Jump to content

Fletcher vs. SIPA vs. SFS - need help badly!


supbla20

Recommended Posts

Hey Guys,

I am deciding between Fletcher, SIPA and SFS and having an almost impossible time making a decision. Can you please help me think this through and give me advice? 

Goal: I am trying to make a career change from the private sector to public service. Particularly interested in one day working for the State Department or some other policy career. I want to do a Boren and/or critical language scholarship while in grad school - possibly to learn Turkish.

 

SIPA: One of the lucky few to get some first year funding (13K scholarship), but the program seems insanely impersonal and unnecessarily competitive. Also a little worried by the extreme quantitative emphasis. Unclear what second year funding could look like and I have never had a chance to visit the campus. Also got into the International Fellows Program - does anyone know if this is really a big deal or not? Does this mean I will get more personalized attention? I am skeptical. I would think SIPA really wants me since they gave me money and let me into this "special" program. But I find them very noncommunicative. Seems hard to learn languages at SIPA due to time issues. 

 

Fletcher: Gave me 13K scholarships for MALD program and there are options for more money second year, but this is very uncertain. Love the community and how flexible the program is. Interested in languages though, and the options seem very lacking - I could not take Turkish there which I assume would make me less competitive for language scholarships I want to apply for. But they allow up to two language classes to apply toward the degree. Also there is no chance to do internships during the year due to the crappy locations and crazy amount of studying Fletcher students do. Insanely awesome alumni network. 

SFS: Offered half tuition scholarship. But due to cost of living, in the end the price tag will be similar to Fletcher. Would get half-tuition scholarship second year, but no options for additional funding. Got into tight-knit regional studies program that is extremely flexible and offers outstanding language options and extensive help to get language scholarships. Super-low student to faculty ratio. But the program is very new and has a tiny alumni base. Worried about being pigeonholed by employers. Already did undergrad in DC, so not sure I want to be here again. 

 

I think it is really coming down to Fletcher and SFS, but I cannot make up my mind. There are things going for both like better language options at SFS but possibly lower pricetag second year at Fletcher. I am not necessarily so excited about being in  DC and the outcomes seem equally positive at all three of these institutions since they are all top-tier programs. 

 

Funding is a serious issue for me and I feel lucky to have gotten money for a master's program. I have thought about deferring for a year and applying to programs like Princeton, which offer fuller funding packages. But I have nothing concrete that I would do for the year, so I am not sure that is the best option. 

 

Don't know what to do and feeling overwhelmed. Please help me!!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

IFP at SIPA is a big deal, in my opinion. Take a look at this video if you haven't already: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrCO5KQTtso.

 

As for it being "insanely impersonal," I think that's a huge exaggeration and I haven't seen any evidence for it, especially after the open house day. The SIPA community is very socially integrated and the professors make themselves available. The quant emphasis is also on two tracks: one that's quant. heavy and the other not as much. Despite the competition you can probably count on getting the average second-year fellowship award, which is comparable to the first year award you'd be receiving.

 

I can't speak for the other programs but IFP is an amazing opportunity and you should consider it seriously. 


(Didn't mean to embed the video)

Edited by soaps
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Plenty of scope to learn a language at Fletcher. http://fletcher.tufts.edu/Academic/Foreign-Language-Requirement/ForeignLanguageinfo

 

I was concerned too but I got some good reassurances from current students and Fletcher itself. Also in at SFS, but the cost is simply too much. I love the program but I am unconvinced how much better it is then Fletcher. So I confirmed for Fletcher

 

Can't speak to SIPA as I didnt get in but I have heard mixed things whilst researching.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

unnecessarily competitive? do you mean because of the second year funding?

 

I talked to two students- one former, one current and they both say people are not competitive

 

wow! we are choosing from the exact three schools

 

In my case, I am probably going to SIPA but if the GHD program at Gtown offered me funding then I might have to think about it. I do have the "pigeonhole" concern that you have but can't beat studying DC. 

