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Decision time: share your dilemma

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Well my Micro class got cancelled today so in my boredom (I mean sincere altruism) I'll go through and try and add my two cents where I feel I can. As a disclaimer much like most of you in here I am also someone who will be beginning their program in the fall of 2019 so I'm not claiming to be an expert or anything. Depending on how long this gets I may have to break this up into two separate posts but we'll see.

@bac  I think deferring for a year sounds like the right call for you in this case. A pregnancy is a huge uncertainty hanging over a families head and so trying to move with that hanging over you sounds like a major hassle, especially given how it seems pretty tough to put one of UT or USC over the other atm. I would definitely agree that raising a family sounds more preferable in a city/state with a lower COL like Austin/Texas, but I think another advantage of deferring is that you'll have a much better sense of where it would be better to raise your family long term after having your child. Plus another year of savings doesn't hurt either. I would sure hope that schools would allow for deferrals for a spouse's pregnancy so I hope that whole process works out for you. 

 

@sdb12014  From everything that I've read/heard about, it seems like federal gov work in a place like D.C. is achievable through just about any D.C. based school due to the lcation which allows you to do heavy networking + multiple internships in addition to the robust alumni networks in the area. With that being said, based off of your current offers SAIS is both most well known D.C. program you've been accepted to and the only one that has offered you funding thus far. So as of now I'd go with SAIS unless American comes through with even better funding since fed gov is also doable from there as well. And if American doesn't initially offer you funding that is comparable to SAIS then use the SAIS offer to try and negotiate with them. Even if you get off the MSFS waitlist I still wouldn't advise it unless you received funding on top of it. But even if nothing changes between now and the day of your deposit, a somewhat funded SAIS degree is a phenomenal outcome for someone wanting to do federal government work in D.C.

 

@MPA/MPP Applicant  Heinz and Sanford are both great funded offers to have if you want the option to be in D.C. as well since they both have pretty solid alumni networks in that area. Sanford routinely places half or close to half of its grads in D.C. if I'm remembering the numbers correctly while the % is around 25 at Heinz. But Heinz has a larger class size and a more recently created D.C. track so the disparity in alumni presence isn't probably as big as the percentages make it seem. If you're fine with D.C. as an option then Heinz is a completely justifiable choice given the funding. That being said if your heart is truly set on the Bay Area then I think Price makes way too much sense for you given that their funding offer is the same as Heinz + their tuition being lower which helps offset the higher COL. 

 

@somewhatslightlydazed  Quite frankly your options are so good across the board that it's making it really hard to pick just one lol. In that sense there's technically not an incorrect choice in there either. If SAIS comes back to you with full funding you could certainly justify that pick but otherwise I would pick one of HKS or WWS depending on which one you think is a better choice for your future goals. WWS is less than 3 and a half hours away from DC so I would imagine that they have a solid enough presence in D.C. which might alleviate your concerns a bit. I couldn't find any exact geographical breakdowns online but if you emailed someone from WWS I'm sure they could tell you what % of their grads end up in D.C. Any number above 20-25% would give me confidence in having a healthy alumni network to tap into in the D.C. area. Also although this is just a hunch on my end, I feel as though it would be easier to get to D.C. from WWS than it would be to get to NY from SAIS although both routes are certainly more than possible. Based off of the HKS employment reports for 2016 and 2017 it looks like they also have a very strong alumni group in D.C. as well which is to be expected given their class size and history. So while it would certainly be easier to secure certain connections in D.C. thorough SAIS, ultimately I think WWS and HKS will get you to D.C. all the same. If you have no preference for one over the other then I would advise picking based on whether you prefer the location of one over the other or to simply take WWS fort he larger stipend. But no matter what you end up picking just know that there isn't a bad choice to make. Congrats on all of the amazing offers.

 

@HoboPresident  LBJ does have a D.C. track so I do think that it wouldn't be too difficult securing D.C. based employment from there. The brand name argument is a bit tough to dissect however because while there may be some fields or specific programs that penalize you for having two state schools on your resume, I want to say that most wouldn't care. I think for most Phd programs (even top ones) your grades, gre scores, research experience, essays, and overall fit matter much more then the name of the school. And if you want to do your Phd in a field similar to the one you're pursuing now, then I think most of the top programs would recognize that LBJ is a strong program. That being said if you want D.C., a brand name, and a somewhat affordable cost then Cornell might end up being your best compromise. Its base tuition is much lower than many other top programs, and with additional funding it could end up being very affordable for you. They also have a surprisingly strong base in D.C. based off of their employment reports, and you can do a one semester externship in D.C. as well if you want to have several months to network there. I don't know enough about Tufts and its D.C. connections, but I feel like unless its base tuition was fairly low to begin with then it will still be fairly expensive even with 25% funding. 

 

@Spurs  Keough is still a fairly new program so I really don't know if it has the connections necessary to break into the World Bank or the UN. Harvard could definitely get you to these places, but paying off that debt even on the salaries that those two organizations provide would be quite depressing. Are there any other schools you applied to that can act as a sort of middle ground? If for example you applied to and received funding from SAIS or SIPA then I think either option would be a good middle ground. If you applied to SAIS or SIPA but just didn't receive funding, I would try negotiating with the Keough offer even if it is a bit of a long shot. If there are non WB/UN related jobs that you would also be satisfied with then I would take Keough over HKS but I can definitely understand why it would be hard to turn HKS down.

