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INT STUDENT: HKS MPP (no funding) vs. PRINCETON MPA (full funding)

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Hey guys. 

I was admitted to HKS MPP program with no funding and Princeton's MPA with full funding and stipend (30k/year). For some, this may be a no brainer, but I am having trouble deciding what to do. 

Here is what I am struggling with: 

  1. Where I am from (I am an international student), the Harvard brand is on a level that no other school can match. Some may know the Princeton brand, but everybody knows Harvard. So I feel that the Harvard brand would be very helpful throughout my life in pursuing jobs in my home country. If I would apply for any job in my country, I would have a huge advantage if I attended Harvard. But I want to work for at least a few years abroad and Princeton would probably be just as helpful in landing good jobs in human rights/humanitarian work? 
     
  2. I am aiming to go into humanitarian/development sector after graduation, hopefully working in the field. I notice that HKS has a great course offer in human rights, humanitarian work etc. while my feeling is that Princeton has more limited course offerings and the classes are more aimed at the economic side of development (would you agree?). The courses at Harvard seem to match my interests better. 
     
  3. I am very attracted to the research centers/clubs etc. in HKS. At HKS, I would want to participate in activities in Carr Center for human rights for example, while WWS does not seem to have any centers focused on human rights or humanitarian policy. 

Then there is the FUNDING. Oh yes, the funding. I could be able to pay for HKS if I use all my savings, sell my apartment, take all the available loans from my government subsidized loan scheme, apply for all available external funding and then get a little loan from my parents as well. The payments for the loans is linked with income so I would not be burdened with high payments if I do not have a high income. Still, compared to WWS where I could attend without any worries about money, it seems like alot. 

So, my friends. What should I do? 

 

 

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I'd go for Princeton as well. Full funding with the stipend is unbeatable at Princeton.

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is this even debatable?? God I'm so jealous. I was dinged by WWS but accepted by HKS MPP with no funding. I would have taken WWS with no second thought 

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What country are you from? I think the connections you'll make at Princeton will sufficiently make up for the clout that Havard carries in your country. That's not to say you won't make connections at Harvard, but I think you might be overestimating the difference that Harvard would have in your career prospects vis-a-vis Princeton.

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You can try asking HKS for funding by telling them about your Princeton offer and see if they offer you something. But even with full funding at HKS, I believe that Princeton's program is a notch above the MPP program of HKS. I myself am from an Asian country and I can understand the pull of Harvard's brand name and extremely solid network. But Princeton is also quite reputed and well-known globally. So if it truly offers the courses that you are excited about then you shouldn't ponder too much. 

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I would say Princeton as they are giving you funding for your studies. Also, Princeton is an excellent university, so you will have lots of networking opportunity.

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Posted (edited)
On 3/20/2020 at 1:54 PM, Catam said:

Hey guys. 

I was admitted to HKS MPP program with no funding and Princeton's MPA with full funding and stipend (30k/year). For some, this may be a no brainer, but I am having trouble deciding what to do. 

Here is what I am struggling with: 

  1. Where I am from (I am an international student), the Harvard brand is on a level that no other school can match. Some may know the Princeton brand, but everybody knows Harvard. So I feel that the Harvard brand would be very helpful throughout my life in pursuing jobs in my home country. If I would apply for any job in my country, I would have a huge advantage if I attended Harvard. But I want to work for at least a few years abroad and Princeton would probably be just as helpful in landing good jobs in human rights/humanitarian work? 
     
  2. I am aiming to go into humanitarian/development sector after graduation, hopefully working in the field. I notice that HKS has a great course offer in human rights, humanitarian work etc. while my feeling is that Princeton has more limited course offerings and the classes are more aimed at the economic side of development (would you agree?). The courses at Harvard seem to match my interests better. 
     
  3. I am very attracted to the research centers/clubs etc. in HKS. At HKS, I would want to participate in activities in Carr Center for human rights for example, while WWS does not seem to have any centers focused on human rights or humanitarian policy. 

Then there is the FUNDING. Oh yes, the funding. I could be able to pay for HKS if I use all my savings, sell my apartment, take all the available loans from my government subsidized loan scheme, apply for all available external funding and then get a little loan from my parents as well. The payments for the loans is linked with income so I would not be burdened with high payments if I do not have a high income. Still, compared to WWS where I could attend without any worries about money, it seems like alot. 

So, my friends. What should I do? 

 

 

I like most people, I completely agree that Princeton is a no brainer.

HOWEVER... in total honesty, lets talk about Princeton's core weakness compared to HKS.

