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MPP/MPA/IR/Policy Schools Reputation

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Hi all, 

I've been reading through the threads to get more insights into the programs I've applied to, but figured I'd ask here, in order to get people's opinions on some of the schools I've applied to/heard back from. Thank you so much in advance for your help! Some background: I'm an immigrant, have my undergrad from a top-20 uni in the U.S. Not entirely sure what career I'd pursue, but I've applied to international development as my concentration & hoping to work either in the i-dev sector or in the World Bank/UN. 

What are the general reputation of the following programs (both in the U.S. and abroad)? I'm aware they're all generally well-ranked, but curious to hear about some of the advantages or disadvantages of these schools (things I won't be able to find out from their brochures or by talking to admission). I've gotten accepted to the first four on this list, and waiting to hear from the last three still so thought I'd start this discussion to get some insights - thanks again! 

Johns Hopkins SAIS MA (IDEV), UChicago Harris MPP, Tufts Fletcher MALD, Georgetown McCourt MPP, Columbia SIPA MIA, Harvard HKS MPP, Princeton WWS MPA. 

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2 hours ago, amr2020 said:

can i tack on NYU Wagner to that list as well please!

Absolutely! Hopefully, some people can jump in with their thoughts! 

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Bottom line, I would not go to McCourt MPP for IDEV. You might be in DC, but you really don't get much focused and concentrated support. The most celebrated IDEV MPP grad of my time therewent to a run of the mill IDEV research center as an analyst. The second became a contractor for the World Bank (not full time - contractor). 

The IDEV people I know in other schools ran their own non-profits or had legit innovation projects. That doesn't happen at McCourt MPP - period. Now McCourt MIDP or MSFS IDEV or SFS GHD at Georgetown are much better options for IDEV at Georgetown in my opinion. 

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Posted (edited)

I also personally wouldn't go to Fletcher. This is just a me thing, but the world is getting more multi-disciplinary and it really helps to do projects with and have access to people from other programs. Tufts simply doesn't have a law school, a business school, or etc. that would have meaningful collaboration for someone in Fletcher. Hypothetically, they are port of the consortium with Harvard and MIT, but being able to cross-register and actually collaborate with people in other programs are two very separate things. 

I know someone who went to Fletcher, who even took a class as Harvard Kennedy School, but she really was academically isolated from other disciplines just by virtue of logistics. 

Edited by GradSchoolGrad

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1 hour ago, GradSchoolGrad said:

I also personally wouldn't go to Fletcher. This is just a me thing, but the world is getting more multi-disciplinary and it really helps to do projects with and have access to people from other programs. Tufts simply doesn't have a law school, a business school, or etc. that would have meaningful collaboration for someone in Fletcher. Hypothetically, they are port of the consortium with Harvard and MIT, but being able to cross-register and actually collaborate with people in other programs are two very separate things. 

I know someone who went to Fletcher, who even took a class as Harvard Kennedy School, but she really was academically isolated from other disciplines just by virtue of logistics. 

Thank you so much, @GradSchoolGrad for your insights on both McCourt MPP + Fletcher MALD. How would you say SAIS compares to McCourt or Fletcher MALD? I'm not 100% set on IDEV tbh, but there's a strong chance. Could I dm you to ask your opinions on some additional things please? Thanks again! 

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Posted (edited)

I visited a number of the programs you listed and was accepted to JHU, HKS, and Harris.

I was in somewhat of a unique position because I was really looking for joint MPP/MBA programs. This factored into my decision making process, but I will give you my opinions based solely on the MPP programs.

After visiting JHU, HKS, and UChicago, I felt it was clear that UChicago was the right place for me. The faculty seemed much more accessible. I was offered a global security fellowship that I was really interested in. Even though I was already fully funded, I wanted to be able to participate in an internal fellowship that offered professional development opportunities. The Pearson Institute at Harris is new and there are many exciting things on the horizon,

I felt like HKS would be much more of a cookie cutter experience. I also felt like there was less flexibility with the program. 
 

Personally, looking back at when I first started thinking about applying to MPP programs... I would have not have expected to choose Harris over HKS. After visiting Chicago, it was an easy choice. 