 

I worked in development finance so quantitative skills are really important (though I don't like Math) and I've had two colleagues who are/did policy school express concerns about how "soft" Fletcher's program is. 

 

Fletcher offered me the most funding but because I want the option to return to said development finance organization and would prefer to avoid the perception that I might not have gotten enough quant training in grad school, I made my peace with doing more Math than the SIPA core curriculum even requires. If I go to Fletcher, I'd do development econ but i still have to overcome the preconceived notion that some people have. 

 

SInce I assume you won't need a lot of quant for your intended career, the DC location will probably help you out a lot. One of the members here did SIPA and landed a job at state department by making many bus trips to DC- you can avoid that! 

 

I'd say go to DC. The chances of additional funding are uncertain. 

Edited by CreamTea
Link to comment
Share on other sites

IFP at SIPA is a big deal, in my opinion. Take a look at this video if you haven't already: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrCO5KQTtso.

 

As for it being "insanely impersonal," I think that's a huge exaggeration and I haven't seen any evidence for it, especially after the open house day. The SIPA community is very socially integrated and the professors make themselves available. The quant emphasis is also on two tracks: one that's quant. heavy and the other not as much. Despite the competition you can probably count on getting the average second-year fellowship award, which is comparable to the first year award you'd be receiving.

 

I can't speak for the other programs but IFP is an amazing opportunity and you should consider it seriously. 

(Didn't mean to embed the video)

Do students specializing in Advanced Policy and Economic Analysis have to take the quant heavy track and how many courses are we talking about? Is it just the 1 econ and 1 quant course? I looked at the syllabus for one of the quant core courses (I guess it might be the non-quant heavy) and was surprised that the assume students don't have Math background past high school algebra. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think the perception that Fletcher isnt as quantitative as SIPA or SAIS is a little misleading. Fletcher allows the program to be tailored. You want a quant focus, its up to you to get it in your program. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Would it be crazy to defer for a year?


I am weighing so many possibilities right now that it is making my head spin. I was rejected for Rangel and Pickering fellowships and would welcome the opportunity to study up on languages and then reapply for them. But I will have a serious shortfall of money (although my parents say I could live with them, it would be hard to find a job in my area of expertise where they live). Plus there is a very real risk that when I reactivate my application next year SIPA, Georgetown and Fletcher could offer me much worse financial aid packages depending on the strength of other applicants.

 

If I got a national fellowship, I would be set financially. But if not, I could end up being seriously screwed. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Do students specializing in Advanced Policy and Economic Analysis have to take the quant heavy track and how many courses are we talking about? Is it just the 1 econ and 1 quant course? I looked at the syllabus for one of the quant core courses (I guess it might be the non-quant heavy) and was surprised that the assume students don't have Math background past high school algebra. 

 

Yes, from what I remember, that concentration requires the higher econ track. My understanding is that the higher-level econ uses calc, and the lower track doesn't (or it uses less). The core quant. analysis course isn't what people usually complain about... it's the econ.

Edited by soaps
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think the choice is very clear. You should go to SIPA. I think the offer you got from them is insanely good (first year funding AND International Fellows Program). And I think the negatives you have of SIPA are just in your head and you don't seem to have any concrete things to back up your fears of the school. SIPA is a great school and all the top programs are competitive to a degree. Don't think SIPA is any worse (or better) in that sense.

 

Also, quantitative skills are extremely important for most IR careers and most programs require you to take quant classes. And if you really hate that, I don't think SIPA forces you to take any more quant than any other programs, at least not dramatically.

 

So seriously. I think you're making a big mistake if you don't go to SIPA. Especially when Flether's language and internship situation is not good (why are you even considering it given your interests?). I think it should come down to SFS and SIPA for you but obviously I don't know you and you might have personal circumstances/preferences that should impact your decision. But once more: seriously, think long and hard before you turn down that SIPA offer. It's extremely good.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I realize the SIPA offer is very good relative to what most people get, but is it really as great as it seems in the scheme of things? I mean after one year I would have way more debt than I would at Fletcher or SFS (high cost of living in NYC). And the second year funding situation is extremely unpredictable. If for instance, I do not maintain a 3.4 GPA, I will not be able to retain my renewable scholarship.  Then I am really screwed.

