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Self-ranking policy programs


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I did a little ranking exercise for myself recently and I thought I would share my 'methodology' and results with everyone here, as I think it may prove to be useful to others who are having some trouble choosing a best fit program for themselves.

I took the top 8 schools that I have been considering (for PhD someday, maybe) and put them into a matrix and marked each school on a point basis with various criteria that I felt were important.

Here's my 'data':

matrix.jpg

As you can see, I took each category and rated it on a 1-5 scale (5 being best). It's a cumbersome measure, and extremely subjective (and not always well informed, I'll admit), but it has at least helped me get a better picture of what I'm looking for. Just to clarify, the categories are (in order): Rigor - qualitative but especially quantitative rigor; livability - as I see it, based on climate, urban area, etc; career - how much will that program help me get a good job that I like; fam/fri - do I have friends or family nearby?; admission - how likely am I to get in, relatively speaking? (higher is better); prestige - in relative terms, how prestigious are each school's programs?

Taking the quantum for each school, the results were surprising:

1. Sanford (24)

---Heinz (24)

3. Harris (23)

---UMD-CP (23)

5. UNC (22)

---WWS (22)

7. Rand (21)

---KSG (21)

I arranged the rankings according to their score and, in the case of ties, according to whichever one I had a better 'feeling' about.

What I really liked about this exercise was that I had begun thinking that my 'first' choices were the usual: KSG, WWS, and Harris. The others were programs that I had seen as good (ok, VERY good) alternatives. But now, I'm actually really thinking that Duke or CMU may be much better options (assuming they don't laugh at my yet-to-be submitted application) than a place like Harvard, even if I could get in. I was surprised at how low Rand ranked on this list, because I was recently starting to see it as one of my preferred choices, but I'm reassessing that right now.

A few qualifiers. Obviously, this is not much more than a back-of-the-envelope methodology (which means it's only slightly better than US News, haha!) and there are many problems. First, as I noted, it's very subjective. I have scored schools here in ways that many others may disagree with (many people, for example, would much rather be in Boston than the Triad region). Also, and I think more importantly, there are areas which I think are more important than others. I'm thinking about updating my methodology to include: 1) more specific categories, like quantitative rigor vs qualitative rigor, climate, key faculty, and maybe a cross tabulation with the US News rankings (for the hell of it); and 2) to weight categories - I think I might make some categories a 0-10 range while keeping others 0-5, etc.

Obviously, this is hardly perfect, but I think it's a neat way for anyone trying to rationally categorize their preferences and sort out their decisions to possibly clarify things a bit. You shouldn't use it as your guiding star, but I think it can help.

Welcome any thoughts, ideas, and feedback. :)

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I don't know why everyone keeps placing negatives on this post.I hope it's not purely because HKS ends up on the bottom of his/her list.

nairus, I think this is an interesting way of looking at grad school choice. Looking back on my own application decisions, sometimes I wish I had taken a little bit more of an objective view of my potential schools and I think this is a pretty good way of doing it. I'm sure it would have yielded some thought-provoking results for me. I hope more applicants follow your example with their own personal decision.

Best of luck when you do apply!

Edited by coakleym
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  • 2 months later...

I did this same thing when it came time to decide between SAIS and Korbel. Sadly, when ranking things based on my perceptions, they came out tied! That said, it was still a very good exercise, and after teasing it a bit, I finally decided on Korbel based in large part to this kind of exercise.

For someone that's really torn between schools, try this out.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I did a little ranking exercise for myself recently and I thought I would share my 'methodology' and results with everyone here, as I think it may prove to be useful to others who are having some trouble choosing a best fit program for themselves.

I took the top 8 schools that I have been considering (for PhD someday, maybe) and put them into a matrix and marked each school on a point basis with various criteria that I felt were important.

Here's my 'data':

matrix.jpg

As you can see, I took each category and rated it on a 1-5 scale (5 being best). It's a cumbersome measure, and extremely subjective (and not always well informed, I'll admit), but it has at least helped me get a better picture of what I'm looking for. Just to clarify, the categories are (in order): Rigor - qualitative but especially quantitative rigor; livability - as I see it, based on climate, urban area, etc; career - how much will that program help me get a good job that I like; fam/fri - do I have friends or family nearby?; admission - how likely am I to get in, relatively speaking? (higher is better); prestige - in relative terms, how prestigious are each school's programs?

Taking the quantum for each school, the results were surprising:

1. Sanford (24)

---Heinz (24)

3. Harris (23)

---UMD-CP (23)

5. UNC (22)

---WWS (22)

7. Rand (21)

---KSG (21)

I arranged the rankings according to their score and, in the case of ties, according to whichever one I had a better 'feeling' about.

What I really liked about this exercise was that I had begun thinking that my 'first' choices were the usual: KSG, WWS, and Harris. The others were programs that I had seen as good (ok, VERY good) alternatives. But now, I'm actually really thinking that Duke or CMU may be much better options (assuming they don't laugh at my yet-to-be submitted application) than a place like Harvard, even if I could get in. I was surprised at how low Rand ranked on this list, because I was recently starting to see it as one of my preferred choices, but I'm reassessing that right now.

A few qualifiers. Obviously, this is not much more than a back-of-the-envelope methodology (which means it's only slightly better than US News, haha!) and there are many problems. First, as I noted, it's very subjective. I have scored schools here in ways that many others may disagree with (many people, for example, would much rather be in Boston than the Triad region). Also, and I think more importantly, there are areas which I think are more important than others. I'm thinking about updating my methodology to include: 1) more specific categories, like quantitative rigor vs qualitative rigor, climate, key faculty, and maybe a cross tabulation with the US News rankings (for the hell of it); and 2) to weight categories - I think I might make some categories a 0-10 range while keeping others 0-5, etc.

Obviously, this is hardly perfect, but I think it's a neat way for anyone trying to rationally categorize their preferences and sort out their decisions to possibly clarify things a bit. You shouldn't use it as your guiding star, but I think it can help.

Welcome any thoughts, ideas, and feedback. :)

Hey, what about Sipa?

I noticed that an increasing number of people tend to mark it out of their wishes/rankings. Any ideas why?

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Hey, what about Sipa?

I noticed that an increasing number of people tend to mark it out of their wishes/rankings. Any ideas why?

Well, I actually didn't include several good options - Duke, NYU, LBJ, Pitt-GSPIA, Indiana, Berkeley, Maxwell - all of which I would definitely consider going to (particularly Duke, as I like the South). But this was a preliminary sort of thing and I plan to refine the methodology soon so I'll put together a more objective and more exhaustive ranking of public policy PhD programs.

SIPA, unfortunately, only has a PhD program in Sustainable Development or somesuch. Their program is also more exclusively foreign policy-oriented, which is very interesting to me (I work overseas), but I am more focused on deepening my policy analysis skills and getting into innovative policy development. That said, if they did have a public policy PhD (last I checked, they didn't), I'd certainly be interested to take a look.

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Hey, what about Sipa?

I noticed that an increasing number of people tend to mark it out of their wishes/rankings. Any ideas why?

Just as an aside - I think people might not be considering SIPA as much because of their reputation (fairly or not) for being a very large program that gives little aid. I never considered it for my master's just because moving to NY wasn't feasible at the time and I didn't want to jump in the deep end of international policy stuff. Like I said before - that stuff is interesting to me, but there seems to be a particular abundance of unemployed or underemployed people carrying international development graduate degrees, including from top schools.

Of course, for all I know, every SIPA student gets a six figure job before graduation, a personal tutor, and a tuition waiver. But the perceptions are there, nonetheless.

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