 

Edited by one1

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Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, graduate2020 said:

Thank you so much, @GradSchoolGrad for your insights on both McCourt MPP + Fletcher MALD. How would you say SAIS compares to McCourt or Fletcher MALD? I'm not 100% set on IDEV tbh, but there's a strong chance. Could I dm you to ask your opinions on some additional things please? Thanks again! 

1. Feel free to DM me.
2. I also looked at SAIS. Bottom line is that individually it is a very strong program and it has as strong alumni base + amazing offerings. Just be aware that they have a foreign language fluency requirement and that can be painful. Also, depending on what program you pick - some of them have rather intense math requirements or math intensive courses (more than McCourt). Don't remember which ones specifically, but something to think about it. I also had great experiences with every SAIS person thus far I have encountered. 

However, I personally choose it because me being me, I believe in being connected to a multi-disciplinary experience. SAIS is not part of the DC consortium, so you can't register in classes at other schools, and the Johns Hopkins main campus is in Baltimore. Logistically, I didn't see an opportunity for cross-discipline projects and learning.

HOWEVER - in your case, my two cents are this

1. If you are heart is 100% in IDEV / international relations - SAIS seems like a good win especially since they have funding on the table. You are in DC, so you can get side internship / project experiences easy. (You don't want to be at Fletcher and wait for DC recruiting weeks and etc.)

2. If you want something with a broader range of career outcomes + a more diverse student body (in terms of both interests and background), Harris is the way go. I say this because I have seen so much students who come in really focused on IDEV and IR in an MPP program and realize midway that they care about another policy focus area, or they want to hit IDEV or IR in a way that takes into account another discipline (i.e. business innovation, legal stuff, data, and etc.) 

Edited by GradSchoolGrad

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Posted (edited)
11 hours ago, amr2020 said:

can i tack on NYU Wagner to that list as well please!

I eliminated Wagner from my list early. I had a friend who went there and bottom line she highlighted that there was a very weak student community and culture since everyone had their New York City lives. This is a place where the majority come to live in New York City and go to school, not so much to go to school and thrive and the graduate community.

Edited by GradSchoolGrad

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I am leaning towards doing a MPA at USC or Cornell CIPA... thoughts? No aid from USC yet but CIPA's fellowship is almost a full ride. Focus on nonprofit management but not 100% sure of it...

Was also admitted to a few MPPs (U Mich, U Minn, ASU, McCourt, Georgetown, Duke with $20k funding) but am leaning towards a MPA... any thoughts on the differences?

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MPAs and MPPs compete for the same jobs, but MPA is generally speaking more administrative / management focused. MPP is more analysis driven - so more data classes. Different programs run their MPAs/MPPs very differently, but MPA will have a greater focus on management/leadership and process (very broadly speaking). 

Doing non-profit management is from grad school is competitive, because taking an MPA route is legit, but you'll also be competing with MBAs (yes... some really do do no-profit), lawyers, and non-grad degrees experienced people. It is basically a catch all for so many different types of qualified people. 

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I would really like if someone could say something about Duke MPP. I know it comes in top 5 i terms of ranking and there due to the class size being small you get more attention. But I have noticed that people don't tend gravitate towards the schools especially on forums here. Can someone please give their views on MPP at Duke Sanford.

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On 3/13/2020 at 7:51 AM, Ajo1797 said:

I would really like if someone could say something about Duke MPP. I know it comes in top 5 i terms of ranking and there due to the class size being small you get more attention. But I have noticed that people don't tend gravitate towards the schools especially on forums here. Can someone please give their views on MPP at Duke Sanford.

Admittedly, this is a rather weak view, because I only had indirect exposure to Duke MPP... so an actual student / alumnus would be so much better. Yet, I hope this suffices in the meantime.

Context: 
1. A. One of my best friends from undergrad went there, B. one of my best friends from grad school almost went to Terry Sanford MPP, and C. my a good co-worker friend of mine got accepted --> but chose to stay at her job for personal reasons

2. Academically, Terry Sanford is hands down a star act + a really strong community + great institutional support (lots of robust programs)

3. It core area of strength is domestic policy, especially state + local and domestic innovation. They definitely do have strong faculty in IR, national security, and etc. But at a certain point it becomes more difficult to do those being in Durham, NC and not being able to actively engage as if you were in DC, NYC, or even Chicago (limited extent).

