/year) **I emailed yesterday to try to leverage my WWS and HKS offers into more money, so we'll see how that goes** (Columbia SIPA: with an external fellowship, the COA will be around $22k/year, but the fellowship's not guaranteed for the second year. So even though I like the idea of being in NYC for two years, I think it's too much of a financial risk, so SIPA is tentatively off the table for me.) How I'm leaning: Either Princeton or Harvard at this point. SAIS was my top choice for a long time, especially because I'd spend the first year in Italy and I really love the idea of living abroad (for a limited time) again. But compared to Princeton and Harvard, I don't think I can justify the cost differential to go to SAIS (I can afford it with savings, a part time job, and some family support, so I wouldn't have debt. But if I went to another school I could keep that savings for the future). If SAIS comes back to me with significantly more funding, it might still be on the table. Reasons to choose Princeton would be money, prestige, a small intimate cohort and small class sizes, and the degree to which WWS seems to really value their students and invest in their success. Reasons to choose Harvard would be its location in a city (so I could do part time internships more easily during the year and explore different work environments), the much larger selection of classes (and there's a ton of courses in human rights advocacy, which is super appealing to me), and the fact that if for any reason I wanted to move out of public policy/international relations, the Harvard name might be useful. I'm planning to go to both schools' admitted students days/weekends, but in the meantime what do you guys think? Is it worth paying more money to have a city location and a larger selection of interesting/career-relevant classes?
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