 

Welp I'm halfway through page one so I'll probably stop here and pick up the rest of it a bit later. Yikes this took longer than I expected but it was still fun comparing and contrasting how everyone evaluates their decisions. 

 

 

Edited by Guesswho

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1 hour ago, usernamesmakemeanxious said:

Hi there! Congrats on your acceptances! While I can't help you with your career crisis, I can certainly empathize, as I was in your exact position 1.5 years out of college. It took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to do and it was very stressful at times. You are already on a great track, though (I worked in retail for 3 years out of college, so kudos to you!). I am also interested in the same policy areas as you :). 

Regarding Goldman vs SIPA, I can speak to the quality of life question as I went to college in NYC and currently live in the Bay Area. Insanely enough, living in Berkeley will be more expensive than NYC. However expensive you anticipate the Bay to be, it is even more expensive than that! Berkeley is very urban and quite challenging to navigate (no parking EVER). However, there is a ton of nature and even more nature about 2 hours away; it is an exceedingly beautiful surrounding area. The area of NYC that Columbia is in is actually pretty peaceful for Manhattan and has some quality housing options, while Berkeley is experiencing a housing crisis. I know people who attend who have two other people in their bedroom. Another good thing about the Columbia neighborhood is that everything you need is in walking distance, so you might not feel the hustle and bustle as much as you'd expect from NYC. Maybe most importantly, though, if you are interested in racial justice, Berkeley will be an exciting community for you: there is a lot of campus activism and myriad nonprofits in the East Bay focused on civil rights. 

Hope this helps!

Ahh thanks so much @usernamesmakemeanxious for responding! I really appreciate it. This is really helpful information about the neighborhoods and areas that both schools are in. It's def reassuring to know that Columbia might not be as stressful as the rest of NYC is. And I should probably look closer at what living in Berkeley would be like... You're right that the community activism at Berkeley is really enticing. NYC, though, has a lot of social justice organizations, so even if SIPA doesn't have that same commitment at least I could find that community elsewhere in the city. It'll be a tough choice!

Edited by pubpolgal

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Thank you for this thread. I’ve been struggling for weeks with the best choice. 

Choosing between: SIPA (68k), SAIS Europe (45k), ESIA (42.5k), MSFS (59k), SIS (still waiting on funding info)

Criteria: alumni network, abundance of internship opportunities, cohort atmosphere, career services, location (preference for big cities)

At first I was 100% invested in SAIS Europe. I ultimately want a career in development consulting, and SAIS (according to most) has a pretty heavy Econ focus which I need. However, the location of the NY and DC schools are really advantageous. I won’t have to deal with the summer rush to get internships and can have access to those opportunities during the fall and spring. 

I’m going to try to ask for more funding. Just to see if I can get more and to make my decision easier. 

Edited by Abm2413

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6 hours ago, Guesswho said:

@Spurs  Keough is still a fairly new program so I really don't know if it has the connections necessary to break into the World Bank or the UN. Harvard could definitely get you to these places, but paying off that debt even on the salaries that those two organizations provide would be quite depressing. Are there any other schools you applied to that can act as a sort of middle ground? If for example you applied to and received funding from SAIS or SIPA then I think either option would be a good middle ground. If you applied to SAIS or SIPA but just didn't receive funding, I would try negotiating with the Keough offer even if it is a bit of a long shot. If there are non WB/UN related jobs that you would also be satisfied with then I would take Keough over HKS but I can definitely understand why it would be hard to turn HKS down.

I'm not very familiar with how the international job market works. Are connections absolutely vital in securing UN / WB jobs?

I received 66% funding from SAIS and 50% funding from Fletcher. Also got into SIPA but no funding. I also have a full tuition offer from Korbel, but without the stipend. Would any of those options be more appealing than the full ride from Keough?

As for HKS, there's always the loan repayment assistance program. But yeah, I'm not very keen on taking on so much debt.

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Coming from:
East Asian Country (Not China)

Deciding between: 
Syracuse MPA (Still waiting for funding info)
Georgetown MPP (No funding on the first round, but they said I should let them know if I get $ from other schools)
New York University Wagner MPA (Still waiting for the admission decision that will be released by April 12. But I need to decide before April 15 for Georgetown and Syracuse)
University of Maryland College Park MPP (No funding, probably won't go)
American University MPA (No funding, probably won't go)

Other factors:
School Ranking, Alumni Network, Location (Prefer City), Future Internship and Employment Opportunities.
Funding is not the main problem since I have sufficient funding. However, I would still like to cut my COA down.

How I'm leaning:
If I am admitted to Wagner then it will be my first decision. Great location, school reputation, ranking, and everything.

However, if I weren't admitted, I will be choosing between Syracuse and Georgetown.

  • School Ranking: Georgetown is much higher than Syracuse, but for the MPP/MPA, Syracuse is the best. If I ever get an offer to stay in the U.S.A after graduation then it won't be a problem, but if I need to come home for work, Georgetown is more well-known than Syracuse.
  • Alumni Network: Syracuse Maxwell is a well-established school with a wide network and Georgetown McCourt is a relatively new program. But Georgetown has abundance connection in DC.
  • Location: Georgetown is in DC, which will be great for internship and future employment opportunities.
  • Cost: Syracuse is 12 or 18 months program so the COA will be lower. Also, the cost of living in Syracuse is lower. Georgetown COA is wayyyyy higher and the living costs in DC is pretty high as well. However, the cost is a criterion, but not the main concern.

