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my two cents are based on: correspondence and visits with faculty, alumni and students on both campuses last fall, recent conversations with current students about hks vs. cal vs. princeton.

with all of the usual disclaimers about specific faculty, individual merits of the program, etc, i'd argue it's not that clear-cut. what cal has going for it 1) it's a small, strong program, with lots of faculty/student interaction, so if you want to build a relationship where someone well-respected in the field who can recommend you for later opportunities, it may be a better prospect. 2) it's cheaper than harvard. i know the bay area is expensive, but getting in-state tuition either both years or your second year is going to mean less loan debt weighing you down when you look for post-MPP employment. 3) the vibe on-campus among students is really collaborative and less about individual competition, which i think is valuable and better to leverage benefits from in the future. others may disagree. 4) you don't have to put up with snow/slush/freezing temps 7-9 months out of the year (ok, that one is a bit more personal, i admit.) 5) i think cal (and wws for that matter) are generally considered to be more quant intensive programs. and if that terrifies you (it does me) they have a great program of tutoring and extra help for that stuff.

hks, well, i feel like the pros have been enumerated a great deal all over this board. for me, the one thing harvard has over cal is really the people you will meet (future obamas, etc) and learn from who will be helpful later in your career. good luck, congratulations on a great dilemma.

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thanks for your thoughts. i really do appreciate it.

i tend to side with sisepuede. from what i've heard (mostly via current students), berkeley tends to be more quantitatively intensive with a hardcore focus on policy analysis--which i appreciate. i'd like to leave graduate school with a skill-set, and not just a knowledge-base. i also appreciate that berkeley is a smaller, perhaps closer knit, program. and being from seattle, i'm partial to the west-coast. all that said, harvard is no doubt a fantastic program--the students, faculty, research centers etc., are all top notch.

another question i keep thinking about is how much name recognition matters? when applying for post-grad jobs, do folks think that an employer (all other things about a job-candidate being equal) would pick an HKS grad over a GSPP grad? does the name really signal a higher quality applicant?

i'd also be curious to hear (either from current students or prospective students) whether hks or gspp has a more expansive alumni network? i want to work for the federal government post grad school. and since i've lived in dc the last couple of years and had to make my own way, i certainly value alumni contacts/networks. any thoughts?

anyway, i apologize for the stream-of-consciousness rambling. but if anyone has any insights, i'd really appreciate it. thanks much.

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I am definitely a little biased, given the fact that WWS offered me a full package while GSPP gave me the big zero. However, if you remove funding from the picture (a big "if"), then I don't see how you can turn down HKS. I've heard mixed reviews of the program from current students, and there are definitely quite a few trust funders there who aren't really committed to public policy in the way that I assume most GSPP students are. However, I do think the reputation matters.

If funding is AT ALL a consideration, I would go to GSPP. I do not think the HKS debt is worth it, period. Others out there may disagree, but I don't understand how $100,000+ in debt for public policy school (!) of all things is appropriate.

Just my $.02

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Checking in as someone with a HKS vs. GSPP decision to make (with a few other schools thrown in).

In terms of alumni network, it's probably fair to say that HKS has a more expansive network, if only because they have a larger class size. I think location of where you want to end up working makes a big difference though. I work in the policy sector in SF Bay Area right now and the GSPP network is really strong here and in Sacramento. Plus, it people in the area look very highly on GSPP graduates. But, if you want to work in DC, Harvard's network certainly has Goldman's beat.

GSPP - both their official admissions people and current and past students I've talked to - emphasizes that it's a "generalist" program. Does anyone have a concrete idea of what that means? They do seem to have more core classes and less elective that HKS and other schools, but does it mean anything beyond that?

For me, the cost issue is going to be big - especially since I'd get in-state tuition at GSPP. But the amount of amazing resources and networks at Harvard... hard to turn down.

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