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Georgetown McCourt vs UChicago Harris


blueduck

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I've been accepted into both MPP programs and have the same amount of funding (overall UChicago is slightly cheaper due to lower COL). My eventual goal is to work as a researcher at a think tank or continue onto a PhD. Policy areas of focus are international development and urban policy. I'm torn between the two. Does anyone have reasons to avoid or choose one over the other.

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On 3/20/2022 at 12:46 PM, blueduck said:

I've been accepted into both MPP programs and have the same amount of funding (overall UChicago is slightly cheaper due to lower COL). My eventual goal is to work as a researcher at a think tank or continue onto a PhD. Policy areas of focus are international development and urban policy. I'm torn between the two. Does anyone have reasons to avoid or choose one over the other.

Okay this is super interesting. I think it really comes down to what policy area you are more interested in and how you want to approach it.

On the surface, Chicago Harris makes more sense simply because it has much more robust pathway to apply for a PhD (keep in mind, no matter what MPP school you go to, you basically can't go below an A- GPA, or else you are going to 2nd tier PhD program). I don't know what you are going to get your PhD in, but as long as it is Policy, Economics, or Political Science, you will have a better range of professors to give you recommendations and referrals. 

Chicago will also be much better for urban policy simply because it has a lot more robust programming and academic focus on the details of urban policy. That being said, Washington DC is doing a lot of innovative policy efforts. McCourt some alumni connections and some policy innovation extracurricular involvement in it, but I would hardly say it is robust or really academically involved. However, if you are okay with just diving in with uncertain real support - McCourt makes sense. Additionally, if you want to approach Urban Development from a Federal powers angle, DC makes sense for networking, but just realize you'll be very much alone. Urban policy isn't exactly popular at McCourt (parts of social policy - but not exactly urban policy), so you might not have a good professor to mentor you.

So international development is interesting. You can piggy back on Professor Wiebe (he is the primary IDev professor at McCourt) and ride his train, but then you are stuck with his train (some people like it and some people don't). If you want to go it alone, there is the entire slew of Federal infrastructure out there to help you. However, if you want to go on the academic side of IDev, Chicago will be stronger period.

I haven't heard of a McCourt alum going to a Tier 1 Think Tank in a while - that would be Brookings or CATO (even when they had a referral of its best professors). About 1 or 2 have opportunities to join 1.5 tier like Urban or CNAS. Tier 2 places like Mathmatica do get 2 or so McCourt students year, but they aren't exactly the ones that leap frog into PhD. With U. Chicago however, you can be better off leapfrogging into the entire world of think tanks and research institutions. However, if you are okay with a Tier 2 or 1.5 DC Think Tank - McCourt can make sense for you.

One thing I want to highlight is that 60%+ of the people that I know had a major career interest shift in grad school and bottom line is that Chicago Harris has much better career support than McCourt. McCourt really underfunds their career services (it doesn't help that so many students are from China and really struggle to find jobs). They work their butts off, but there are only so many people. At U. Chicago Harris, they have a career coaching system that is pretty robust. 

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This is all really helpful, thank you! I definitely didn't know there are tiers of think tanks though it seems to be similar to how consulting firms are ranked.

18 hours ago, GradSchoolGrad said:

On the surface, Chicago Harris makes more sense simply because it has much more robust pathway to apply for a PhD (keep in mind, no matter what MPP school you go to, you basically can't go below an A- GPA, or else you are going to 2nd tier PhD program). I don't know what you are going to get your PhD in, but as long as it is Policy, Economics, or Political Science, you will have a better range of professors to give you recommendations and referrals. 

This is makes my decision pretty easy to be honest. Although I've heard UChicago grades tough so I am worried about getting a good GPA.

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