Basically, I am choosing between these two programs because I am not sure whether I will be staying in the U.S.A to work after graduation. Georgetown has a way better ranking than Syracuse, but for the degree, it's the opposite. 

I am hoping someone with similar experience could share your thoughts with me! Thanks!

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On 3/18/2019 at 8:40 AM, ke7312 said:

In your position I'd probably take GWU off the table. You have good offers from two schools within driving distance of DC (Heinz and Sanford), and you were unimpressed with GWU upon visiting. Honestly, as someone who applied to Trachtenberg but never visited, I was pretty unimpressed with the school based on their website and whatnot. I only applied because I wanted a DC option (and I was scrambling as I made a late switch from considering information science to public policy programs), but it turns out Heinz is sort of a DC option itself.

@ke7312 Thanks for your response! I think you're right about this. I also pretty much applied because I wanted a DC option. Interestingly enough, when I applied the first time last cycle, I visited GWU, American, and SAIS as an admitted student and didn't really like the atmosphere of any of them. It either means I didn't like the programs, or DC, or both--I still haven't figured out which!

 

On 3/18/2019 at 8:40 AM, ke7312 said:

Also, what kind of program are you looking for? I know Harris and Heinz are very quant-y and policy focused, though Heinz has more of a management focus and Harris seems to have a reputation for being more intense. If you're looking for think tanks and nonprofit research like I am, those programs seem ideal. I really don't know much about the rest of your list, but LBJ seems somewhat similar to La Follette on its face (Master of Public Affairs in a state capital/college town at a large public university). The advantages of La Follette seem to be heavy integration with the state capital (great if you have public sector goals) and the opportunity to interact with a massive public research university (including extensive research opportunities), but the curriculum itself seems to be less focused on quantitative policy skills than public policy programs like Heinz/Harris. Curriculum is probably something to consider in a situation like yours where the cost of attendance seems nearly the same everywhere.

I'm definitely attracted to both Heinz and Harris because they are both quant and policy-focused. Like you, I am indeed interested in public sector/nonprofit work/think tank research. While I'd like to build my management skills for the nonprofit sector, as someone coming from a liberal arts background, I certainly have many gaps to fill in terms of hard, quantitative skills. I have also heard that Heinz is very quantitatively intense.

 

On 3/18/2019 at 8:12 AM, ke7312 said:

Heinz is sort of my compromise option at the moment, but I was scared by their job placement numbers (the number of students unemployed after 6 months was higher than any of my other options, according to published data). I'd be pretty likely to choose Harris at Heinz's price. 

Have you negotiated for more funding from Harris yet? Last application cycle I was offered 40% from Heinz and $10k from Harris. After negotiating last year, they raised it to 50% and $20k, respectively (and then to $25k for this cycle).

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16 hours ago, pubpolgal said:

I was considering just making a desperate post asking people for help with my dilemma, but this thread exists, so here goes nothing!

Coming from: DC, about 1.5 years out of undergrad with internship experience at think tanks and a current job as a program assistant (mostly communications work, which I enjoy) at a civil rights nonprofit. I want to focus on racial and economic justice (yes, broad, I know) and social policy. 

Deciding between: Columbia SIPA (MPA) and Berkeley Goldman (MPP)

I think Goldman is a slam dunk for what you want to do. Columbia's bread and butter is health or international affairs policy, whereas Berkeley's reputation is more along the lines of your background/future.

Like me you have comms experience, but you're not going to grad school to do journalism (otherwise you would be!), so don't get sucked in by the prospect of some journalism electives to teach you a subject you already know a bit about. 

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3 hours ago, MPA/MPP Applicant said:

Have you negotiated for more funding from Harris yet? Last application cycle I was offered 40% from Heinz and $10k from Harris. After negotiating last year, they raised it to 50% and $20k, respectively (and then to $25k for this cycle).

 

Do you mind sharing the strategy you used to negotiate funding? I want to negotiate my funding up at Harris but all my funding offers are essentially the same as I got from Harris or worse.

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Guest ke7312
3 hours ago, MPA/MPP Applicant said:

Have you negotiated for more funding from Harris yet? Last application cycle I was offered 40% from Heinz and $10k from Harris. After negotiating last year, they raised it to 50% and $20k, respectively (and then to $25k for this cycle).

I’ve just asked them for an increase. Fingers crossed, lol. Glad to hear they do actually grant increases sometimes. I’m not really considering reapplying again next year, though. 

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1 hour ago, justMPPgoofin said:

Do you mind sharing the strategy you used to negotiate funding? I want to negotiate my funding up at Harris but all my funding offers are essentially the same as I got from Harris or worse.

Honestly, I think it was the better funding offers from Heinz and Trachtenberg that helped. But maybe it would also help to create a worksheet that outlined COA for each school, and, assuming it's cheaper overall to attend another school, you could use that for leverage.

I'm also looking to appeal for more funding from Duke, but I'm not too sure how to approach it since it's by far my best offer. If anyone has any tips, I'd appreciate hearing it!

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Guest ke7312
20 hours ago, pubpolgal said:

I was considering just making a desperate post asking people for help with my dilemma, but this thread exists, so here goes nothing!

