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class of 2020 - HKS MPP (no money ) vs SAIS (40k/yr) ?


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Hi all,

I just received an offer from HKS MPP program, with no scholarship offered. I am currently debating whether I should take the offer or go for the MA program at SAIS in DC, which provides me a $40k scholarship per year. What are your thoughts? In the long run I am interested in development economics and international affairs. I may do a PhD after graduation as well, but nothing is set yet. 

I am really keen on to take the MPP offer but 40k per year is no joke....  My family is ok to support the MPP tuition but I feel bad letting them do this. 

Thanks. 

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Hi Jonathan,

I'm also in at HKS with $20k and SAIS with $45, and struggling with the decision. I think we talked on another thread a few months ago, funny that we're back into this.

I was leaning very heavily towards SAIS, but I did some research on career outcomes today, and found that Harvard MPP is actually much stronger in the private sector than I expected. An old career report listed median salaries for graduating MPPs in the private sector at $120,000, and apparently they place many more in consulting than I had expected (40-50 per year). The list of private sector employers was generally a little bit broader and more impressive than SAIS'. Bear in mind, the average HKS MPP candidate also has slightly more experience.

On the other hand, my first choice would still be a public sector job in defense policy, and SAIS is probably better for that. I recently spoke with a internship recruiter who immediately recognized the school, and indicated that they get a lot of people from there. Can't beat that!

 

 

Edited by KyleR
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19 minutes ago, KyleR said:

Hi Jonathan,

I'm also in at HKS with $20k and SAIS with $45, and struggling with the decision. I think we talked on another thread a few months ago, funny that we're back into this.

I was leaning very heavily towards SAIS, but I did some research on career outcomes today, and found that Harvard MPP is actually much stronger in the private sector than I expected. An old career report listed median salaries for graduating MPPs in the private sector at $120,000, and apparently they place many more in consulting than I had expected (40-50 per year). The list of private sector employers was generally a little bit broader and more impressive than SAIS'. Bear in mind, the average HKS MPP candidate also has slightly more experience.

On the other hand, my first choice would still be a public sector job in defense policy, and SAIS is probably better for that. I recently spoke with a internship recruiter who immediately recognized the school, and indicated that they get a lot of people from there. Can't beat that!

 

 

Hi Kyle, Congrats on ur offers. I am more into public sector jobs as well. Coming from a provide sector background, HKS MPP's strength you mentioned is not that appealing to me. I guess I am just hesitating if I should fall for the Harvard brand name + better student profile on average + more opportunities for networking and potentially a joint degree 

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I'm also in a fairly similar position. In at HKS with no aid, and in at SAIS with $15k. Seriously considering Yale Jackson (half tuition) too. I think the decision point for me is whether or not Harvard's brand, class selection, and connections outweigh the international focus of SAIS, its DC access, and the money. It's just so hard to wrap my head around taking out so much in loans when I'm set on a public service career (and HKS's loan repayment program only goes for 5 years and probably wouldn't cover much more than 25% for me). 

 

What do you all think? Is there information you're waiting on from the schools that could help make the decision for you?

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7 hours ago, j2020ir said:

I'm also in a fairly similar position. In at HKS with no aid, and in at SAIS with $15k. Seriously considering Yale Jackson (half tuition) too. I think the decision point for me is whether or not Harvard's brand, class selection, and connections outweigh the international focus of SAIS, its DC access, and the money. It's just so hard to wrap my head around taking out so much in loans when I'm set on a public service career (and HKS's loan repayment program only goes for 5 years and probably wouldn't cover much more than 25% for me). 

 

What do you all think? Is there information you're waiting on from the schools that could help make the decision for you?

I am waiting for Uchicago Harris to reconsider my scholarship amount. If they can boost my funding to say 20k + per yr, I might consider it with SAIS and HKS.