 

Also, I know the International Fellows Program seems prestigious, but its actual utility is unclear. Is there more to it than a seminar and the trip to Washington DC?  Like is there personalized attention fellows receive from SIPA? Does membership in the program create some sort of advantage when scholarships are allocated for the second year? 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't think the choice is obvious between SFS and SIPA, but you should give the latter more serious consideration. You seem to be convincing yourself not to go to SIPA based on stereotypes this forum is good at perpetuating. IFP, from everything I've heard, is an amazing program and fellows basically experience SIPA with a tinier cohort with special access to a bunch of things (not just a trip to DC). It doesn't create a special advantage for scholarships the second year, but it means you're the cream of the crop and are likely to get the average fellowship (15-20k) at the very least.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I realize the SIPA offer is very good relative to what most people get, but is it really as great as it seems in the scheme of things? I mean after one year I would have way more debt than I would at Fletcher or SFS (high cost of living in NYC). And the second year funding situation is extremely unpredictable. If for instance, I do not maintain a 3.4 GPA, I will not be able to retain my renewable scholarship.  Then I am really screwed.

 

Also, I know the International Fellows Program seems prestigious, but its actual utility is unclear. Is there more to it than a seminar and the trip to Washington DC?  Like is there personalized attention fellows receive from SIPA? Does membership in the program create some sort of advantage when scholarships are allocated for the second year? 

 

Cost of living in DC is nearly as high as it is in NYC. That is not a significant factor in how much debt you will have. Also, most programs require you to have a 3.4 (or 3.3) GPA to retain the scholarship, that's nothing special.

 

It sounds like you really don't want to go to SIPA. That's of course completely fine, but I think you should do it for the right reasons. It seems you're really trying to look for reasons not to go there so maybe for whatever reason you wouldn't be happy there.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, from what I remember, that concentration requires the higher econ track. My understanding is that the higher-level econ uses calc, and the lower track doesn't (or it uses less). The core quant. analysis course isn't what people usually complain about... it's the econ.

Thanks a lot! I better find out what text the higher econ class uses and start practicing over the summer. 

 

 

 

I am not saying Fletcher is less quantitative. If I went to Fletcher, I'd do development economics which is plenty of quant. I am just saying that my small sample size (one HKS and one SIPA grad who both worked/working for a development bank) think that it isn't quantitative enough so that it will be harder to get over this misperception

 

Getting over all the bad things written about SIPA (though same are not completely unfounded) is tough even with a partial fellowship. Supbla20- I was also hoping to get into IFP to have more personal attention. When I was an undergrad, I was in a similar program and it made a huge difference. It's a pity you couldn't attend admitted students day so you can get a better impression outside these boards but you should still watch the videos.

 

Meanwhile, I think that SFS is a good choice if you don't go to to SIPA. My own professor wants me to go there. He won't say it flat out but it's clear to me that he thinks I will get more personal attention there and he probably likes the Jesuit thing. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ahhh, im making the decision between SIPA and MSFS and going crazy. I'm a journalist but want to focus on intl affairs/deepen my expertise in middle east region/languages.

 

@supbla20, seems for switching to the pubic sector you should def go to MSFS, though i would consider SIPA for the International fellows program.  i think any columbia grad school student can apply so it's def a select group and prestigious offer.

 

For me, I weighing the fact that the curriculum at SIPA has almost an entire year of core/quant classes which are large (like 80 ppl), while MSFS has 5 core classes (i think 30 ppl), and one is theory. but i agree that when you're in your concentration at SIPA, the attention/class size is roughly the same as MSFS. I'm drawn to SIPA for being able to write for its newspaper, the media concentration, and access to j-school classes. But I'm drawn to MSFS for the wide variety of internships available in DC- more think tanks/gov't that I'd love to be able to make connections within, and how tight-knit the community is, how willing everyone is to connect you. All the first years i talked to at MSFS seemed to have gotten their internships through a connection and they all knew each other. 