Coming from: DC, about 1.5 years out of undergrad with internship experience at think tanks and a current job as a program assistant (mostly communications work, which I enjoy) at a civil rights nonprofit. I want to focus on racial and economic justice (yes, broad, I know) and social policy. 

Deciding between: Columbia SIPA (MPA) and Berkeley Goldman (MPP)

Other factors: I'm in the midst of an existential crisis where I'm unsure if I want to do data-driven policy analysis as a career, so SIPA's MPA is enticing as it would allow me to take a handful of journalism classes (as part of my "technology, media, and communications" specialization) and fewer quantitatively rigorous courses (which I'm not scared of, but might be bored by). SIPA also allows students to take what seems like twice as many electives as Goldman, which is a major plus for me.

How I'm leaning: I'm very slightly leaning toward Berkeley because it seems like a MUCH better place to live than NYC (more calm, surrounded by nature, better quality housing probably) and because their faculty seems incomparable, especially with their focus on poverty and inequality. The institution itself is more progressive (something I value) as well.

I know nobody but myself can solve my career crisis, but anyone got thoughts on the two programs as a whole and how they compare? Thank you in advance! 

honestly as an undergrad journalism major, if you're considering taking your public policy degree into journalism and want some training in the field, you might be better off getting involved in a publication of some sort rather than taking courses. Local, independent journalism outlets (and I'm sure there are many in the Berkeley/SF Bay area) are often looking for volunteers or part time employees. Journalism courses can be extremely helpful, and I love my j-school, but there's no substitute for on-the-job training in journalism (that's why journalists as recently as 40 years ago often didn't have college degrees).

Edited by ke7312

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On 3/17/2019 at 1:56 PM, bac said:

Michigan was your top pick and they are ponying up for a free ride? Get on the horse and take that ride.

Going with Michigan - in true type A style, I made a pros/cons list for both Michigan and Duke, as well as consulted a friend of mine at UW Evans MPP program, and am happy to report I will be enrolling at Michigan this fall! 

I came to realize that even if Duke were to match funding (which they have already emailed me informing me chances are slim) my heart is with Michigan. I am super excited for the Fall and looking forward to meeting some of y'all on this forum. :) 

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3 hours ago, TalkPoliticsToMe said:

Going with Michigan - in true type A style, I made a pros/cons list for both Michigan and Duke, as well as consulted a friend of mine at UW Evans MPP program, and am happy to report I will be enrolling at Michigan this fall! 

I came to realize that even if Duke were to match funding (which they have already emailed me informing me chances are slim) my heart is with Michigan. I am super excited for the Fall and looking forward to meeting some of y'all on this forum. :) 

Congrats!! Ford will be very lucky to have you!

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Deciding between:

  • Brandeis Heller (MPP) - 75% funding
  • Northeastern (MPA) - 20% funding (cheaper sticker price though)
  • Cornell CIPA (MPA) - 50+% funding
  • Syracuse Maxwell (MPA) - awaiting funding

I am Boston based, and am thinking about being in the Northeast (and probably New England specifically) long term. My interests are in domestic social policy, and more towards policy analysis than program administration.

  • Brandeis Heller is attractive because the program lines up with my personal interests; policy analysis within domestic social policy is their bread and butter. They seem to have a generally good reputation in the New England area among policy folks. 
  • Northeastern's public affairs programs are not what they're most well-known for, but they have a good institutional reputation and name recognition in Boston, and a deep university alumni base (although that's more in general than specifically in public affairs). They also have big emphasis on work experience, between both co-ops and internships, which I like. 
  • Cornell has the best institution name recognition of any program I was admitted to, so trying to figure out how much that's worth. Their MPA curriculum is customizable and flexible, which I like. Not sure how I feel about spending two years in Ithaca. Trying to learn more about their program outcomes and such. 
  • Maxwell seems to have a strong program, and a good reputation among those familiar with it. Program is only 12 months (or 18 months if I want to do a summer internship), which is kind of a plus. Lived in Syracuse for a year already, so familiar with the city. Curriculum is a little more rigid than I'd prefer, but not a huge issue. 

Thoughts on any of these schools and my decision? Thanks!

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Coming from: 

Washington, DC, currently working in the human rights field

Deciding between:

UCSD GPS: Full tuition + $11k/year stipend (COA ~$10k/year)
Johns Hopkins SAIS: 85% tuition scholarship (COA ~$25k/year)
 
Other factors:
Cohabiting with the boyfriend for at least a year of GPS and for both years of SAIS so that will help offset cost of living in a big way. 
 
How I'm leaning:
Is it crazy that I'm leaning towards GPS? Not only will my debt look significantly different, but GPS faculty are almost entirely full time professors while SAIS seems to rely heavily on adjunct lecturers, and it seems like there are quite a few opportunities for student-faculty research collaboration at GPS. Also, GPS' research institutes are a stronger match for my interests (I would like to pursue research opportunities during my program). Both programs offer the quantitative bent that I’m looking for, and I don’t intend to pursue a federal career. I'm just not sure if I should be putting more stock in the SAIS name and location.
Edited by tough_choices

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@tough_choices Not crazy at all! The financial aspect is a big deal, although it sounds like your SAIS debt would be manageable over time (pure speculation -- everyone's financial situation is different!)

