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Hi Guys, 

Long (long) time lurker first-time poster here. Any input will go a long way in helping me decide which program is best suited to my personal situation. 

I am an Indian applicant looking to move to the US somewhat long-term . I am a lawyer by training and since graduating from law school I have worked as a policy professional for the past 3 years in not for profit thinktanks in India. My focus areas have been access to health, cybersecurity and judicial reforms, but I am sector and  subject agnostic as I enter grad school. 

I have received admits from the following schools 

1. Michigan Ford - no aid 

2. Chicago Harris - no aid 

3. Georgetown McCourt - 15000 per year in aid (tuition is 55k py)

4. George Washington Trachtenberg - 20000 per year in aid (tuition is 35k py) 

5. Columbia SIPA - 12000 per year in aid  (60k py tuition)

6. Fletcher MALD - 20000 per year in aid (45k py tuition)

I have ruled out Michigan, SIPA and Chicago since thy are not financially viable even though I am still wowed by Chicago's program. I have been advised to turn down George Washington despite the aid since the school does not have as much international recognition, in the event that I won't be able to stay on in the US. Am I being misled? Does the programs raking or eliteness make that much of a difference? My focus after graduating is definitely securing employment and staying on in the US (it will be insanely difficult to pay back this kind of money on a public service job in my domestic currency). 

I am now attempting to choose between Georgetowns MPP and Fletchers MALD. Is Georgetown's DC location worth pay twice as much as I would at Fletcher? Is the MPP degree more marketable in the long-term than an MALD degree? I enjoy being a generalist and am looking to gain skills that can be applied across sectors. That said will the heavier quant training at an MPP/MPA program make me more employable? I have mostly worked in academia and non-profits, and am now interested in exploring private sector (but still have good work-life balance). I am also second guessing rejecting Columbia's offer since some people have advised that being in NY will serve me well as an international student, and that I can recoup costs by taking up a consulting job. Likewise I am worried that I am making a huge mistake turning down GWUs scholarship. 

Any advice or insight you are able to provide will be really helpful. (Hoping @Prester John and @ExponentialDecay will comment. Thanks. 




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Well hello. The only thing better than enjoying a sunny Friday off is doing it in the virtual company of my prospective colleagues/debt slaves, so welcome!

It would help if you posted a more detailed profile e.g. using the format in the sticky thread (feel free to also PM me your SOP or whatever) and stated what your professional goals are beyond being sector-agnostic and looking to stay in the US, in terms of institutions and roles. I'm not really sure what "being a generalist" means in this profession - afaik that's not a thing. Also, how much can you finance out of pocket?

So here's the thing about the DC schools. You'd have to be simple to not get an STC gig at one of the IFIs coming out of them, so that's a (good, all things considered) option for staying in the US. That said, at least at the Bank, they're seemingly doing everything they can to make these contracts untenable as permanent employment, so I don't know if that's still going to be an option 2 years from now. I know the regional development banks have better contract conditions but they also have more stringent nationality requirements. You might look into the ADB, which I know nothing about. H1B is a tough sell for the foreseeable future. There's a good representation at these institutions from HKS and WWS. The other schools, I can't say. By the way, forget about work life balance.

I can't speak to the reputation of GW in India as I'm not from India, so I would trust your network there (presumably you're asking people in your industry, not Auntie). When evaluating these scholarships don't forget to account for cost of living. Living in DC for 12 months will run you ~20k at a conservative estimate. NYC will be similar or more expensive. Boston is a little cheaper. Chicago is a lot cheaper.

tbh I just don't see an obvious solution for your situation. Immigrating to the US is hard as it is, and if you choose to also go into debt for a not very employable degree in the meantime... eh. A lot of it comes down to the personal factor, and maybe you have a fire lit under your ass and you'll take advantage of all the opportunities and make all the important contacts and be my boss in 2025; I can't know that. I can only tell you that, in your position, I wouldn't take out a cent in debt for any of those degrees. Some of that is rational and some of that is my personal risk preference. I also didn't have to and still got to pursue this career in this country (so far), so maybe I don't understand your pain. I think if I were coming from abroad and couldn't get a good scholarship to the top programs (did you apply, btw, for the Fulbright and the JJ/WBGSP?), I'd apply to the regional programs and go to the one that gave me a full ride over taking serious debt to go to a top program. I don't know about the US private sector, but so much of getting into the IFIs is about getting into the community of your countrymen and having them help you out.

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OP, I wanted to jump in to say that I'm in the same position, not in terms of those exact choices, but debating the question of whether I should follow the prestige, pay the money and risk not getting a job in US (more realistically, getting a job but not being able to stay because of visa), or getting something that pays so little (40-50k) that its impossible to save up (at least in a city like NYC) and pay back hefty loans.

