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HomeGrown

Advice for someone rejected from every school

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Ok, so I must preface this by saying I haven't gotten rejected yet, but I'm realizing it's more likely than not that I will receive rejections from the 3 schools I applied to (GW, American, NYU).

 

I would post this in another thread but it seems like most posters in this sub-forum have great stats and work experience and get into at least one of their schools.  But I have not found anyone on gradcafe applying for an MPA that has either gotten rejected from every school he/she applied to -or- is likely to get rejected from every school he/she applied to.

 

Waiting to hear from GW and American is killing me and I feel I should prepare for the worst.  I'm hoping to get a career in politics, non-profit or advocacy.  One of the main hindrances in my application was my sub-3.0 GPA and a complete lack of recommendations except for one professor and an academic advisor.  Should I register for some summer courses?  Intern or work for local elected officials?  Then apply again?

 

I know I'm rambling but any response would be great.  I'm probably just experiencing the usual February freakout before getting results.

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Just relax until you get your results back. If for some reason you don't get accepted anywhere, focus on the things you can control that will affect your app in the future.

 

- You didn't mention your GRE scores, but maybe take them again and get a higher score

- Work for a year (or two, or three) so you can figure out exactly what you want to do ("[i want to do] politics or nonprofits or advocacy" is kind of unspecified and shows little direction)

- Take a class or two in quant subjects (if you haven't taken them, or to show your commitment)

- Work

- Get work experience

- Find somewhere to get relevant work experience

 

Good luck this cycle.

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My GPA wasn´t stellar, I mean it was a 3.4 and I did come from a small LAC where professors knew me and were super cool about LORs but still I knew coming straight out of undergrad I couldn´t get into what I wanted to study (international development back then) especially as I am international and had a full ride through undergrad and no money. So what did I do, went a got a job, NGO jobs do not pay great but they give you experience, and good LOR, then I studied A LOT for my GREs which I aced (at least in the Q section, Im not a native english speaker so I only got a 160 on that). I also learned that although development studies was great I wanted a program more focused on environmental and quant abilities as that was what I lacked the most. So my advice, get out there and get a job in the area...seriously the world needs people...then that will give you great LOR and then study like you never did in college to ace the GRE and you should be fine!

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Well to clarify, I have 3 years working for law firms/law offices.  I got a 158Q/168V/4W on the GRE.  My plan is to work in local government hopefully on the staff of my district's state senator or my city council rep, both of whom I have reached out to in the past.  I want to work up to getting elected for state assembly or there are a few public policy think tanks in my state I would love to work for.

 

I know exactly what to do... the problem is getting there.  I'm 25 going on 26 and I saw grad school as a great way to gain experience, relevant knowledge and most importantly build a network. 

The problem is a lot of relevant jobs won't give me a look because of zero work experience in the non-profit or policy field and my academic record is not impressive enough.  And at 26, I'm not sure I want to start at the bottom rung whether I'm still going to school or not.

 

Taking quant courses sounds great.. but should I be worried that it's not my strong suit?  Thanks for the advice.

 

P.S. A 3.4 GPA is far from a sub 3.0 :P

Edited by HomeGrown

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Hmmm I wouldn't be too worried if I were you. You seem like a competitive candidate. I got rejected from every schools I applied to last year, but I figured it was because I had too little work experience in environmental policy field (not that I have it now, but I twisted it to my advantage somehow in my SOP.)  I think those 3 years of relevant work experience should give you a leg up.

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Your verbal on the GRE is obviously great, but your quant is lacking. I'm not trying to say it's not a good score, but it's not stellar. Taking some quant classes and acing them will help you show that you are quant-able.

 

Your resume was better than you first let on, though. Multiple years of experience will make up for a lackluster GPA when you were 6 years younger.

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Just some insight:

American has admitted 125 students so far (most of which were admitted in the last 2 weeks). There was only about 25 students admitted before January 30th.

 

I think the essay really makes a huge impact on your applications.

 

Don't start making a plan b until you know how all of plan a is working out.