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It depends. I am making a similar decision right now (HKS MPP with no aid vs Columbia SIPA with $20K a year in aid). I want to go into consulting straight after school because I don't really feel comfortable working in foreign policy in a conservative government or a center left government (I'm VERY progressive haha) so I need to focus on paying down my debt instead. HKS seems to have better private sector/consulting placement than most other public affairs/IR schools. That is what is swaying me but the extra debt burden I would have going there scares me.

Since you want to work in the public sector anyways, there would not be much of an edge for HKS over SAIS. SAIS is in Washington which has an added advantage. So in all, it's up to you what you want to do immediately after grad school. SAIS may be better for public sector work. The choice is yours haha.

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11 hours ago, FraiserFanNYC said:

It depends. I am making a similar decision right now (HKS MPP with no aid vs Columbia SIPA with $20K a year in aid). I want to go into consulting straight after school because I don't really feel comfortable working in foreign policy in a conservative government or a center left government (I'm VERY progressive haha) so I need to focus on paying down my debt instead. HKS seems to have better private sector/consulting placement than most other public affairs/IR schools. That is what is swaying me but the extra debt burden I would have going there scares me.

Since you want to work in the public sector anyways, there would not be much of an edge for HKS over SAIS. SAIS is in Washington which has an added advantage. So in all, it's up to you what you want to do immediately after grad school. SAIS may be better for public sector work. The choice is yours haha.

in your case, i think both SIPA and HKS MPP are good. SIPA has a location advantage over HKS MPP (in NYC). Consulting firms are also not as picky about ur grad school compared to your undergrad. Plus that both Columbia and Harvard are similarly excellent brands for most consulting firms, except for maybe MBB.

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12 hours ago, FraiserFanNYC said:

It depends. I am making a similar decision right now (HKS MPP with no aid vs Columbia SIPA with $20K a year in aid). I want to go into consulting straight after school because I don't really feel comfortable working in foreign policy in a conservative government or a center left government (I'm VERY progressive haha) so I need to focus on paying down my debt instead. HKS seems to have better private sector/consulting placement than most other public affairs/IR schools. That is what is swaying me but the extra debt burden I would have going there scares me.

Since you want to work in the public sector anyways, there would not be much of an edge for HKS over SAIS. SAIS is in Washington which has an added advantage. So in all, it's up to you what you want to do immediately after grad school. SAIS may be better for public sector work. The choice is yours haha.

I am also thinking about a law school joint degree. in this case, the HKS route will be much more expensive due to no scholarship 

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Taking on huge amounts of debt when we're about to enter into a global recession might not be the best idea, in my opinion. It's true that Harvard MPPs statistically place well into the private sector, but they're certainly not immune to economic downturns, and we're about to face a big one. If you are chiefly interested in public jobs or want to pursue further schooling it makes even LESS sense to go into debt.

Edited by littlelaoshu
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8 hours ago, littlelaoshu said:

Taking on huge amounts of debt when we're about to enter into a global recession might not be the best idea, in my opinion. It's true that Harvard MPPs statistically place well into the private sector, but they're certainly not immune to economic downturns, and we're about to face a big one. If you are chiefly interested in public jobs or want to pursue further schooling it makes even LESS sense to go into debt.

I won't be taking on any debt even if I go to HKS. I guess it just depends on whether I care about saving 40k per year

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Check that the people placing into 120k consulting jobs from HKS aren't dual-degree MBA students. To my knowledge, the MPP placement is not great. If you want to work in consulting, stop wasting your time with policy programs and get an MBA. If you must get a policy degree, take the option that minimizes your debt. A policy degree isn't a huge hamper to your career options, but the humongous student debt will screw over your professional and general life choices for decades.

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15 hours ago, ExponentialDecay said:

Check that the people placing into 120k consulting jobs from HKS aren't dual-degree MBA students. To my knowledge, the MPP placement is not great. If you want to work in consulting, stop wasting your time with policy programs and get an MBA. If you must get a policy degree, take the option that minimizes your debt. A policy degree isn't a huge hamper to your career options, but the humongous student debt will screw over your professional and general life choices for decades.

