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Safety Schools?


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I just took the revised GRE test today and pretty pleased with my results , especially as I bombed the GMAT about a month ago.

I want to start an MPA program in the fall but I am not sure based on my stats what would be good safety schools, although I've picked out schools I really want to go to, don't want to be left with nothing!

Stats are:

25/F from England

Undergrad 3.5 GPA in Psychology and quite a bit of charity work etc while at Uni.

GRE: Q159 (old scoring 750) - 82nd percentile, V165 (old scoring 690) - 96th percentile)

6 months travelling in central america, 6 months at a language school in Austria (studying German)

1 year working in events

2 years working in retail (1 year in management in a department store, 1 year in buying for the companies website), then left to start studying

Right now am taking online classes in calculus and statistics and volunteering at an elderly persons home, from January enrolling in community college to take classes in micro/macro economics, finance and maybe some poli sci as didn't take any of these things as part of my undergrad and think I will find the MPA too difficult with no prior knowledge.

I would like to apply to USC, NYU and Columbia but was wondering if based on my stats I have any chances of getting in and what other schools I should consider as safer options.

Looking forward to getting your opinions/suggestions! Thanks!

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Helpplease123, is there a certain area of the country that you prefer? Right now you have New York City and Los Angeles / Southern California. One other university in New York you could look into is CUNY Graduate Center. In Southern California there's UCLA, UCSD, UC Davis, UC Irvine. In northern California there's UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz. There are also California State universities, which would be safeties for you.

Are you open to public universities, or are you only applying to private universities? Your GPA, GRE scores, and personal experience seem good from my limited perspective.

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Thank you for your response!

There are a few areas I think i'd be happy living in - california, ny/nj/ri etc., north carolina but an important factor for me is that because i'm English, i'd ideally like to go to a school that would be known by people when I go back home. So doesn't need to be private but preferably with a good name. I feel confident about parts of my application but am worried about my lack of full time experience in the public sector (I do have a sizeable chunk of volunteer work for nonprofits though). Definitely would've been interested in UCLA or Berkley but unfortunately they don't have an MPA program.

I don't want to be left with no options because I only applied to top programs and my stats weren't good enough but at the same time, the amount of money that would go into me moving to America to study means that the school really needs to be worth it, so I guess what i'm really looking for are any schools that may be slightly safer options but still highly ranked.

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Cal State Los Angeles and Cal State Northridge both have programs. They'd be safeties for you. Very safe.

UC Berkeley has a public administration program, but they call it something different: http://gspp.berkeley.edu/

Same with UCLA: http://www.spa.ucla.edu/dept.cfm?d=ps&s=home&f=psintrohome.cfm

UC Berkeley would be about as difficult to get into as USC. UCLA would probably be a little easier. Both have very good funding.

Here's CUNY's program: http://www1.ccny.cuny.edu/prospective/socialsci/psm/index.cfm

There's also the New School: http://www.newschool.edu/milano/

Cornell has a program. Cornell is in Ithaca, New York. It's not in New York City, but it's an Ivy league: http://www.cipa.cornell.edu/

Rutgers University has three programs. It's in New Jersey. This would be a safety for you: http://www.policy.rutgers.edu/

You might consider universities in Massachusetts. Brandeis, Harvard, and U Mass would be good bets.




Johns Hopkins is very well thought of, but hard to get into: http://advanced.jhu.edu/academic/government/public-management/index.htm


The University of Maryland would be a safety for you: http://www.publicpolicy.umd.edu/

Depaul University and the University of Chicago might be options. Depaul would be a safety. The U of Chicago is very hard to get into.



Finally, U Washington in Seattle might be a good option. It would be hard to get into, but safer than your top picks. http://evans.washington.edu/

I hope that this helps you navigate our somewhat confusing university system!

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  • 2 weeks later...

There are a few areas I think i'd be happy living in - california, ny/nj/ri etc., north carolina but an important factor for me is that because i'm English, i'd ideally like to go to a school that would be known by people when I go back home. So doesn't need to be private but preferably with a good name

That is so true! I mean, I am in an exactly same situation! I wouldnt mind compromising marginally on the concentrations of the program for a better school (in IR), and I would like to attend a university that is known to people out here and especially since Ive done my undergrad from one of the best commerce college in India!

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For anyone who thinks USC isnt safe, both my brother and sister graduated from the USC. All you have to have is an average or just above average some and good bank balance. It is one of the more expensive private universities out there, and its location adds up to it.

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I think USC is really changing rapidly right now... I'm not a USC student, but I have some friends who are in various doctoral programs there. Part of their very recent change is that they just got a $200 million grant from the Dornsife family to improve the humanities and social science programs, and they have been throwing huge funding packages (free tuition and $30,000 stipends) at their top graduate students, basically poaching them away from other top programs. The climate there is also changing fast as the college has been recruiting top faculty and are in the process of expanding a lot of their departments. In today's competitive application climate, no school in the top 30 is a safe bet really (just look at the admissions forum here).

I think OP's dilemma is hard to solve... you want to find a safety school that is also known in UK/Europe.. problem is that an American safety school implies a 2nd tier status that would be hard to translate into worldwide recognition. You'll have to give up one part for the other.

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USC is the top ranked from my list for what I want to study (public admin) so actually might be my least safe bet, although if I got some funding would definitely be my first choice. Have given up on safety schools, have decided that as you said, no point really going all the way to America for a 2nd tier school...could go to a quarter of the price 2nd tier school in England!! Just hoping to get into one of the others as the top tier American public admin programs are far more established and higher ranked than the English ones!

Edited by Helpplease123
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