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Well to clarify, I have 3 years working for law firms/law offices.  I got a 158Q/168V/4W on the GRE.  My plan is to work in local government hopefully on the staff of my district's state senator or my city council rep, both of whom I have reached out to in the past.  I want to work up to getting elected for state assembly or there are a few public policy think tanks in my state I would love to work for.

 

I know exactly what to do... the problem is getting there.  I'm 25 going on 26 and I saw grad school as a great way to gain experience, relevant knowledge and most importantly build a network. 

The problem is a lot of relevant jobs won't give me a look because of zero work experience in the non-profit or policy field and my academic record is not impressive enough.  And at 26, I'm not sure I want to start at the bottom rung whether I'm still going to school or not.

 

Taking quant courses sounds great.. but should I be worried that it's not my strong suit?  Thanks for the advice.

 

P.S. A 3.4 GPA is far from a sub 3.0 :P

Well, a sub 3.0 is rough. A school would take that seriously as if you have a criminal record. If you get rejected from school you applying to, you may need to do some college level course work or certificate and do great (all A's) and get a little higher in GRE.

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So it happened and I'm pretty devastated.  Not one school of the 3 even wait-listed me.  It's ironic because for college admissions, I got into every school I applied to including Ivy League.

 

Would it be better to take college-level or grad-level courses this summer?  I might be able to get a certificate in Nonprofit Management by Fall 2013.  My GPA was 2.87 so I'm hoping taking courses now can prove that the undergrad GPA is not representative of who I am.

 

I could really use any advice you guys could give.  Trying not to give up.

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I suggest doing a masters in a lower ranked school first and then do really well, you can do a mid-career or second masters are a more elite school later

 

hang in there!

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So it happened and I'm pretty devastated.  Not one school of the 3 even wait-listed me.  It's ironic because for college admissions, I got into every school I applied to including Ivy League.

 

Would it be better to take college-level or grad-level courses this summer?  I might be able to get a certificate in Nonprofit Management by Fall 2013.  My GPA was 2.87 so I'm hoping taking courses now can prove that the undergrad GPA is not representative of who I am.

 

I could really use any advice you guys could give.  Trying not to give up.

 

Damn - really sorry to hear that.  I think the first thing I would do is contact admissions and see if they're willing to provide any advice.  Show them a commitment to their programs and that you are very excited to improve your candidacy over the coming year.  If you already have a relationship with a specific admissions officer, great...if not, hopefully someone will be willing to discuss your options...and just ask your questions directly.

 

As for college- or grad-level courses, I'm no admissions consultant, but I can't imagine it matters all that much...but I also would imagine just repeating undergrad courses wouldn't be too useful.  You'll have to do well so I'd think taking whatever courses (college or grad) show a headstart and commitment to your program of choice and that you know you can succeed in would be best.

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Hi HomeGrown,

 

I'm sorry to hear about your results - that can be very disheartening. I would definitely follow nason's advice regarding contacting admissions - but I would wait until the end of March, when they are less busy. If you are lacking quant courses from undergrad, it may be useful to take some (calculus, economics, statistics) - but work hard to get an A. This will demonstrate that you do have some quantitative ability. For comparison, I have a 159 Q score and it hasn't seemed to hurt me much - but I did well on the quantitative courses I mentioned before. 

 

As for your difficulty in breaking into non-profits - I'm sure you've heard this before, but the best way to get in the door is to volunteer. Alternatively, do AmeriCorps where they can pay you (relative) peanuts. If the organization likes the work that you do and feels as if you can make a good contribution, they will most likely extend an offer. AmeriCorps service is also looked upon favorably by grad schools. If nothing else, the commitment that you demonstrate through volunteering at one organization will make your applications more enticing to other non-profits. 

