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Hi all,

I feel like this is one of the few places I can turn to for sound advice. My family and friends only know so much about this and as a result their opinion is often based on nothing concrete.

Let me start by saying I feel very fortunate for being admitted to some great programs. With each acceptance, however, my ultimate decision continues to grow more difficult.

There are so many factors that go into making the right decision; professors, career services, funding, location etc.

My interests are in international development and I have been working in Africa for the past 3.5 years for an international NGO. In the future, I hope to get back into the field for 5-7 more years and then potentially make a transition into policy making. Like so many others, I am interested in a career with big org's like the UN, World Bank etc.

Here are the programs where I have been accepted and am considering:

1. GWU Trachtenberg (MPA)

2. American SIS (International Development)

3. Cornell CIPA (MPA, 28k/yr)

4. Syracuse Maxwell (MPA/IR joint degree)

Still waiting (but assume I was accepted for now in terms of weighing the options, but with no funding):

5. Brandeis Heller (SID)

6. Columbia SIPA (MPA-DP)

Right now Cornell is the clear front-runner in my mind because of the large funding offer. I don't want to make that the only basis for my decision, though, as some of these other programs are very strong as well. Also, the possibility does still exist to get funding from Maxwell and American.

Please Grad Cafe, help me break this down!

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I didn't apply to any of these schools (and only looked into AU's IDev) so my advice is going to be generic. I am also (unbelievably) having to make a decision, and so this is what I'm doing myself. First, think (or if you're me, write a list) of EXACTLY what you want to do. I'm talking really specific, like maybe a specific location, organization, or company you hope to work for. Obviously, we can't know everything because plans change, but try to think of your dream career scenario as of right now. Truly make yourself think through the details of what you want.

Then, go take another look at those programs you are considering. Personally, I was kind of amazed how different programs seemed once I went back to their websites, and considering actually attending (instead of merely hoping to be accepted). Heck, make a checklist for each one to see which fits best with your dream goals. Look over everything - coursework, typical internships, postgrad job placement, requirements, etc. to see what woudl fit best for you.

Finally, I would try to go to an admitted students visit (I dig not being able to, though, I don't think I can go to any of mine) or see if you can talk with current students/other admitted prospectives, faculty, whomever and see what will fit your personality best.

When I was applying, I kind of adapted my goals to fit the programs, and assumed that I wouldn't really have this choice - instead, that I would choose whichever specific path was given to me by the admissions gods :) Now that I DO have a choice, I can start to see which one works the best for what I truly want to do, not just what I can see myself doing... if that makes sense.

Anyhow, funding is definitely a major factor, and I know that rankings do tend to influence our decisions but try to make this about YOU and what YOU want our of your career. I don't think anyone else can really answer these questions for us.

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Hey Green,

Appreciate your thoughtful response. It helped me realize that between all of my choices, the programs that fit me best are CIPA, Maxwell and GW. Now comes the hard part of figuring out which of the three is the best option. Congratulations on your own success. Do you know where your going yet?

Also, if anyone has anything to add in terms of CIPA vs Maxwell vs GW please do share.

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I'm not sure yet - haven't heard back from Duke, nor about funding from Maryland. Right now, I plan on going to Georgetown, but we'll see (hopefully in the next week... I don't like uncertainty, haha) Good luck with your decision!

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