They are not just dual degree candidates. Many of HKS older career reports segregate between the results of dual degree and strictly-MPP grads. A large number of the latter place at MBB each year. Check them out for yourself if you don't believe me. Moreover, you can go on the McKinsey website right now and find scheduled networking events at HKS.

Not to pile on, but I strongly disagree with the sentiment you expressed about consulting and policy degrees. Aiming first and foremost for a public sector career is fine (I sure am), but it is borderline irresponsible to count on one while ruling out private sector options. Particularly since consulting and other private sector jobs often overlap directly with the world of public policy, and utilize many of the same skills. Harvard knows this, which is why they offer it is as one of MANY career options for MPPs.

Have you ever worked in a full-time government role? I have. And I can tell you that there are a long list of unforeseeable variables that can make that job you've always wanted disappear. The work just isn't redundant in the way that private sector jobs are, because in many cases, a single agency has a complete monopoly. Went to grad school to become a diplomat? Oops, we're not hiring for the next 2 years. Want to get a security clearance? Hmm, we're not so sure about that distant uncle of yours in China. Want to serve as a career military officer? Sorry about your unexpected health problems, and good luck with the VA (my personal sob story). Same more or less goes for non-profits and multilaterals, which are inherently reliant on capricious external players for their funding. Bottom line, there is nothing wrong with considering ALL of your options.

 

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I'm in the same boat, deciding between a full tuition scholarship at SAIS versus no aid at HKS. I've been having this debate in my head and with everyone around me for a week now, but this is where I come down on it:

I was/am struggling with the decision, because Harvard has been my top choice forever. Beyond the academic rigor, I hate turning down Harvard's brand name and prestige, but everyone I've asked (mentors, former professors, colleagues) have confirmed that Harvard's degree isn't worth that much more than any of the other schools. They've also emphasized that being able to graduate a masters program with minimal debt/cost is a HUGE advantage over most other grads. 

Regardless of whether you're taking out loans or paying for it out of pocket, you're still paying tens of thousands of dollars that you don't have to in order to attend a school that's only slightly better than a SAIS, SIPA, Fletcher, etc. Especially given the probably recession, it seems more important than ever to save that kind of money. I've worked in development in DC for a while now, and no one in the field makes enough money to be able to throw away tens of thousands of dollars on tuition if they don't have to. 

Plus, if you're trying to work in DC after school, SAIS is incredibly well connected in the area. Everyone in a relevant field knows SAIS and holds it in high esteem. Being in DC for school is another huge advantage if you want to work in DC after graduation, since you can get internships and make connections throughout the school year that other schools just don't have access to. 

Or if you're going to go for a PhD, which I'm also considering, then it makes it even more illogical to pay that extra money for a masters, since the $80k or $100k you could save in your master's tuition would be much more helpful when living on a PhD student living stipend. 

It does suck to have to make this decision based on the financial situation alone, but no matter how well off you are, it's just irresponsible to spend that much money on tuition if you don't have to, especially with the current economy. It hurts to admit, but for me, Harvard isn't worth $100k more than SAIS.

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10 minutes ago, Corcoran said:

full tuition scholarship at SAIS versus no aid at HKS.

But a full-tuition scholarship vs spending 170k at HKS is a big deal. 

Even if your salary is $20k lower after SAIS, over the next 10 years, things will even out. Over your lifetime, it won't make a difference which one you attended. 

If you had received only $20k or so from SAIS, then HKS might have been a better option. But a full-ride is a huge deal, esp if you're focused on working in non-profits or other low-paying public service roles. 

 

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18 hours ago, EspressoDoble said:

Even if your salary is $20k lower after SAIS, over the next 10 years, things will even out. Over your lifetime, it won't make a difference which one you attended. 

If you had received only $20k or so from SAIS, then HKS might have been a better option. But a full-ride is a huge deal, esp if you're focused on working in non-profits or other low-paying public service roles. 

Yes I agree 100%! I've come to terms with the fact that I am incredibly lucky to get this opportunity, especially since I do hope to keep working in nonprofits after graduating. 

