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U of Maryland College Park Public Policy - Why is it special?


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Hi everyone,

 

I was wondering if there are any current University of Maryland MPP students right now, or even alumni who can help me out here. What are some special/unique features of this school and program? How does it differ from other MPP programs? I am looking on the websites and I feel like other than its location (it being eight miles away from DC), the curriculum and everything else seems very similar to other MPP programs.

 

I just want to know what made you want to apply AND go to this school.

 

Thanks! :)

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I did more research for this school... and I am a little confused. I looked through every Public Policy faculty member for the school and none of them focus on social policy/immigration research (which is what I am interested in going into), yet US News says that they are #12 for social policy. I had to go through their History and Sociology departments to finally get some faculty members who researched social policy/inequality/immigration. Is it okay to say in my SOP that I would like to work with x faculty members who are not in the public policy school but are from other departments?

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The US News rankings are complete bunk. If you are basing your thinking on them, think again. They do not reflect the value or actual quality of the programs either in and of themselves or to your resume. If US News puts Indiana U and Syracuse above the Harvard Kennedy School and Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School, maybe you should question the validity/accuracy of those rankings.

Edited by NPRjunkie
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Which field(s) do they rank Syracuse and IU above Harvard and Princeton? I don't see that on US News under Public Policy and Social Policy. It's actually the opposite (and it most likely is). I am not defending US News, but I don't know what you're talking about.

 

I do know US News isn't 100% accurate in its rankings, but I just use it to see approximately where these schools rank.

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US News posts directly on their site that their methodology is exclusively based on peer assessment....

They have Syracuse at #1 and Harvard at #3.

 

Which of these do you think produces more tenured professors? Which one do you think it is easier to land the best jobs coming out of?

US News rankings are basically worthless. Most attempts to rank schools are worthless. What schools will help you get employed and learn your required skillsets are the only primary concerns worth considering (and perhaps financial aid).

Edited by Jufarius87
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Which field(s) do they rank Syracuse and IU above Harvard and Princeton? I don't see that on US News under Public Policy and Social Policy. It's actually the opposite (and it most likely is). I am not defending US News, but I don't know what you're talking about.

 

I do know US News isn't 100% accurate in its rankings, but I just use it to see approximately where these schools rank.

It's their overall "public affairs" ranking. I refuse to link to absolute bunk, though, so I'll leave you to figure it out yourself.

It is 0% accurate. If you want to see approximately where these schools rank, use the Ivory Tower rankings; better yet, if you want to study international affairs, look at the US News politics and international affairs rankings.

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Okay. Thanks for the info, I'll look into it. But I think we are diverting from my actual question of what are some of UMD's specialties. Since no one is responding to my question here, I'm guessing no one on gradcafe is applying (or went) to UMD for MPP.

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I applied to UMD (ended up elsewhere) and my impression is that they have 3 main draws

 

1. Public Administration- if you are interested in politics (particularly at the state level (MD obviously), this is the place to be as their network draws extensively from the School [faculty as advisers and graduates for manager roles]

 

2. Environment (Those interested in sustainability initiatives, this is a growing program)

 

3. Security/Intelligence (The perks of being in DC and UMD being so closeby reap the benefits too as there are countless orgs who focus on this field)

 

Good luck!  I would reach out to the staff about contacting current students to get an idea of what they think about the program.  I think in terms of affordability it is a great choice if you are willing to sacrifice some name recognition on the national stage, but that is not a slight against them it is a good school.

Edited by are we there yet?
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  • 2 weeks later...

I was also wondering why the program kept popping up in my searches on these forums, as opposed to a program like UConn (my undergrad) where we have a fabulous MPA program for public finance and solid placement. I don't see much that is better about UMD than UConn (as an example) other than location, but there's a lot of talk about it over time on these threads as a regularly considered school. I am planning on applying to UMD, but I couldn't find too much in terms of their placement records aside from a few highlighted alumni. Anyone have information on that?

Edited by Ariananana
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I know the reason I decided to apply to UMD was its location. Plus, it's a pretty good program -- not the best, but still leagues above the lower tiers. Being close to DC (literally it's about 20 minutes away) I figured I could apply for internships in the area to boost my experience while studying for the MPP. Oh, and the campus looks beautiful!

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I know the reason I decided to apply to UMD was its location. Plus, it's a pretty good program -- not the best, but still leagues above the lower tiers. Being close to DC (literally it's about 20 minutes away) I figured I could apply for internships in the area to boost my experience while studying for the MPP. Oh, and the campus looks beautiful!