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Sorry to hear you had a tough admissions cycle, HomeGrown. Its far from the end of the world though, and there is a lot you can do in the next year to improve your profile. First, don't worry about being too old. You'll be 27 next year, which is right around the average age for most of these programs. So you're right where you should be now! Not gonna sugar coat it, the GPA is going to make it tougher for you, but one negative on an otherwise solid profile is not insurmountable. Like others said, just spend the next year polishing your profile to make yourself a more attractive candidate: take relevent courses, work/volunteer somewhere relevent to your career goals (and start looking out right away for people who can write you LORs!). Study hard for the GRE and consider doing a course like Princeton Review (it was pricey but it improved my quant score by 8 points, ymmv). Just remember: the more you give the adcoms to like, the less they'll look at that GPA. You'll come back next year with a better GRE, fresh LORs, and more work experience. And, having done it once before, a presumably better SOP. You could also address your low GPA in your SOP or elsewhere on your app (some schools give you a place to address any perceived definciencies), and talk about why it isn't reflective of your abiltiies. If your GPA improved over the years, or is better in relevent coursework, point that out.

I would also definitely consider applying to more than three schools next time, to broaden your chances. There are some great programs out there that don't seem to get as much press and are probably a bit easier to get into. For instance you never see Seton Hall's Whitehead School mentioned in rankings, but my friend there raves about it and is currently interning at the UN. I don't know where you're from, but for what you're looking to do, (local government), you may actually be best served doing a polisci program at your local university. If you want to work in South Dakota (hypothetically speaking), I think you'd be well served doing a program at University of South Dakota. It obviously doesn't have the name recognition of an NYU, but I bet the faculty there knows local politics much better and have a lot more contacts in your local government than than the faculty of NYU! Just a thought. Actually, now that I think of it, you mentioned a certificate in nonprofit management. Maybe you should look into whether this would be sufficient to get your foot in the door and do what you want to do, without having to spend all that money on a masters?

I know you're frustrated now, but as long as you do what people here are suggesting you're going to be just fine!

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Thanks a lot everyone. I actually just thought of a plan. Maybe some of you can give me feedback.

 

After some reflection, a big reason I wanted to go to DC is because I want to work there eventually.  Whether in non-profit, government or as an elected official.  But that can happen no matter where your grad school is located right? 

 

So upon further reflection, I realized another big part is pride.  I was considered one of the smartest kids in my high school, if not the smartest.  I got into Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, etc.  Coming from a low-income background there was a lot of pressure I put on myself.  In college, I struggled mightily with depression and had to take  two years off. My transcript was a disaster for several semesters before I turned it around and graduated with an Ivy degree. Now those years kind of haunt me and the biggest pain is feeling like a burn-out and a waste of potential.

 

But if I put pride aside, I thought maybe I can attend Rutgers SPAA this summer as a non-degree student (get A's) and apply for an MPA for their spring admissions.  Is it a top-ranked school? No.  Is it as good as GW, American, Wagner? Of course not.  But I could get an MPA, maybe build contacts in Jersey (where I want to run for State Legislature before 32 or so) and get a new start.

And if I hate it, I can always apply to another school and try to transfer a few credits. 

 

Does it seem feasible?  Thanks so much guys.

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HomeGrown,

 

I am right there with you - I only applied to two schools (HKS/GSPP) and got rejected.

 

But take heart, I'm two years older and feeling the despair just as hard! (3.8 GPA, top undergrad, 5+ years of experience, 162 Verbal 155 Quant [Which isn't great but I probably can't do much better - wasted months studying for the GRE and never broke out of that range])

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Thanks a lot everyone. I actually just thought of a plan. Maybe some of you can give me feedback.

 

After some reflection, a big reason I wanted to go to DC is because I want to work there eventually.  Whether in non-profit, government or as an elected official.  But that can happen no matter where your grad school is located right? 

 

So upon further reflection, I realized another big part is pride.  I was considered one of the smartest kids in my high school, if not the smartest.  I got into Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, etc.  Coming from a low-income background there was a lot of pressure I put on myself.  In college, I struggled mightily with depression and had to take  two years off. My transcript was a disaster for several semesters before I turned it around and graduated with an Ivy degree. Now those years kind of haunt me and the biggest pain is feeling like a burn-out and a waste of potential.

 

But if I put pride aside, I thought maybe I can attend Rutgers SPAA this summer as a non-degree student (get A's) and apply for an MPA for their spring admissions.  Is it a top-ranked school? No.  Is it as good as GW, American, Wagner? Of course not.  But I could get an MPA, maybe build contacts in Jersey (where I want to run for State Legislature before 32 or so) and get a new start.

