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applying to an MPA/MPP program that is not ivy league / DC area


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I live in Illinois and work full time at the moment.  Moving away to DC area simply for grad school does not seem like something I can really do at this time.  Illinois has some good schools obviously, (northwestern / UChicago) and luckily I live near chicago.  But these schools are also very expensive.  I hear horror stories from both the internet and people I work with about student loans and that is something I would like to avoid.  There are other schools in the area such as NIU (claimed to have a top rank MPA program) and Depaul University that are good, but obviously not as great as these upper tier schools are.


Would going to one of these less expensive schools really be a shot in the foot when it comes to future job outlook?  I guess with great cost would come great opportunity...and that is what I am worried about

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  • 3 weeks later...

MPP Gal has a great suggestion.  Don't go to U of Chicago or Columbia because they don't fund students.  You sound like me (quite debt averse) and taking on that kind of debt, especially if you don't have a very clear path of what you want to do with a professional degree, doesn't make any sense.  Rankings are kind of garbage so don't buy into them.  Just reach out to alumni of the programs you're looking at to get their perspectives on the program.  That will be really valuable to know if the school is worth it.  Talk to a few people from the schools you're really interested in since experience varies.  I've talked to plenty of people that have radically different experiences within one program and the differences often amount to

  • a lack of focus/goals from the outset
  • minimal professional experience before grad school
  • poor planning overall (course selection, internship search/application process)

If you know what your dream job is, go look at the people doing it.  You might be able to find their full resume or some kind of interview with them (alumni article from their alma mater) where you can see what kind of degree/what school helped them get to where they are.  I've been surprised to find a bunch of "no-name" schools behind great people in my life, which just goes to show what motivation, initiative, and intelligence can do for you beyond credentials.

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