 

I ended up applying for UMD because of its location as well. I actually put that on my SOP! Plus I interned in DC for 3 months and loved it there, so I figured why not? DC is a great place to network and start off as a young professional.

 

Thank you everyone for your responses!

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  • 4 weeks later...

I ended up applying for UMD because of its location as well. 

Hi cy213 : I wish to know if your online application status shows correctly the status of all application items. I am international student and had sent official transcripts (hard copy) which should have reached them by 10th Jan. However my online status still shows them as not received. Is it the same with you ?

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Hi cy213 : I wish to know if your online application status shows correctly the status of all application items. I am international student and had sent official transcripts (hard copy) which should have reached them by 10th Jan. However my online status still shows them as not received. Is it the same with you ?

 

I'm applying to their school of public policy phd program, and they told me that they were seriously backed up in terms of receiving and inputting transcripts, so it's likely an issue on their end.

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Hi cy213 : I wish to know if your online application status shows correctly the status of all application items. I am international student and had sent official transcripts (hard copy) which should have reached them by 10th Jan. However my online status still shows them as not received. Is it the same with you ?

 

My transcript status was also not updated a month after they should have been received. I sent an email and it turned out that they had my transcripts but just hadn't updated their status on the site. It might be worth an email if it isn't updated soon.

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  • 2 months later...

I know the reason I decided to apply to UMD was its location. Plus, it's a pretty good program -- not the best, but still leagues above the lower tiers. Being close to DC (literally it's about 20 minutes away) I figured I could apply for internships in the area to boost my experience while studying for the MPP. Oh, and the campus looks beautiful!

 

 

This is late but College Park is actually not even 20 miles away from DC. It's closer to 10-12 miles.  It's also metro accessible which is clutch during the week. 

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Hi, everyone,

 

I'm currently accepted to Mayland MPP and GWU MPP and couldn't decide which to go. They both have ideal location (GWU may be better in this regard), which makes me even harder to choose. I'm interested in environmental policy. Maryland MPP is strong at this as I know, but I also want to focus on the quantitative analysis skills when I study for a MPP, which seems Maryland is not so strong. On the other hand, GWU has the best location, the good career service and network. But the thing I don't like about GWU MPP is that most of their classes are at night. It doesn't make me feel I'm back to school. However many people say it is actually good for internships, but I'm not sure how are the opportunities there at this point.

 

I'm really confused on making a decision now. I hope someone can give me some suggestion and more insights about these two schools. Thank you in advance!

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Hi, everyone,

 

I'm currently accepted to Mayland MPP and GWU MPP and couldn't decide which to go. They both have ideal location (GWU may be better in this regard), which makes me even harder to choose. I'm interested in environmental policy. Maryland MPP is strong at this as I know, but I also want to focus on the quantitative analysis skills when I study for a MPP, which seems Maryland is not so strong. On the other hand, GWU has the best location, the good career service and network. But the thing I don't like about GWU MPP is that most of their classes are at night. It doesn't make me feel I'm back to school. However many people say it is actually good for internships, but I'm not sure how are the opportunities there at this point.

 

I'm really confused on making a decision now. I hope someone can give me some suggestion and more insights about these two schools. Thank you in advance!

Here's my two cents, for whatever it's worth.

 

My first basis for a decision between Maryland and GWU would probably be price/funding, but if those are equal, then there are a lot of other things I'd consider. What would your intended field of study be? MD has a good environmental policy program, as I understand, GWU may have more of a quantitative emphasis. How convenient do you want your school's location to be? College Park is in the DC metro area, but the metro station in CP is 20-30 minutes from downtown (I'm not sure how far campus is from the station), whereas GWU is downtown, more or less. CP is also on the northeast edge of the area, whereas GWU is centrally located and convenient to the Virginia suburbs of Arlington, Alexandria, etc. as well given that it's on 2 metro lines and right on the Potomac. The class schedule of GWU probably means that you would be able to take on an internship or part-time work during the school year in addition to the summer, although that would still be feasible at Maryland (it would just be easier to be able to walk/bike/take a bus to your job from class at GWU vs. the long metro ride from MD). 

 

The next points are even more of just my opinion, but consider it as well. I wasn't terribly impressed with MD's presentation at a grad school fair here in DC back in October--I wasn't even able to speak with any admissions staff, just one current student who didn't seem all that enthusiastic in general. That was undoubtedly one of the main reasons I didn't apply there. However, I'd consider where you want to work long-term. In terms of name recognition in the US, neither is exactly elite, but--in my experience at least--people outside of DC and maybe NYC see GWU as a cash cow school and not as good as Georgetown and some other regional schools. Maryland at least is the flagship school of a state, and I think US connections outside of the DC-NY corridor would be comparable for the two. I'd say GWU has the edge in international bent due to its location and int'l relations schools.

