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All schools have information and requirements on their website and every school is conducting plenty of virtual events where I suspect you can ask questions.  It is a better idea to read up on each program and attend a virtual event instead of listening to someone who has never attended the program they are discussing.  “Knowing” someone is not that same thing. 

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I think there are too many differences from one program to the other in order to make this sticky. For instance, my program (economics) seems to require a much stronger transcript and GRE score than

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14 minutes ago, Westpolicy said:

All schools have information and requirements on their website and every school is conducting plenty of virtual events where I suspect you can ask questions.  It is a better idea to read up on each program and attend a virtual event instead of listening to someone who has never attended the program they are discussing.  “Knowing” someone is not that same thing. 

The smartest thing to do is actually to talk to real students or recent alumni. Most schools have student ambassador like programs. However, to be really smart about it, it helps to talk to someone who isn't a student ambassador, who is pressured to sell the school and not exactly give the 100% honest opinion (I know, I was one).

The problem with the website and virtual events is that they are ultimately sales events (in fact a lot of the people who run it are PR/marketing people. You do get interesting insights and structural understanding of a program. However, there is a lot under the hood that won't be mentioned.

In terms of knowing, I think that depends on if knowing someone relates back to the school and the depth of "knowing". For example, I know my family members who gone to schools and done a lot of comparing and contrasting, and I think they are amazingly insightful "knowing someone". 

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2 hours ago, kb_sf said:

Thanks in advance :)

Candidate: White female

Applying to: Harris MSCAPP, Heinz MSPPM-DA, McCourt MS-DSPP, UPenn Weitzman MUSA, NEU Urban Informatics,

Undergraduate Institution: Northeast "Public Ivy"

Undergraduate GPA: 3.5

GRE Quantitative Score: 160 (estimated)
GRE Verbal Score: 162 (estimated)

Undergraduate Major: Economics

Years out of college: 6

Languages Skills: English

Relevant Work Experience: Data Analyst at a public school network in CA, working on assessment analysis and analyzing "nudges" for students/teachers. Have been working in the social sector for four years.

Quant Background: All the intro Econ classes, Calc I, II, III, Linear Algebra, Statistics, Econometrics, proficient in python/sql and have some experience with machine learning/modeling.

Strength of SOP: Will be strong enough, writing is not generally my strongest suit. Will be able to summarize how these schools will help me further my work in data analysis for social good.

Strength of LOR: 1 very strong letter from manager, 1 very strong from former coworker, looking to get one from someone who can speak more about my quant skills than the previous two, likely won't be quite as strong.

I feel pretty confident about getting in somewhere, and I think my main concern will be how COVID will impact funding for next year. Also wondering if there are any straight MPP programs that I should be looking at that offer more data science electives? Out of school I'm hoping to work as a data scientist for a policy research organization or potentially in the private sector. I'd appreciate any thoughts!

So in my opinion, it makes no sense for you to do an MPP program if your focus is to be a data scientist post graduation. Every person I know from an MPP program who became a data scientist, did a lot of self-learning / boot camps / maxed out data electives (or a combo) to get there (AKA: lots of extra work). However, if you want to get a broader exposure to the policy environs in general, then an MPP makes sense. The top 3 most quant focused programs are U. Chicago, Princeton, and if you want to go crazy with quant - HKS (but not in terms of graduation requirements). 

Some other thoughts:

1. Part of me thinks the you might be too advanced for some of these programs already. I would check to see if these programs are sufficiently difficult enough for you, or if you can jump ahead to your appropriate level of difficulty. There might be something to be said if you spent the first semester as a necessary refresher and dive deeply during the rest of your academic time.

2. Part of me thinks that a you should expand you grad school search into an advanced stats/data analytics in general and do public facing projects. 

3. How to Think About These Data Programs:

So these programs are all relatively new (started within the past few years) to A: capture profit from the grad school market and B: posture towards the big data future.

In my opinion it is better to go with a school that had a robust computer science capability that is leveraged by the policy program (Harris + CMU Heinz) vs. a policy program that organically built a data capability to adjust to the future (McCourt). This is because especially for someone at your level of competency, you have robust comp sci + other statistical analysis entities to draw expertise has. McCourt makes up for its lack of institutional data strength (heck you can find LInkedIn postings of them hiring for Data oriented professors to grow their program) through exposure to industry (that would be government facing entities). However, at the end of the day, though the program is solid + the Director is super awesome (I know him well as a Professor), your alumni base focused technically on data is simply not that large. 

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5 minutes ago, GradSchoolGrad said:

So in my opinion, it makes no sense for you to do an MPP program if your focus is to be a data scientist post graduation. Every person I know from an MPP program who became a data scientist, did a lot of self-learning / boot camps / maxed out data electives (or a combo) to get there (AKA: lots of extra work). However, if you want to get a broader exposure to the policy environs in general, then an MPP makes sense. The top 3 most quant focused programs are U. Chicago, Princeton, and if you want to go crazy with quant - HKS (but not in terms of graduation requirements). 

Some other thoughts:

1. Part of me thinks the you might be too advanced for some of these programs already. I would check to see if these programs are sufficiently difficult enough for you, or if you can jump ahead to your appropriate level of difficulty. There might be something to be said if you spent the first semester as a necessary refresher and dive deeply during the rest of your academic time.

2. Part of me thinks that a you should expand you grad school search into an advanced stats/data analytics in general and do public facing projects. 

3. How to Think About These Data Programs:

So these programs are all relatively new (started within the past few years) to A: capture profit from the grad school market and B: posture towards the big data future.

In my opinion it is better to go with a school that had a robust computer science capability that is leveraged by the policy program (Harris + CMU Heinz) vs. a policy program that organically built a data capability to adjust to the future (McCourt). This is because especially for someone at your level of competency, you have robust comp sci + other statistical analysis entities to draw expertise has. McCourt makes up for its lack of institutional data strength (heck you can find LInkedIn postings of them hiring for Data oriented professors to grow their program) through exposure to industry (that would be government facing entities). However, at the end of the day, though the program is solid + the Director is super awesome (I know him well as a Professor), your alumni base focused technically on data is simply not that large. 

Really appreciate your thoughts here! I'm going to take a look at some data sci programs and see if there are any that have a social/public focus. Thanks!

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On 9/9/2020 at 12:27 AM, EscapingBrexit said:

Not after application advice per se, but I just want to make sure I haven't missed any programs before I start working on the rest of them! 

I'm looking for an IR/Human Rights/Conflict Resolution-type program. I've carried out exhaustive research on these, but let me know if you see somewhere I should consider. 

My list is (ranked from top choice down).

Georgetown MSFS or Conflict Resolution

Harvard Kennedy MPP 

Princeton SPIA MPA 

Yale Jackson MA Global Affairs 

Notre Dame MA Global Affairs (International Peace Studies). 

Is there a great program I should consider? 

I have ruled out the following: Columbia (Living in NY not good for my family, love the program though), SAIS (too quant heavy for me, though their programs are great), GWU Elliot (I don't meet language Prereqs), Tufts (Ethical issue), American and George Mason. 

I'd only apply to Yale when you can still submit your application without paying the application fee of $100. Their program is relatively small so there is not a high chance to get in. I made the mistake of submitting my application after the free submission deadline. Maybe they have expanded their program now that they are becoming a school but my experience is just based on last year's admissions cycle. 