I'd think the most about where you want to be and what networks you want to access. Coming from DC, if you feel like you have a solid network here, then branching out to the West coast could expand your network without limiting your future options if you later decide you want to be back on the East coast. If you envision yourself in DC longterm, and want to strengthen your connections here, I'd consider SAIS. If you can, it'd also probably be a good idea to visit UCSD to get a feel for the area.

It sounds like you can't go wrong either way, but that UCSD gives you financial freedom without sacrificing program quality. Congrats on your offers!

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Coming From: DC area, family in the Boston area.

Deciding Between: UChicago Harris MPP (25% merit), Georgetown McCourt MPP (37% merit), UVA Batten MPP (30% merit), University of Michigan Ford MPP (0% merit, but say some will be awarded to me if I say yes).

Other Factors: Want to do MPP/JD program. Currently have applications submitted and waiting on decisions from GULC and UChicago Law. Waitlisted at UVA, denied at Michigan, but regardless of my decisions this cycle could just reapply in the fall (applied very late in the cycle for law schools).

How I'm Leaning: My gut says UChicago, partially because I'm really not loving the DC atmosphere at the moment, but I'd love to hear more people's thoughts. Not completely sold on one particular program over the others.

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(hit enter too early - my bad if anyone saw the unedited version of this post)

I'm going to visit campuses early next month and will probably decide then, but I'd be interested in hearing what you all think

Coming from: ATX. 1 year out of undergrad, with extensive experience living abroad and 2 undergrad internships, but no relevant postgrad work experience. Concentrating in Russian/Eurasian affairs. I'm hoping to eventually become an FSO, but I'm also looking for exposure to a range of career options.

Deciding Between: Georgetown MAERES (20k/year), Johns Hopkins SAIS ($28k/year), UT Austin LBJ MPGS/CREEES (Russian/Eurasian Studies) MA (50% tuition + TAship covering rest of tuition + stipend)

Other Factors: I have family in Austin and would have considerably more support (both financial and intangible) if I stayed here.

How I'm Leaning: Basically I'm making 2 decisions: Georgetown vs SAIS and Georgetown/SAIS vs. LBJ

Georgetown vs. SAIS: Georgetown SFS has been my "dream" graduate school for a long time, and I would love the ability to study Russian/Eurasian politics in-depth in the MAERES program. I've been reading their course listings since my junior year of undergrad. I also feel like SFS is generally more service-oriented, whereas SAIS sometimes seems a little more careerist than I would prefer. (Obviously this is conjecture since I have yet to actually visit either school). On the other hand, SAIS would allow me to spend my first year in Bologna, and I've become more and more attracted to this idea over time. I've lived in Europe before, and this would be a unique opportunity to study international and regional affairs from a European rather than an American perspective--which is very appealing. Regional focus would obviously be less prominent, but I do feel like SAIS in general has a more "international" perspective, and I think that's important to an IR professional. Also--I would be in their flagship MA rather than a smaller regional program, and I've heard that SFS gives less attention/support to the regional studies MA's than MSFS/SSP. Again: conjecture, but I would love to hear anyone's thoughts.

Georgetown/SAIS vs. LBJ: This is the big $issue$. I feel reasonably confident that I could make it through LBJ with no loans. Moreover, I have family connections at UT (which is why I didn't go there for undergrad...lol), and there are parts of LBJ/MGPS that I'm truly enthusiastic about (i.e. the Strauss Center, TX National Security Review). It would be a great education, and definitely easier...but I also think that I would seriously benefit from being in D.C. I've only lived in the Southern/Midwestern U.S., and while I love Austin, it is not a hub of global diplomacy. I'm just not sure whether that advantage + the caliber of SFS/SAIS as programs is worth the extra cost. I could manage to live on savings for the first year at either school (so only borrowing for tuition), and both SFS and SAIS have indicated that it's possible to gain increased funding for the second year, but I'm not sure how feasible this actually is. Anyone know?

Ugh, this was a novel. I'd appreciate any advice you have!

Edited by amberly

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11 hours ago, kraeblossom said:

@tough_choices Not crazy at all! The financial aspect is a big deal, although it sounds like your SAIS debt would be manageable over time (pure speculation -- everyone's financial situation is different!)

I'd think the most about where you want to be and what networks you want to access. Coming from DC, if you feel like you have a solid network here, then branching out to the West coast could expand your network without limiting your future options if you later decide you want to be back on the East coast. If you envision yourself in DC longterm, and want to strengthen your connections here, I'd consider SAIS. If you can, it'd also probably be a good idea to visit UCSD to get a feel for the area.

It sounds like you can't go wrong either way, but that UCSD gives you financial freedom without sacrificing program quality. Congrats on your offers!

It’s true that the debt from SAIS would probably be manageable—I just have avoided taking out any significant loans so far, so it seems like a lot even if it is relatively not that much. I will be attending both admitted student days to get a sense of the schools and communities, but I do think I would like to expand my network and get some experience on the west coast. Anyway, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts—I really appreciate it. 

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On 3/17/2019 at 6:06 PM, acerbicb said:

Coming from

Chicago, IL

Deciding Between

  • Carnegie Mellon Heinz: MSPPM - Pittsburgh (Full Tuition + $6k Stipend)
  • University of Michigan Ford: MPP - Policy Analysis (Full Tuition + $20k Stipend)

University of Michigan provides deferral for one year but does not guarantee the same funding. Heinz provides deferral for one year and DOES guarantee the same funding (pre-negotiation... I'm not sure after negotiation).

