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Decision Time...


Rose
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I could really use some help. I've been agonizing about this decision on my own for a while now and, even though I plan to attend visit days, I still feel as though the time between now and mid-April is nowhere near long enough. I feel really privileged to be so spoiled for choice here, but somehow I think this is making it even harder.

I'm ultimately making my final decision between:

HKS--the MPP program, concentrating in IGA; $0, $120k+ in loans

SIPA--the MIA program, concentrating in either EPD or Human Rights; $0, slightly less in loans because I got work study for the first year

I have an end-goal of working in an IGO/UN/NGO focusing on international human rights (yes, I realize I'm one of millions). I think the name recognition difference is marginal between the two, right? Money isn't exactly a deciding factor for me since neither gave me any, really; the only thing to contemplate with that is, would I be able to get more $ from one or the other in my second year? Some of you already know that my SO will most likely be in Boston, too, and while that's important it's also not helping me decide with so much money going into this decision too.

The real point of contention for me is which is most preparatory for an international career. My impressions (gathered from websites, talking to a SIPA student, looking at promo materials) are that SIPA is significantly better for this than HKS; but that HKS is much better at producing people with serious analytical skills and networking capacities. The other big issue is that I'm pretty young--not quite one year of work experience. I don't want to graduate with a Master's and be "top heavy" so that I can't find a job because I'm academically overqualified but have 0 experience. I think it's more possible to get term-time internships at SIPA to make up for this, but don't know about HKS.

So, can anyone offer their impressions from meeting with/talking to HKS students [i missed my congrats phone call, it went to vm]? Or from visiting either place? Or from what they know from being "in the field"?

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I could really use some help. I've been agonizing about this decision on my own for a while now and, even though I plan to attend visit days, I still feel as though the time between now and mid-April is nowhere near long enough. I feel really privileged to be so spoiled for choice here, but somehow I think this is making it even harder.

I'm ultimately making my final decision between:

HKS--the MPP program, concentrating in IGA; $0, $120k+ in loans

SIPA--the MIA program, concentrating in either EPD or Human Rights; $0, slightly less in loans because I got work study for the first year

I have an end-goal of working in an IGO/UN/NGO focusing on international human rights (yes, I realize I'm one of millions). I think the name recognition difference is marginal between the two, right? Money isn't exactly a deciding factor for me since neither gave me any, really; the only thing to contemplate with that is, would I be able to get more $ from one or the other in my second year? Some of you already know that my SO will most likely be in Boston, too, and while that's important it's also not helping me decide with so much money going into this decision too.

The real point of contention for me is which is most preparatory for an international career. My impressions (gathered from websites, talking to a SIPA student, looking at promo materials) are that SIPA is significantly better for this than HKS; but that HKS is much better at producing people with serious analytical skills and networking capacities. The other big issue is that I'm pretty young--not quite one year of work experience. I don't want to graduate with a Master's and be "top heavy" so that I can't find a job because I'm academically overqualified but have 0 experience. I think it's more possible to get term-time internships at SIPA to make up for this, but don't know about HKS.

So, can anyone offer their impressions from meeting with/talking to HKS students [i missed my congrats phone call, it went to vm]? Or from visiting either place? Or from what they know from being "in the field"?

Rose: Are planning to share housing and other expenses with your SO? That could considerably lower the cost of attending HKS relative to SIPA. I know in my case, since my SO will be in DC, it makes a significant difference in the amount I will have to borrow to attend Georgetown instead of HKS.

Also, I believe HKS said that you should not expect to receive funds the second year. But, after 48 hours of reading a variety of documents and disclaimers from different schools, I might be wrong about that.

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Linden--

Yes, living with (and sharing all the pre-bought items we have) with my SO is one of the factors in my cost decision. On the other hand, I have a few friends living in NYC so at least apartment-wise it would be fairly equal.

And you're also right about HKS saying that on their financial aid website. Specifically, though, they seem to say that people will not be eligible for any *merit* aid in their 2nd year, which I believe is also the case with SIPA. The financial aid website at HKS does not discuss at all the possibility of getting a teaching assistantship or graduate assistantship from a professor, or even if funds are available for those kinds of things (I've noticed that they have some money floating around for research projects that could be undertaken during the school year, but haven't probed whether those could be used for tuition remission).

Ultimately, though, it's not as though it's a sure shot that I would get 2nd year funding from SIPA either. That's one of the reasons I'm largely leaving the $ issue aside as a smaller consideration and worrying more about the programs themselves at this point--ultimately I'm going to have to borrow a buttload of money no matter what I do.

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The real point of contention for me is which is most preparatory for an international career. My impressions (gathered from websites, talking to a SIPA student, looking at promo materials) are that SIPA is significantly better for this than HKS; but that HKS is much better at producing people with serious analytical skills and networking capacities. The other big issue is that I'm pretty young--not quite one year of work experience. I don't want to graduate with a Master's and be "top heavy" so that I can't find a job because I'm academically overqualified but have 0 experience. I think it's more possible to get term-time internships at SIPA to make up for this, but don't know about HKS.

So, can anyone offer their impressions from meeting with/talking to HKS students [i missed my congrats phone call, it went to vm]? Or from visiting either place? Or from what they know from being "in the field"?

I'm not in human rights, but I'm at the UN. I can tell you a few things that probably won't make your choice a lot easier... The UN is far from a monolithic entity, and so the ability for SIPA students to intern at agencies, funds, programmes or departments during the academic year is canceled by the downside that the major human rights organs are in Geneva (where, unless you end up with second-degree ties as a result of the wonderfully patchwork community, you make some kind of contact), you'll still be breaking in as an outsider. The summer, and how you spend it (field work!) will matter a great deal no matter which school you're at for the academic year, I think.

I'm also looking at a slightly different track, so I don't know about the depth of the course catalogs at both programs, but a Fletcher student recommended trying to put together a first-year schedule at each school I'm considering, and doing so has really, really helped me look at my choices. If you feel like Kennedy's going to give you broader skills but SIPA lets you hone in on the area of expertise you already know you want, go with SIPA. When you're trying to get started (first job in the field only; not so much down the line), a resume that lists a capstone project on human trafficking in post-conflict situations is going to make you look a lot more viable for a post in such an environment than just an Int'l Affairs degree more generally. Which school will help you with such a project? Think about classes, and think about leaving in two years able to present yourself as an expert in some area of human rights.

I have no idea if this is of any help, but I sincerely hope these things (I've been pondering the same question, with no answer yet - you should see my spreadsheet!) are of some small use to you.

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Thanks zourah for all your insight!

I guess I want to make sure that I have skills and expertise that would be applicable to a range of areas that intersect with my interest in human rights; ultimately I will need to feed myself and pay off loans after graduation. I definitely will probe the capstone projects at both programs though--I've heard major downsides to both (SIPA--200 students applying to work in big groups on a handful of preselected projects in EPD; HKS--everyone fends for themselves in recruiting a client and gets no support, some people have to pay their own way to do the field research the project requires).

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Rose,

I would double check with SIPA on this: "they seem to say that people will not be eligible for any *merit* aid in their 2nd year, which I believe is also the case with SIPA." I went to a SIPA information session in the fall where they strongly emphasized that although most applicants do not get merit scholarships 1st year, many (I think they even said most) get some or a substantial amount in the 2nd year. It seemed as though they want you to work for it there, rather than handing it out in advance.

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Cah101--

I think you might be right. I read it as "fellowship" and somehow in my head that automatically conflated with "assistantship" which wouldn't be quite merit based. So I definitely will doublecheck that.

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