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On 3/20/2020 at 2:21 AM, JonathanL96 said:

Hi all,

I just received an offer from HKS MPP program, with no scholarship offered. I am currently debating whether I should take the offer or go for the MA program at SAIS in DC, which provides me a $40k scholarship per year. What are your thoughts? In the long run I am interested in development economics and international affairs. I may do a PhD after graduation as well, but nothing is set yet. 

I am really keen on to take the MPP offer but 40k per year is no joke....  My family is ok to support the MPP tuition but I feel bad letting them do this. 

Thanks. 

This is a no brainer... if you are dedicated to international relations / development economics - SAIS will be a great fit. If you had broader interests, or were unsure about your interests, then HKS might make sense. At the end of the day, in that space, 5 years later no one will care where you went to school in that career space.

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On 3/24/2020 at 9:38 AM, ExponentialDecay said:

Check that the people placing into 120k consulting jobs from HKS aren't dual-degree MBA students. To my knowledge, the MPP placement is not great. If you want to work in consulting, stop wasting your time with policy programs and get an MBA. If you must get a policy degree, take the option that minimizes your debt. A policy degree isn't a huge hamper to your career options, but the humongous student debt will screw over your professional and general life choices for decades.

I think it is important to break down the details of what consulting jobs are.

MBB (McKinsey, BCG, and Bain) - which started at about 165K + 35K bonusish (but who knows with the recession) does on occasion take HKS MPPs. But you have to have a really compelling case + network to even get an interview. Even after you get an interview, the vast majority don't make it past the two rounds of interviews.

NOW... for pure Government Operations Consulting (which can start anywhere from 90K to 130K) like Deloitte, IBM, and lots and lots of boutiques MPPs from HKS have a greater shot... but I will say that most people I have met haven't really enjoyed Government Operations Consulting (including people who came from government). 

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On 3/26/2020 at 5:01 PM, Corcoran said:

I'm in the same boat, deciding between a full tuition scholarship at SAIS versus no aid at HKS. I've been having this debate in my head and with everyone around me for a week now, but this is where I come down on it:

I was/am struggling with the decision, because Harvard has been my top choice forever. Beyond the academic rigor, I hate turning down Harvard's brand name and prestige, but everyone I've asked (mentors, former professors, colleagues) have confirmed that Harvard's degree isn't worth that much more than any of the other schools. They've also emphasized that being able to graduate a masters program with minimal debt/cost is a HUGE advantage over most other grads. 

Regardless of whether you're taking out loans or paying for it out of pocket, you're still paying tens of thousands of dollars that you don't have to in order to attend a school that's only slightly better than a SAIS, SIPA, Fletcher, etc. Especially given the probably recession, it seems more important than ever to save that kind of money. I've worked in development in DC for a while now, and no one in the field makes enough money to be able to throw away tens of thousands of dollars on tuition if they don't have to. 

Plus, if you're trying to work in DC after school, SAIS is incredibly well connected in the area. Everyone in a relevant field knows SAIS and holds it in high esteem. Being in DC for school is another huge advantage if you want to work in DC after graduation, since you can get internships and make connections throughout the school year that other schools just don't have access to. 

Or if you're going to go for a PhD, which I'm also considering, then it makes it even more illogical to pay that extra money for a masters, since the $80k or $100k you could save in your master's tuition would be much more helpful when living on a PhD student living stipend. 

It does suck to have to make this decision based on the financial situation alone, but no matter how well off you are, it's just irresponsible to spend that much money on tuition if you don't have to, especially with the current economy. It hurts to admit, but for me, Harvard isn't worth $100k more than SAIS.

I think one thing you aren't fully considering with going to a PhD is your grades. Honestly, if you go to a top tier PhD without anything higher than 3.7 (or equivalent) GPA, you might as well forget it, no matter where you went to school. Interestingly, I know people with awesome Undergrad grades shoot themselves in the foot by having not so good grades in Grad school, but still want to do PhD. 