 

The cost of MSFS/SIPA seems about the same, roughly same number of 2nd years get funding at each. Also i would argue you can live in washington heights in nyc and live for same cost as in DC. 

 

i didn't apply to Fletcher so i can't comment on it, but it seemed often dismissed, just from listening to the people who did east coast tour last week at sipa/sais/msfs/fletcher. Purely anecdotal but for what you want to do, NYC/DC seem like better locations.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This advice is coming from a person who was admitted to SIPA and Fletcher and attended Gtown undergrad. I've decided on Fletcher primarily bc of funding, but I honestly think the program is the best fit for me.

 

If you're making the move from private to public and don't have a lot of work experience in the field to which you hope to enter, Gtown might be good pick bc it will allow you the chance to intern or work with some public entities while in school. The language training also sounds like it's easily the best fit for your interests. Although DC living is expensive, you can live in Northern Virginia and easily commute to Georgetown. (Gtown has a shuttle bus that goes from northern VA to campus). I live in NoVa (in a group house) and my rent is only $545. The usually is $800/month for that area.

 

For SIPA, it sounds like the IFP is a big deal. And it's likely you'll get second year funding - probably a similar amount, if not more. But I understand that's a scary thing to depend on. However, I do agree with you about them seeming impersonal. The career services sounds awful, the proverbial "pond" (in which you're a little fish) is much bigger, and professors don't seem as accessible as they are at competing institutions. I myself received two separate letters from SIPA after being admitted that said "Dear (insert name here)," where they had failed to put my name. And while quant is important, given your desire to focus on language, it may be hard to juggle the quant requirements with the other core requirements and still get a solid grasp on a new language.

 

As for Fletcher, can't you take Turkish at Tufts (as opposed to Fletcher), or at least one of the Boston schools? And you can get credit for the first 2 language courses, then audit the rest. I was told auditing a language is difficult, as you'll have a full "regular" schedule, but those commited to it can make it work.

 

In general, if you haven't taken any Turkish, I would say the Boren will be pretty difficult to get the first summer. They generally don't allow you to enter the program unless you have a moderate to advanced language level - which I doubt you'll have after two classes of Turkish. My suggestion would be to take Turkish your first year, try to get an internship in Turkey or apply for FLAS to study Turkish over the summer, then continue Turkish your second year and apply for Boren to begin the summer after your second year. You'll have to work out with your school how to defer graduation (as you have to be a graduate student at the time of your fellowship), but most schools will allow you to do this. I spoke specifically with Flecher about this and they seemed very familiar and flexible in helping me accomplish my language/Boren goals.

Overall, I think you'll do well no matter where you go. But if language is the most important thing to you, I'd say MSFS or Fletcher, simply bc I don't think you'll have the same language opportunities at SIPA given the quant requirements. In terms of MSFS or Fletcher, I would weigh which is cheaper alongside which will give you the best shot of getting the career you want (so career services, alumni network, and internship/work opportunities).

 

Good luck!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hm, isn't Columbia really well-known for languages? I could be wrong. Someone asked about Turkish at one of the info. sessions and they said they have an affiliation with a language center in Istanbul. There's also the new Columbia Global Center in Istanbul and the Turkish Studies Program that's a part of Columbia's Middle East Institute.

 

SIPA's quant. requirements don't preclude taking language courses... SIPA requires competency in a language prior to graduation if you're in the MIA program. Also, your language courses (I'm told) don't get factored into the GPA calculation that determines fellowship eligibility. SIPA requires 2 econ courses, stats, and finance... not sure how that's any more quant heavy than any other program.

Lastly, while I think some aspects of SIPA administration (including career services) are probably very impersonal, I received the opposite impression about accessibility to professors. Current students (including friends) I've talked to said professors make themselves very available. SIPA has a dedicated/permanent faculty, so I'm not sure why people think this wouldn't be the case. 