Other Factors

There are several factors pulling me towards either school — or deferring either offer for a year. 

(1) Research vs. Consulting

After 5 years of development and fundraising/program coordination in the nonprofit field, I bring my curiosity and project management skills in a new, more interesting line of work… that pays better. To this end, I want to leverage an MPP/MSPPM to enter research (e.g. Mathematica, Urban Labs) or public sector strategic consulting (e.g. IBM, McKinsey, Deloitte). 

Ford seems like it has stronger connections to the policy research community, especially given in-house institutions. However, I know that McKinsey, IBM, and Deloitte all offer interviews on-site at Heinz and have been recruiting with increasing severity in the past few years. Ford is obviously offering me more money up front… but can I leverage the connections and education at Ford to secure a consulting gig immediately after graduation?

I am torn! These two fields seem so disparate to me, like if I do one for a few years I won’t be able to return and do the other. 😞

(2) Curriculum and Analytic Rigor

I went to art school and studied what is basically low calorie, Marxist, theoretical sociology — I read a lot of continental philosophy and wrote a meandering thesis. I really want a degree that’s gonna kick me in the ass, but provide the resources to close the analytic/management skill gap. If I do research, I want to be able to work alongside analysts who have been doing this since undergrad, who went to Harvards and Princetons. If I do consulting, I want to be able to analyze, synthesize, and translate data to manage organizational changes and inform management decisions.

Operations research/management science, data analytics (e.g. competency in SAS, Python, R, and machine learning), and quantitative analysis (e.g. econometrics, statistical analysis) feel very important to this end. I know that Heinz’ curriculum provides these “straight-out-of-the-box” as part of their core curriculum. Moreover, each Heinz alumni I've interviewed has spoken to how academically challenging Heinz was. Can Ford match them, blow for blow? How difficult would that be to do? Will the difference in training result in different employment opportunities in the long run, given my stated interests?

(3) Money and Deferment

I am paying off several thousands of dollars in tax debt, medical bills, and academic bills with a upper-lower class salary. I have chronic illnesses that I’m working to get in order. I don’t have a network that can provide consistent financial support (though I am considering a go-fund-me to cover relocation costs). I wonder if deferring these offers for a year would be the best course of action.

If I manage to hold down my job, I would be able to pay off my debts within the year. I would be able to get treated for the aforementioned illnesses. I would be able to amass some savings. Lastly, I would be able to take some quant courses so that I won’t have to be taking calculus or basic stats in the course of the program… I’d very much like to put my money/time towards acquiring more specialized skills. 

Money is also another reason to lean towards Ford... that's a 14k difference. Heinz is located in a more affordable city, but they want me to move a month earlier for Math Camp (without sponsorship), they don't have any computer labs, and I don't know anyone at Heinz. (At Ford I know a few students, faculty, and staff, as I've stayed there a couple months for a fellowship).

How I’m leaning

Like I said, I’m torn! Severed! Frayed! These are my top two choices. I am leaning towards deferment out of stress and financial insecurity. In terms of schools, I was leaning towards Heinz… but the offer from Ford is very heartening. I think that Heinz is providing the skills I want explicitly, has a connection to the consulting world that is more documented and present than Ford. 

bumping this to see if anyone has two cents!

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6 hours ago, amberly said:

(hit enter too early - my bad if anyone saw the unedited version of this post)

I'm going to visit campuses early next month and will probably decide then, but I'd be interested in hearing what you all think

Coming from: ATX. 1 year out of undergrad, with extensive experience living abroad and 2 undergrad internships, but no relevant postgrad work experience. Concentrating in Russian/Eurasian affairs. I'm hoping to eventually become an FSO, but I'm also looking for exposure to a range of career options.

Deciding Between: Georgetown MAERES (20k/year), Johns Hopkins SAIS ($28k/year), UT Austin LBJ MPGS/CREEES (Russian/Eurasian Studies) MA (50% tuition + TAship covering rest of tuition + stipend)

Other Factors: I have family in Austin and would have considerably more support (both financial and intangible) if I stayed here.

How I'm Leaning: Basically I'm making 2 decisions: Georgetown vs SAIS and Georgetown/SAIS vs. LBJ

Georgetown vs. SAIS: Georgetown SFS has been my "dream" graduate school for a long time, and I would love the ability to study Russian/Eurasian politics in-depth in the MAERES program. I've been reading their course listings since my junior year of undergrad. I also feel like SFS is generally more service-oriented, whereas SAIS sometimes seems a little more careerist than I would prefer. (Obviously this is conjecture since I have yet to actually visit either school). On the other hand, SAIS would allow me to spend my first year in Bologna, and I've become more and more attracted to this idea over time. I've lived in Europe before, and this would be a unique opportunity to study international and regional affairs from a European rather than an American perspective--which is very appealing. Regional focus would obviously be less prominent, but I do feel like SAIS in general has a more "international" perspective, and I think that's important to an IR professional. Also--I would be in their flagship MA rather than a smaller regional program, and I've heard that SFS gives less attention/support to the regional studies MA's than MSFS/SSP. Again: conjecture, but I would love to hear anyone's thoughts.