And if I hate it, I can always apply to another school and try to transfer a few credits. 

 

Does it seem feasible?  Thanks so much guys.

There are def some advantages to studying in DC if you want to work in DC (mainly internships), but plenty of people go to non-DC programs and end up working there.

Yeah, like I said, if your GPA improved over the course of college and your grades from your junior/senior years are significantly better, than that helps! Be sure to point that out. You could even turn it into a positive, overcoming adversity, etc.

I think the Rutgers idea is good. I would suggest checking into where your future colleagues went, and take that into account. If we're talking New Jersey politics, I would bet more of them went to Rutgers than anywhere else. The Rutgers faculty will probably be able to help you in ways a more prestigious program couldn't (local knowledge and contacts), and may also give you more time and effort than, say, some bigshot at NYU. So I think that is the way to go.

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Thanks a lot everyone. I actually just thought of a plan. Maybe some of you can give me feedback.

 

After some reflection, a big reason I wanted to go to DC is because I want to work there eventually.  Whether in non-profit, government or as an elected official.  But that can happen no matter where your grad school is located right? 

 

So upon further reflection, I realized another big part is pride.  I was considered one of the smartest kids in my high school, if not the smartest.  I got into Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, etc.  Coming from a low-income background there was a lot of pressure I put on myself.  In college, I struggled mightily with depression and had to take  two years off. My transcript was a disaster for several semesters before I turned it around and graduated with an Ivy degree. Now those years kind of haunt me and the biggest pain is feeling like a burn-out and a waste of potential.

 

But if I put pride aside, I thought maybe I can attend Rutgers SPAA this summer as a non-degree student (get A's) and apply for an MPA for their spring admissions.  Is it a top-ranked school? No.  Is it as good as GW, American, Wagner? Of course not.  But I could get an MPA, maybe build contacts in Jersey (where I want to run for State Legislature before 32 or so) and get a new start.

And if I hate it, I can always apply to another school and try to transfer a few credits. 

 

Does it seem feasible?  Thanks so much guys.

 

 

HomeGrown,

 

I am right there with you - I only applied to two schools (HKS/GSPP) and got rejected.

 

But take heart, I'm two years older and feeling the despair just as hard! (3.8 GPA, top undergrad, 5+ years of experience, 162 Verbal 155 Quant [Which isn't great but I probably can't do much better - wasted months studying for the GRE and never broke out of that range])

 

Hey guys,

 

I feel your pain deep in my heart. You are not alone. I applied only to HKS and got rejected. When I asked people about my chance of admission, even the alumni and the professors thought that it would be pretty easy for me to get in.  Now, I am out and feeling pretty desperate.

 

I am 25, too... with no work experience but with a master degree and a few voluntary jobs. I think the best execution plan is to find a job, excel in it and reapply again next year. 

 

There is nothing we can do for the past. Whatever happened, has happened. Let's move on and build up a bright future with no more wasting our potentials. 

 

Now, all I wish is to land for a research related/non-profit job as soon as possible. 

 

Wish both of you luck. 

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Work on your references...obviously the sub-3.0 GPA put you in a bad spot, but I think it was the LORs that really sunk you.  GPA is really the only thing that is outside of your control at this point - work experience and volunteering, GRE scores, your SOP, and LORs can all be improved up until the minute you hit the submit button on an application.  You didn't speak to the strength of the references, but just having an academic advisor writing one indicates you didn't make a positive impression on many of your professors.  What's more, adcoms were probably raising an eyebrow at the fact that you have 3 years of work experience but did not get professional reference from one of your bosses.  I don't know the reasons behind that but if I were looking at your application I would probably think that you are still haven't combined a sense of purpose and motivation with the natural intelligence that got you through high school, into an Ivy League, and good test scores.  Here's what you need to do.

 

1. Rethink your choice of references.  Do you know if the prof wrote a good letter or did he seem reluctant at all?  Dredge through your transcript for classes where you got an A or A-, preferably upper-level courses in econ, political science, math, etc.  Reach out to those profs even if you know they won't remember you, tell them what you have been up to and your future plans and see if you they will write LORs.  Contact your previous supervisors as well.