4. The only compliant I have ever heard was the lack of diversity in terms of perspectives and view points + life experiences. Interestingly, it was my more liberal friend who complained how she felt that she was frequently in an echo-chamber (not in terms of extremeness just that there were just limited voices for alternative views to the mainstream). I mean MPP programs generally lean left, but I have only heard people complain about lack of diversity in thought from Duke MPP. 

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On 3/13/2020 at 12:51 PM, Ajo1797 said:

I would really like if someone could say something about Duke MPP. I know it comes in top 5 i terms of ranking and there due to the class size being small you get more attention. But I have noticed that people don't tend gravitate towards the schools especially on forums here. Can someone please give their views on MPP at Duke Sanford.

I cannot tell you much about the MPP program at Duke itself but I visited the campus in December and decided that it was not for me. Despite having a beautiful campus, I don't think I want to live there for two years because you need a car for everything. The city itself is not very big and I just like being in a bigger city with things to do and better networking opportunities, proximity to potential employers or even summer internship places. They do have a nice forest though and if you like that rural and small town feel, go for it. 

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On 3/12/2020 at 11:33 PM, educationmatters said:

I am leaning towards doing a MPA at USC or Cornell CIPA... thoughts? No aid from USC yet but CIPA's fellowship is almost a full ride. Focus on nonprofit management but not 100% sure of it...

Was also admitted to a few MPPs (U Mich, U Minn, ASU, McCourt, Georgetown, Duke with $20k funding) but am leaning towards a MPA... any thoughts on the differences?

I think another thing I should have asked you to give you better feedback is what area (or areas) of policy / type of non-profits you are interested in. Also, do you have specific regional interest / location interest? I say this because different schools have different policy area strengths and weaknesses, and it could be nuanced. So for example, Georgetown McCourt MPP's top strength and weakness (they have more than one, and this is also my opinion of what I view it to be):

Top Strength:
Academic Policy Area: Health Policy
Policy Function: Data analysis
Geographic Location: DC
Broad Focus Area: Domestic Policy 
Type of Policy Utilization: Federal Powers
Unique Career Factor: Semester Side Internships
 

Top Weakness:
Academic Policy Area: State and Local Policy
Policy Function: Qualitative analysis
Geographic Location: California
Broad Focus Area: International Relations Policy (non - IDEV)
Type of Policy Utilization: Non-profit (non-research) innovation
Unique Career Factor: Comparatively limited employers who target McCourt as a core hiring school 
 

 

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On 3/12/2020 at 5:02 PM, one1 said:

I visited a number of the programs you listed and was accepted to JHU, HKS, and Harris.

I was in somewhat of a unique position because I was really looking for joint MPP/MBA programs. This factored into my decision making process, but I will give you my opinions based solely on the MPP programs.

After visiting JHU, HKS, and UChicago, I felt it was clear that UChicago was the right place for me. The faculty seemed much more accessible. I was offered a global security fellowship that I was really interested in. Even though I was already fully funded, I wanted to be able to participate in an internal fellowship that offered professional development opportunities. The Pearson Institute at Harris is new and there are many exciting things on the horizon,

I felt like HKS would be much more of a cookie cutter experience. I also felt like there was less flexibility with the program. 
 

Personally, looking back at when I first started thinking about applying to MPP programs... I would have not have expected to choose Harris over HKS. After visiting Chicago, it was an easy choice. 

 

I found this super useful! Thank you. I currently live in Japan, so I already don't have the opportunity to visit the campus. Plus, the current coronavirus situation is making visiting difficult. 

I am torn between Columbia SIPA (?) and Harris ($$) now, still waiting for HKS (but don't think I can be admitted, plus I think I might be too young to fully take advantage of the expeirence). 

I want to purse an international policy career (speicifically conflict studies) in international orgs or think tanks. I know the wonderful geographic advantage and network SIPA has in this field, but somehow I'm leaning towards Harris. Just based on the information on the website and from their admission staff, it seems like Harris offers a more personalized experience in a tighter community. Also, the Pearson Institute is a huge plus, and seems easier to be invovled than the research centers at SIPA.

Career development wise in international orgs - would Harris be at disadvantage compared to SIPA?