Georgetown/SAIS vs. LBJ: This is the big $issue$. I feel reasonably confident that I could make it through LBJ with no loans. Moreover, I have family connections at UT (which is why I didn't go there for undergrad...lol), and there are parts of LBJ/MGPS that I'm truly enthusiastic about (i.e. the Strauss Center, TX National Security Review). It would be a great education, and definitely easier...but I also think that I would seriously benefit from being in D.C. I've only lived in the Southern/Midwestern U.S., and while I love Austin, it is not a hub of global diplomacy. I'm just not sure whether that advantage + the caliber of SFS/SAIS as programs is worth the extra cost. I could manage to live on savings for the first year at either school (so only borrowing for tuition), and both SFS and SAIS have indicated that it's possible to gain increased funding for the second year, but I'm not sure how feasible this actually is. Anyone know?

Ugh, this was a novel. I'd appreciate any advice you have!

I’m in a very similar situation in my decision right now. Deciding between SAIS and a regional studies program in the Georgetown SFS. I’d be happy to PM if you want to talk it over! I think it’d help both of us. 

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Welp lets keep going with this exercise I suppose /:

On 3/19/2019 at 1:49 AM, Spurs said:

I'm not very familiar with how the international job market works. Are connections absolutely vital in securing UN / WB jobs?

I received 66% funding from SAIS and 50% funding from Fletcher. Also got into SIPA but no funding. I also have a full tuition offer from Korbel, but without the stipend. Would any of those options be more appealing than the full ride from Keough?

As for HKS, there's always the loan repayment assistance program. But yeah, I'm not very keen on taking on so much debt.

A 66% funding offer from SAIS is one that I would strongly consider as it is a very good middle ground between Notre Dame and Harvard. As far as WB hiring goes I (and many others) would argue that SAIS is an even stronger program to attend than HKS. In digging through many old SAIS threads on this site I've seen at least one person claim that SAIS (or at least JHU in general) has the most representation at the WB (although I couldn't find an exact stat to back this up). And they're fairly competitive when it comes to UN hiring as well. Overall if you look at all of their available employment reports you can see multiple WB/UN placements in just about every year. At 66% funding it's still obviously pricier than Keough but the debt would still be manageable regardless of how your WB/UN pursuit works out since SAIS is also strong in other sectors as well. I would definitely recommend bringing SAIS back into consideration at the very least. 

@TalkPoliticsToMe  It appears that you've already made your decision but I just wanted to say that I largely agree with it. Full funding from UNC's MBA is a phenomenal outcome, but if you feel like an MBA isn't necessary for your career goals then it doesn't make since to pursue it in tandem with Duke at half tuition (about 48k if I recall correctly). Soooooo................ Enjoy Ford!

@islandsmile18   Looks like you have several awesome options on the table. SAIS is an IR powerhouse so I would imagine that their reputation and alumni base abroad is fairly prevalent. I don't know much about Stanford's program but if it has more of an international bend like you claim then I'm sure if would get you back home as well (but personally I'd be a bit queasier about newer programs but the name is still incredibly strong). It's also true that WWS has more of a domestic bend, but it's been around for so long and commands so much respect that I would imagine that they have a healthy enough alumni base abroad. But I would nevertheless recommend seeing if their website has any breakdown on their international grads. If not I would recommend emailing or calling someone who works there for some data in that regard. At the bare minimum Princeton doesn't lack name brand recognition in Asia based off my my experience but then again the country I'm thinking of is probably different than yours. If you feel confident about Princeton's international presence after doing some more research, then I would suggest picking a program in terms of fit and where you think you would thrive the most since you have full funding from all 3 locations. 

@acerbicb  You have two fantastic offers but it sounds like some outside factors are really hindering you. Honestly if you can defer and guarantee that those full offers will still be there a year from now then honestly I'd say go for it if you think doing so will largely eliminate your debt and also help get your health back in order. While plenty of people do into grad school with a bit of debt on their back, severe health issues could completely derail your entire experience, so that is something you should definitely prioritize shaking off first and foremost before plunging into grad school. With all of that being said, regardless of whether your grad school experience begins this year or not, I would also agree that Heinz sounds like a slightly better choice, but mostly because of the driving thing. Ford also offers policy oriented classes around STATA (and at least one if not both of R and Python). They both have top of the line computer science programs, so I don't think Ford would necessarily be worse in that regard. I would also assume that Heinz is a pinch better at consulting placement because of location, but again I don't think Ford would put you at a disadvantage in that department either. For the sake of picking up statistical/programming software proficiency + consulting placement I truly think that the difference between the two schools is marginal. But if you don't drive then it is true that getting around Ann Arbor would be a bit of a hassle so all else being equal Heinz it is!

Welp with that page 1 is done. Onto the start of page 2! I'll stop whenever I run out of juice (or whenever I get hungry)

@ke7312 Honestly I couldn't tell you why Heinz unemployed % is so much higher it's peers when it's job placements by and large is mostly comparable to its competition. If you figure out why that's the case and that it wouldn't affect you, then I'd honestly say Heinz would be your best bet. Harris is almost certainly more quant heavy then Heinz, but you can design a fairly rigorous curriculum at Heinz as well through your electives, and the price point at which you would earn the Harris degree simply isn't worth it for most people. And if I recall correctly I do think that Heinz has a policy analysis concentration that may be up your alley. That being said, this is the first time I've seen or heard of anyone bringing up Heinz having a higher than average unemployment % so I'd recommend digging more into that (although you won't find the answer to that in older threads since I've seen no prior mention of it). 