 

2. Sit down and figure out what you actually want to do.  Is it working on environmental policy?  At-risk youth?  It's cool to say you want to work in "government, the nonprofit sector, or in elected office" but those are the type of broad goals that high school graduates have, not people with several years of work experience trying to get into a masters program.  I would guess that your SOP was quite vague and unfocused as a result.

 

3.  Once you figure out what to do, find local orgs involved in that field and start sending out emails.  Contact the HR departments of these orgs and think tanks and see if they'll take on an unpaid volunteer/intern.   Look up alums from your undergrad institution and set up informational interviews.  You're not going to get a paid position with no relevant experience and zero connections.  You have to be willing to work for free.

 

4. Enroll in a summer or night course, preferably in microeconomics or something similar.  Show up to every class, ace every test, and get to know the professor.  Then ask the professor to write you a LOR.

 

5. Retake the GRE.  Q and AW scores are decent but not great.  Q is critical and due to the quantitative aspect of many policy schools, adcoms will look at that first.  The importance of AW is debatable, but a better score can't hurt, and if you are as smart as you say you are then a 5.0 should be easily attainable.  You want to give adcoms as many reasons as possible to think "his undergrad was a bit spotty but maybe he's got the maturity now to cut it here."  A 4.0 AW is just another excuse to throw your application in the trash bin.

 

7. Scratch your SOP and write a brand new one.  If you've done everything above then you have a much better understanding of your goals and what you have done and are willing to do to accomplish them.

 

Rutgers won't blow people away, but it is a good school, and as mentioned above, state schools usually have a good reputation and network locally since that is where most grads end up working.  George Mason and UMD College Park also have solid programs in the DC area if that's what you are set on.  Finally, I think you can get into GWU and Wagner if you put the effort in, but just be aware that your GPA will probably mean that funding is out of the question no matter how good the rest of your application is...so be prepared to fork over sticker price if it comes to that.

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I feel bad for you, but you along with some people in this thread are coming off as entitled. To be blunt, you have a bad GPA, sub-par recommendations, not the most relevant or impressive work experience, and a mediocre GRE quant score and you feel bad that you get rejected everywhere? This was the most probable outcome. I agree that you need to let go of your ego and follow the advice right above me.

 

And Destine, you should have known that applying with zero work experience was pretty much the kiss of death. Of course people around you are going to tell you what you want to hear, and you really can't believe anyone would be a shoe in at a competitive school like Harvard.

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Thanks for all the advice.  Taking grad level courses at a public affairs school would allow me to get new rec's and would provide a different GPA if I decide to reapply next cycle.

 

 

I feel bad for you, but you along with some people in this thread are coming off as entitled. To be blunt, you have a bad GPA, sub-par recommendations, not the most relevant or impressive work experience, and a mediocre GRE quant score and you feel bad that you get rejected everywhere? This was the most probable outcome. I agree that you need to let go of your ego and follow the advice right above me.

 

And Destine, you should have known that applying with zero work experience was pretty much the kiss of death. Of course people around you are going to tell you what you want to hear, and you really can't believe anyone would be a shoe in at a competitive school like Harvard.

 

I appreciate the tough love, but I think you're overly harsh. This isn't law school, business school or medical school.  Admissions to these schools is not THAT selective. I'm guessing the acceptance rate is 30% and above for many of these schools excluding the obvious exceptions.  Did I expect to get in?  No.  But I thought I had a shot, particularly at American. 

 

I've seen candidates with lesser GRE scores get in.. I've seen candidates straight out of college get in.. it isn't rocket science and an MPA is not the holy grail, even at Harvard. 

 

As for lost and destine,  I feel your pain and best of luck in moving forward.  Azrou, I'm already working on many of the things you suggested and figuring out what is the best way to achieve very specific goals i have (I didn't put them here because they were so specific to the point of giving more information on here than I feel comfortable with). 

 

For others that may be reading this thread, my suggestion would be to not only follow the advice given here but also look at schools other than HKS, WWS, etc.  If you have the talent and the will, you'll succeed whether you attend the most prestigious schools or not.

