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Berkeley Goldman MPP vs Harvard Kennedy MPP


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First, I want to congratulate everyone on their grad school admissions! The wait is over! But, now comes the difficult part: making a decision.

 

Though I've narrowed my choices down to Berkeley Goldman and HKS, I'm having a difficult time picking one over the other. 

Without going into too much detail... I find both schools' faculty and curriculum to be great fits for my particular interests in social and urban policy. I think Berkeley has Harvard beat location wise, but being on the east coast would also mean being closer to family. Harvard obviously has the edge over Berkeley when it comes to overall prestige. But as great as the Harvard brand is, I'm terrified at the prospect of taking a +80k loan for the program. From my basic understanding, the financial cost of the Goldman MPP can be more manageable: the tuition is lower than HKS, out-of-state students can qualify for in-state tuition their second year, and a GSI/research position can help take a chunk out of costs.

I was wondering if there are any applicants on Grad Cafe that are facing a similar dilemma. I would love to hear your thoughts on making a decision between these two great schools. Current HKS or Goldman students, I'd love to hear your opinions as well!

Again, good luck everyone with your decisions!
 

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Go to Harvard. Not everyone who goes there receives the keys to power, but many do. You'll never beat that network and that prestige. It is often difficult to put a price tag on an education and to say what one school's degree is "worth" compared to another. In the case of Harvard, however, I tend to believe that degree is worth every dime.

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Since money is a concern, Berkeley seems like a better decision hands-down. You already said that both programs seem like an equally good fit for you, so it doesn't sound like Harvard would lead to substantially better jobs following graduation. Also, while Harvard is more prestigious, Berkeley's reputation is also excellent, both domestically and abroad. It's possible that Harvard's name could open doors for you, but debt could close even more. 

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Go to Berkeley. I visited both schools, and if you have the chance, you should definitely do so too. Harvard's faculty while renowned are far too busy giving talks and traveling the globe to give you personal attention. Berkeley's faculty is good at what they do and they're actually going to be there. The cohort size (huge at Harvard, smaller at Berkeley) was also a huge factor. I didn't even end up applying to Harvard because I was turned off by the way that the guide discussed his experience as a first-year student, which seemed very impersonal and not at all close-knit.

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First, dizzle, congratulations! I'm in basically the same boat despite waiting to hear back from a few other places and, of course, HKS about their aid situation. But GSPP has offered me a fellowship that covers tuition, in addition to a stipend for living expenses. I know there was a thread on this forum awhile back that discussed a similar concern, albeit more generalized, but I was likewise wondering whether any current students at either school (or anyone, really) would able to provide some more insight for our situation.

 

Long story short, bump! Thanks, everyone!

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Hey dizzle and others,

 

I'm also in a very similar boat - hopefully we can all work this out. Having lived and worked on both coasts, my impression is that if you want to live in California, there is no better school on heaven or earth than UC Berkeley, and that includes Harvard. People love Berkeley grads, especially in the Bay Area. Everywhere else, reputation-wise, I think Harvard has a pretty serious edge. If I wanted to work on the federal level or internationally, I would definitely choose Harvard. I'm more interested in state and local work though, and I've got a lot of roots in California already, so that makes it a little more appealing for me.

 

On the price tag, I think it depends on your personal preference. If you're just trying to make as much money as you possibly can or get a hold on the "keys to power," then... well, I think you've applied to the wrong programs. Otherwise, I think $80,000 worth of debt, while not desirable, is probably acceptable if it's going to help you achieve your career goals (keeping in mind that this debt might come up in background checks for federal government jobs). The rule of thumb is not to take out more than you'll make in your first year, and $80,000 lands right on that line.

 

As far as the classroom aspect goes, I don't have anything to offer save conjecture, but I think chocolatecheesecake may have hit the nail on the head, and would add only that all those classmates and globe-trotting professors at Harvard might turn into a really, really nice professional network one day.

 

What do other people think? Are you guys leaning one way or another? I also got a really nice offer from Carnegie Mellon, so I'm considering them as well...

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Just to be open with my bias--I am a second-year Goldman student and don't have any first-hand experience with the Kennedy School.

 

While it's true that the Kennedy School definitely has a branding advantage over the Goldman School, GSPP has opened many doors for me personally. I've been able get very substantive experience in DC (I interned on a Congressional committee last summer and fall and will be working at OMB this upcoming summer). In both instances, my coworkers and bosses expressed very high regard for Berkeley (though it was never really clear to me if they meant the university or Goldman itself). It's true that most GSPP'ers stay in California, but I think there is some selection bias at work. A number of my classmates were California residents before school--meaning GSPP was essentially free compared to other policy schools--and the rest of us out-of-staters quickly discover how nice northern California and the Bay Area is once we get here.

 

But if you put the work in, there is no shortage of opportunities in DC. While, it sometimes felt like I could have spit in any direction in DC and hit a HKS grad, GSPP does have a small, but mighty alumni network. The silver lining of GSPP's small size is that our alumni are very responsive. Every single alumnus I reached out to in DC met with me, introduced me to other important people, offered advice throughout various application processes, and, in general, has been very generous with their time. 

