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enkayem

SAIS: To accept or to not accept?

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Hi All:

Canvassing opinions on SAIS.

To cut a long story short, I have two great offers from SIPA and Harris. Harris is by far the most economical offer among them and I do have an interest in Urban Policy . And an appetite for quant skills since my last Master's was more a degree in political philosophy and ethics.

I just got the disappointing news that though I am admitted in to SAIS's IDEV program, I won't get any funding. I feel crestfallen because it means that in all likelihood my fiance and I will have to be in separate cities.

My other admit offer is from GPPI but I don't know if it's wise to reject a full tuition ride from Harris (with the U Chicago brand) for GPPI. I'm open to insights on that as well. GPPI have yet to get back to me with a funding offer.

Irrespective of any funding offer I still have to take on some debt.

Bah.... In the immediate term I can choose to attend my kickboxing class or go down to the pub and talk to my funny Ballantine.....

On an aside, those of you in employment, having trouble putting that resignation in? I look at my MPP/MPA financials excel sheet, then look at my savings account and then go back to thinking *stick it out, you need the paychecks. Heh... And here I was naively thinking of spending summer hiking in Kashmir and then surfing in Karnataka. On a shoestring budget, but even that's out now that I've run the financials through.

Scared of debt.

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Since I could not find a question in your post, here is mine to you: how did you manage to get anything let alone 28K from stingy SIPA, full tuition from Harris and yet nothing from easy SAIS? Tell us your secret...

Edited by Alb

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Honestly, I am in a similar situation with OP. Weighing between Harris and SAIS-IDEV, and am intersted in urban policy and development. Both programs have their pros and cons from an academic point of view.

Financially, both gave me a similar amount of financial aid, around 10k each year, which is barely enough, but still better than nothing.

If I were the OP, I would probably lean towards Harris vis-a-vis SAIS. One almost full ride, the other none, the difference is too big to ignor. But if you take into count that you want to be close to your SO, well i guess, love does conquer all, haha. There is not any question to answer here.

BTW, why didn't you include Sipa into consideration? Just out of curiosity...

p,s, I am also sticking with my firm till at least the end of July to save up some pocket money...no fun summer vacation before school after all. :(

Edited by tingschu

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Alb: I wish I knew. I don't. I'm surprised and grateful.

Tingschu: Because NYC is very expensive even with the scholarship. But after I posted I happened to connect with two urban sector practitioners in India (I'm working on Affordable Housing) and they both endorsed SIPA. One even studied at U Chicago but in the Sociology department, I think. Their point was essentially that U Chic is dominated by the econ department, Columbia has one of the best urban planning programs in the world, the networking opportunities in NYC are incomparable and that I should factor in Revenue sources in to Year 2 at SIPA.

So now I am back to square one. And wedded to employment.

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Personally I would go wherever the money is. All the schools you have been accepted to are fantastic. One has given you full tuition. For me this would be financially impossible to turn down. Even if you do have the money / willingness to take loans, imagine how much less pressure there will be on you post graduation if you can really take the time to pick a career based on what you want to do rather than what you are financially obliged to do.

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Beefmaster, I hear you.

But my concerns about U Chicago are:

1. It's in Chicago which is not NYC - from a networking point of view. I haven't a clue about life in Chicago, I do about NYC. I feel because of its mid-western location, it may not be cosmopolitan and international enough. As an international student, these things matter to me. Of course, I am ignorant about Chicago and open to learn more about it.

2. All social sciences school in UC probably kowtow to the economics school and don't have a personality of their own - so I worry about whether or not the degree would allow me to acquire inter-disciplinary learning. I am getting mixed views on this from alumni and public policy professionals.

3. It has more faculty who are pure academics which to my mind, as someone coming from an implementation role, is a bit of a drawback. The school I attend, I hope the Profs too can open a network of career opportunities that don't necessarily translate in to a PhD.

4. Most of its faculty is American. Which is not necessarily bad, it's a bit of a turn-off to me because I want to study international development from people who are from, and have worked, in carious parts of the world. Point 3 &4, are a cause for some concern.

5. In paying me full tuition they are paying for my network. I am still unclear as to how far and wide the Harris School's network extends. I want to work anywhere in Africa or Central Asia, and I want to work in urban policy and planning. I am waiting for the school to tell me more about their alumni.

