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Having trouble deciding between schools for an MPA based on location / reputation, would greatly appreciate advice!


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Hey there, I'm new to the forum and was hoping to tap into some of your opinions. I've been accepted into the MPA programs at UNC Chapel Hill, American University, and UPenn, and I'm having a hard time making a decision. They're all reputable programs / schools and it's hard to compare them because they'd lead to different lifestyles, and each has its pros and cons:



  • The most cost effective option for rent and tuition; could probably attend without taking out new loans
  • Absolutely loved my visit there, the area was really nice and faculty / students were wonderful
  • Very far from home, and I'd probably need to rely on having a car in the area
  • Not in a big city like the other two, so there might be less opportunity for jobs / internships


  • In DC, probably the best location for government / non-profit work
  • They offered me some money, but I'd still have to take out loans
  • Rent and whatnot is expensive as hell, but I could get around without a car
  • Seems to have the most flexible program as you can create your own focus from various depts


  • Great program and an Ivy school, but this would cost me the most / I'd definitely need loans
  • Philadelphia seems like a cool city with a nice amount of opportunities, and it's the closest to home

So basically, all great programs, but I'm trying to figure out if going to an Ivy or a school in a city with more opportunity is worth the debt. I don't have a particular end-goal for after graduation and am open to various career paths, so I won't necessarily end up where I go either. Thanks so much to anyone who's got advice!

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I can't really speak much to MPA programs, but I know that a lot of graduates from UNC's MHA program end up getting jobs in DC.  If you're really concerned, perhaps reach out to the graduate coordinator for the MPA program to see how many graduates end up getting jobs in DC.


I'm not too familiar with your other two options, so I'll let others speak to those.

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