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SIPA (MPA) Versus GSPP (MPP)


erichi

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So, a little dilemma here. What is everyone's wisdom regarding the choice between GSPP (MPP) and Columbia (MPA) ?

At first the choice seemed easy: Berkeley, but now i'm starting to wonder.....

I had originally applied to Columbia even though I wasn't too interested in the program. I'm interested in focusing on energy policy and Berkeley seems a much better option. It's well-known, the program is smaller, more intimate and the vibe between the students and the professor is more informal, which I in particular appreciate. Not to mention that I'm a CA resident and the price tag is probably about 1/5 that of Columbia. Plus, in my individual case, living rent-free with family and getting a graduate student instructor position could make this even a better deal. Also, they are doing some really cutting edge research in renewable energy and there are tons of programs and resourcees available.

Having said that, I have a professor (and recommender) from NYC who makes a good case for Columbia. I think it's kinda got a bad rap here at the grad cafe but at the same time, it is THE SCHOOL in NY. And there are probably 100x the possibilites for work and internships in NY than the SF Bay Area. I've heard that the classes are larger and the professors are busy, but that they make time for students that work hard and are serious. It would be more expensive, but it seems like the payoff might be greater as well. I went to an information session last summer for SIPA and the freakin' job placement rating for SIPA grads is like 92% !!!!! Also, many have made the point to me that some experience on the east coast (as I have spent most of my stateside time in CA) could open up alot of doors for me in terms of networks, connections, and work experience. To say nothing of the infamous NYC music scene !

Issues:

In terms of "pecking order" is there a general consensus that that SIPA outranks GSPP?

Anybody know how successful GSPP is at placing their students in jobs ? (I tried to get this info from the career office but they haven't responded back with a concrete number yet)

What does everything think here ?

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erichi,

that's a great dilemma to have. i applied to both schools, and while i'm tearing my hair out deciding between gspp and hks at the moment, for awhile there (before hks got drunk and decided to accept me) i was considering the relative merits of gspp and sipa's mpa program. you seem to have a pretty good picture of both schools--your descriptions match closely what i've heard from students at GSPP. i'd add, regarding berkeley, that the program seems relatively unmatched (excluding WWS) in quantitative rigor/economic analysis. their core requirements + the opportunity to take courses from other graduate departments is a big plus for me--and i think shows their emphasis on building a quantitatively enriched skill-set rather than a knowledge base.

with regard to columbia, i've heard similar complaints--the professors are top notch, but focus on their research first, second, and third, and on their students fourth. and while columbia does have a high job placement rate, from what i hear, that speaks more to the caliber of students than it does their career services department--a couple friends of mine who went through the program felt like they were on their own to find jobs/internships. but your right that the sure number of opportunities in nyc should balance that a bit.

and i'd just add everyone i've spoken with seems to rank gspp ahead of SIPA by a considerable margin. but take that with a grain of salt--as i've spoken with a lot of GSPP students and disgruntled SIPA students--though a couple of my past professors have made the same point.

hope these thoughts are helpful. best of luck with your decision.

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Wow congrats on HKS...i'm sure that's a trip !!! yea that was my first choice but in some it simplifies life a bit to not have a big (and costly) decision like that right in front of you that you know you would regret forever if you didn't take !!!

Yea, I'm from Cali so i've talked to quite a few friends who went there and the general consensus seems to be what i described. In terms of ranking, maybe it is not helpful to think in terms of a single "objective" ranking system for these schools. Reality is more complicated; it depends on numerous other variables and none of them are as important as the variables you bring to table. I think the bottom line is that you can make it work at any of these fine schools, if you want to.

I appreciate your perspective, thanks !!!!

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"Reality is more complicated; it depends on numerous other variables and none of them are as important as the variables you bring to table."

very true--and this is something i've struggled with. i really wonder whether an employer (I want to work for the federal government after I graduate) would look at two job candidates with similar credentials, and pick the Harvard student over the Berkeley student or the Berkeley student over the Columbia Student or vice-versa? My guess is that the school name matters less than most think, but I question that assumption every once in awhile.

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And, an employer who picks a candidate for a job solely based on some arbitary feature like where one was lucky enough to be accepted for grad school is someone that I wouldnt want to work for !

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