Bottom line, WWS as a program is academically isolated as I believe one of the few professional graduate programs in Princeton (if not the only one). Princeton doesn't have a Med, Law, Business, Foreign Service, or etc. What that means is that if you for some reason want to go for a more non-traditional MPP/MPA collaborative opportunity or career outcome, Princeton won't have that easily accessible. The people from WWS that I know who played that game would try to collaborate with U. Penn (in Philadelphia). This is the one remote (and barely viable argument) for HKS over WWS. Yet, since you are interested in what seems to be very traditional career areas, this seems to be a moot point. 

Edited by GradSchoolGrad

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I'm going to be alone on this...but as someone who went to Princeton and majored in WWS for undergrad...go to HKS.

I studied abroad through WWS and very, very few people know what Princeton was whereas everyone knew what Harvard was - even the program names "Woody Woo / Woodrow Wilson" vs. "JFK / John F. Kennedy" are received by people differently. As an international student, I would do HKS without a question. Yes, it is a significant amount of loans, but I sincerely believe that the network and brand recognition at the international level will pay you more dividends than WWS. We are likely about to go into a global recession. Will it be over by the time you graduate? Maybe. In a hyper-competitive job market, which school will access more doors for you? On an international level, it's HKS without a question. Also, the WWS curriculum has more of a domestic bent more focused for government policy wonks, whereas HKS is equally strong internationally and domestically *plus* it has a curriculum you want to major in and learn more about. Why would you go to a school, and have two years of opportunity-cost, to study something that isn't applicable to your career? Again, think about competitive job market - they will ask you what you studied, what will you say in return?

If the schools were more or less teaching what you wanted to study and had more or less the same name recognition *where you will be applying for jobs*, then go WWS without a question. But that's not the case here. I think HKS is the better fit and will get you further long-term.

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Current WWS student here - definitely follow the funding!!

It's true that HKS has some advantages over WWS. It has a bigger network, a better name brand abroad, and more research centers and class options. On the other hand, WWS has a smaller cohort so it has a better sense of community, it has the benefit of being on a quiet campus while being close to NYC for going out/networking/interning, and from everything I've heard its alumni network, though smaller, is a lot more responsive (I'll say I've reached out to a bunch of alumni since starting here and I've gotten replies from every single one, including super senior people, all excited to help out - though I can't speak for the HKS network's responsiveness personally, I've heard it's harder to get replies). I was personally deciding between those two schools at the end (with more similar funding between the programs, though the stipend HKS was offering me was significantly smaller) and I'm personally super super glad I ended up at WWS. 

You might like HKS as a program better than WWS, but do you really like it $200,000 better? I don't think taking on that much in loans is worth it, especially if you're looking for a humanitarian career. You'll be in a much better position to take jobs that interest you (rather than needing to look for jobs that pay the most money) if you come out of grad school with no debt. 

Feel free to DM me if you want to chat more :) 

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3 hours ago, somewhatslightlydazed said:

Princeton WWS ($$$$), Harvard Kennedy ($$$$), SAIS ($$$), Fletcher ($$),

Just saw your signature - are you some sort of public policy god or something? How in heaven's name did you get all of these? 

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On 3/24/2020 at 3:49 PM, mitochondria_1 said:

I would say Princeton as they are giving you funding for your studies. Also, Princeton is an excellent university, so you will have lots of networking opportunity.

There's another post I just responded to that reminded me of this one so I'm back :).

OP I'm in a similar situation. No official money from HKS, but I have an outside mini-scholarship, and decent money from NYU. I only applied to those two places because I knew the programs were the best for what I wanted to study (health policy). I had lots of mentors saying apply to XYZ schools, but I knew that even if I got in with full scholarship or funding that I wouldn't want to go to those schools because their curriculum wasn't what I wanted to study, the network wasn't one that would be helpful, and I would generally not be happy with cohorts who weren't in-sync with my interests (you spend a lot of time with each other!). Yes it would stink to have $200k down the drain. It also would stink to have two years with limited opportunities for networking, connecting to people with similar interests, mentorship, research, job opportunities, etc. I'm leaning towards HKS because, ultimately, even though it is uber expensive, it's the best long-term decision for my career.

While I love your username (powerhouse of the cell :D), the network opportunity is a moot point if the network isn't filled with alumni with similar job or careers! I am new to Grad Cafe and am seeing way too many posts on these forums with the blanket statement of: oh great school, you'll have a network. It really only helps to have a network if it is filled with alumni who are in your target career area.