6. The school has a reputation for promoting blind faith in market-based solutions, I come from a complex society where no one institution can overcome the deep biases that have riven my society and hold us back in poverty. I wonder whether I will encounter an intellectual community that can engage with and encourage counter-hegemonic thoughts and ideas. Again, mixed views on this.

7. Underlying all my caveats is my deep-rooted and irrational fear of Chicago weather. I come from a warm country, I love hiking through the Himalayas, in summer. I dislike humid and tropical weather, but I don't want icicles forming on my eyelashes. :)

There are many pros to school which is why I applied to it in the first place. My biggest worry with Columbia is the size of the school and the 'cash cow' reputation. I wonder whether people in my line of work still see SIPA students as serious? So I am talking to as many people as I can now to make up my mind. In the meantime I pray and hope that WWS will take me off the waitlist. Of course then I'll wondering out loud whether I want to live on a student campus, away from the hustle and bustle of a city for two years.

Gah, the tyranny of choice, even illusory choices!

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It sounds like you really don't want to go to Chicago. Then don't go! Even if it's free, it's still an investment of 2 years of your life. You only have one shot at grad school- don't settle for anything less than what you really want.

It sounds like SIPA too would be too expensive, given cost of living in NYC. When looking at GPPI and SAIS, are you including the amount of money you would save in rent and utilities and the like if you lived with your fiance? (I assume you would live together?) That would be at least $12,000/year.

Are you including the opportunity to work in your financial calculations? I'm in a SAIS- Georgetown debate with myself and even though Georgetown is more expensive, I would have the opportunity to work. From what I've heard from former and current students, SAIS is less conducive to part-time work. The opportunity cost of attending SAIS in forgone income is a big factor for me.

Lastly, do not discount the importance of being away from your fiance for two years. I know we are all professionals and are supposed to be hyperfocused on our careers, blah blah blah.... but really. You are going to be married to someone but you'll be long-distance for two years... that's a pretty big decision to make in my opinion. I am also engaged (getting married in October) and being outside of DC was almost a non-starter for us (unless I got full tuition at Tufts or WWS). I didn't even apply to Stanford, which was the program I really wanted to attend. I guess all I'm saying is don't feel guilty for choosing your relationship over money.

Go where you want to go- it sounds like that is to a school other than Chicago.

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Thanks, Charlotte, and congratulations! On your upcoming marriage and school. Great new beginnings all at once, good luck with them both.

I'm actually very conflicted between the two. I didn't list out my reservations about Columbia, I've done that in posts elsewhere. I guess since I'm now in a committed relationship, my commitment phobia has to surface somewhere! :)

I wish I could be everywhere!!

Unfortunately, we are looking at being apart for two years. Even with subsidized living costs, being together in the same city for us is well beyond my means unfortunately.

Anyway, as I said, I am talking and making the best decision I should for my self and for us.

What's the opportunity cost of forgone income, post-graduation, of not attending SAIS? If you're looking at Federal jobs upon graduation, then it probably wouldn't matter. The trouble with all of these schools that you and I have gained admission to, they're only different at the margin. Makes choosing so difficult.

Well good luck with everything!

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Well, I'm from Chicago and taken one UChicago class with people that were at Harris. It is definitely heavy academics -- not so practitioner-friendly, but Chicago is wonderful. And a UChicago education is top-notch. Hyde Park is cloistered, and Chicago is certainly not an NYC or DC in terms of internship/job opportunities or the like, but it is still quite international. If I were you, I would pay Harris a visit and Chicago a visit in general. A full ride is hard to pass up, in my opinion.

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The trouble with all of these schools that you and I have gained admission to, they're only different at the margin. Makes choosing so difficult.

Oh dear, isn't this the truth! Good luck with your decision :)

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Peach11: Agree. I did pay Chicago and Harris a visit in .... December. Hah! Unfortunately it was in the middle of the holidays and there weren't too many people around. The School looks a bit *modest* in comparison to Booth and the Law School but the U Chicago campus as such is gorgeous. I was there for just two days so didn't get to experience the city as much and stayed mostly around a pretty part of town called Andersonville (is that a place? I know it was an old erstwhile Swedish neighbourhood). Thanks for your advice.

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