 

Now the following are just anecdotes, so please take them with huge grains of salt, but I have had several friends and coworkers who graduated the Kennedy School tell me that it is possible to sort of elide some of the harder quantitative content at HKS. That's not really an option at GSPP. The core curriculum is going to force you to wrangle with statistics, OLS, and more complicated forms of econometric analysis. But, like I said, those are just second-hand anecdotes, and Goldman is also far from perfect curriculum-wise.

 

Then there is the issue of cost, which has more than anything else to do with your individual preferences. My HKS friends took out 100K in debt at 6.8%. I am going to be able to come out of Goldman with less than half of that amount. (I've worked every semester to qualify for fee remissions). Is my degree less prestigious? Yeah, it is. But I have a lot of great career options, as well as the luxury of taking a lower paying job that I believe in instead of having to take a more lucrative private-sector job to pay off my debts.

 

(And if you're real concern is acquiring the "keys to power," apply to law school. You'll save yourself a lot of grief). 

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Oh forgot to mention the main disadvantage of GSPP. We don't get many really famous, top-of-the-food chain policy practitioners to visit. It seems like HKS, Chicago and some of the other east coast schools have a near constant stream of important people coming to lecture current students. Berkeley has some of that, but not nearly to the same degree.

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I am having a similar dilemma choosing between HKS and Jackson Institute at Yale. I received a full tuition scholarship + 20k stipend per year at the Jackson institute and awaiting financial aid from HKS. I wish to work in an international setting, so was leaning toward Harvard due to its international prestige/name recognition. Unfortunately Yale, and the Global affairs masters in particular, doesn't have the same recognition. This is killing me! 

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I am having a similar dilemma choosing between HKS and Jackson Institute at Yale. I received a full tuition scholarship + 20k stipend per year at the Jackson institute and awaiting financial aid from HKS. I wish to work in an international setting, so was leaning toward Harvard due to its international prestige/name recognition. Unfortunately Yale, and the Global affairs masters in particular, doesn't have the same recognition. This is killing me! 

 

exactly same boat! as generous as Jackson is, Im still leaning toward HKS.

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 A number of my classmates were California residents before school--meaning GSPP was essentially free compared to other policy schools--and the rest of us out-of-staters quickly discover how nice northern California and the Bay Area is once we get here.

angikuni, I appreciate the insight! I have a question regarding tuition. I'm assuming that you are an out-of-state student? Is it true that Berkeley grad students can obtain California residency/in-state tuition by their second year? I'm confused, as there are conflicting reports regarding this on GradCafe and other online forums.

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Hi all,

 

Congrats to everyone else for being in the Goldman/HKS debate. It's an exciting one to have to have!

 

I'm having the same debate as well. I was also accepted to Georgetown with a scholarship for about half of the tuition (which I assume I can renew the second year). How important is it to be in DC for policy things vs. reputation for a school like Goldman or Harvard?

 

Also, I want to focus on education policy specifically (and early childhood education policy even more specifically). Does any one have any insider/useful knowledge on which one might be best for education policy? Everyone I've talked to so far says that with such good choices, it's most important to find the program that's the right fit academically. I'm not sure what's the best all around though -- between the program, my specialty, location, etc.

 

Any thoughts would be helpful! I have a giant pro-con list going and no obvious winner...

 

I'm inc

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To the OP, since this hasn't been addressed yet. I was also very interested in urban policy and ended up realizing that Goldman actually doesn't offer much on that front. The College of Environmental Design has a top-ranked planning program, but that is a separate program in the end. The chair of the urban policy working group passed away last year, and I found out on a visit there that it has temporarily been disbanded. It is great (second to none imo) in social policy though, and they're doing really cool work on poverty alleviation and education.

 

I found Harvard to be quite strong in urban policy - there's an entire floor dedicated to the Taubman Center and the Rappaport Institute, and it seems like research opportunities are plentiful. Having Ed Glaesser on your faculty doesn't hurt either. Harvard also benefits from sheer size/resources. Tons of amazing speakers are always passing through, and in terms of "star power" faculty, I was there for about 10 minutes and saw Larry Summers chatting with a group of students in the cafeteria. My friend was telling me about a "mayor camp" where mayoral candidates from around the country came and interacted with staff and students to bounce ideas off them. It's like a who's who of the public policy nerd Olympics.

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All out of staters can get CA residency for the second year. All you have to do is get a CA driver's license and change your voter registration as soon as you arrive. GSPP's career service staff are very familiar with the residency process and make sure that you'll qualify. Also, it's worth noting that where you intern during you first summer will not affect your residency eligibility.

 

My two cents on the prestige vs. being in DC question--it's kind of a chicken-or-the-egg paradox. My bosses on the Hill said that they care more about what people have actually done than where someone went to school because they see so many resumes from Harvard, Princeton, Yale, etc. graduates. But I think having the Goldman name on my resume helped, but was by no means decisive. Ultimately, a lot of it has to do with luck and making the most out of your breaks, not where you went to school. So, the ability to have DC internships during the school would be a way to have multiple opportunities to get your foot in the door. 

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