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Help me with my decision, PLEASE!


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Hello everyone,

Before I visited the LBJ School in Austin, I was pretty certain that I was going to attend. They are offering me in-state tuition + $14000 which covers tuition and gives me $4000 extra spending money. The LBJ School has a good reputation and Austin is a wonderful city. When I visited, everything was going well until we met with the Career Services Coordinator. When someone asked her what percentage of graduates have secured jobs upon graduation, she answered "around 50-60%." Isn't this number remarkably low? I heard from other attendees that even Maryland, which is ranked lower (but closer to DC), had much higher job placement numbers (more than 80%). Needless to say, my visit shook me a little.

I also attended a class and it seems to me that many of the policy courses will be Texas-centric. This makes sense, but I don't want to live in Texas in the future and have little stake in Texas policy. If I want to be in a place where I have more stake in the policy issues discussed in courses, it would probably make more sense for me to attend school in California (UCLA) or DC (American, GWU, Georgetown, Maryland). If I want to follow my dreams, I should go to Chicago (Harris) or New York (NYU). Initially I ruled out UCLA because its career services department is only a year old, but now I find myself considering the school again. I would get in-state tuition at UCLA. I don't want to take out loans to go to Harris, NYU, GWU, American, and Georgetown, so the one option I have in the East Coast/DC area is Maryland. Maryland is offering me in-state + all but $1000 of the tuition paid. Maryland, however, is the lowest ranked program I applied to.

Should I be worried about the low job placement rate at LBJ? Should I just go to LBJ like I originally planned or should I reassess everything? If you were in my situation, where would you go--LBJ, UCLA, or Maryland? Would you pick one of these programs or would you take out loans to go to a more prestigious East Coast school? PLEASE HELP ME!

ANY advice/thoughts will be GREATLY appreciated

Edited by easychord
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First, stop worrying about the rankings. Second, follow the money. Third, you need to look at the time period in which those job statistics are framed (upon graduation, within 6 months, within a year) and how they calculate those pursuing further education and those who are not seeking a job into their statistics. Fourth, think about your own personal fit with the programs in question. Fifth, follow the money, seriously!

LBJ has a great reputation and frankly if they are paying for your degree it seems like a no-brainer.

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First, stop worrying about the rankings. Second, follow the money. Third, you need to look at the time period in which those job statistics are framed (upon graduation, within 6 months, within a year) and how they calculate those pursuing further education and those who are not seeking a job into their statistics. Fourth, think about your own personal fit with the programs in question. Fifth, follow the money, seriously!

LBJ has a great reputation and frankly if they are paying for your degree it seems like a no-brainer.

This is exactly the kind of stuff I need to hear. Thank you for you advice!

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First, stop worrying about the rankings. Second, follow the money. Third, you need to look at the time period in which those job statistics are framed (upon graduation, within 6 months, within a year) and how they calculate those pursuing further education and those who are not seeking a job into their statistics. Fourth, think about your own personal fit with the programs in question. Fifth, follow the money, seriously!

LBJ has a great reputation and frankly if they are paying for your degree it seems like a no-brainer.

This is exactly the kind of stuff I need to hear. Thank your for you advice!

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Yes, ask more questions about that 50 to 60 percent job figure. How many months after graduation? Where do these graduates end up? The more info you have, the better you will feel about your choice.

Similar to you, I am turning down expensive private schools to stay in state at Berkeley's Goldman School. But I don't feel like I'm sacrificing at all, since Berkeley is excellent.

You want to pick the right school for you, and sometimes that means being very careful about the debt load you will have afterward.

This is exactly the kind of stuff I need to hear. Thank your for you advice!

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Yes, ask more questions about that 50 to 60 percent job figure. How many months after graduation? Where do these graduates end up? The more info you have, the better you will feel about your choice.

Similar to you, I am turning down expensive private schools to stay in state at Berkeley's Goldman School. But I don't feel like I'm sacrificing at all, since Berkeley is excellent.

You want to pick the right school for you, and sometimes that means being very careful about the debt load you will have afterward.

Agreed, plus from what you actually wrote, "upon graduation" sounds like "at the time that they actually graduated" and I would not at all be surprised to see 50-60 percent figures at a lot of the top programs. Then that number seems pretty average to me, honestly. I definitely didn't have a job "upon graduation" from my undergrad -- it took me a few months to grab it. And I expect it will take a lot of us a couple months (or more) to find our first post-masters job as well.

