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Hello All! 
 

I have read many insightful posts on the topic of IR grad programs and was hoping we could revisit for 2021? 
 

My options:

-SAIS ($2k/year scholarship)

-GW - Security Policy Studies Program ($14k/year scholarship) 

-Fletcher ($15k/year scholarship)

(Shoutouts: American ($15k/year sch) and Texas A&M (significantly the cheapest option) 

I want to study Gender, Peace, and Security with a regional focus in the Middle East. I’m interested in working for the State Department or an international agency.

Everyone is pushing me towards Johns Hopkins (despite the hefty bill) because of the name recognition/connections in DC.

Does anyone have a say either way? As a female POC, I’m excited to study this topic but want to make sure I’m embarking in a program that has a supportive community, not just a luxe school name. 

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Congrats on your offers! As a SAIS alumna, I'd say it's a great school in terms of community vibe, location, alumni networks, reputation, and research (esp. Middle East studies and security studies). One should not take the cliche as granted, because they really are the strengths of SAIS. You will be more familiar with the process of finding a job in the US government as there are a bunch of other comrades sharing similar interests and career plans with you. SAIS Career Office is a great resource you should make good use of, and the staffs there are very experienced of mentoring students for a State Department career. Plus, SAIS has many outstanding female student leaders, profs, alumnae, and colleagues, so in a nutshell it is a supportive community for females. So does SAIS for POCs. I am an international student, female, POC, and an English non-native speaker, but I never felt embarrassed or discriminated due to any of my identity. I did not regret being a SAISer as well.

Regarding cons, first of all, expensive tuitions and living expenses. It is a real problem to study and live in DC. High taxes, parking fees, apartment rents, and so on, which is the other side of the coin. Meanwhile, DC is a cool city to live in due to its city sceneries, distance to govt agencies, think tanks, and international orgs. Many people often live in Viginia where costs are a bit cheaper. Second, research. Yeah this can be tricky as I mentioned above, the profs are fabulous - I even met some great profs who inspired me to pursue an academic path after graduation. However, our coursework is not that research-oriented nor heavy quantitative. If academia is an impossible option for you, SAIS coursework is fine, and even enough for a career in international and governmental agencies. In essence, policy schools are designed to cultivate students the skills needed in professional settings rather than academia. Third, small campus and limited facilities. SAIS is a "school," whereas GW (Elliott) is a whole university and you can enjoy the sense of a larger community. SAIS was founded separately from Johns Hopkins, and later on they two merged, so SAIS remains nominally a part of JHU (Baltimore) but is still located in DC. We only have three buildings lol.

OK regardless, I hope these words can help to some extent! Wish you make a decision by chasing your own heart, and never feel regretful after matriculation. All the best to you.

Edited by cheetah
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Congratulations on your great offers! I agree with everything that has been already said by "cheetah", but want to add a few thoughts and insights that I received from several alumni that worked at both Fletcher and SAIS before (students and non-tenured faculty/postdocs)

- Fletcher is generally known for having more "research-focused" professors. Their close connection to Tufts allows Fletcher to have quite a few research projects that are also being recognized outside the policy world. The Fletcher-PhD also seems to be relatively academically renowned and the connection to some Harvard grad schools is still close. I know a couple of people that focused on more of a research path at Fletcher and wrote books together with faculty to then pursue a PhD in a top IR-Grad-Program. However, on the student level, the same applies to SAIS - you will find some alumni that got into top-20 PhD programs after a master at SAIS and some work experience. Just the faculty at SAIS does not seem "as" academic.

- Fletcher is in policy circles more known for their close ties to the State Department. SAIS however is more known within the DC establishment, especially in think tanks. You have to know what you prefer. I also feel like that Fletcher attracts just slightly more international students with the goal of getting into international organizations, like the UN etc. If you want to establish yourself in DC circles, however, SAIS is definitely the better choice by far! For everything "more international", I would pick Fletcher.

- For some reasons, some Fletcher-insiders I know are reporting that the department would be on a slight downfall at the moment. I don't know any specifics, but received that information from several alumni that claimed that the change of administration within Fletcher in the last years did not do the school well. SAIS is also changing quite a lot currently - I just cannot see a clear direction there at the moment. If and when SAIS moves to the old Newseum in DC, this might be a big change to the general environment of the school.

--> I believe in the end it should come down to the location (and finances). SAIS gives off very professional vibes, so you have to be "ready" for it. Fletcher still has some college campus feeling to it and is situated within a quieter environment, which I would honestly prefer. At the same time, SAIS is in DC, which is a big plus, but only if you aim for DC only jobs and the respective networking in the future. Fletcher won't close any doors related to DC, SAIS just might open a few more. The community at Fletcher must be incredibly nice though - I hear that quite often! and honestly more than in relation to SAIS.

(I would not go to GW to be honest. Fletcher and SAIS are just in a different league)

Most success to you and good luck for your decision!

Edited by SJPY
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For my two cents--do not take the price tag lightly! I love public policy and international affairs, and at the same time I've never been able to figure out why people go into tens of thousands of dollars of debt for these degrees. They are valuable for the skills you learn, but in terms of finances if you're looking to work in the public sector, often these jobs do not justify going into debt for a master's degree. I'd recommend considering getting more work experience and applying next year to try and get more funding or finding a way to work for an employer that might help you fund the degree. Congrats and good luck!

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On 3/9/2021 at 11:56 PM, IRallday said:

 

Hello All! 
 

I have read many insightful posts on the topic of IR grad programs and was hoping we could revisit for 2021? 
 

My options:

-SAIS ($2k/year scholarship)

-GW - Security Policy Studies Program ($14k/year scholarship) 

-Fletcher ($15k/year scholarship)

(Shoutouts: American ($15k/year sch) and Texas A&M (significantly the cheapest option) 

I want to study Gender, Peace, and Security with a regional focus in the Middle East. I’m interested in working for the State Department or an international agency.

Everyone is pushing me towards Johns Hopkins (despite the hefty bill) because of the name recognition/connections in DC.

Does anyone have a say either way? As a female POC, I’m excited to study this topic but want to make sure I’m embarking in a program that has a supportive community, not just a luxe school name. 

I wrote about Fletcher at length before. Obviously, never base your decisions on some random guy on a forum like this, but I think it gives you some interesting insights.
 

 

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