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sdb12014

SIS vs the Elliott School

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From what I've researched online this question seems to be popular so I thought should see what everyone thinks.  I applied for the 2019 fall semester and am still waiting to hear back from SAIS, SIPA, and MSFS but I was recently accepted into both the Elliott School's MA program of International Affairs as well as SIS's MA in International Affairs: Comparative and Regional Studies program.  I received a decent funding package from the Elliott School but am still waiting to hear back on funding from SIS.  I wanted to reach out to everyone here and get your thoughts about either school.  I've seen that some people seem to hold the Elliott School in higher esteem for potential internships and job prospects.  

Personally, because my focus of study is on East Asia and I come from a background of fairly extensive research experience in South Korea, I was wondering if I could get your thoughts on which program may best for me.  I want to work for the government following graduation but because both schools are located in DC, it seems that networking and hustling for contacts is a pretty fair toss-up between the two.  

I would greatly appreciate everyone's insights and thoughts!!

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I got into both the SAIS MIPP and Elliott MIPP with funding.  I am waiting to hear back from the AU MIS (online), and I am hoping they give me a great funding package.  For there I will be making a decision very soon.

My advice is to figure out your budget and do the pros vs. cons of each program.

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I got into Elliot too, im waiting to hear back for funding, and trying to decide whether getting a loan is worth it or not. Given that DC is pretty expensive im wondering whether to go or just go to UF for a masters.

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3 hours ago, ana21 said:

I got into Elliot too, im waiting to hear back for funding, and trying to decide whether getting a loan is worth it or not. Given that DC is pretty expensive im wondering whether to go or just go to UF for a masters.

I live in Arlington, VA and I notice rent going up even more since Amazon will moving here ...   Its been the talk of the town with our local city council members. 

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Elliot is better, but it doesn't matter all that much. You just have to figure out how to get into the federal government - veteran's preference, pathways, PMF, or another hiring entryway (applying for federal jobs on usajobs is a waste of time nearly all the time). All other options will be shitty-to-decent contractor jobs - working within a government but as a second-class citizen much like a Google contractor who isn't allowed in the lunch room, gets none of the great benefits, and serves the googlers. (really don't recommend it). Most likely you'll want to go the pathways route (PMF is super competitive/a crap shoot). You should also do an internship during (or before) your grad studies that gets you a clearance. 

Edited by went_away

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12 hours ago, went_away said:

Elliot is better, but it doesn't matter all that much. You just have to figure out how to get into the federal government - veteran's preference, pathways, PMF, or another hiring entryway (applying for federal jobs on usajobs is a waste of time nearly all the time). All other options will be shitty-to-decent contractor jobs - working within a government but as a second-class citizen much like a Google contractor who isn't allowed in the lunch room, gets none of the great benefits, and serves the googlers. (really don't recommend it). Most likely you'll want to go the pathways route (PMF is super competitive/a crap shoot). You should also do an internship during (or before) your grad studies that gets you a clearance. 

Thank you for answering my question.  What exactly do you mean by "better"? Quality of education, reputation, etc.? And okay that's good to know.  I'm trying to apply for some government internships during my first semester that have clearance so that can get taken care of at least.  Also what is the difference between the pathways internship program and the foreign service internship program? Is it just Pathways Internship program are only domestic offices? Or does it have to do with the seasonal aspect?

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13 hours ago, sdb12014 said:

Thank you for answering my question.  What exactly do you mean by "better"? Quality of education, reputation, etc.? And okay that's good to know.  I'm trying to apply for some government internships during my first semester that have clearance so that can get taken care of at least.  Also what is the difference between the pathways internship program and the foreign service internship program? Is it just Pathways Internship program are only domestic offices? Or does it have to do with the seasonal aspect?

Pathways program leads to a job - read up on it. the State internship program is unpaid (which is incredibly unethical and insulting) and definitely does not lead to a job, however they will get you a clearance which unfortunately does make it worthwhile. Also, if you're unclearable you might as well find that out during an internship investigation instead of later on when you have a good job offer. Also, there's a huge difference between a secret clearance, a ts/sci, public trust, etc. Make sure you're getting at least a secret out of an internship, a top secret or better would be ideal. My sense from your post is you need to devote a lot more time to researching these options and need to be a lot more aggressive about going after government internships early on. 

What do I mean by better? In a word, savvier. SIS is a quality school, no doubt about it, but the Elliot school is much, much better about preparing kids to serve in federal service positions and dispensing insights and guidance much like what I wrote above.

As always, remember - these programs aren't that great and don't make you all that competitive on the job market. A former military officer or good MBA/elite law grad will always have more and better prospects.

Addendum - just noticed you are in South Korea, so you may not be eligible for any US government job much less security clearance. 

Edited by went_away

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4 hours ago, went_away said:

Pathways program leads to a job - read up on it. the State internship program is unpaid (which is incredibly unethical and insulting) and definitely does not lead to a job, however they will get you a clearance which unfortunately does make it worthwhile. Also, if you're unclearable you might as well find that out during an internship investigation instead of later on when you have a good job offer. Also, there's a huge difference between a secret clearance, a ts/sci, public trust, etc. Make sure you're getting at least a secret out of an internship, a top secret or better would be ideal. My sense from your post is you need to devote a lot more time to researching these options and need to be a lot more aggressive about going after government internships early on. 