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On 9/9/2020 at 5:21 PM, realist2020 said:

Hi everybody! Thanks in advance for any insight you're able to provide. I will need substantial financial aid in addition to admission. :)

Undergraduate institution: Average US university in south
Undergraduate Major: Political Science with a minor in Economics (GPA: 3.92/4.00) 
GRE Quantitative Score:  165
GRE Verbal Score: 156
GRE AWA Score: 4.0

Schools applying to: Harvard Kennedy MPP,  Columbia SIPA MPA(Economic and Political Development),  Oxford Economics for Development, LSE Development Studies
Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable): 4
Years of Work Experience: ~4( all of it in Nepal) 
Describe Relevant Work Experience:  

One year public service fellowship ( taught in rural schools, worked with the mayor in the local rural municipality); one year of experience in data-driven project with some intersection in policy work; one short time leadership experience in rural area;  one leadership experience delivering projects to rural areas during summer/winter breaks;  and a couple of consultation works at the highest level of program design and review;

Experience with  local government and private sector; pending central government level engagement due to COVID  

Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc): have a good narrative; will have to work on it; have not started yet though 
Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc):  hope they will be good 

Other:   A semester of study abroad( Western Europe),  a semester of national student exchange(Up North); MicroMasters Certification in Data, Economics and Development Policy from MITx ; Opinion Publications in National and International Newspapers ; Extensive exposure to rural/semi-rural areas of Nepal;  rich activities in college( Model United Nations, Orientation Leader,  Student Government,  International Student Organization) ;  Want to get into development sector in South Asia Region

Why not apply for the HKS MPA-ID program if you wanna go into development? The IDEV program at SAIS is also really good and quant heavy. 

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On 9/9/2020 at 11:02 PM, GradSchoolGrad said:

Since you were an Econ minor and I am assuming that you did some level of Calc in college + econometrics. Given that + your identified stats, you should be fine to get into any of the schools that you identified based on Pre-Covid conditions (since this application cycle has lots of unpredictability regarding student demand going either way). I think the big challenge for you is to get scholarship from any of these schools. This will especially so since so many people deferred and will want their scholarships back. Your other challenge is that you are a South Asia international development person. You run the risk of being not diverse in work experience because so many people are South Asia development people. In fact, I struggle to think of an international development person who doesn't have experience in South Asia. That being said, these places can be a bit snooty and like people that come from brand name undergrad programs. 

If you really want scholarships, I recommend you think about other schools. whereby 

A: International Development is not as common in the school, or 

B: They have a big pot of cash to manage a small program

So some programs to think about (in no particular order):

1. Georgetown MSFS - with a Dev Concentration (general overall terrific program)

2. Georgetown MIDP - if you want to be quant focused (this is under the McCourt School, but is a much better run program than its maligned MPP program). 

3. Georgetown Global Human Development - if you want to focus more on the relationship management / operations side of the house

4. Yale Jackson - new school dripping with cash

Thank you for your thorough answer. I really appreciate it. I will surely look into these programs. 

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11 hours ago, Yass said:

Why not apply for the HKS MPA-ID program if you wanna go into development? The IDEV program at SAIS is also really good and quant heavy. 

I do not have a multivariable calculus prerequisite necessary for MPA/ID. I might as well take the online multivariable course sometime between now and next september and apply to MPA/ID as well. MPP with Political and Economic Development  seems like a safe reach to me while I believe MPA/ID will be more competitive especially given my relatively lower exposure to economics and higher level mathematics.  

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Hi everyone! I'm new here and would really appreciate any help.

Applying to: Chicago Harris MPP, Georgetown McCourt MPP, UCLA Luskin MPP or MURP, Berkeley Goldman MPP, Michigan Ford MPP. In addition, my professors want me to consider Duke Sanford for the PhD program (since I want to do research long term), Harvard Kennedy MPP, and Johns Hopkins MS in Applied Econ.

Undergrad institution: Slightly below top 50 in US

Undergrad Major: Public Policy

Undergrad GPA: 3.73. However, there is a significant upward trend as I have not received anything less than an A- since freshman year. Major GPA is a 3.87. I also fully expect for my GPA to increase by the time I'm applying to later application dates (i.e., anything after this semester)

Years out of undergrad: I am currently an undergrad.

Quant Background: Calc 1, several economics courses, two statistics courses, Decision Modeling taken through my university's graduate school.

Relevant Work Experience: Research internship in my field with a very well known Think Tank. Full-time Federal Government Internship with a significant Department. Government Relations intern with a startup working in my field.

GRE: I'm pretty embarrassed by this. 154Q, 158V, 4.5W. I will not be sending them where I am not required (Chicago, Berkeley, UCLA). I will also be retaking in time for later aps - though I don't know how much I can study given how busy I am now. 

Strength of LOR: 2 out of 3 should be strong. 1 will be okay but from a professor than can "explain away" an A- I received in an Econ course. 

Strength of SOP: Should be average. 

To sum it up, Chicago Harris is my number one. I will likely go regardless of funding since it's the best fit (I want to improve quant skills and work in urban policy / research). Do I have a chance at any of these programs? I know I'm fresh out of undergrad but I feel I have decent work experience through internships. Thank you for all the help!!

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4 hours ago, Kaz_KV said:

Hi everyone! I'm new here and would really appreciate any help.

Applying to: Chicago Harris MPP, Georgetown McCourt MPP, UCLA Luskin MPP or MURP, Berkeley Goldman MPP, Michigan Ford MPP. In addition, my professors want me to consider Duke Sanford for the PhD program (since I want to do research long term), Harvard Kennedy MPP, and Johns Hopkins MS in Applied Econ.

Undergrad institution: Slightly below top 50 in US

Undergrad Major: Public Policy

Undergrad GPA: 3.73. However, there is a significant upward trend as I have not received anything less than an A- since freshman year. Major GPA is a 3.87. I also fully expect for my GPA to increase by the time I'm applying to later application dates (i.e., anything after this semester)

Years out of undergrad: I am currently an undergrad.

Quant Background: Calc 1, several economics courses, two statistics courses, Decision Modeling taken through my university's graduate school.

Relevant Work Experience: Research internship in my field with a very well known Think Tank. Full-time Federal Government Internship with a significant Department. Government Relations intern with a startup working in my field.

GRE: I'm pretty embarrassed by this. 154Q, 158V, 4.5W. I will not be sending them where I am not required (Chicago, Berkeley, UCLA). I will also be retaking in time for later aps - though I don't know how much I can study given how busy I am now. 

Strength of LOR: 2 out of 3 should be strong. 1 will be okay but from a professor than can "explain away" an A- I received in an Econ course. 

Strength of SOP: Should be average. 

To sum it up, Chicago Harris is my number one. I will likely go regardless of funding since it's the best fit (I want to improve quant skills and work in urban policy / research). Do I have a chance at any of these programs? I know I'm fresh out of undergrad but I feel I have decent work experience through internships. Thank you for all the help!!

If Harris really is your number one then I think you would benefit a lot from taking a second calculus course if you still have time. Also you don't have to "explain away" an A-. If you can get a better letter from someone else then that would probably help you more. 