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25 minutes ago, Coffeetea said:

I'm leaning towards HKS because, ultimately, even though it is uber expensive, it's the best long-term decision for my career.

Would you take HKS even if the Fall 2020 semester was all online? What if Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 were both online? 

My fear is that the entire academic year will be online, and since my priority is to network and engage with people (and not be a technical specialist), it may not be worth it for me to join HKS right now. So if possible, maybe I should defer for one year. 

Where do you stand on this? 

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Posted (edited)

If classes are online at HKS, then they are going to be online everywhere else. So I think there are a few questions to consider:

1) What would I do if grad school was online for Fall 2020 and Spring 2021? Ideally it would be great if all schools push back Fall 2020 start dates to Spring 2021, but that probably won't happen 😕

2) How are the deferral policies being adjusted to consider COVID-19? HKS and WWS official policies make it seem difficult to get a deferral, but I would hope they change it given the circumstances.

3) What are the career upsides for getting my degree sooner, even if there are uncertainties with my particular job market? (Again, not any old job market, but the job market specific to me.) 

4) How will my student experience change? This would be a bummer at HKS/NYU where Boston/NYC are cities that I would love to explore, but hey, we are all going through this together and zoom cocktail hour becomes fun after 3 weeks in isolation. (For the sake of staying relevant to OP's post) At Princeton, it wouldn't make much of a difference - it's a sleepy town and lots of students commute anyway.

I'm personally conflicted on this, but leaning towards forging through with my degree. I have a job that should be secure for at least the next 2 years, so can defer for a year to keep income and personal stability. That being said, I do not want to put my career on hold. We are in a public health crisis and this is exactly the time for public servants in my specialty to step up, take risks (but not health risks lol), and lead. If you are looking to go into consulting and need the private sector economy to bounce back, then definitely defer because they won't be hiring. But if you are looking to do work related to government/policy, there are always opportunities to get hired. Technically, the governments of both NYC and NYS have been on a hiring freeze on-and-off the past few years, but guess what....you still get a job if you know someone. That's never going to change, and that's why I'm so insistent that you should go to school in an institution that has the network for career advancement. I think there's even an incredibly strong case to make to employers that, yes school was remote, but I saw a need for someone like me to do XYZ, so I went through with my degree and am not sitting out on the sidelines, etc. etc. It's also a great pitch when connecting with school alumni, and let's be honest, those conversations usually happen via phone anyway :) 

EDIT: For OP @Catam and other international students, I would definitely want to see how the economies of your country are doing...it could be very different where you are after graduating vs. the US. A deferral given the circumstances would make more sense, especially since humanitarian and international development/NGO efforts are going to feel a huge pinch. Health orgs are going to be in demand, so I'm in a different situation.

Edited by Coffeetea

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3 hours ago, Coffeetea said:

I would definitely want to see how the economies of your country are doing...it could be very different where you are after graduating vs. the US. 

All of your response is helpful and well-thought out, but I wanted to talk about this part specifically. My expectation is that this hit to the economy is going to be deep but short - that by the end of this year (or if we need to wait for a vaccine, by early 2021), things should start moving upwards. So when we graduate in mid-2022, things should have bounced back. Yes, this does mean that Fall 2020 classes might be online (which is very, very annoying), but apart from that, I think I can live starting school right now. 

3 hours ago, Coffeetea said:

If classes are online at HKS, then they are going to be online everywhere else.

You know - this is absolutely true. If HKS is online, then everyone else is gonna be online too!

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As a current WWS grad student, absolutely no brainer here - take Princeton! 

The program is great, and you'll practically the same learning opportunities as HKS. While you may find some benefits in one over the other, at the end of the day the learning outcomes will be fairly similar. $200k in debt is a couple of lifetimes of repayments if you plan to work in humanitarian aid.

Even if the Harvard brand is stronger internationally, it certainly isn't $200k stronger. Most importantly, the value of your degree (and of the brand) diminishes quickly after graduation. By the time you've had a job or two, your work experience will count for way more than the name of your grad school. And you'll still be stuck with a mountain of debt...

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@EspressoDoble

I hope the economy bounces back in time so we are all employed by a May 2022 graduation! I have a bunch of friends in finance whose consensus is that the recovery will jumpstart once China reopens their economy. When exactly that happens is a huge unknown, though. General economic indicators like the stock market could bounce back completely by 2022, but it will take longer for the money to trickle back to places like non-profits, NGOs/dev orgs, and also governments whose non-covid budgets are tanking at the moment. Depends on what you want to do and where you are geographically imo

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