What do I mean by better? In a word, savvier. SIS is a quality school, no doubt about it, but the Elliot school is much, much better about preparing kids to serve in federal service positions and dispensing insights and guidance much like what I wrote above.

As always, remember - these programs aren't that great and don't make you all that competitive on the job market. A former military officer or good MBA/elite law grad will always have more and better prospects.

Addendum - just noticed you are in South Korea, so you may not be eligible for any US government job much less security clearance. 

Thank you again for the thoroughness of your responses.  I do agree that I need to be more aggressive which is why I have been reaching out and posting on forums such as this one to get a sense of what opportunities are available to me.  

I see what you mean by better.  That is also the general feedback I've been reading about comparing SIS and ESIA as well.  And ah yes, I have seen that line often regarding being former military, MBA, or law school grad setting one up well for work in government.  

Appreciate you reading my profile! I'm in South Korea on a fellowship funded by the US Government and with it I will be getting noncompetitive eligibility for federal jobs so I hope it is not a hindrance to my future in the federal government.  I will definitely continue to look into fellowships and opportunities that can get me the clearance and connections you mentioned. Thank you! 

Edited by sdb12014

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If you'll get noncompetitive eligibility you may not have to go the pathways route. Use that to the max and aggressively seek out anybody you can find from your program who has used it and figure out how they were successfully (a lot of government agencies may ignore your eligibility so they can hire their military/frat buddies instead, so get a good sense of how others have successfully used it). If I were you I would also check out (roughly in order) Yale Jackson, SAIS, and Fletcher in addition to Elliot. Good luck and stay laser focused on getting a real civil service job, ideally promotable to GS 13  or at least 12. You're ahead of 90% of the pack already. Your foreign residency should raise less problems if you're there for a US government program. You should also apply for intel, State, and USAID positions.

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On 3/6/2019 at 7:12 AM, went_away said:

Pathways program leads to a job - read up on it. the State internship program is unpaid (which is incredibly unethical and insulting) and definitely does not lead to a job, however they will get you a clearance which unfortunately does make it worthwhile. Also, if you're unclearable you might as well find that out during an internship investigation instead of later on when you have a good job offer. Also, there's a huge difference between a secret clearance, a ts/sci, public trust, etc. Make sure you're getting at least a secret out of an internship, a top secret or better would be ideal. My sense from your post is you need to devote a lot more time to researching these options and need to be a lot more aggressive about going after government internships early on. 

What do I mean by better? In a word, savvier. SIS is a quality school, no doubt about it, but the Elliot school is much, much better about preparing kids to serve in federal service positions and dispensing insights and guidance much like what I wrote above.

As always, remember - these programs aren't that great and don't make you all that competitive on the job market. A former military officer or good MBA/elite law grad will always have more and better prospects.

Addendum - just noticed you are in South Korea, so you may not be eligible for any US government job much less security clearance. 

Maybe this is a stupid / basic question, but why would an MBA have better prospects for US government jobs in State/intel than somebody who specifically studied IR? I've applied to literally exactly the same programs as the OP (+ Fletcher), but I'm debating whether I should wait another year and go for MBA programs or dual degrees instead despite the fact that I'm pretty sure I'd like the programs I've already applied for more.

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On 3/9/2019 at 3:17 AM, JustOneQuickQ said:

Maybe this is a stupid / basic question, but why would an MBA have better prospects for US government jobs in State/intel than somebody who specifically studied IR? I've applied to literally exactly the same programs as the OP (+ Fletcher), but I'm debating whether I should wait another year and go for MBA programs or dual degrees instead despite the fact that I'm pretty sure I'd like the programs I've already applied for more.

In my experience working in DC, an MBA doesn’t necessarily offer better prospects than an MIA/MPP/MPA, but MBAs are definitely a sought out degree. I think it’s because MBA programs are more practical and professionally oriented degrees, and so graduates come with tangible skills and often real world experiences, more so than grads from a traditional MPA/MPP program. I think employers also tend to associate MBA grads with being more profession/work oriented where the traditional degrees are seen as being more academic. All that being said, like 90% of people have MIAs/MPPs/MPAs. MBAs are fairly rare. This is at least my experience with State Dept and USAID, that may be different in other agencies like the Fed. 

Also, I have to disagree with went_away about working for a contractor. There is definitely a dynamic where contracted staff sitting in agency offices are maybe looked down on by gov staff, I think because the government employees see themselves as the “client” and that contracted staff are there for them and they run the show. I do however, think that varies by agency. It’s definitely prevalent at State but not so much the case at USAID. Also, re. benefits, as contracted staff you may not get a pension, but you can still get good benefits. There are definitely contractors out there that try to cut costs by offering few benefits, but there are also contractors that offer great ones. Just do your homework, and ask about the benefits package in interviews. A lot of contractors, especially the ones with good benefits, even like to advertise their packages on their websites. I work in business development for a contractor, and more and more agencies want to hear in our proposals about staff care and benefits. This is because they know it enhances retention and saves them money at the end of the day since the frequent changing out of staff on a contract ends up costing more than good benefits. There is definitely like a “benefits race” amongst contractors. 