You would also obviously benefit from a year or two of real work experience, but I think you know that already. 

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2 hours ago, 2711383 said:

If Harris really is your number one then I think you would benefit a lot from taking a second calculus course if you still have time. Also you don't have to "explain away" an A-. If you can get a better letter from someone else then that would probably help you more. 

You would also obviously benefit from a year or two of real work experience, but I think you know that already. 

My thoughts:

1. You need to figure out if you want to do PhD in the long term or not. An MPP doesn't hurt you to get a PhD, but it doesn't really help you either. Also, if you get anything less than an A- GPA in MPP, once again. your chances of getting into a top PhD gets hurt.

2. I STRONGLY encourage you not to go to an MPP coming out of undergrad. Especially since you want to do research long term, it might even make sense for you to do a 1 year more academic Master's (good options are UK Oxford/Cambridge/LSE - assuming you can keep up your grades + do better on the GREs). If you go to MPP straight from undergrad, you are at a distinct DISADVANTAGE for all career and internal project opportunities. Also, you are simply less competitive period in terms of admissions. I will also say that almost ever undergrad I have known have had a notable worse student experience than the average non-undergrad, simply because they feel relatively alone (straight from undergrads are a small minority). 

3. Your MPP list is all over the place in so many different ways.

a. It seems like you haven't given deep thought to any of the schools other than what among the list of top schools have historically allowed undergrads to matriculate. I agree that Chicago probably makes sense for you, BUT there might be a surge of US applicants (this is already happening with MBA programs that publicize their application rates) due to COVID, making this competition cycle much more competitive than previous years (unless Trump gets elected, causing a crash of international students). 

b. Speaking from Pre-Covid situations these are my thoughts.

i.. U. Chicago Harris - I think it will be really hard for you to get in. 

ii. Georgetown McCourt - I think you might have a shot, but I hope you are prepared for student experience that doesn't prepare you for careers outside of data analytics research + Capital Hill. Bottom line - academics is top notch, but this will likely be a lonely place for you, and I don't think its a good place for you to develop professional skills. You'll really be hurting being a straight from undergrad.

iii. HKS - Unless their applications crash, no! They had some more straight from undergrads this past application cycle since their applications crashed due to COVID. Traditionally, you either need to a professional rock star (have your own start up / non profit or something) or have be sponsored (usually by the Federal government) to go there straight from undergrad. 

I don't now the other schools well enough to confidently say.

I think the school that is the best balance of what you can realistically get in + will probably be the best for you is UVA Batten School. It has an awesome student experience and it generally is a stronger support structure for those straight from undergrad. 

c. You need to consider where do you want a network. If you go West Coast, you'll get a West Coast network, and makes it harder for you to go to DC / NY and vice versa.

Oh and yes... get your GRE scorers up... or else UVA Batten might be out of reach. As someone straight out of undergrad, if you don't show your GREs, that becomes even more suspicious. Honestly, those who are most able to get away without sending GREs are working professionals who can more legitimately argue they really don't have time to study for GREs. 

 

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7 hours ago, GradSchoolGrad said:

My thoughts:

1. You need to figure out if you want to do PhD in the long term or not. An MPP doesn't hurt you to get a PhD, but it doesn't really help you either. Also, if you get anything less than an A- GPA in MPP, once again. your chances of getting into a top PhD gets hurt.

2. I STRONGLY encourage you not to go to an MPP coming out of undergrad. Especially since you want to do research long term, it might even make sense for you to do a 1 year more academic Master's (good options are UK Oxford/Cambridge/LSE - assuming you can keep up your grades + do better on the GREs). If you go to MPP straight from undergrad, you are at a distinct DISADVANTAGE for all career and internal project opportunities. Also, you are simply less competitive period in terms of admissions. I will also say that almost ever undergrad I have known have had a notable worse student experience than the average non-undergrad, simply because they feel relatively alone (straight from undergrads are a small minority). 

3. Your MPP list is all over the place in so many different ways.

a. It seems like you haven't given deep thought to any of the schools other than what among the list of top schools have historically allowed undergrads to matriculate. I agree that Chicago probably makes sense for you, BUT there might be a surge of US applicants (this is already happening with MBA programs that publicize their application rates) due to COVID, making this competition cycle much more competitive than previous years (unless Trump gets elected, causing a crash of international students). 

b. Speaking from Pre-Covid situations these are my thoughts.

i.. U. Chicago Harris - I think it will be really hard for you to get in. 

ii. Georgetown McCourt - I think you might have a shot, but I hope you are prepared for student experience that doesn't prepare you for careers outside of data analytics research + Capital Hill. Bottom line - academics is top notch, but this will likely be a lonely place for you, and I don't think its a good place for you to develop professional skills. You'll really be hurting being a straight from undergrad.

iii. HKS - Unless their applications crash, no! They had some more straight from undergrads this past application cycle since their applications crashed due to COVID. Traditionally, you either need to a professional rock star (have your own start up / non profit or something) or have be sponsored (usually by the Federal government) to go there straight from undergrad. 

I don't now the other schools well enough to confidently say.

I think the school that is the best balance of what you can realistically get in + will probably be the best for you is UVA Batten School. It has an awesome student experience and it generally is a stronger support structure for those straight from undergrad. 

c. You need to consider where do you want a network. If you go West Coast, you'll get a West Coast network, and makes it harder for you to go to DC / NY and vice versa.

Oh and yes... get your GRE scorers up... or else UVA Batten might be out of reach. As someone straight out of undergrad, if you don't show your GREs, that becomes even more suspicious. Honestly, those who are most able to get away without sending GREs are working professionals who can more legitimately argue they really don't have time to study for GREs. 

 

Thank you for your input, I appreciate your feedback. If I may, I'd like to respond to some of your points.

1. I understand the point about MPP vs. PhD. This is something some of my professors have pointed out as well. However, after speaking with the directors of Public Policy PhD programs, many have told me they do in fact prefer applicants who have MPPs. Additionally, many of the programs require, or strongly prefer, previous graduate degrees. As mentioned in my original post, I am also looking the possibility of getting an MS in Applied Econ. On a separate note, I want to mention that I do not plan to enter academic research. I am more interested in Government/Non-profit research and would prefer getting an MPP, working for a few years, and then pursuing a PhD. This is for personal/family related reasons as well.

2.  After speaking with MPP students who came directly from undergrad, I have only heard positive experiences. I completely understand how it may be difficult to get in, however, and am willing to accept rejection and enter the job market. 

3. I must admit I was a little taken aback by your comment that my list is all over the place. I feel as though I should/can explain my thinking for each program:

- Harris: This one is obvious - it's a pretty academic focused MPP. It offers strong quant preparation and is additionally very strong in Urban Policy. After speaking to someone from the admissions office, I have heard that I will be a strong applicant.

- McCourt: Again, pretty strong quant focus. I have a large network in the DC area and am willing to continue building these connections. Last, there is also a thesis option which will give me further research experience.

- Ford: I plan on applying to the joint program to earn my MPP and MS in Applied Econ. Therefore, like the other programs so far, I'm interested in building my quant skills. However, this school is not high on my list and I do not believe I'd be a strong applicant since I do not have more professional experience. 

