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Hi all! 

I'm currently making the decision today and tomorrow whether to accept my offer of admission to SAIS Europe w 20k yearly scholarship or wait a year to reapply for SIPA (they didn't consider me for aid as they said I didn't ask for it), apply for Kennedy, and then maybe Princeton or dual degree programs.  

A bit of background on me, I went to a top 3 US college and ivy for undergrad. Pulled an A range GPA with a history degree and special economics concentration. Went to work in consulting after college, but that unfortunately took me down the wrong road, and now I'm in a career I truly hate and that lacks valuable experience or prestige: tech and ops consulting. I've only been out of college since may of 2019 and love where I live in NYC and friends, but am actively depressed by my job. A policy degree has always been my goal and dream, but I decided to apply a year early in sort of a rushed manner during covid, and only applied to Columbia and JHU and was admitted to both. 

I'm wondering if it's worth deferring or saying no and suffering another year in a dead end job, just to have the opportunity to get my GRE score up from a V:167 Q:158 Essay: 5.5 to be able to reapply and mull over a dual degree. For reference, I'm looking to work in political risk, economic consulting, or just anything more international trade and globalization focused after Graduation in NYC. I'm also considering working in-house at a financial services firm or tech company in a more politically focused role or strategy role. 

 

Thank you all! Being tortured by this decision. I was more excited about Johns Hopkins at first, but after examining the student body, it just doesn't seem as accomplished as Harvard or SIPA. 

 

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Just my two cents. I would highly recommend taking another year or even two to keep thinking about what you want to do and how a master's degree fits into the equation. If you are depressed by your job, I would suggest focusing on an immediate career pivot. Instead of turning to grad school for that career change, I would directly apply to entry level roles in political risk, economic consulting, or international trade, etc. and exploring those career paths before considering grad school again.

There are a few benefits to waiting:

First, the more relevant experience you gain, the more likely you will get some substantial funding.

Second, the more time that passes, the more likely you'll be able to go to school without any pandemic restrictions--you'll get the full graduate school experience.

Third, a policy degree is most valuable when you have a clear plan for what you want to do with it after. I live in DC and have come across dozens of people who found themselves in a similar situation as yours. They decided to use an MPP/MPA/MIA/MPH as an expensive way to escape a career they felt stuck in. And most of them have regretted it either because they are overburdened by debt, their dream degree and career track did not live up to their expectations, or both.

I have also been in your shoes and felt deeply depressed by my first job post-undergrad. I was drained everyday, I would literally cry on the train to work, and I felt like there was no way out. Luckily, I was able to find job that I actually liked and matched my interests. That job has tremendously changed my trajectory and I now have a crystal clear picture of how a master's is going to help me reach my goals. Ultimately, a degree is like a power tool. You should know when you need it how to use it or else it is close to useless. 

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So many red flags in this post. Listen to the above poster, OP. Getting a policy degree would be a very bad decision for you at this point. Also, don't go unless it's free. So not worth it (and if you're not able to swing a full/near-full tuition offer, that's a sign you haven't done your homework or prepped enough to be successful coming out of the degree). Finally, a second-tier MBA will do far more for a trade-oriented career (or any other career really) than a first-tier IR degree (except *maybe* Princeton), so just go to NYU or Cornell if you're that desperate to leave your current job.

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The career pivots you are considering are all pretty disparate and it is not clear to me how a policy master's would help you with them. For example, economic consulting is actually highly quantitative, so going from a policy degree to economic consulting is a difficult leap; if you are interested in economic consulting, you should get a quant degree with a focus on applied math and econ. On the other hand, a policy degree would set you up well for political risk consulting. But, because you're considering political and economic consulting in the same phrase, it feels like you think they're interchangeable and therefore makes me think that you haven't actually researched either. Your "in-house at a financial services firm or tech company" idea is too vague to be useful, but I can tell you that policy/strategy in financial services are all mid-late career roles that hire people with extant careers in Washington, not recent grads from master's programs.

In terms of accepting the SAIS offer, it does seem like you applied on a whim and didn't really consider what you're doing deeply, which doesn't set you up for success. 20k is low; with your profile, if you were able to articulate a realistic career path/appear like you know what you're doing, I think you could get much more. I don't think the student body at any of the prestigious policy schools differs in any measurable way, with the exception of programs that have a more serious quant prereq, like Harvard MPA-ID, but if your desired career is NYC-based, it makes more sense to go to SIPA. I would also consider getting an MBA alongside/instead of. 

But, before you do any of that, I'd get a concrete understanding of why specifically you don't like your current job. Keep in mind that most policy grads end up doing some form of consulting, and all types of consulting are 90% the same shit across the board. A lot of grads also end up going back to their old careers, because this is a hard degree to find a job with, especially one that is "prestigious" and pays well. There are many ways to move on from a toxic job, and a policy degree is one of the less obvious ones imo.

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