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So, Fletcher School at Tufts University has been my dream school for some time now. I got admitted into MALD and want to specialise in Development Economics but also take a few classes in Social Entreprenurship and International Political Economy. The flexibility of the MALD degree allows me to do that. I am particularly drawn to the cross registration option with Harvard and would love to take Social Entrepreneurship classes at Harvard Business School and also build some contacts.

My problem is funding. I have received funding of $24k for two years (12k per year) from Fletcher. Still, the tuition plus living cost comes up to $117k. My relative is lending $67,000 and I have to take a loan of $ 50,000. I come from a middle class family in India. After the MALD degree, I am eligible for 1 year OPT in USA as an international student but after that it is the dreaded H1B lottery and purely depends on chance. I cannot pay off such a high debt earning in my local currency.

I also have an offer from Austalian National University (ANU) in Canberra, ranked among top 25 universities in the world by QS rankings, for a Master in International and Development Economics. While not terribly cheap, the total cost is $ 40k less than Fletcher. Australia also allows international students guaranteed stay for 2 years after the degree and it is easy to stay on afterwards till debt is paid off. I have applied for a few full and partial scholarships for ANU but the results have not yet been declared.

However, Fletcher has always been my “dream school” and I wasn’t so happy as I am now for a long time until I got the Fletcher offer letter. My head says ANU but my heart says Fletcher. I like that I can take a few IPE and Social Entrepreneurship classes along with Development Economics at Fletcher as opposed to pure Development Economics at ANU. However, the ANU degree is highly quantitative, comparable to MPA/ID level of Econ and Maths at Harvard, and I have heard that such a degree has better scope at IFIs and development consulting, and better prospects than an IR degree with specialisation in Development.

I have the following doubts:

1) Is Fletcher School worth a debt of $ 50k plus interest and then repayment of $ 67k to my relative? The chances of further scholarship at Fletcher seem slim. 

2) Is the name Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy (MALD) misleading to employers in the development sector outside USA? I ask this because Fletcher does not mention specialisation pursued on its transcripts.

3) To former and current Fletcher students: I know the cross registration option with Harvard exists on paper but how easy is it to actually take classes at Harvard Business School or Harvard Kennedy School and form some useful contacts? Is it worth going to Fletcher for this reason?

4) Is it better to go to Fletcher or ANU? I want to work in development consulting or an IFI but some part of me also wants start a Social Entreprise in future and I cannot help but think the broader education in USA will help me in this.

The ANU curriculum goes very deep into a narrow subject area while the Fletcher curriculum seems to go superficialy across a range of disciplines. At least, that is my impression.

Note: Harvard Kennedy School and SAIS are beyond my budget without fellowships so I did not apply.

@Kaneisha and @ExponentialDecay would highly appreciate your inputs. Thanks!

Edited by Marie21
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Hi @Marie21, just popping in to say thanks for the tag, but unfortunately I don't have the time right this second to give a thoughtful response as it is peak application season. However, I wanted to at least let you know I did see your post.

I didn't read it in its entirety, but I will reiterate what I often tell clients worried about finances. I do not recommend attending any graduate program from which you'll graduate with a debt load equal to more than a reasonable estimate of your first year's salary out of school. I graduated with six figures of student loan debt that ballooned to $150,000+ while I struggled as an entrepreneur and author (totally my choice, and I acknowledge that), and it was arduous paying it off (I paid off my loans in seven years by sending in huge payments whenever I got clients). 

I hope that tiny tip was helpful, and if not, I apologize and wish you luck with making your decision.

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Speaking as a contended Fletcher graduate, you should absolutely NOT go to Fletcher. ANU is a fantastic school and being in Australia provide you with far more career opportunities - thanks to its location in  your general part of the world and its visa regime - than being in the US will. The only way I would counsel you to go to Fletcher is if they will match your cost/financial aid package at ANU. Otherwise, enjoy Canberra! (I've worked with some folks from there and have been very impressed)

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Thank you so much @went_away. Your post is very reassuring! I was torturing my mind going back and forth between ANU and Fletcher and thinking I was a fool to give up the latter for the former. If you have worked with some folks from ANU, it tells me that ANU is not completely unheard of in the States.

The main reason I was attracted to Fletcher was its flexible curriculum in fields close to my heart. And the second reason was taking classes at Harvard but I am not even sure students actually get to do that due to clashing schedules (do they?). Anyway, when I finally got admission to my dream school, both reasons did not seem worth taking on so much debt without guarantee of working in USA afterwards. (Impossible to earn in Indian rupees and pay off US dollar denominated debt)

Then again, I want to really challenge myself with the quantitative curriculum from ANU and the degree name of Development Econ indicates closely what I want to do more than MALD does. I have applied to two full scholarships and some partial scholarships to ANU so at least some cost will be covered hopefully. Just worried that I will be away from major policy networks in Canberra compared to Boston (which is close to NYC/DC) and the Fletcher + Harvard network.

Edited by Marie21
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Fletcher school students definitely do get to take Harvard classes but it's only useful intellectually and not at all useful jobwise. ANU is definitely known in the IR circles and once you graduate what matters is your career, not (really) your school. Fletcher is a wonderful place, but the world is changing and competition and visa restrictions are only getting worse. You'll be far better off with a strong quant focus while staying a little closer to home and engaging in international opportunities and Centers of study - of which there are many - at ANU. Fletcher isn't really worth the debt for US students and it definitely isn't for international students who will need a US work visa.

One thing I'll add - if you want to focus your career on Oceania or even Asia Pacific region, ANU will immediately mark you as strong for that area, more so than a Fletcher or SAIS would.

Edited by went_away
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