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I just want to clarify that you don't necessarily need to take grad-level courses or get a certificate.  In fact, many times those have an application process of their own, so you need to consider whether it is a good use of your time, energy, and money.  When I say "take a microecon course" I mean look at the undergraduate classes offered through continuing ed at your local public/state school.  They are simple to enroll in, reasonably priced, the topic material is accessible and relevant, and a strong LOR from that professor is just as valuable.  I'm trying to think of how to phrase this, but are you certain you could ace grad-level courses right now if you went into them cold turkey?  Anything less than an A- showing up on your transcripts at this point is going to be a kiss of death and the step up in difficulty is substantial.

Edited by Azrou

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I just want to clarify that you don't necessarily need to take grad-level courses or get a certificate.  In fact, many times those have an application process of their own, so you need to consider whether it is a good use of your time, energy, and money.  When I say "take a microecon course" I mean look at the undergraduate classes offered through continuing ed at your local public/state school.  They are simple to enroll in, reasonably priced, the topic material is accessible and relevant, and a strong LOR from that professor is just as valuable.  I'm trying to think of how to phrase this, but are you certain you could ace grad-level courses right now if you went into them cold turkey?  Anything less than an A- showing up on your transcripts at this point is going to be a kiss of death and the step up in difficulty is substantial.

 

Well I guess i'll start being more specific.  I've already attended a summer session at Rutgers (my state school) and gotten straight A's at undergrad courses.  I don't think that would be impressive enough to make up for a sub-3.0 at Columbia.  I'm afraid the drop in difficulty would be taken into account as well.

 

The problem at Columbia was not the quality of my work (my papers received A's, B's and my contributions in class were usually among the best).  The problem was missed and late assignments, missed classes, etc. that would bring my grades down precipitously. I was treated, my grades improved, I graduated and I'm now a completely different person.  I feel I definitely can handle the difficulty level.  And if I can't?  Well why would I deserve to get into GW or American?  I'm going to pour my blood, sweat and tears into this and if it doesn't work, maybe that's a sign that grad school isn't for me. 

 

Also, enrolling in undergraduate or graduate courses at Rutgers involves the same process.  Both are easy to enroll in and not very expensive for in-state residents.  I might even be able to enroll in both if I wanted.

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I feel bad for you, but you along with some people in this thread are coming off as entitled. To be blunt, you have a bad GPA, sub-par recommendations, not the most relevant or impressive work experience, and a mediocre GRE quant score and you feel bad that you get rejected everywhere? This was the most probable outcome. I agree that you need to let go of your ego and follow the advice right above me.

 

And Destine, you should have known that applying with zero work experience was pretty much the kiss of death. Of course people around you are going to tell you what you want to hear, and you really can't believe anyone would be a shoe in at a competitive school like Harvard.

I don't understand why people don't consider tier two schools when they have tier two applications!

 

Yes there are students with mediocre grades and GREs getting admitted to tier one programs but who knows who they know or are related to or could be legacy students (parents are alumni) or super well connected. 

 

Too many variables...

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I don't understand why people don't consider tier two schools when they have tier two applications!

 

Yes there are students with mediocre grades and GREs getting admitted to tier one programs but who knows who they know or are related to or could be legacy students (parents are alumni) or super well connected. 

 

Too many variables...

People don't like considering Tier 2 schools for professional programs because they are not as good and sometimes they are not worth the investment.  Most MPA master's degree holders don't make a lot of money (at least right away).  Why spend over $40,000 in a second-tier program that probably won't land you a job?

 

American University is a Tier 2 program so HomeGrown gave it a shot.

 

I think with the exception of his exceptionally low GPA and a low GRE Writing score, HomeGrown has a fairly competitive application.  He went to an Ivy League school has a great GRE Verbal score, a good GRE Math score (158 is around the top 75th percentile), and some work experience.

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I don't understand why people don't consider tier two schools when they have tier two applications!

 

Yes there are students with mediocre grades and GREs getting admitted to tier one programs but who knows who they know or are related to or could be legacy students (parents are alumni) or super well connected. 

 

Too many variables...

I also doubt the veracity of your point on legacies.  Legacies are a big deal for colleges but they rarely matter for graduate school (unless your family is on the board of the university or has a building named after them).

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