- HKS: Yeah I'm not stupid, I know this won't happen and I'm not going to try and make it. I only mentioned it because I few of my professors after seeing my profile recommended it. Not only do I know I don't have a chance getting in, I do not think it's a tremendously good fit for me. 

- UCLA: This program isn't a great fit for me, I'll definitely grant you that. However, the program offers a track in transportation policy which is the area in which I want to specifically study. One of my professors received his PhD here, spoke very highly of it, and recommended I apply. 

- Berkeley: You are correct that this selection did not make sense. It was a recent addition to my "considering list" and I think I will remove it. Thank you for the input.

4. I can definitely look into UVA, thank you.

5. As for the GREs, I am not sending them because due to COVID, I believe my scores are not representative of my profile. I have received an A in every math/quant class I have taken in college and therefore believe I demonstrate somewhat high quant skills. The schools I will not be sending my scores to are those with early applications (before I could retake the GRE) and have made it optional this year for precisely this reason. I want to reiterate that my low scores are an effect of personal issues stemming from COVID. I would prefer not to get too personal about the situation I have been dealing with but I hope understand what I mean. Certain schools have provided a test optional policy this cycle for precisely this reason. This is not me trying to avoid sending a crucial part of my application simply because I did bad. 

 

Thank you for the input. I will certainly take away the idea that I should consider more professional experience.  

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21 minutes ago, Kaz_KV said:

Thank you for your input, I appreciate your feedback. If I may, I'd like to respond to some of your points.

1. I understand the point about MPP vs. PhD. This is something some of my professors have pointed out as well. However, after speaking with the directors of Public Policy PhD programs, many have told me they do in fact prefer applicants who have MPPs. Additionally, many of the programs require, or strongly prefer, previous graduate degrees. As mentioned in my original post, I am also looking the possibility of getting an MS in Applied Econ. On a separate note, I want to mention that I do not plan to enter academic research. I am more interested in Government/Non-profit research and would prefer getting an MPP, working for a few years, and then pursuing a PhD. This is for personal/family related reasons as well.

2.  After speaking with MPP students who came directly from undergrad, I have only heard positive experiences. I completely understand how it may be difficult to get in, however, and am willing to accept rejection and enter the job market. 

3. I must admit I was a little taken aback by your comment that my list is all over the place. I feel as though I should/can explain my thinking for each program:

- Harris: This one is obvious - it's a pretty academic focused MPP. It offers strong quant preparation and is additionally very strong in Urban Policy. After speaking to someone from the admissions office, I have heard that I will be a strong applicant.

- McCourt: Again, pretty strong quant focus. I have a large network in the DC area and am willing to continue building these connections. Last, there is also a thesis option which will give me further research experience.

- Ford: I plan on applying to the joint program to earn my MPP and MS in Applied Econ. Therefore, like the other programs so far, I'm interested in building my quant skills. However, this school is not high on my list and I do not believe I'd be a strong applicant since I do not have more professional experience. 

- HKS: Yeah I'm not stupid, I know this won't happen and I'm not going to try and make it. I only mentioned it because I few of my professors after seeing my profile recommended it. Not only do I know I don't have a chance getting in, I do not think it's a tremendously good fit for me. 

- UCLA: This program isn't a great fit for me, I'll definitely grant you that. However, the program offers a track in transportation policy which is the area in which I want to specifically study. One of my professors received his PhD here, spoke very highly of it, and recommended I apply. 

- Berkeley: You are correct that this selection did not make sense. It was a recent addition to my "considering list" and I think I will remove it. Thank you for the input.

4. I can definitely look into UVA, thank you.

5. As for the GREs, I am not sending them because due to COVID, I believe my scores are not representative of my profile. I have received an A in every math/quant class I have taken in college and therefore believe I demonstrate somewhat high quant skills. The schools I will not be sending my scores to are those with early applications (before I could retake the GRE) and have made it optional this year for precisely this reason. I want to reiterate that my low scores are an effect of personal issues stemming from COVID. I would prefer not to get too personal about the situation I have been dealing with but I hope understand what I mean. Certain schools have provided a test optional policy this cycle for precisely this reason. This is not me trying to avoid sending a crucial part of my application simply because I did bad. 

 

Thank you for the input. I will certainly take away the idea that I should consider more professional experience.  

1. Yes you are right about PhDs in Public Policy - looking more favorably on grad school work experience than other options. I was thinking PhD in general (actually most MPPs I know who go PhD route get one in Econ or Political Science). 

2. As for student experience, I think we need to clarify between relative experience vs. absolute experience. Yes, most straight from undergrad MPPs that I encountered (from various schools) get star stuck WOW factor in the first semester/year because grad school does have more opportunities than undergrad + you do generally encounter lots of interesting people. So relative to undergrad, from the academic/professional angle, an MPP does at first generally highlight a good experience. However, in terms of the range of total opportunity in terms of:

a. Access to internships

b. Access to projects

c. Total professional bounce between prior job to current job 

d. Social opportunities 

granted there is some variation by school, straight from undergrads miss out on a lot compared to other students in terms of absolute comparisons. 

3. In general, when speaking with anyone, I recommend you identify how "real" they are willing to get with you because different people have different incentives and may only tell you part of the story. Some key examples:

a. Student Ambassadors (I was one, so I know) are there to pump the school up 

b. Students in general --> most of them want to talk about the positives of a school rather than the downsides in order to make themselves feel good about about making the right decision (we are human, we want to rationalize our choices). Its interesting how many MPPs students I encounter who hated their experience + program still talk in public proudly about it to justify their decision. I think it is important to talk to students/recent alums in general, but you want to have them discuss the real downsides of a program too because they won't generally.

c. Admissions --> Admissions' job is too boost applications period. Even if it isn't published (like undergrad admissions) it is internally reported among the University + discussed at conferences. So the admissions at Harris, are absolutely correct, you are competitive for Harris. However, generally when they have such conversations, they are taking it from the perspective of your ability to graduate (which obviously you don't have a problem for). However, what they are not taking into account is how competitive the application cycle is. Factors like professional experience, diversity, brand of school, and etc. then come into play. Also keep in mind available slots is also determined upon how many of those who deferred (and there was a lot from last cycle) want their seats back. Most admissions offices won't tell someone who is utterly unqualified not to apply. However, for anyone who meets minimum viability, they will encourage that person to apply. 