 

As for internships, you don't need to be in DC to get a DC internship, nor is NYC going to be looked at any differently. I interned with two federal agencies, the Senate, and a think tank, all while applying as an undergrad on the west coast. 

 

In any case, being a little fish in a big pond is sort of the nature of being in NYC. People who love NYC will (similarly) be attracted to and thrive in a program like SIPA. The school provides more possibilities/resources than any other international affairs program, and it allows you to customize your degree/concentration/specialization more than anywhere else. People I've talked to have described it as being a kid in a candy store. This can be overwhelming and even detrimental to some if you aren't sure what you want out of the program. A more structured program is probably better for people who aren't sure what they want to do, but for people who want to hone specific skills/knowledge, SIPA is an excellent choice (including, I think, for languages).

Edited by soaps
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've talked to 2 SIPA professors so far and they've been great. On the other hand, every time I call the academic affairs, admissions, student affairs office, I get frustrated because no one seems to know the right answer and will just give you a generic answer like: search the website or "I think xxx"

 

my theory is that these are mostly graduate assistants who are tasked with manning the phone. Oh, and asst. Dean Nguyen was not helpful when I was trying to decide whether to do a dual degree or not. It's like he wants to give as little info as possible. 

 

I've had contact with the Columbia Center in Jordan. I was working on a project in Jordan at the time. I called the center to find out about their projects and they weren't that impressive. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guys crazy stuff is happening. I excluded Georgetown from consideration and was deciding between SIPA and Fletcher (leaning toward Fletcher) when I got an email from SIPA sweeting the total funding for the first year to $28,500. As far as I can tell, this is a crazily high amount of funding for this program and along with being offered admission to IFP, it seems like I would be a fool if I gave this up - unless Fletcher matched or exceeded which I have asked them to do (although they have told me repeatedly that there is no more money for me). 

I will be honest: My key problem with SIPA is the language issue and this is why up until now I was seemingly trying to find a way to exclude it.  I seriously doubt that I will be able to get started on Turkish there - you can only get credit for languages at intermediate and above. And although it is theoretically possible to audit beginning languages, their intensity seems incompatible with the rigors of the MIA program.  Has anyone had any experience with this? 


I feel that grad school is one of my last chances to learn a new language because there are all these scholarships like Boren and the critical language scholarship that fund these endeavors (but they generally want people who already have some language experience) so I really fear that I am giving up this dream by going to SIPA. At the same time, the offer is almost too good to be true. 

If anyone could assuage my fears, it would make the decision a lot easier. I am still tempted to take Fletcher just because it is a lot easier to get credit for beginning languages.

Edited by supbla20
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guys crazy stuff is happening. I excluded Georgetown from consideration and was deciding between SIPA and Fletcher (leaning toward Fletcher) when I got an email from SIPA sweeting the total funding for the first year to $28,500. As far as I can tell, this is a crazily high amount of funding for this program and along with being offered admission to IFP, it seems like I would be a fool if I gave this up - unless Fletcher matched or exceeded which I have asked them to do (although they have told me repeatedly that there is no more money for me). 

I will be honest: My key problem with SIPA is the language issue and this is why up until now I was seemingly trying to find a way to exclude it.  I seriously doubt that I will be able to get started on Turkish there - you can only get credit for languages at intermediate and above. And although it is theoretically possible to audit beginning languages, their intensity seems incompatible with the rigors of the MIA program.  Has anyone had any experience with this? 

I feel that grad school is one of my last chances to learn a new language because there are all these scholarships like Boren and the critical language scholarship that fund these endeavors (but they generally want people who already have some language experience) so I really fear that I am giving up this dream by going to SIPA. At the same time, the offer is almost too good to be true. 

If anyone could assuage my fears, it would make the decision a lot easier. I am still tempted to take Fletcher just because it is a lot easier to get credit for beginning languages.