Open to anyone with any thoughts. Also, feel free to hit me up if you are on the same boat!

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22 minutes ago, Jenjenlx said:

I found this super useful! Thank you. I currently live in Japan, so I already don't have the opportunity to visit the campus. Plus, the current coronavirus situation is making visiting difficult. 

I am torn between Columbia SIPA (?) and Harris ($$) now, still waiting for HKS (but don't think I can be admitted, plus I think I might be too young to fully take advantage of the expeirence). 

I want to purse an international policy career (speicifically conflict studies) in international orgs or think tanks. I know the wonderful geographic advantage and network SIPA has in this field, but somehow I'm leaning towards Harris. Just based on the information on the website and from their admission staff, it seems like Harris offers a more personalized experience in a tighter community. Also, the Pearson Institute is a huge plus, and seems easier to be invovled than the research centers at SIPA.

Career development wise in international orgs - would Harris be at disadvantage compared to SIPA?

Open to anyone with any thoughts. Also, feel free to hit me up if you are on the same boat!


Dr. Blattman from Harris wrote something on his blog that might interest you.

https://chrisblattman.com/2013/10/04/what-ma-mpa-or-mia-program-is-for-you/

 

He talks about SIPA and Harris and the pros and cons of both. He was a professor at both and shares a wealth of knowledge on his blog. I think one of the big points he mentions with the NYC and Washington D.C. programs is the networking opportunities. In NYC, SIPA has great connections with the UN. 
 

I will say that the Career Development Office at Harris seems extremely motivated to help students achieve their goals. I was not disappointed at my first impression with any aspect of UChicago.
 

I think that when you talk about any of the top ten programs, they are all so great that you can make any of them work for your goals. 

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@GradSchoolGrad thanks for the information. I am an international student and want to focus on international policy making in health, education and poverty. My options right now are Georgetown and Duke. I have not heard good things about Georgetown and since I have an option with Duke I am inclining towards it. My only concern is whether the Duke name, alumni will help me in my future. I am also unsure about the school and program since I haven't heard much about it from others.

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@Yass thanks for the reply. I am also concerned about about area around the university being small but I am favoring the program and university for now over the area. I have the option of Georgetown but I have not heard good things about the whole graduate experience so that is unlikely. Could you tell me more about your visit to the campus. I am an international student and I will visit it for the first time when I come for my admissions. 

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4 hours ago, Ajo1797 said:

@Yass thanks for the reply. I am also concerned about about area around the university being small but I am favoring the program and university for now over the area. I have the option of Georgetown but I have not heard good things about the whole graduate experience so that is unlikely. Could you tell me more about your visit to the campus. I am an international student and I will visit it for the first time when I come for my admissions. 

@Ajo1797 if I were you, I would email the admissions office and ask them to talk to a current Duke MPP student that is international and in the general policy area that you are interested in. Most admissions offices have a roster of current students that you can talk to. 

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Hello All, 

Bringing this back to life because now that all the dust has settled, stuck between a few options (primarily two). 

Assuming no one changes their funding offers, SAIS IDEV has offered me the most money. I also got into HKS MPP (however, no funding), and really torn about that. Perhaps, I'm being a bit emotional, but I wonder if I'd regret giving up the "Harvard" brand especially after getting accepted. I'm not sure what I'd like to do career-wise - I'm thinking perhaps international development/multilateral orgs/not entirely opposed to consulting. 

Does anyone know if it's possible to negotiate with HKS at all?  Any thoughts? Thanks so much! 

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Posted (edited)
12 hours ago, graduate2020 said:

Hello All, 

Bringing this back to life because now that all the dust has settled, stuck between a few options (primarily two). 

Assuming no one changes their funding offers, SAIS IDEV has offered me the most money. I also got into HKS MPP (however, no funding), and really torn about that. Perhaps, I'm being a bit emotional, but I wonder if I'd regret giving up the "Harvard" brand especially after getting accepted. I'm not sure what I'd like to do career-wise - I'm thinking perhaps international development/multilateral orgs/not entirely opposed to consulting. 

Does anyone know if it's possible to negotiate with HKS at all?  Any thoughts? Thanks so much! 

1. It never hurts to negotiate. Just be prepared for a no. The reality is that HKS has a decent waitlist of great candidates. Why spend money on someone that they don't have to? 