4. As for your school choice, I think you are emphasizing the wrong things.

You seem to be looking into what a school can offer you in terms of academic programming + marketing material benefits of a school. Don't get me wrong this is definitely important as a baseline (i.e. you want quant, so you should get quant). However, what I don't think you have looked into at is if a school gets you into your desired outcomes. If you did look into that, you would have highlighted:

a. Regional preference in terms of where you land - From a network perspective, if you go West Coast, its easier to stay West Coast than go East.

b. Policy Focus areas - each school has strengths and weaknesses for Policy Focus areas. I personally know people who transferred out of McCourt due to its lack of academic opportunities in Food Policy or Transportation Policy . 

c. Actual career outcomes and career support - Harris does an amazing job with career support. McCourt does a terrible job with boosting your career, and even the most gung ho McCourt fans will mention that. There is a reason why the average McCourt grad's post graduation salary is less than the average Georgetown undergrad grad (back when they published it in 2017 or so, conveniently removing students "they couldn't track"). 

d. Student experience - what type of student experience do you want? I'm a big fan of Harris because it is academic + professionally oriented. I like UVA Batten because it is collaborative and collaboration focused. I'm not a fan of McCourt MPP because although it is quant based, it is culturally deficient in terms of not being career focused, ethically challenged, and socially more like Mean Girls than an MPP program (and the straight from undergrads often aren't invited to many unofficial social occasions --> cliques are the standard culture)

e. Academic programming factors that really matter.  Honestly, the thesis at McCourt is outdated and should not be a means of attracting you to the program. Most schools got rid of their thesis because they want their graduation requirement to elicit professional skills. McCourt keeps its thesis because it is relatively cost efficient and they got some Powerhouse professors stuck in the 1990s. Some student programming that may actually matter to you are research partnerships, graduate student positions at research institutes, career connections (i.e. if XYZ firm/org saves 3 seats for students from so and so school), and ongoing collaborative research projects you can jump in on. 

5. You got good grades, stop harping on them more than you have to. I mean as long as you get above 3.5 and do really well in your quant classes, you are golden academically. It doesn't matter how you do it. Beyond that they will look at your work experience and LOR and how competitive the cycle is.

One thing you do need to appreciate is that being straight from undergrad is a demographic group that hurts you period. No program gets any kudos from admitting someone straight from undergrad. In fact its hurts their statistics in terms of years of work experience (proxy for quality of a program). Where as they might seek demographic, career type (teacher or business or etc.) diversity advantage, you are generally filler when the other applicants aren't as qualified academically. Except for special programs (sponsorships and etc.), most schools don't hold seats for undergrads. 

 

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51 minutes ago, GradSchoolGrad said:

1. Yes you are right about PhDs in Public Policy - looking more favorably on grad school work experience than other options. I was thinking PhD in general (actually most MPPs I know who go PhD route get one in Econ or Political Science). 

2. As for student experience, I think we need to clarify between relative experience vs. absolute experience. Yes, most straight from undergrad MPPs that I encountered (from various schools) get star stuck WOW factor in the first semester/year because grad school does have more opportunities than undergrad + you do generally encounter lots of interesting people. So relative to undergrad, from the academic/professional angle, an MPP does at first generally highlight a good experience. However, in terms of the range of total opportunity in terms of:

a. Access to internships

b. Access to projects

c. Total professional bounce between prior job to current job 

d. Social opportunities 

granted there is some variation by school, straight from undergrads miss out on a lot compared to other students in terms of absolute comparisons. 

3. In general, when speaking with anyone, I recommend you identify how "real" they are willing to get with you because different people have different incentives and may only tell you part of the story. Some key examples:

a. Student Ambassadors (I was one, so I know) are there to pump the school up 

b. Students in general --> most of them want to talk about the positives of a school rather than the downsides in order to make themselves feel good about about making the right decision (we are human, we want to rationalize our choices). Its interesting how many MPPs students I encounter who hated their experience + program still talk in public proudly about it to justify their decision. I think it is important to talk to students/recent alums in general, but you want to have them discuss the real downsides of a program too because they won't generally.

c. Admissions --> Admissions' job is too boost applications period. Even if it isn't published (like undergrad admissions) it is internally reported among the University + discussed at conferences. So the admissions at Harris, are absolutely correct, you are competitive for Harris. However, generally when they have such conversations, they are taking it from the perspective of your ability to graduate (which obviously you don't have a problem for). However, what they are not taking into account is how competitive the application cycle is. Factors like professional experience, diversity, brand of school, and etc. then come into play. Also keep in mind available slots is also determined upon how many of those who deferred (and there was a lot from last cycle) want their seats back. Most admissions offices won't tell someone who is utterly unqualified not to apply. However, for anyone who meets minimum viability, they will encourage that person to apply. 

4. As for your school choice, I think you are emphasizing the wrong things.

You seem to be looking into what a school can offer you in terms of academic programming + marketing material benefits of a school. Don't get me wrong this is definitely important as a baseline (i.e. you want quant, so you should get quant). However, what I don't think you have looked into at is if a school gets you into your desired outcomes. If you did look into that, you would have highlighted:

a. Regional preference in terms of where you land - From a network perspective, if you go West Coast, its easier to stay West Coast than go East.

b. Policy Focus areas - each school has strengths and weaknesses for Policy Focus areas. I personally know people who transferred out of McCourt due to its lack of academic opportunities in Food Policy or Transportation Policy . 

c. Actual career outcomes and career support - Harris does an amazing job with career support. McCourt does a terrible job with boosting your career, and even the most gung ho McCourt fans will mention that. There is a reason why the average McCourt grad's post graduation salary is less than the average Georgetown undergrad grad (back when they published it in 2017 or so, conveniently removing students "they couldn't track"). 

d. Student experience - what type of student experience do you want? I'm a big fan of Harris because it is academic + professionally oriented. I like UVA Batten because it is collaborative and collaboration focused. I'm not a fan of McCourt MPP because although it is quant based, it is culturally deficient in terms of not being career focused, ethically challenged, and socially more like Mean Girls than an MPP program (and the straight from undergrads often aren't invited to many unofficial social occasions --> cliques are the standard culture)

e. Academic programming factors that really matter.  Honestly, the thesis at McCourt is outdated and should not be a means of attracting you to the program. Most schools got rid of their thesis because they want their graduation requirement to elicit professional skills. McCourt keeps its thesis because it is relatively cost efficient and they got some Powerhouse professors stuck in the 1990s. Some student programming that may actually matter to you are research partnerships, graduate student positions at research institutes, career connections (i.e. if XYZ firm/org saves 3 seats for students from so and so school), and ongoing collaborative research projects you can jump in on. 

5. You got good grades, stop harping on them more than you have to. I mean as long as you get above 3.5 and do really well in your quant classes, you are golden academically. It doesn't matter how you do it. Beyond that they will look at your work experience and LOR and how competitive the cycle is.

One thing you do need to appreciate is that being straight from undergrad is a demographic group that hurts you period. No program gets any kudos from admitting someone straight from undergrad. In fact its hurts their statistics in terms of years of work experience (proxy for quality of a program). Where as they might seek demographic, career type (teacher or business or etc.) diversity advantage, you are generally filler when the other applicants aren't as qualified academically. Except for special programs (sponsorships and etc.), most schools don't hold seats for undergrads. 

 

Thank you this was all very helpful information. I specifically appreciate the advice about McCourt. 

 

Ultimately, while I still plan on applying I do understand how competitive and difficult admission straight from undergrad will be. However, I do think it still makes sense to apply and see what happens. So far, most of the programs have said they'll wave application fees so it's not like I'm taking a huge financial hit in doing this. If I get rejected, hey I mean it was worth a shot. Should I get rejected, or should I be admitted and decide against enrolling, I will simply just enter the job market. 

 

Thanks again for all the help. I do really appreciate the candid advice. Stay safe! 

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Reposting this as some things have changed for me.