@kraeblossom  I believe I already gave a more extended response to your question in another post that you made, but in case you didn't see it, the TLDR is take the money at Michigan and run (you can fine my extended response under my profile or under your own if you go back to your initial post about the topic). 

@Thirteen  I think this largely boils down to where you want to be. You obtained a great funding offer from Duke that makes it fairly affordable, but if you want to be in Cal then a full ride from UCSD is tough to turn down. I'm not entirely sure what sort of presence Duke has in Cal, but if you do some further research and conclude that they have a pulse there then it certainly becomes more feasible. But I would go with UCSC if Sanford lacks a proper Cal alumni base. Just because UCSD grads seem to be heading int the private sector doesn't mean that you would necessarily have trouble securing public sector employment (unless your're going for super prestigious employment). That being said you brought up being closer to D.C. when talking about Duke, so if you want to be in D.C. then 100% go to Sanford. Sooooo yeah I wouldn't overthink this and just pick based on where you want to be long term.

@SketchesOfSpain   Heinz actually has several years of employment data, and from what I can see it looks like they do a pretty good job of placing several + students into local PA/Pitt based government jobs every year. They do particularly well in their very own Allegheny county (or at least I think that is their county). Quite frankly I think all 3 schools would secure you employment in the local government sector just fine, so I think it should boil down to where you want to live + which school prepares you for the type of gov work you want to do. While attending school in one location doesn't restrict you to that area employment wise, you'll have a much easier time securing local gov employment in the area where you attend school. Ithica, Pitt, and Austin are 3 vastly different cities located in 3 very different states, so if one speaks to you far more than the other then I would simply head there. If you don't have a preference location wise then pick the one that you feel will give you the best skillset/training for the specific type of work your looking to do in the government. If you're looking at more administrative oriented work then I would assume assume an MPA is a bit better in that regard. If you're looking at more policy analysis/number crunching oriented work then I would guess that Heinz is a bit better in that regard. But these are just hunches in my end, and I would compare their courses to get a better sense at what each one would prepare you for.

ANNNNNND the hunger is kicking in. I'll get back to this another time. 

 

 

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Coming from: a year out of undergrad at UCLA, spent working on campaigns and interning at public offices in the SoCal/greater Los Angeles area

Deciding between: UCLA Luskin (waiting on funding), UCSD GPS (full ride + stipend), Georgetown McCourt (20k), GWU Trachtenberg (0), Michigan Ford (0)
((still in process of negotiating funding))

Other Factors: currently have a paid internship in Downtown LA area that I can continue as a student at Luskin. but also as someone who grew up from birth in the LA area, moving to DC would be a worthwhile experience for me

Leaning: UCLA. I can continue expanding existing networks, relationships with professors, and my job. My main hesitancy is how much less opportunities I'll have for working in DC/for the State as a Luskin grad versus as a McCourt grad - BUT I intend on interning in DC during the program's summer interim. Also very, very tempted by UCSD's generous offer, but taking a risk on their alumni networks/career services when I am already familiar with UCLA is hard.

Also for context, I intend to complete my MPP with a concentration (formal or not) on health policy, specifically relating to U.S. racial/ethnic disparities when it comes to healthcare access and services. Academically, my favorite courses have always been related to ethnic studies, whether from a historical or genetic perspective. I want an MPP program where I can expand on those studies AND equip myself with much-needed quantitative training. And from my work experience, I want a politically active student body that engages with local issues.

I also intend on interning during my studies at legislative office/s and heavily networking among political circles, as I hope to go into a career as a policy analyst for specific parties/candidates OR for local government offices (county, state). With this in mind, will a degree from Luskin be enough to make myself stand out, especially as a young professional with relatively little experience? Or would taking on $$$ in debt at McCourt/GWU be worth it? Alternatively, is GPS the answer and I am overthinking things?

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Guest ke7312
10 hours ago, Guesswho said:

@ke7312 Honestly I couldn't tell you why Heinz unemployed % is so much higher it's peers when it's job placements by and large is mostly comparable to its competition. If you figure out why that's the case and that it wouldn't affect you, then I'd honestly say Heinz would be your best bet. Harris is almost certainly more quant heavy then Heinz, but you can design a fairly rigorous curriculum at Heinz as well through your electives, and the price point at which you would earn the Harris degree simply isn't worth it for most people. And if I recall correctly I do think that Heinz has a policy analysis concentration that may be up your alley. That being said, this is the first time I've seen or heard of anyone bringing up Heinz having a higher than average unemployment % so I'd recommend digging more into that (although you won't find the answer to that in older threads since I've seen no prior mention of it). 

I just got word that Heinz is upping my funding to 75%, so they're certainly a serious consideration for me now. I guess I have to look more into this—I'm basing it off their published career outcome numbers (admittedly, they are more forthcoming with this data than many other schools, so that might be part of it). There were 5-9 students every year of the past 3 years in a Pittsburgh track class of 50-60 who ended up unemployed after 6 months. I just wonder if part of it is the geographic isolation of Pittsburgh. Or even if it's just a small sample size thing. Because the places where people do get hired from Heinz, as you alluded to, are pretty impressive.

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