2. My sister went to HKS, yes the Harvard name is shiny and a great talking point at bars... but honestly, her friends who stayed in the policy space got the same jobs as people out of other top tier programs. Now... I will say, with HKS, you do get a network that is unmatched and they are exposed to extraordinary opportunities (those that ride a bit outside of policy in my opinion) and innovation that other places simply do not get.
3. When you say you are interested in consulting, what type of consulting?

Government operations or Commercial?

If you want to go to a McKinsey, Bain, BCG, your only options are HKS and Harris. 

If you are good with a Deloitte and want to work in their government operations office, you want to make sure to check which each school to see if they are core recruiting school

I will say that I have never met any of my friends in MPP land who have actually liked working in Government Operations consulting. They just tolerate it at best (Golden handcuffs theory). 

Edited by GradSchoolGrad

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2 hours ago, GradSchoolGrad said:

1. It never hurts to negotiate. Just be prepared for a no. The reality is that HKS has a decent waitlist of great candidates. Why spend money on someone that they don't have to? 

2. My sister went to HKS, yes the Harvard name is shiny and a great talking point at bars... but honestly, her friends who stayed in the policy space got the same jobs as people out of other top tier programs. Now... I will say, with HKS, you do get a network that is unmatched and they are exposed to extraordinary opportunities (those that ride a bit outside of policy in my opinion) and innovation that other places simply do not get.
3. When you say you are interested in consulting, what type of consulting?

Government operations or Commercial?

If you want to go to a McKinsey, Bain, BCG, your only options are HKS and Harris. 

If you are good with a Deloitte and want to work in their government operations office, you want to make sure to check which each school to see if they are core recruiting school

I will say that I have never met any of my friends in MPP land who have actually liked working in Government Operations consulting. They just tolerate it at best (Golden handcuffs theory). 

Thank you! I'm looking into crafting the most convincing approach to ask for an increase in funding (don't have high hopes, but worth a try!) Yes, makes sense. The pedigree/prestige is hard to turn down, but pragmatically speaking, is the network worth the debt is what I have to settle. I was referring to consulting in terms of basic management consulting (not necessarily where my heart is, but in case I go in debt and need to take a higher-paying job to pay back the loans quickly). Is MBB path closed if I enter SAIS IDEV? I don't know much/am intrigued by government operations consulting tbh, but could look into it more! Thank you! 

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27 minutes ago, graduate2020 said:

Thank you! I'm looking into crafting the most convincing approach to ask for an increase in funding (don't have high hopes, but worth a try!) Yes, makes sense. The pedigree/prestige is hard to turn down, but pragmatically speaking, is the network worth the debt is what I have to settle. I was referring to consulting in terms of basic management consulting (not necessarily where my heart is, but in case I go in debt and need to take a higher-paying job to pay back the loans quickly). Is MBB path closed if I enter SAIS IDEV? I don't know much/am intrigued by government operations consulting tbh, but could look into it more! Thank you! 

So here is the deal about consulting.

1. It is crazy competitive to go to MBB. Even if you come from Harvard Business School (HBS), the majority of people who want MBB roles don't get an interview / pass interviews. At HKS, you get a shot, but the odds are against you, even if you sufficiently prep for it, and they will be longer than HBS

2. You really need to make a bet here, knowing the risks.

Lets paint this in some worse case scenarios for you in wish you may wish you went to an alternative program.

A: For HKS, you could very well end up in the same job that you could have easily gotten had you went to SAIS, but be in the money hole. Sure you might have the Harvard name and 2 great years to talk about, but you won't be able to afford the membership to go to the Harvard Club with student loans (even if you get funding, you won't get much) in mind. The recession takes a while to recover, so the job market is tight. 

B: At SAIS, you might not have much debt, but you realize you don't like IR / international development so you are stuck in the field. 

Now lets paint the best case scenario

A: At HKS, you really like the innovation and and broad spectrum education, and really take advantage of the network to take a job you really like... and tell yourself the debt was worth the road you are going on.

B: At SAIS, you find your love for international affairs/development and really like the focused education and opportunities to dig deep. DC gives you plenty of opportunities to build your DC network and stretch your academic chops. 

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