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Here's my two cents, for whatever it's worth.

 

My first basis for a decision between Maryland and GWU would probably be price/funding, but if those are equal, then there are a lot of other things I'd consider. What would your intended field of study be? MD has a good environmental policy program, as I understand, GWU may have more of a quantitative emphasis. How convenient do you want your school's location to be? College Park is in the DC metro area, but the metro station in CP is 20-30 minutes from downtown (I'm not sure how far campus is from the station), whereas GWU is downtown, more or less. CP is also on the northeast edge of the area, whereas GWU is centrally located and convenient to the Virginia suburbs of Arlington, Alexandria, etc. as well given that it's on 2 metro lines and right on the Potomac. The class schedule of GWU probably means that you would be able to take on an internship or part-time work during the school year in addition to the summer, although that would still be feasible at Maryland (it would just be easier to be able to walk/bike/take a bus to your job from class at GWU vs. the long metro ride from MD). 

 

The next points are even more of just my opinion, but consider it as well. I wasn't terribly impressed with MD's presentation at a grad school fair here in DC back in October--I wasn't even able to speak with any admissions staff, just one current student who didn't seem all that enthusiastic in general. That was undoubtedly one of the main reasons I didn't apply there. However, I'd consider where you want to work long-term. In terms of name recognition in the US, neither is exactly elite, but--in my experience at least--people outside of DC and maybe NYC see GWU as a cash cow school and not as good as Georgetown and some other regional schools. Maryland at least is the flagship school of a state, and I think US connections outside of the DC-NY corridor would be comparable for the two. I'd say GWU has the edge in international bent due to its location and int'l relations schools.

Hi, Pavlik,

 

Thank you very much for your opinions! As I know, the expenses (tuition and other fees) of GWU are slightly higher than that of Maryland. I was told by GWU that I would not be offered internal scholarship, but Maryland put me on the waitlist for merit-based funding. I'll email them to ask about my chance to get any funding later, but the overall price would probably turn out to be more affordable at Maryland than at GWU. 

 

In addition to the funding, the two points you mentioned are exactly my concerns. GWU's central location and connection with the US political world make me feel easier to find public-related work. Also the international reputation does matter to me because I'm a Chinese-American and very likely to work abroad in the future. In addition, the events and presentations that GWU held for their program after I was admitted unexpectedly impressed me and made me even more believe they have a really good network inside and outside the program. On the other hand, Maryland kind of disappointed me in their admissions process.

 

It seems I'm leaning toward GWU right now. But I hope the picture would be clearer after I ask about my chance to get funding from Maryland. By the way, are you attending Georgetown MSPP this fall? They put me on the waitlist and said they will have an update on 25th. Still hoping I have chance to get in and all of this will just end!

 

Thank you again for your reply!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi, Pavlik,

 

Thank you very much for your opinions! As I know, the expenses (tuition and other fees) of GWU are slightly higher than that of Maryland. I was told by GWU that I would not be offered internal scholarship, but Maryland put me on the waitlist for merit-based funding. I'll email them to ask about my chance to get any funding later, but the overall price would probably turn out to be more affordable at Maryland than at GWU. 

 

In addition to the funding, the two points you mentioned are exactly my concerns. GWU's central location and connection with the US political world make me feel easier to find public-related work. Also the international reputation does matter to me because I'm a Chinese-American and very likely to work abroad in the future. In addition, the events and presentations that GWU held for their program after I was admitted unexpectedly impressed me and made me even more believe they have a really good network inside and outside the program. On the other hand, Maryland kind of disappointed me in their admissions process.

 

It seems I'm leaning toward GWU right now. But I hope the picture would be clearer after I ask about my chance to get funding from Maryland. By the way, are you attending Georgetown MSPP this fall? They put me on the waitlist and said they will have an update on 25th. Still hoping I have chance to get in and all of this will just end!

 

Thank you again for your reply!

No problem--we all like to hear ourselves talk here, I'm sure, so it was nothing ^_^ . I will be at McCourt in the fall, have you received any info about getting off the waitlist?

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No problem--we all like to hear ourselves talk here, I'm sure, so it was nothing ^_^ . I will be at McCourt in the fall, have you received any info about getting off the waitlist?