Program Applying to: MPP - I only want to go to UC Berkeley Goldman (want west coast opportunities, analytical focus, public ethos) but I'm considering applying to USC Price, UChicago Harris, HKS just in case

Undergraduate Institution: Top liberal arts school

Undergraduate GPA: 3.52

Undergraduate Major: Economics

GRE: 167Q 167V 5.0W

 Years Out of Undergrad:  4

Years of Work Experience:  4

Describe Relevant Work Experience:
-Worked as a Research Assistant for economics professors in undergrad, so experience with development/international/labor economics

-1.5 years in economic consulting. Developed strong quantitative skills as well as experience in the private sector.

-2 years in a non-partisan public policy research institution, specializing in the social safety net and health policy. Have co-authored some reports as well as short articles. 

-Starting a job as a researcher at a center affiliated with GSPP

Other notable experience: 
-Not too much outside of work activities which is what I'm concerned about, but my job takes me to the state capitol pretty often so I get to meet bureaucrats, legislators, etc. 

I'm wondering whether it's even worth it for me to apply to the other three schools besides Berkeley if I don't see myself attending them and I think I have a good shot at Goldman. My reasoning would be to be able to leverage a potentially better financial package from another school. Thanks for the feedback!

 

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Thanks in advance!

Undergrad Institution: Big state school in the East
Major(s): Biotechnology
Minor(s): Microbiology
GPA in Major: 3.25
Overall GPA: 3.08
Upper Division GPA: 3.6
Type of Student: International, Female, Hispanic/Latina


GRE Scores: have not taken yet; most programs do not require yet, not sure what I will do yet.

Research Experience: 

3 years of biotechnology industry (industry leader in the technology it utilizes) experience testing the potency of drug candidates on cancerous cell lines. Subject matter expert in cell banking, a lot of experience with mammalian cells. Have developed various assays to test drug candidates. I have worked now on 2 FDA-approved cancer drugs. Presented 2 posters at the company-wide conference (1 first author, 1 fourth author).

3 summers as an intern for a dermatology clinic. Performed research on common dermatological conditions as well as assisted with the evaluation of legal drug candidates.

No publications.


Awards/Honors/Recognitions: Dean's list for 4 semesters. Company award for performance exceeding expectations of job.

Pertinent Activities or Jobs: 

Organic Chemistry Learning Assistant (undergrad "TA"): 1 year

Chemistry Proctor: 2 years

Unrelated research experience (brain plasticity in bilingual speakers): 1 year


Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help: Part of the team responsible for 2 FDA-approved cancer drugs.

Special Bonus Points: fluent in 3 languages, international student orientation leader, VP of the international student association, selected as member of the student conduct board.

I should have very strong LORs (2 from industry supervisors, one from a biotechnology professor).


Any Other Info That Shows Up On Your App and Might Matter:

I was initially an engineering major, hence the low GPA. Very obvious upward trend in my grades/GPA once I switched to science. All As and Bs other than Chemistry and Calculus.

Obtained a C in Chemistry 1 and 2 in the first year of my undergrad. Obtained an A in Organic Chemistry and was selected as a Learning Assistant (undergrad "TA") in my last year of undergrad. Another comeback!

Applying to Where (will apply to 10-12, still narrowing it down):

UCLA - Bioscience/Molecular Pharmacology (reach)
USC - Pharmaceutical and Translational Sciences (reach)
UCSD - Biological Sciences (reach)

University of Miami - Biomedical Science (mid to reach?)
UCSB - Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology (mid?)
UCI - Pharmacological Sciences/Pharmacology (mid?)
UC Riverside - Cell, Molecular & Developmental Biology (mid?)
San Diego State - Molecular Biology (mid?)
Chapman University - Pharmaceutical Sciences (mid?)

Nova Southeastern - Pharmaceutical Science (safe?)
Florida International University - Biology or Biochemistry, still unsure (safety)
University of South Florida - Cell & Molecular Biology (safety)
Cal State LA - Biology M.S. (safety)
Cal State Long Beach - Biology M.S. (safety)

Could any of you chance me on the above schools or recommend me any programs that could be a good fit for me? I think I might have too many reach schools and not enough safeties. I am interested in Molecular Biology and Pharmacology. Any program that would be a good basis to be an active participant in target identification, drug discovery, etc. I am hoping to join a PhD program but will be applying to 2 master's programs as safety in order to become a stronger candidate for a PhD.

Also, please let me know if I have incorrectly identified any of the programs above as reach/mid/safety. 

TIA!

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1 hour ago, dannyprimus said:

Reposting this as some things have changed for me.

Program Applying to: MPP - I only want to go to UC Berkeley Goldman (want west coast opportunities, analytical focus, public ethos) but I'm considering applying to USC Price, UChicago Harris, HKS just in case

Undergraduate Institution: Top liberal arts school

Undergraduate GPA: 3.52

Undergraduate Major: Economics

GRE: 167Q 167V 5.0W

 Years Out of Undergrad:  4

Years of Work Experience:  4

Describe Relevant Work Experience:
-Worked as a Research Assistant for economics professors in undergrad, so experience with development/international/labor economics

-1.5 years in economic consulting. Developed strong quantitative skills as well as experience in the private sector.

-2 years in a non-partisan public policy research institution, specializing in the social safety net and health policy. Have co-authored some reports as well as short articles. 

-Starting a job as a researcher at a center affiliated with GSPP

Other notable experience: 
-Not too much outside of work activities which is what I'm concerned about, but my job takes me to the state capitol pretty often so I get to meet bureaucrats, legislators, etc. 

I'm wondering whether it's even worth it for me to apply to the other three schools besides Berkeley if I don't see myself attending them and I think I have a good shot at Goldman. My reasoning would be to be able to leverage a potentially better financial package from another school. Thanks for the feedback!

 

You are a pretty solid candidate (assuming you have some quant classes in college). If you have some semblance of leadership / managerial excellence, that might be the cherry on the cake.

Unless you want to shoot for HKS and Harris, there should be no reasons for you to apply there (doesn't sound like it). Especially given how painful the HKS application is. What I would do instead is identify some West Coast schools as safeties that in the event of a worst admissions case scenario for you (deferrals want their seats back + surge in US application + Biden election halts slide in international students) means that you might not get into Goldman, other options that you might actually attend may begin to sound promising to you.

In addition to Price, there is Luskin at UCLA, and Evans at UW. 

You don't want to get a full ride from a place you don't want to go to when you should have gotten a full ride from a place that actually aligns with your interest. 

Even if they do give you do get full ride scholarships, at most UC Berkeley might throw in like an extra few grand or so to sweeten the pot, but definitely not fill it. Especially if this current cycle has strong grad school demand, they might not care to play negotiation games as much as they used to. 

Edited by GradSchoolGrad
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Program Applying to: PEG PhD Political Science Track, Woodrow Wilson School Security Studies Track, Berkley Goldman, USC Price, Michigan, and McCourt

Undergraduate Institution: Large Public State School

Undergraduate GPA: 3.6

Undergraduate Major: Political Science BA and Physics BS

GRE: 166Q 163V 4.5W

 Years Out of Undergrad:  1.5

Years of Work Experience:  I did research/worked for my entire time during Undergrad and out of college

Letters of Recommendation: My NSF advisor said he would write me a really good one, the other two I am not a hundred percent about.  They both should be pretty good though.