OR to forget the prestige and not pay the money, keep your options open for a degree with higher ROI (MBA) if you're up for it later, but then risk not getting a prestigious/high paying job (which would theoretically be okay because you didn't spend any money however you should forget an entry to the IOs or the MBBs straight out of grad school) but more importantly, no one being able to recognise the college back in India and the impact that will have.

And let me tell you, it is keeping me up at night.

I know that this forum is very much against taking large loans and I largely agree with that sentiment, but when you are an international student whose ticket to the US is education, you want to do nothing but the best. I dreamt of Columbia SIPA for a long time and am still hoping for some miraculous aid to turn up from some of the sources I'm looking at, but as the reality of the situation hits me I am questioning if my passion for this degree is strong enough to be okay with being in debt for the next 10-20 years (largely no). On the other hand like you I am finding it very difficult to turn down SIPA because 20 years later I also don't want to regret not going to Columbia when I had the chance.

The bottom line is, you need to determine if you have the kind of fire to make it. I know people who have come to Columbia on no scholarship and are ok with that either because they have been able to bag that one McKinsey job or they have the kind of financial backing from their parents/spouse that they they are able to come here to learn from the best and not have to worry about the loans. So at the end of it you need to think about if you are the kind of person who is ready/able to spend a LOT of time, energy and money (yes additional money) to run after getting that job, and while you do that you will have to sacrifice the learning/academic side of things.

@ExponentialDecay @Prester John what is your opinion of the IPED program at Fordham? I know that it is no where in terms of rankings/prestige. However, few things that are attracting me to it:

- The full ride obviously, but more importantly

- Ability to dual degree with MA Economics since the IPED itself is pretty quant/econ heavy. The MA Economics will make me eligible for STEM OPT extension which buys more time and (I believe) also opens up more doors in terms of jobs where I can play the quant angle. Worry: MA Economics from a non-prestigious college doesn't do anything for anyone.

- Ability to stay in NYC - I have been to both Boston and DC and very frankly speaking (people please don't hate) did not like it as much as I like NYC. Plus with a sorted living situation and the kind of exposure that NYC offers, I am hesitant to move away. Worry: Being a non-Columbia non-NYU student in NYC bars you from the very same exposure/networking opportunities.

I need to make a decision on Fordham by Sunday and I am very strongly leaning towards at least paying the deposit money even if I do not end up going there because it seems like a solid option, but need more thoughts. 

Would also like to hear your thoughts on the MALD degree similar to what the OP asked since that is coming out to be my cheapest option right now in the elite category. 

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you should forget an entry to the IOs

Entry is seriously not that hard. Staff position is another question, but no grad school will help you there.

the MBBs straight out of grad school

I hope you're not expecting to enter the MBBs out of a "prestigious" policy degree, especially as an international student, and especially without commensurate work experience. Because it's not happening.

but when you are an international student whose ticket to the US is education, you want to do nothing but the best

It is exceptionally difficult to get good funding as an international student at any US institution without a strong background, so what a lot of international students do is, actually, work up: in undergrad, that means starting at community college or a low-ranked university and transferring, and in grad school, it usually means a starter master's degree in the US or Europe. I know a few people who are on visa and taking out 6 figure loans, but with the exception of one guy who is top of his class in a finance degree and already has a job at JP, I'm not sure what they're doing. At the same time, I don't know anyone's personal situation: if you're in line for a family reunification GC or you can get a job in your country with a US law/policy/business degree and a US salary (which is feasible for people from, like, Hong Kong), maybe that's reasonable. Those are not my circumstances so big loans were certainly not reasonable for me.

I know people who have come to Columbia on no scholarship and are ok with that either because they have been able to bag that one McKinsey job or they have the kind of financial backing from their parents/spouse that they they are able to come here to learn from the best and not have to worry about the loans.

Sure; but most people at Columbia on no scholarship are okay with it because they're naive or stupid. I'm sorry to call anyone out, y'all, and I'm sure one day I'll get banhammered for rustling delicate feathers, but I'm just giving it to you as it is in this indelicate manner because, as evidenced by the frequency of posts like this, y'all just don't catch onto nuanced warnings.

@nycpolicy I'd take the full ride and the 3 years OPT (if only I had 3 years OPT...). That's money and time against some nebulous "prestige". As someone with prestige coming out the wazoo, I can tell you it helps at the margin, but the H1B lottery doesn't discriminate on the margin. Also, none of your options are all that prestigious. I didn't even know Fordham had a policy school, but the difference between it and Tufts is that I heard Tufts has a policy school. 

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