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Hello everyone,

Before I visited the LBJ School in Austin, I was pretty certain that I was going to attend. They are offering me in-state tuition + $14000 which covers tuition and gives me $4000 extra spending money. The LBJ School has a good reputation and Austin is a wonderful city. When I visited, everything was going well until we met with the Career Services Coordinator. When someone asked her what percentage of graduates have secured jobs upon graduation, she answered "around 50-60%." Isn't this number remarkably low? I heard from other attendees that even Maryland, which is ranked lower (but closer to DC), had much higher job placement numbers (more than 80%). Needless to say, my visit shook me a little.

For the Kennedy school class of '09, employment at graduation was also about 50%. It was much, MUCH higher by October (90%, I think?), but that number isn't ridiculously low. Follow up with the career services office, get the figure for students six months out, and see what it is. Hiring processes for a lot of government agencies are slow, so if you don't start until you get an academic lull around spring break, it sometimes takes until mid-summer to get a job.

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Agreed, plus from what you actually wrote, "upon graduation" sounds like "at the time that they actually graduated" and I would not at all be surprised to see 50-60 percent figures at a lot of the top programs. Then that number seems pretty average to me, honestly. I definitely didn't have a job "upon graduation" from my undergrad -- it took me a few months to grab it. And I expect it will take a lot of us a couple months (or more) to find our first post-masters job as well.

It's relieving to hear that those figures are common across many programs. I just e-mailed the coordinator to see what percentage of grads are employed six months after graduation. Hopefully she emails me back soon. I will keep you all posted, just in case you're curious. Thank you all so much for you advice! I love this forum.

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I'm surprised by those figures for HKS; seems a little low to me. At Berkeley's visit day this week, the assistant dean said they had virtually 100 percent employment for the class of '09. Granted, she did not specify how long after graduation. I was pleasantly blown away by the figure.

For the Kennedy school class of '09, employment at graduation was also about 50%. It was much, MUCH higher by October (90%, I think?), but that number isn't ridiculously low. Follow up with the career services office, get the figure for students six months out, and see what it is. Hiring processes for a lot of government agencies are slow, so if you don't start until you get an academic lull around spring break, it sometimes takes until mid-summer to get a job.

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I don't really know anything about the job placement rates for the class of 2009, but for the years around when I graduated, people seemed to find work that they wanted within a few months of graduation. I think that Zourah makes a good point that both federal and state hiring take awhile, so people may have conditional offers, but be waiting for security clearance or other paperwork to go through. For example, I had a conditional offer and didn't actually start work until about a month after graduating. While I didn't talk with every single person in my class and the years before and after, I wasn't really aware of anyone who really struggled to find something. Good luck with your decision!

Edited by lbjane
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I think pretty much everything that needs to be said has been said, but I'll throw in my 2 cents nonetheless, for what its worth.

Again, the rankings are almost completely meaningless (they're based only on peer review, which skews to big programs in big cities with large staff), and especially between the 'top' 50 or so programs. Also, depending on what you want to study, they become even less worthwhile. Maryland's program, though ranked 'lower,' is VERY well respected in DC and in the political risk firms and think tanks.

Don't worry about classes that may seem 'Texas-centric,' as I'm sure you'll also have ample opportunity to study international issues. As they say, all politics is local, and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised how much insight you can glean from discussions on more local issues, and that includes transference to an international context. It won't be apples to apples, of course, but think of it as stretching your scope of reference.

The program from which I graduated is also considered to be traditionally 'local,' although that's slowly changing, but our placement in NY/DC/Int'l is quite strong (I work overseas) and I am really glad that I was put into the crucible of public finance, municipal budgeting, and things of that nature, because I'm finding that kind of stuff invaluable. You can read a book, go to lectures, or read academic journals to get smart on international 'issues' anytime you want, but learning some of this grittier local management stuff has really given me a leg up in the workplace and credibility for analysis.

As for career placement - relax. Like everything, it is what you make of it. I know lots of people from top programs (like HKS and WWS and Elliott) who are struggling to find work (in their late 20s) doing things I did in my early 20s, while I also know people from 'less rigorous' programs like GMU jumping right into Deloitte and think tanks with stunning (and enviable!) salaries without work experience. Just apply yourself, take advantage of networking opportunities, and don't be shy marketing yourself - you'll be fine. :)

</2 cents> :)

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