Describe Relevant Work Experience:
-NSF Undergrad Fellowship(3 years) resulting in second author out of seven on a paper( built the website where the experiment was conducted, helped write the paper)

-Research Assistant for Statistical Work programming statistics test (R, Mathematica)

-Research Assistant for Black Transnationalism

-Coached a debate team(I was being paid so i guess it was work experience)

-intern at the statehouses for summer

- Software Intern ( this was before college)

Other notable experience: 
- I spent six months in China at tsinghua studying chinese passed HSK 4.  Was planning to spend another six months there but had to flee back home because of covid.

-I can program pretty well.  I know web development and IOS development well enough to make stuff.

-did debate for like six years before i started coaching

-Took two methods classes in R while in college

 

Got any advice or anything for me, go ahead.

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1 hour ago, GradSchoolGrad said:

You are a pretty solid candidate (assuming you have some quant classes in college). If you have some semblance of leadership / managerial excellence, that might be the cherry on the cake.

Unless you want to shoot for HKS and Harris, there should be no reasons for you to apply there (doesn't sound like it). Especially given how painful the HKS application is. What I would do instead is identify some West Coast schools as safeties that in the event of a worst admissions case scenario for you (deferrals want their seats back + surge in US application + Biden election halts slide in international students) means that you might not get into Goldman, other options that you might actually attend may begin to sound promising to you.

In addition to Price, there is Luskin at UCLA, and Evans at UW. 

You don't want to get a full ride from a place you don't want to go to when you should have gotten a full ride from a place that actually aligns with your interest. 

Even if they do give you do get full ride scholarships, at most UC Berkeley might throw in like an extra few grand or so to sweeten the pot, but definitely not fill it. Especially if this current cycle has strong grad school demand, they might not care to play negotiation games as much as they used to. 

Thanks, I was leaning towards just applying to GSPP and Price (maybe Luskin) as I'd heard about the onerous HKS application process. No one knows what post-COVID applications will look like but you present a realistic case.

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First time poster, long time lurker.

In regard to programs, I would like to attend a program that gives me a shot at public sector consulting as it sounds interesting and I’m not 100% committed to returning to lobbying right away. In terms of location I’d like to return to California or go to DC. I do not plan on taking the GRE and am only applying to programs waiving the requirement. 

I have no clue what my chances are, my top choice by far is Goldman. Not too worried about funding, more curious about general chances at acceptance. Haven’t seen too many other people with lobbying backgrounds on the forum so I’m also curious if schools are receptive to it. 

Thank you for your help. 

Applying to: Goldman MPP, Luskin MPP*, UCSD MPP, Batten MPP, Duke Sanford MPP,  CIPA MPA 

Undergraduate Institution: UC Campus, lower tier (UCR, UCM, UCSC range) 

Undergraduate GPA: 3.8

GRE Quantitative Score: Not submitting
GRE Verbal Score: Not submitting 

Undergraduate Major: History

Years out of college: 2

Languages Skills: English

Relevant Work Experience: Public affairs/lobbying for a large trade association in the state of California, association is regularly in the news for negotiating deals/bills related to an important issue at the state level. My responsibilities are a mix of lobbying, providing research support, and admin. responsibilities. 

Quant Background: Statistics (A), Microeconomics (A)

Strength of SOP: Will be strong 

Strength of LOR: 1 very strong letter from current boss, 1 strong letter from former boss (also lobbying), 1 strong letter from professor. 

*GRE decision will be coming out later this week. 

Edited by EveningLeaves
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@EveningLeaves 

Before we talk to you about schools... I recommend you read my posts about Federal Consulting first.

Like you, I entered grad school gunning for Federal Consulting, but I'm so glad I got diverted from that path.

 

Edited by GradSchoolGrad
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7 minutes ago, GradSchoolGrad said:

@EveningLeaves 

Before we talk to you about schools... I recommend you read my posts about Federal Consulting first.

Like you, I entered grad school gunning for Federal Consulting, but I'm so glad I got diverted from that path.

 

This is valuable information, thank you. I spent some time going through your post history and the specific post you linked but if you have any previous comments you've made that you recommend I'd be interested in those too. You make great points about the field and it's potential pitfalls that I hadn't seen yet. Honestly the path still sounds interesting to me and I'm actually a big fan of point f in your cons. If I could ask a couple of follow up questions, what are the traditional exit opportunities? Is there a stressful atmosphere similar to big law firms or is it more mellow? Which path did you end up pursuing instead of federal consulting (if that isn't too personal)? Thanks again. 

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3 hours ago, EveningLeaves said:

First time poster, long time lurker.

In regard to programs, I would like to attend a program that gives me a shot at public sector consulting as it sounds interesting and I’m not 100% committed to returning to lobbying right away. In terms of location I’d like to return to California or go to DC. I do not plan on taking the GRE and am only applying to programs waiving the requirement. 

I have no clue what my chances are, my top choice by far is Goldman. Not too worried about funding, more curious about general chances at acceptance. Haven’t seen too many other people with lobbying backgrounds on the forum so I’m also curious if schools are receptive to it. 

Thank you for your help. 

Applying to: Goldman MPP, Luskin MPP*, UCSD MPP, Batten MPP, Duke Sanford MPP,  CIPA MPA 

Undergraduate Institution: UC Campus, lower tier (UCR, UCM, UCSC range) 

Undergraduate GPA: 3.8

GRE Quantitative Score: Not submitting
GRE Verbal Score: Not submitting 

Undergraduate Major: History

Years out of college: 2

Languages Skills: English

Relevant Work Experience: Public affairs/lobbying for a large trade association in the state of California, association is regularly in the news for negotiating deals/bills related to an important issue at the state level. My responsibilities are a mix of lobbying, providing research support, and admin. responsibilities. 

Quant Background: Statistics (A), Microeconomics (A)

Strength of SOP: Will be strong 

Strength of LOR: 1 very strong letter from current boss, 1 strong letter from former boss (also lobbying), 1 strong letter from professor. 

*GRE decision will be coming out later this week. 

1. Stats and Micro-Econ puts you in a good position directly, but it would be helpful if you identified if your took Calc or. Econometrics. Your work experience is legit, but nothing extra ordinary. Like between straight from undergrad to Navy Seal, you are in the middle. 

2. I honestly don't know the West Coast schools that well in terms of admissions,  so I don't feel comfortable answering.

3. I am a big fan of Duke Sanford and UVA Batten MPP as awesome programs. HOWEVER... those are East Coast schools, and it doesn't really make sense for you if you want to stay out West.

4. Just drop CIPA from your list. It is like Stanford MPP - great University, but not a great program. 

 

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Hi everyone, long time lurker, all that nonsense. Any advice is welcome!

Applying to: Chicago Harris MPP, Georgetown McCourt MPP, Duke Sanford MPP, Harvard Kennedy MPP, NYU Wagner MSPP (and American as a backup if I don't get accepted w/ a decent aid offer from Georgetown or Harris, since they're the ones that release results before American's deadline)

Undergrad institution: Non-HYP Ivy

Undergrad Major: Government, Minor in Public Policy

Undergrad GPA: 3.81 (haven't calculated major GPA separately, but it's probably pretty close) 

Years out of undergrad: 1, will be 2 by the time classes start next fall.

