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American SIS vs. Columbia SIPA? Help :(


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Hi everyone!

This is my first post on gradcafe after lurking for a while, because I really need advice.

I've been admitted to both SIS and SIPA, for very similar programs (the SIS program I was admitted to closely matches my chosen SIPA concentration). SIS gave me a good amount of merit aid and an assistantship, and SIPA gave me nothing. 

My initial reaction is to go with American. I was admitted a while ago, so I've been going to various admitted student events, and I've had great experiences with all of them--I love their mission and the specific academic program, and it seems like a place I could really thrive. The two programs are closely ranked, as well, so this seems like the obvious choice.

However, when I've asked around, the impression I've gotten is that, regardless of rankings, the Columbia/Ivy League name will open doors that American simply will not. Obviously, the end goal of going to graduate school is a career, and above everything I want to secure a good job moving forward in my life, especially in this competitive field. 

I guess my main question boils down to this: is it really worth it to push for Columbia, even if it would quintouple the debt I already have for undergrad (American would only double it)? That prospect is scary to me, but I'd hate to lose opportunities that would otherwise make it worth it (also, obviously, I do love SIPA and their program. These are my top two programs and if they had offered me comparable funding, it would be a very hard decision, but I'd ultimately lean towards SIPA).

Thanks so much!

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Fellow IR nerd starting a Master's this fall here- 

I'd go with American for financial reasons. Not only because of cost/debt, but also because DC has a (slightly, depending on where you live) lower cost of living plus a lot of amazing IR-related opportunities and connections. American is ranked well and pretty well-known in the field, maybe slightly below Columbia, but I don't think the possible advantage of reputation outweighs the real disadvantage of cost. But obviously that's just my POV!

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