 

Hey. McCourt sent me two emails about update of the waitlist, but that was nothing, only saying that they are not be able to consider waitlist now and will review in the coming weeks. By the way, I got 10,000 funding from GW but no reply from Maryland, so I guess I will accept GW's admission. Maybe see you in DC then.  :rolleyes:

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Hello,

 

I figured I'd reply to this since I graduated from this exact program. Asking why it's special is tough to answer. I think someone else answered accurately, if a bit bluntly, that it's not.

 

There are many Public Policy programs around the country, and while UMD boasts its proximity to DC as a huge advantage, the truth is there are a handful of schools in the area that also have that advantage, and UMD's national ranking (US News and World Report) is not high. However, I think many people rightfully point out that US News and World Report's rankings shouldn't be taken as gospel. All I can give you is my opinion having graduated from the program, which I will gladly do.

 

I entered the program in the Fall of 2011. I had graduated from undergrad with a political science degree in December 2010, and spent the 8 months before entering UMD substitute teaching and volunteering. UMD offered me the most money and a part-time assistantship, which was why I went there. I was surprised how big the incoming class was, around 150 if I recall correctly. I waffled between the Social Policy and ISEP concentrations, ultimately deciding on ISEP.

 

Overall, I found the courses to be a bit disappointing for graduate curriculum. While the econometrics/statistics and program evaluation courses I took were probably the most beneficial, I had already taken both in undergrad and found them to be repetitive and overly simplified. Perhaps these courses were new to some, but I minored in econ in undergrad and went over the exact same material before even getting to grad school. Honestly, by the end of the program I didn't feel like I had learned anything exceptionally beneficial to prepare me for a career in the policy world outside of the courses that essentially just refreshed what I had already learned in undergrad.

 

As far as internships, I did two during my time at UMD (one with a think tank, the other with the State Department). I think the amount of internships relative to our field is the most beneficial thing about being in/around DC. This is the only advantage I'd give to the DC area schools over others like Syracuse and Indiana.

 

My real beef with the program came after I graduated in May 2013. I guess I was convinced that a Master's and 2 internships under my belt would nearly guarantee me a job. I was wrong. It's currently May 2014, I've applied for almost 200 jobs since graduating and I still haven't secured full-time employment. My issue is that I feel as though the program mislead entering students into believing employment from this degree was strong. In the school's atrium they show a pie-chart displaying where alumni work, but they don't show you those unemployed (not surprising). I attended the school's career networking night this most recent February, and it was like a gathering of the haves and the have-nots. Sure, some graduates are doing fine and living out their dream working for their favorite government agency or think tank. However, there were a good chunk of people like me who had not secured employment yet either. Some of these people had 4.0 GPA's, solid internships under their belt, etc and were still unemployed. After speaking to some school officials at the networking night, I came to find out that the employment rate for 2013 graduates was hovering around 60% 9 months after graduating. However, this already low percentage is still misleading because many people enter the program already working full-time jobs, they're either doing the program part-time or full-time at night. To count them as 'employed' after graduation is misleading because they were already employed while in the program. Who knows what the real employment number is if you take those people out of the equation.

 

Here's what I've learned: this degree, on its own, has almost no value. My lack of work experience is what's killing me, and the degree itself is not valuable enough to secure employment. I would strongly urge you to avoid this program unless you have a decent amount of prior work experience. The private sector employers I've interacted with directly (mostly consulting firms and think tanks) either don't know what the degree is or believe it to be less valuable than a degree in economics or finance. The public sector employers I've gotten to respond have told me that they're bogged down with applications to the point that they only consider those with the highest qualifications, mostly stemming from prior work experience or Ivy League schools on their resume.

 

I'm sorry if it appears that all I did was bash this program. Truthfully, I blame myself for my current situation to a large extent because I should have tried to gain work experience before going to graduate school. I also made some great friends during my two years at Maryland, and generally those admitted are very knowledgeable and passionate about the various policy issues they plan to work on. However, the point that I cannot escape is this: if the degree were truly valuable I would not be in the position I'm in. I've done everything right, had the career center office and outside HR people look at my resume/cover letter and been told that it looks fine.

 

Interpret this however you please. Maybe it's a warning, maybe I'm an outlier. The old adage of "it's who you know, not what you know" definitely applies to the policy field and if you make the right connections during grad school it's possible that you'll be set for life and end up fine. Just don't expect those connections to come from professors in this program, all of the ones I've spoken to tell me they hear this story from a lot of former students and wish they could do more to help. Best of luck if you end up at GWU, I hope your story doesn't end up like mine has.

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