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I got a full tuition scholarship at SAIS, which has me very close to accepting my offer there. 

My only hesitation is that right now I don't see myself in a job related to finance/trade/banking or even economics in general. I freaked myself out a little after comparing the "Employment Outcomes" sheet for SAIS with the sheet from Georgetown and seeing a lot more financial institutions for SAIS grads. 

I also have a contact who works on security issues at the State Department who told me that most SAIS grads at State work in Economic and Business Affairs or as Econ Desk Officers in the Political Bureau rather than on other issues. 

I went to the open house last week where they made the case that you need to have a grasp on economics to fully understand any issue in international relations, which I think I buy to a certain extent. 

Is SAIS still a strong program for people interested in issues (security, human rights, etc) that are not directly related to economics? 

At present I have been offered much more funding from SAIS than Georgetown so I think it is probably worth sacrificing a bit of "fit" for a significant cost difference, but I also want to make sure that I am not limiting myself to one type of work. 

Any insight on this would be very appreciated! :) 

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Take an hour or two to digest all the topics on this forum about debt. You won't second guess taking a full tuition scholarship at SAIS. 

Funding aside, the economics requirement is only four classes. Once you knock out those requirements you can focus the rest of your degree on the issues you're drawn too. If you're still unsure, I would recommend reaching out to the department you're interested in and having a chat with them. Maybe try to get a better sense of the coursework and get the contact info of recent alumni. Additionally, you could inquire about where students from that department frequently intern.

Keep in mind that SAIS has a bigger class size, which might make the employment outcomes seem much more skewed to finance/econ. Wouldn't hang on to what one contact says about SAIS grads at State.. There are over 300 of them there: https://www.linkedin.com/school/jhusais/alumni/

In your position there's no wrong choice! 

Edited by Pichichi
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These different "identities" schools advertise are more an attempt to differentiate a similar product on an increasingly crowded market than any real difference. The curricula at the top IR schools are basically the same (unless you're doing a more specialized program like the MPAID or the data science thing at Heinz). Many of their graduates who work at financial institutions don't do work related to finance or economics. SAIS positions itself as "quantitatively rigorous" and as a feeder to the institutions people associate with economics, but unless you make it your goal and work very hard for it, you're not going to be waltzing into an economist job - quite the opposite. 

Don't be taken in by the advertising. I'd advise you to compare the curricula in detail and figure out how much economics you will be required to take at either (I hypothesize no difference), and then, let's be real, pick the cheaper option - when you graduate, nobody's going to care what bullshit classes you took.

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There is no question at all when there's a full ride at SAIS vs having to take out loans of some kind at Georgetown. Furthermore, if you're competitive enough to get full funding at SAIS, I think you'll be able to shape your career as you want quite well.

State Department, at least for the Foreign Service, also does not care where you went to school. 

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Thank you all so much for your input. After extended agonizing, I just accepted my offer from SAIS! 

Georgetown had me waiting until the last second for their final offer on funding but in the end it would have been more than a $30,000 difference. They have always been my first choice program, but I can't justify paying that much when I will already need to take out loans to cover my living expenses. 

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  • 1 month later...

I went to SAIS for American Foreign Policy and now work for The White House on Federal civil service policy.

I was torn between Walsh ($0), SAIS ($25k) and SIS ($60k). But unlike everyone else who bases these decisions on long-term trajectories, I just thought spending a year in Bologna was too hard to pass up. Like you, I was actually a bit worried I was going to get buried in econometrics gobbledygook. 

I hated econ classes but loved stats.  So, not surprisingly, of the 4 quant courses, I did very well in the stats course but struggled with the econ courses (and was saved by grade inflation on one). That said, I never once felt the program was overly quantitative. Maybe it's because I purposefully avoided those classes, but if you don't want that skill set, it is not imposed on you.  I wanted to be an FSO so I chose classes more aligned with foreign policy-making, regional studies and American history.

I think *most* international students wound up at the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund. Domestic students were all over the place and I would actually say most are in fields that aren't quantitative. A good chunk are in consulting. Another chunk are in Commerce, or the trade agencies. Another chunk are at DHS or State working on security policy. And then there are some who joined the private sector working as analysts for large banks. So I don't think the degree pigeonholes you into one industry.

Feel free to reach out if you have any further questions. Best of luck at SAIS!

Edited by AGReyes
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