Bottom line, as long as you get good grades, it won't matter if you went to SAID or Harvard.

The other piece is letters of recommendation. SAIS has plenty of famous people that are accessible (think about it, one school in DC and no distractions by other JHU needs - most of the time). At HKS - it can vary! That is because the faculty at HKS often teach non-HKS students and wear many other different hats. 

Edited by GradSchoolGrad
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On 3/20/2020 at 3:04 AM, KyleR said:

Hi Jonathan,

I'm also in at HKS with $20k and SAIS with $45, and struggling with the decision. I think we talked on another thread a few months ago, funny that we're back into this.

I was leaning very heavily towards SAIS, but I did some research on career outcomes today, and found that Harvard MPP is actually much stronger in the private sector than I expected. An old career report listed median salaries for graduating MPPs in the private sector at $120,000, and apparently they place many more in consulting than I had expected (40-50 per year). The list of private sector employers was generally a little bit broader and more impressive than SAIS'. Bear in mind, the average HKS MPP candidate also has slightly more experience.

On the other hand, my first choice would still be a public sector job in defense policy, and SAIS is probably better for that. I recently spoke with a internship recruiter who immediately recognized the school, and indicated that they get a lot of people from there. Can't beat that!

 

 

I want to highlight that a lot of the private sector consulting folks are dual degree MBA/MPPs. There is a cohort of approx 30ish of them each year or or so. A good chunk of them choose consulting. Its not that hard for an HKS MPP only person to go to Deloitte and do government operations... The majority of HKS only people do not make it through MBB (McKinsey, BCG, Bain), though it is possible. 

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On 3/20/2020 at 3:04 AM, KyleR said:

On the other hand, my first choice would still be a public sector job in defense policy, and SAIS is probably better for that. I recently spoke with a internship recruiter who immediately recognized the school, and indicated that they get a lot of people from there. Can't beat that!

 

 

Go where it makes most sense for your career opportunities! Yes, we are about to go into a recession, but I don't think a blind "follow the money" trumps thinking long-term about which school best sets you up for success. Having a network specific to your career aspirations, tailored curriculum to build up critical and marketable skills, and cohort/mentorship to aid you in making right career decisions are also equally, if not more, important!

Kyle - I think you know it already, but are letting the glimmer of Harvard get in the way :)

 

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On 3/20/2020 at 3:28 AM, JonathanL96 said:

Hi Kyle, Congrats on ur offers. I am more into public sector jobs as well. Coming from a provide sector background, HKS MPP's strength you mentioned is not that appealing to me. I guess I am just hesitating if I should fall for the Harvard brand name + better student profile on average + more opportunities for networking and potentially a joint degree 

Is the HKS network one that will help you get the job that you want? From what you are saying, it doesn't sound like it. Also what does "better student profile" even mean? Higher GMAT/GRE scores??

Also @GradSchoolGrad I agree with almost everything you wrote. Spot on analysis, particularly re: consulting.

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On 3/20/2020 at 3:04 AM, KyleR said:

Hi Jonathan,

I'm also in at HKS with $20k and SAIS with $45, and struggling with the decision. I think we talked on another thread a few months ago, funny that we're back into this.

I was leaning very heavily towards SAIS, but I did some research on career outcomes today, and found that Harvard MPP is actually much stronger in the private sector than I expected. An old career report listed median salaries for graduating MPPs in the private sector at $120,000, and apparently they place many more in consulting than I had expected (40-50 per year). The list of private sector employers was generally a little bit broader and more impressive than SAIS'. Bear in mind, the average HKS MPP candidate also has slightly more experience.

On the other hand, my first choice would still be a public sector job in defense policy, and SAIS is probably better for that. I recently spoke with a internship recruiter who immediately recognized the school, and indicated that they get a lot of people from there. Can't beat that!

