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Seeking Advice: Graduate School


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I’m in a bit of bind trying to make decision about what options to pursue for graduate school. At first I had thought that I had everything figured out, but now that I’ve finally graduated I realized I should have taken more time to plan out what exactly I should be pursuing and when I should be pursuing it.


First thing is first, I know I want to attend graduate school. More specifically, I would like to get both a MA (or PhD??) in International Relations and attend law school at some point. Originally I intended on taking the LSATs this December (if my scores went according to plan) but when considering the monetary investment and time needed to complete law school, I think it may be best to try to get my MA in international relations first. IR is also a field I'm certain that I'm passionate about. 


However, I’m not very sure how probable this scenario is or of it’s the route I should be taking. Unfortunately I have very little work experience which seems to be quite a hang up for top-tier MA programs(?). I’ve been trying to find some jobs in the meantime but they don’t necessarily seem to be immediately relevant to the IR field.


Anyways here is some basic information about where I stand academically: I graduated this past summer with a degree in history and political science as well as a certificate in IR (no degree offered). I’ve attended multiple institutions; the first was a top-50 private (3.8+), next a top-20 private (3.7+), and finally a well-known, larger state school (3.95+). I wrote a history thesis that allowed me to be awarded summa, and two professors of mine suggested to pursue getting it published but I never followed up with their requests. As far as my quant goes I’ve completed an intro level micro and macro econ as well as a statistics class. I have yet to take the GRE, but the quant section worries me.


I guess the question boils down to where do I go from here? I am intent on eventually achieving both degrees, but currently the MA appears to be the more pragmatic decision—it will open up a lot of different job opportunities I’d be very interested in exploring and would also allow me to save some money for law school. But will my lack of work experience bar me from SAIS, SIPA, the Kennedy school, etc. I’m in a rut and not sure what I should be doing at this point.


Any advice would be greatly appreciated! If this should have been asked elsewhere, I apologize. 

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Why do you think you should get an MA first?  If your goal is to be a lawyer, then your best move might be to save up money for law school by working.  You can do a JD/MA program that will reduce your time to degree.  Or it may be that you simply don't need the MA and the JD will be sufficient for what you do.

You need to get some work experience.  Keep looking for jobs in IR.  Take a job in the mean time to pay the bills, and as you get more experience you may be able to move into that field eventually.  IR is a competitive field already, and I don't think you should shut yourself out of the top schools because of impatience.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I suppose what may be best is to take the GRE and get that out of the way while searching for jobs. Then I'll have the option to at least apply to MA programs (if I don't get in so be it) and I can start studying for LSATs so I can pursue a dual degree program. At the moment it's even been difficult to find internships in IR, so obviously I feel the degree would make me more competitive for actual jobs in the field. 


I do agree it would be pointless to attend a "lesser" program simply because I'm in a rush. 

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First step should be to take the GRE. Remember the scores are valid for up to five years, so it couldn't hurt to take it now if you are looking to apply within this time period (plus it'll give you an insight as to where you stand and what you may want to improve on). You can then apply or you could take a job now and apply in a couple of years having already taken the test.


Second, I know plenty of universities offer a joint/dual program that would allow you to get a JD and MA. Have you looked into that?

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