Quant Background: College credit for AP Calc,  intro micro (B)/macro (A) econ, intro stats with R (A-), Mathematics in Politics (logic and slightly game theory-focused course, A), plus some light Stata training in an internship.

Relevant Work Experience: Research internship with a high profile think tank in DC, interned with a local campaign, the NY state assembly, and an NYC DA, been a constituent liaison in NYC ever since I graduated undergrad last year.

GRE: 165/167/5.5 (Verbal/Quant/AWA)

Strength of LOR: I think all three should be decently strong. Two are from college professors who taught research methods courses that I did well in, the other is from my current supervisor.

Strength of SOP: Should be good, I talk about how important voting rights and reform (my current focus area) have been to me from a very young age, how it influenced my extracurriculars in college, and customize them by discussing how I plan to use the tools/unique policy centers/connections from each school to further my career. 

Extracurriculars/Leadership: I was elected to the executive board of one of my school's largest political clubs, and I helped to train volunteers on a campaign I interned for. 

My plan could change, but for now I picture myself working in a think tank in DC and/or the federal government, so I ruled out every school west of the Mississippi. I admire Harris's strong quant/econ focus and career development reputation (and they've already waived my application fee completely unsolicited, so they've already earned some brownie points with me), Georgetown's location, analytical strengths, and networking opportunities with local nonprofits/think tanks, and Duke's strength with social policy, relative proximity to DC, smaller cohort size, and great reputation. I have family I could live with in NYC while I go to school, but only for 2021-2022, hence the choice of the one-year MSPP over MPA at NYU. Plus, I feel like that program would be a better fit anyway, as the MPA seems relatively public management-focused, and I prefer more behind-the-scenes analytical roles, though the recent formation of the program and resulting small alumni network gives me some pause. Lastly, I know Harvard is a stretch, but I've already decided that Princeton would be too much of a pipe dream, and I'd like to include a not-completely-insane reach. HKS's Institute of Politics really interests me, and the value of the brand and alumni network goes without saying. 

Also, I'm hoping the high GRE quant score makes up for the B in intro micro (took it over winter break, very dumb decision), the lack of advanced quant coursework, and the almost complete absence of any quant exposure in my work experience. I know applications will probably be very competitive this year, and just generally unpredictable, but any sort of correction or reassurance would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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5 hours ago, van_96 said:

Hi everyone, long time lurker, all that nonsense. Any advice is welcome!

Applying to: Chicago Harris MPP, Georgetown McCourt MPP, Duke Sanford MPP, Harvard Kennedy MPP, NYU Wagner MSPP (and American as a backup if I don't get accepted w/ a decent aid offer from Georgetown or Harris, since they're the ones that release results before American's deadline)

Undergrad institution: Non-HYP Ivy

Undergrad Major: Government, Minor in Public Policy

Undergrad GPA: 3.81 (haven't calculated major GPA separately, but it's probably pretty close) 

Years out of undergrad: 1, will be 2 by the time classes start next fall.

Quant Background: College credit for AP Calc,  intro micro (B)/macro (A) econ, intro stats with R (A-), Mathematics in Politics (logic and slightly game theory-focused course, A), plus some light Stata training in an internship.

Relevant Work Experience: Research internship with a high profile think tank in DC, interned with a local campaign, the NY state assembly, and an NYC DA, been a constituent liaison in NYC ever since I graduated undergrad last year.

GRE: 165/167/5.5 (Verbal/Quant/AWA)

Strength of LOR: I think all three should be decently strong. Two are from college professors who taught research methods courses that I did well in, the other is from my current supervisor.

Strength of SOP: Should be good, I talk about how important voting rights and reform (my current focus area) have been to me from a very young age, how it influenced my extracurriculars in college, and customize them by discussing how I plan to use the tools/unique policy centers/connections from each school to further my career. 

Extracurriculars/Leadership: I was elected to the executive board of one of my school's largest political clubs, and I helped to train volunteers on a campaign I interned for. 

My plan could change, but for now I picture myself working in a think tank in DC and/or the federal government, so I ruled out every school west of the Mississippi. I admire Harris's strong quant/econ focus and career development reputation (and they've already waived my application fee completely unsolicited, so they've already earned some brownie points with me), Georgetown's location, analytical strengths, and networking opportunities with local nonprofits/think tanks, and Duke's strength with social policy, relative proximity to DC, smaller cohort size, and great reputation. I have family I could live with in NYC while I go to school, but only for 2021-2022, hence the choice of the one-year MSPP over MPA at NYU. Plus, I feel like that program would be a better fit anyway, as the MPA seems relatively public management-focused, and I prefer more behind-the-scenes analytical roles, though the recent formation of the program and resulting small alumni network gives me some pause. Lastly, I know Harvard is a stretch, but I've already decided that Princeton would be too much of a pipe dream, and I'd like to include a not-completely-insane reach. HKS's Institute of Politics really interests me, and the value of the brand and alumni network goes without saying. 

Also, I'm hoping the high GRE quant score makes up for the B in intro micro (took it over winter break, very dumb decision), the lack of advanced quant coursework, and the almost complete absence of any quant exposure in my work experience. I know applications will probably be very competitive this year, and just generally unpredictable, but any sort of correction or reassurance would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Here are my thoughts:

1. About schools: I think you are way stronger of a candidate than you think you actually are. No one cares about 1 grade as long as your overall GPA is great. I think you shown enough math/programming skills to show you are dangerous even if you haven't done full blown econometrics. 

I actually think you are within striking distance of HKS Pre-Covid. Again - not sure how competitive this application cycle is. If you don't get into Harris, I would be surprised. I think the best options for you would be HKS, Harris, and Sanford in that order.

McCourt is interesting because you are right about its quant advantage + network... HOWEVER, granted many professors have networks to Think Tanks, only about 1 person (if any) go to a Think Tank a year (pure think tank like Urban or Brookings, not just a research institute or org that has a research arm). I think its interesting that the 1 Think Tank alumni who comes back is essentially worshipped on career day, but few have been able to ride that. The reason is because Think Tanks are so competitive among PhDs and Post-Docs already, let alone the Master's crew. I bet McCourt will probably give you the most scholarship because they like people from brand name schools. However, if your Think Tank plans fall off the wayside, the school doesn't have a good culture or structure to help you with other career options --> AKA: unless you go to one of the few historic recruiting paths - Deloitte or Mathamatica, you are on your own.

2. Careers:

Think Tank - you might want to think twice about doing the Think Tank role. Obviously there are some cool points, but:
a. Not really a great place to work in terms of career development and mentoring (especially as Master's person where you'll forever be 2nd class to PhDs)

b. Very very very rarely have I seen a person last past their early 30s in a think tank (without a PhD and some even with a PhD). At a certain point you are just stove piped unless you manage to go to the managerial track. 

Federal Government:

The three easiest ways to get in the Federal Government are:

a. Presidential Management Fellowship (what I recommend). It used to be super competitive, but not as much anymore. 

b. Pathways internship --> good luck finding those anymore... hence the advantage of being in DC is diminished

c. Competitive Application --> Depending on demand this ranges greatly... and honestly you can backdoor this if you make targeted connections (which if you have strong Professors with connections, they can help you). 

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