 

 

@KyleR

For defense policy (very broadly speaking), I would say it is a wash between SAIS and HKS, but it is important to know the nuanced pros and cons of each. With SAIS you get a lot more hands on opportunities (being in DC), but HKS does have a decent number of defense and defense related projects + decent defense connections. Also, defense (like many other policy areas) is also diversifying. For example, my old boss went to HKS and he is now doing defense policy via AI. Since HKS is part of the Harvard empire where it is very easy to go multi-disciplinary, he was able to grow his knowledge and network at HKS. I won't speak for him... but that diverse education/network probably would be harder to do at SAIS. I'm sure someone can give me a counter-example with SAIS.

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40 minutes ago, Coffeetea said:

Is the HKS network one that will help you get the job that you want? From what you are saying, it doesn't sound like it. Also what does "better student profile" even mean? Higher GMAT/GRE scores??

Also @GradSchoolGrad I agree with almost everything you wrote. Spot on analysis, particularly re: consulting.

@Coffeetea

I think one way the HKS network is different than the SAIS is how you kind of (part of it is that you have to seek and out... and part of it does come to you) acquire the Harvard network. SAIS is a stand alone school in JHU in DC. They don't really play that often with the rest of JHU (more like I have never heard of it). HKS on the other hand, plays regularly with all the other players at Harvard. So for example... if you end up doing something Health related, you can easily play ball with people from the Chan school (public health). If you do something a bit more business side, you can take classes + have opportunities to do stuff at HBS. 

What all this means is a more diverse array of projects and a more multi-disciplinary opportunity (if you want it that is). 

How does this manifest in career outcomes?

You have people end up doing lots of non-traditional post grad school jobs:

1. Fringe policy jobs. I met an HKS grad who worked on LinkedIn's US labor support projects. 

2. I meet HKS people involved in start ups (rarely see that for non-HKS MPP/MPA people)

3. Disproportionate number of people who run for office

I could probably go on...

I think this is important to weigh in in having career flexibility as we are going into a recession. Although... it also doesn't make sense to go to HKS if you are going into mountains of debt.

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@GradSchoolGrad I don't know much about SAIS since I didn't apply, so I can't comment on those points. I was using what OP/Kyle said as an indicator that they might already know which school is better for them based on their articulated job aspirations. If you want to go into fringe policy or start-ups then definitely consider HKS, but if not, your points sound like general anecdotes that doesn't help with OP/Kyle and their specific situations from a purely academic/curriculum/program perspective - money is a whole other consideration.

Re: people running for office, those are people who ran decades ago and not people who are running now. 

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2 hours ago, Coffeetea said:

 

Go where it makes most sense for your career opportunities! Yes, we are about to go into a recession, but I don't think a blind "follow the money" trumps thinking long-term about which school best sets you up for success. Having a network specific to your career aspirations, tailored curriculum to build up critical and marketable skills, and cohort/mentorship to aid you in making right career decisions are also equally, if not more, important!

Kyle - I think you know it already, but are letting the glimmer of Harvard get in the way :)

 

 

Edit: I mistakenly attributed some of the statements made by other posters to you, Coffeetea. Sorry about that. I'm going to leave the information below for people to consider in the future.

-This is a BCG webpage solely for the purpose of recruiting directly at HKS: https://www.bcg.com/careers/join/on-campus/harvard-kennedy-school.aspx. Why would this exist if they only wanted dual degree candidates?

-Here is a McKinsey Networking event held at HKS: https://www.mckinsey.com/careers/students/advanced-professional-degree-candidates/harvard-university This one is for MPA-IDs, but I have seen similar events for other programs in the past.

-Here is the most recent HKS career report, which segregates between dual-degree and solely HKS candidates. On page 5, note that MPP-only candidates placed in numerous consulting roles including MBB: https://www.hks.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/OCA/files/OCA_17_employment_snapshot_facingpages.pdf . The same goes for each of the reports available going back to 2014.

What you said about HKS students not being able to get through the interviews is an overgeneralization at best. Any consultant at these firms will tell you that candidates are on equal ground once they have secured an interview, regardless of background. Anecdotally, the current global managing partner at McKinsey came from a non-target law school.

 

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