I’d say overall contracting is a great way to “break in” , make connections and try out different functions in the government. When you’re a direct hire of the government, it gets much harder to move around jobs, and there’s also an expectation that you’ll spend your entire career as a gov employee. It’s a long and painful process to become a direct hire with a ton of bureaucracy. It’s in my opinion, only something worth going through if you’re absolutely certain you want to do that for 20+ years. Contracting is a good way to get a sense of that and of how you want to work for the government. 

Edited by maddie92

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Did anyone receive an email from SIS about Scholarship/Fellowship decisions? I was early admitted in 19, February even though there are lots of people got in earlier than me. I was wondering if I still have a chance to receive some scholarships...

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1 hour ago, jane15 said:

Did anyone receive an email from SIS about Scholarship/Fellowship decisions? I was early admitted in 19, February even though there are lots of people got in earlier than me. I was wondering if I still have a chance to receive some scholarships...

I was admitted around Feb 5 and haven’t heard anything about funding yet. I haven’t heard of anyone getting scholarship info yet so I don’t think it means anything that we haven’t! If I don’t hear anything in the next day or two I’m going to email/call to see if they can give us a timeline. 

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14 minutes ago, somewhatslightlydazed said:

I was admitted around Feb 5 and haven’t heard anything about funding yet. I haven’t heard of anyone getting scholarship info yet so I don’t think it means anything that we haven’t! If I don’t hear anything in the next day or two I’m going to email/call to see if they can give us a timeline. 

Same, admitted Feb 5 and still waiting on funding!!!

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22 minutes ago, BeninianChineseBeninois said:

Same, admitted Feb 5 and still waiting on funding!!!

Also was admitted early and still have heard no word on funding. One of the emails did mention early March for more information so maybe it should be out this week or next week?

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8 hours ago, maddie92 said:

In my experience working in DC, an MBA doesn’t necessarily offer better prospects than an MIA/MPP/MPA, but MBAs are definitely a sought out degree. I think it’s because MBA programs are more practical and professionally oriented degrees, and so graduates come with tangible skills and often real world experiences, more so than grads from a traditional MPA/MPP program. I think employers also tend to associate MBA grads with being more profession/work oriented where the traditional degrees are seen as being more academic. All that being said, like 90% of people have MIAs/MPPs/MPAs. MBAs are fairly rare. This is at least my experience with State Dept and USAID, that may be different in other agencies like the Fed. 

Also, I have to disagree with went_away about working for a contractor. There is definitely a dynamic where contracted staff sitting in agency offices are maybe looked down on by gov staff, I think because the government employees see themselves as the “client” and that contracted staff are there for them and they run the show. I do however, think that varies by agency. It’s definitely prevalent at State but not so much the case at USAID. Also, re. benefits, as contracted staff you may not get a pension, but you can still get good benefits. There are definitely contractors out there that try to cut costs by offering few benefits, but there are also contractors that offer great ones. Just do your homework, and ask about the benefits package in interviews. A lot of contractors, especially the ones with good benefits, even like to advertise their packages on their websites. I work in business development for a contractor, and more and more agencies want to hear in our proposals about staff care and benefits. This is because they know it enhances retention and saves them money at the end of the day since the frequent changing out of staff on a contract ends up costing more than good benefits. There is definitely like a “benefits race” amongst contractors. 

I’d say overall contracting is a great way to “break in” , make connections and try out different functions in the government. When you’re a direct hire of the government, it gets much harder to move around jobs, and there’s also an expectation that you’ll spend your entire career as a gov employee. It’s a long and painful process to become a direct hire with a ton of bureaucracy. It’s in my opinion, only something worth going through if you’re absolutely certain you want to do that for 20+ years. Contracting is a good way to get a sense of that and of how you want to work for the government. 

I'm not sure what world you're living in where you're seeing a "benefits race" amongst government contractors (first time I've seen that expression most would refer to a race to the bottom since budget sequestration), but I'd like to be introduced to that world. Seriously, the comment differs greatly from the broader economic and lived reality I have experienced and seen in the foreign affairs interagency and contractor world. I would certainly love to be proved wrong...

Go back and read my comments on MBAs again - I was talking about overall career prospects and earnings and pointing out the relative weakness of grad degrees in international and public affairs. It's a long-time theme in my posts and forms the basis for why I caution eager, prospective students about these degrees.

Edited by went_away

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3 minutes ago, sdb12014 said:

Just an fyi that SIS released financial aid awards on 3/15 according to the portal!!

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?)

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14 minutes ago, somewhatslightlydazed said:

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?)

I got an updated decision on my portal right above the original decision. I would just email them to ask just in case! To my knowledge, SIS was supposed to send out an email notifying us of aid.

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