 

I honestly don't know what you're talking about re: languages. If SIPA told you you can only get credit for intermediate level languages, this doesn't mean you have to audit beginner-level courses. It just means that whatever beginner level courses you take, they don't count toward the total credits needed to graduate from SIPA. This is true for anyone who has to gain language proficiency. For me this actually incentivizes taking a more difficult language, as it won't factor into your GPA the first semester.

 

Is it possible you've misunderstood SIPA's language requirement, or am I missing something here?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My logic is that if I could take a beginning class for credit, I could have it be one of my four courses each semester and would thus not feel so overloaded with work. I worry that if I am taking a fifth class not for credit (which a beginning language course at SIPA would have to be) I would feel overloaded and would not do well in class - I understand your logic that if I am not taking it for credit I wouldn't need to care about grades or my performance, but I would want to do well to get a good recommendation from the professor, since this would be important in order to receive the language scholarships. Does that make sense? At Fletcher I can take two language classes at any level as electives so it could be part of my standard course load each semester.

 

I also worry that with all the quantitative stuff you have to do at the beginning of your studies (which I am not very good at) it would be hard to balance a language course.

Edited by supbla20
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My logic is that if I could take a beginning class for credit, I could have it be one of my four courses each semester and would thus not feel so overloaded with work. I worry that if I am taking a fifth class not for credit (which a beginning language course at SIPA would have to be) I would feel overloaded and would not do well in class - I understand your logic that if I am not taking it for credit I wouldn't need to care about grades or my performance, but I would want to do well to get a good recommendation from the professor, since this would be important in order to receive the language scholarships. Does that make sense? At Fletcher I can take two language classes at any level as electives so it could be part of my standard course load each semester.

 

I also worry that with all the quantitative stuff you have to do at the beginning of your studies (which I am not very good at) it would be hard to balance a language course.

 

I think if you're not doing work-study, 5 courses might not be too unreasonable. I know most don't recommend it for the first semester, but given your situation, the extra effort might be worth the $28k SIPA is offering you. They also recommend non-quant people (like me) take quant. analysis the second semester, so that could make things easier for you. 

The question is, should your focus on a language you want to start learning be to the exclusion of other career-relevant courses? After all, Fletcher and SIPA are both international affairs schools, not area studies programs. While the area studies system is antiquated, it almost sounds like you want to convert Fletcher/SIPA into one. 

 

Anywho, good luck deciding. That's a tough dilemma. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Fletcher isn't budging on the scholarship offer and is implying that second year funding opportunities and its loan assistance repayment program after graduation may make up for some of the funding shortfall from my first year. I am somewhat sad given all the love I have tried to show them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My logic is that if I could take a beginning class for credit, I could have it be one of my four courses each semester and would thus not feel so overloaded with work. I worry that if I am taking a fifth class not for credit (which a beginning language course at SIPA would have to be) I would feel overloaded and would not do well in class - I understand your logic that if I am not taking it for credit I wouldn't need to care about grades or my performance, but I would want to do well to get a good recommendation from the professor, since this would be important in order to receive the language scholarships. Does that make sense? At Fletcher I can take two language classes at any level as electives so it could be part of my standard course load each semester.

 

I also worry that with all the quantitative stuff you have to do at the beginning of your studies (which I am not very good at) it would be hard to balance a language course.

 

I think you're selling yourself short. You got an amazing offer from SIPA so you must be an exceptional applicant in many ways. So I'm sure you can handle the course load of five classes (which many people are doing at many universities) and I'm confident you can also handle the quant requirements. Seriously, I think you will regret it a lot if you don't go to SIPA. Your hesitation seems to be related to your fear that you won't do as well at SIPA and I think you just have to go for it and believe in yourself. Like others have said, you can study languages at SIPA and it's doable.

 

The bottom line is that you have to choose a program that makes you feel the most comfortable, so if NYC/SIPA environment for whatever reason is not appealing to you, don't force yourself to go. However, if it's a question of just the things that you've talked about this in thread, I'd say that take the challenge and go to SIPA and enjoy the amazing two years. Don't let that great offer to go to waste - I'm sure you've earned it and you can definitely excel at SIPA.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.