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Michigan Ford for free or HKS in a year?

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Would love perspectives on this!

I'm incredibly grateful to have received a full scholarship and cost of living stipend to attend the Ford School at UMichigan beginning in Fall 2019. I love the program, their research centers, and their social policy curriculum.

I've also been offered "conditional deferred admission" to the Kennedy School to begin in 2020, provided I take another round of college-level econ and stats to boost my quant skills before attending (low GRE quant probably did not inspire confidence on the part of the admissions committee...). There's no indication of funding, and their request also means that I'd need to factor in the cost of these courses over the next year.

Michigan is the obvious choice, but it's hard to turn down the opportunity to attend my dream school. Other options include Brandeis Heller (full scholarship), Syracuse Maxwell (no funding info yet) and Brown Watson (partial funding).

Edited by kraeblossom
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It's a bit tougher to answer this question definitively without knowing what your career goals are, but I feel as though Michigan can get you to most places that Harvard can. Unless there's something that only HKS can do for you that Ford can't then I see no reason to turn down guaranteed full funding from Ford. The only other circumstances that would make me potentially consider waiting a year is if you had a well paying job currently that would let you save substantially for HKS + Ford letting you defer for a year in case HKS doesn't come through with any sort of decent funding. But barring these specific circumstances I would 100% recommend taking the money at Ford and running. It's a phenomenal program in its own right located in a great community that will also ensure that you aren't drowning in debt when it's all said and done. Prestige is a very tough thing to quantify as its value varies from one individual to the next, but the weight off of one's shoulders that comes from being debt free is priceless for just about anybody. 

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I would definitely go to Ford, personally. I don't think the prestige factor of HKS supersedes a full ride at another well-known policy program, especially since your funding situation there is uncertain. I mean, it sounds like you already know what you want to do and that Michigan will help you achieve those goals (plus, Ann Arbor's a really cool town!) 

For what it's worth, I was essentially offered "conditional deferred admission" to my top choice as an undergrad and took it. That year of stasis really sucks - it's sort of like you're just there, waiting for the next chapter in your life to happen...

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