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International Applicant Desperate for Advice. UChicago or Georgetown or Rutgers or LSE?


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Hi Everyone, I am an international candidate from a middle-income family from South Asia. I desperately am seeking advice for graduate School and decide which program aligns well with my career goals. I have secured admissions in the following programs.

  • UChicago - MPP - with $45K annual Funding (STEM-approved)

  • Georgetown University - MIDP - with $30K annual funding (STEM-approved)

  • Syracuse University - MPA - with $38K annual funding (non-STEM)

  • Duke University - MPP - with $18K annual funding (non-STEM)

  • Rutgers University - MSc in Public Informatics - with 55% Funding (STEM approved)

  • Warwick University (UK) - MSc in International Development - No Funding

  • Nottingham University (UK) - Data Analytics - No Funding

  • London School of Economics - MPP - No Funding

I want to build a career in consultancy services and development organizations as a first priority followed by roles in government institutions. I have a bachelor's in Mechanical Engineering and have the following work experience:

  • 2.5 years of work experience in the development sector

  • 2 years at a Think tank focusing on international relations

  • 2 years at a production plant

I can pay most of the tuition but I cannot figure out what to do about living costs. Despite reaching out to the universities and faculty, I have not been able to secure a research assistantship or TA position. I'm looking at paying for the living cost from my savings but for the remaining, I am concerned about financing my living cost for the remaining. I am leaning toward either UChicago's MPP or Georgetown's MIDP but cannot decide which program to go with. As an international candidate, STEM certification is necessary to get an extended OTP work visa in the U.S. The UK has a much smaller job market and its economy doesn't give me hope of landing a job there at all.

  1. Which program do you suggest will provide the most ROI? Especially for an International Candidate.

  2. What program is the most analytically rigorous and where getting good grades is tougher?

  3. How much support does the Alumni network of UChicago or Georgetown provide in getting good placements?

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USA. Prioritize STEM visa and the least amount of debt. DO NOT GO INTO DEPT for a degree in the development space, nor use your own money. The labor market is very poor and salaries are bad. You'll be miserable. Specially when you go back to your country if you still have debt in the US. Or work in unstable low-paying government jobs. 

Chicago and Georgetown will probably have the best connections to work in Washington DC, most likely trying to get a short term contract with the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, etc. But that is practically slave labor with low salary and being overworked. And trying to get a staff position is very hard, unless very well connected, great interpersonal skills and obviously high level analytical skills (Stata, R, Python, etc)... Unless you focus on more operational work, but still need those skills to have a better chance to standout. Because development work ultimately is a bunch of economists fighting each other, trying to research and publish. 

Best advice I can give you is to immediately try to enter the private sector, like banking or consulting in the corporate world in the US, for a few years, and then enter the development jobs with better credentials, more authority and getting a real job, not contractor, will be easier, with a higher salary and future opportunities. 

If you don't have the money, I'd ask to postpone your acceptance for next year while you figure out more scholarship sources, work and save, etc. 

The truth: the ROI in the development space for an international candidate is low, because the multilateral institutions favor WHITE WESTERN men with Ivy league COLLEGE degrees to be able to get staff positions and you'll be competing with economists PhDs as well. Also, there's a lot of elitism, nepotism and not necessarily merit based. 

Perhaps Georgetown will have more immediate connections because of proximity to DC, but Chicago has a much better reputation in technical rigor. Another thing is to make the best relationships possible with the professors for recommendations or even to work with them for a while to gain reputation. Professor Chris Blattman is in Chicago and they have created a very reputable economic development faculty and programs. Also, prioritize speaking fluently at least 3 essential languages to have an advantage. You have time to learn, so there's no excuses. 

Sorry, long post. I don't sugar coat things. You need the real truth. I have more advice to give, so ask away.... 

You want a real ROI? Get an MBA, and you'll have better jobs, salary and the rest of your life to easily enter the development space anywhere at high managerial levels. But if you really want policy right away, improve your application and try to get Princeton full scholarship or HKS with more scholarship opportunities (only MPA/ID is really worth it (even they get screwed and remain poor), unless you are really good in economics and data analysis already - other HKS programs might be useful. Otherwise, I'd go for Chicago, even though the development path is hard and no long term ROI, unless very strategic with your career choices. It really depends on your abilities to navigate the job market in development, which really favors people with PhDs. 

You might not see it now, but eventually adulthood teaches you that money and savings will be indispensable in life at some point. And you have a small window of opportunity during a few years to develop a solid career path. And your first job after graduate school might be the most influential thing for your professional career and long term financial life. 

Maybe go to Chicago and apply to an MBA to various schools once there for a double degree opportunity. How about that? You'll probably get it and finish both degrees in 3 years, with a broad range of high value opportunities for the job market. 

All the best, peace ✌️

 

 

 

 

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