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LSE vs. American SIS


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Hi Everyone,

I would really appreciate your input on my decision. I'm currently working at a federal agency and I could stay at this job if I go to American. I'm considering American's SIS. I would really love to go to London for a year, and I would like to gain some work experience abroad. I've been reading about LSE and it's not sounding great, though. I'm looking at the Msc in Comparative Politics.


Any thoughts? Thanks!

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I've studied abroad at a UK university and have some experience with this. I'd need more information from you to really be of any help (namely, what kind of work are you hoping to get into, how important of a factor is the cost of attendance, etc). But here are some general thoughts:


1. LSE is a better school than American. Hands-down. It isn't even a contest. LSE is ranked top 20 in the world, whereas American University is only ranked 77 within the US. So, globally, it probably doesn't even break the top 200. LSE is like Ivy League in the UK. It's a big deal.


2. That being said, just because a school is incredible, that doesn't mean their program is the right fit for what you're looking to get in to. If American University's program suits your career perfectly, but LSE's program is only vaguely relevant, then I would probably go with American. Ultimately, it's less about the name and more about which program is going to launch the next step of your career.


3. In a similar vein, if you plan on living and working in U.S. politics, I can assure you now, attending a U.S. school-- particularly one in Washington, DC-- is almost always the better way to go. Because it's about connections. American University is going to have professors and staff who know all the right people. They're in the nation's capitol, they work with policymakers and politicians, and hell, policymakers and politicians are employed there. American University will have far better connections than LSE, insofar as the U.S. is concerned.


I say this from experience. I had two friends get their graduate degrees from the UK (University of London and King's College, both very good schools). And neither of them have been able to find work in the U.S. since graduating. Their English professors had no connections and there was no job placement and no internship help. So it's been very rough going for them, attemping to find work in DC.


Please keep in mind, however, that this ONLY APPLIES if you're looking to get into politics and/or policy. The UK is a fantastic place to go for lots of professions, even a superior place to go in some instances. But in my experience, if you want to get into the federal government in any way, shape, or form, it's best to go to school in the same country as the government.


That's my best insight, I hope it helps, and if you decide to share any other details of your decision-making process I'd be happy to comment further. :) Either way, good luck, and congratulations on getting into those schools! That's no easy task!

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This is very helpful- Thank you so much!


I have a government job now, and the program I would do at American has the Econ coursework I'm looking for. That being said, I hope to move to the private sector down the road, and maybe into consulting work. I think LSE may be more beneficial for that move, but am still not entirely sure.


Thanks, again, I really appreciate it! Decisions, decisions! :)

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Also, the cost isn't too much of a factor, since I would ultimately accumulate the same amount of debt. My main concern with LSE is the uncertainty of finding a job afterwards (although, I understand they have excellent career services).

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Yeah, I agree, my only concern with LSE would be finding a job afterwards. Like I said, it's a really amazing school, but everyone I know who went to grad school in London is still unemployed. There's just a major disconnect between the UK schools and the U.S. job market-- at least insofar as politics/IR/policy is concerned.


But if LSE has a truly great career services center, that would help a lot. University of London and King's College didn't really help my friends with their job placements afterwards, so maybe LSE is different.


Just be sure that LSE's career services department isn't only successful with placing people in the UK. They might be really awesome and really well-respect, but maybe only within the country, or within Europe. Make sure they have a track record of success, and connections with, U.S. agencies/companies too. Honestly, if I were you, I would just call them. Call LSE's career services department, tell them you're an admitted student who is weighing their options, and you have some questions about their career services help for students who plan on working back in the U.S. Be honest and tell them you love their school, but want to make sure they have the experience to help you find work back home.


It also wouldn't hurt to call around to a couple of think tanks and/or consulting firms-- call their HR department, specifically-- and just openly ask whether a degree from a UK school such as LSE would be detrimental to your goal of working with them someday. I've found that if you call places, and are really respectful and friendly, 9 times out of 10 they're willing to help and answer questions you wouldn't think they'd answer. Tell them you're a prospective graduate student whose dream it is to work with [company name here], and you are trying to decide which program is best for you, and "do you have any relationships with UK schools, such as LSE? Or does your talent tend to come primarily from U.S. schools?"


Phrase it gently, just like that, because if you're too upfront and ask "Would a UK degree hurt my chances?" they're not going to tell you the truth, because they won't want to seem biased or unprofessional toward foreign universities. Asking about relationships, or employment statistics, on the other hand, is just asking for facts as they currently stand, not for subjective opinions on employment prospects.


Does that make sense? I hope so, lol. Best of luck either way.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I'm having the same problem choosing between these two schools and figured I may as well present my case in the hopes that someone can help.

I got into LSE's MSc for IR with no funding, but I got into American SIS's MA IR (Comparative and Regional Studies) with a graduate assistantship that covers a great deal of my tuition and gives me a stipend.

It seems like a no-brainer cost-wise, but LSE has always been one of my dream schools and I would absolutely love to go back to study in the UK (as I spent a year abroad there during undergrad). Then again, I'm worried about job prospects if I leave the US to do a Masters degree, and have also read some less than appealing things about the level of student-teacher engagement at the LSE.

If anyone could offer their perspective, particularly on SIS, it would be really appreciated!

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I'm a little confused about what decaf says up there about rankings. American University on the whole is ranked 77th in the world. But the last time I checked, AU's School of Public Affairs is 6th in the country, and its School for International Service is top 10 on every list you can find. AU pours it resources into its government/international/public policy departments and is an absolutely elite school in those departments - just as much so, judging from the people I've spoken to, as LSE. So be careful when just going by general "rankings" when not qualified by program. AU has a stellar reputation in IR and public policy circles, don't be fooled.

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