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SAIS Europe vs Fletcher School?


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Hey all,

 

First off - congrats to all admits!  I don't know about you all, but I'm glad that the stressful waiting period is finally over. :)

 

I know I'm not the only one with a difficult decision to make, but I wanted to reach out to see if anyone else was struggling between SAIS Europe and Fletcher?  

 

Some background:  Fletcher gave me $20,000 in scholarship money, SAIS - nada.  I've calculated the total costs (I'm from the Boston area originally and can live with family near the school), and it looks like Fletcher, in total, would be roughly $45,000 less expensive than SAIS.  I'm finding it terribly difficult to get over this financial disparity, as it essentially amounts to a year's worth of tuition.  I would love to live in Europe and DC, but I don't know if it's worth that much money.

 

I feel like the main thing that could justify the additional expense (other than the awesomeness factor behind living in Italy for a year and going to SAIS in general) is evidence suggesting that a) SAIS has better job placements (both in terms of percentage and the types of placements) and B) the starting salary of a SAIS grad is substantially higher than that of a Fletcher grad.

 

From what I've seen from each school, it doesn't appear that SAIS has that much of an edge over Fletcher in these areas.  Granted, students can intern during the school year, but I wouldn't be able to do that in Italy anyway (at least not easily).  Does anyone have any inside info that would suggest otherwise?  If my starting salary would be $20k higher and I could land my dream job at the International Rescue Committee or whatever, then that would help justify the additional cost!

 

Also, I have minimal interest in working in the private sector.  I realize that the majority of SAIS grads gravitate towards the private sector, while Fletcher grads prefer gov't and/or non-profit work.  That said, it seems like SAIS grads wouldn't have trouble getting gov't/non-profit placements if that was their end goal.

 

Anyway, thanks in advance for the advice! :)

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Yup, I'm in the same situation (though not from Boston, so would have to pay for an apt.) 

 

Also leaning Fletcher due to $$. Fletcher is an amazing school, and while Bologna is certainly sexier than Somerville, I really like Fletcher and the money pulls me towards them. 

 

Others with insight? Also, any idea when we'll hear from MSFS? 

Edited by CL_Fergus
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Same boat here. Both are absolutely awesome programs from what I've researched. If it were me, I would go with Fletcher. SAIS Bologna is nice but not worth the extra debt. Good luck!

Edited by thrtyfutsmurf
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Accepted: SAIS and Fletcher ($)

 

Right now I am leaning towards the private sector, so SAIS seems to be a decent fit-- for now. Fletcher sounds awesome mostly because its so academically drive, and they are giving me a little bit of money. Can anyone please give me some feedback. 

 

Also, Ive been accepted into the IDEV program at SAIS, but I wanna lean towards private sector, will that make it more difficult to find a job in my field of preference. 

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Disclaimer: I'm actually leaning toward MBA programs myself, but I've looked extensively at Fletcher and SAIS. However, after several years of government related work, I personally am seeking a break from the public sector.

 

Long and short, it really depends where you want to be when you graduate. Like you said, SAIS pushes private sector (federal consulting particularly). Here's a run-down as I see it:

 

SAIS

Pro: You're in DC. One of the first lessons you learn about DC is that if you want a DC job, you need a DC address. So you're able to be constantly networking during the program and you know the players.

Neutral: I don't know much about SAIS alumnae getting jobs outside of DC, but I'm sure it's common. But the stress is Washington. 

 

Pro: If you want an econ/quant-heavy career, SAIS is excellent, perhaps the best. This heavy quant training is what lends SAIS grads to the private sector (*again, note that private sector almost always still means federal contracts).

 

Con: The price, and the DC cost of living. I'm currently negotiating with the admissions office, but they're less likely to budge than Fletcher.

 

Neutral: People love the Bologna program, but I'm not sure what it really gets you career-wise. You'd be in a historic Italian city, removed from the hustle bustle, with a more academic focus for a year, and you'd come back with a very tight-knit group of colleagues (on the other hand, some see the Bologna folks as a bit cliquey when they return to DC. Understandably so). After multiple studies abroad and working abroad, I decided that Bologna really wasn't for me - if I was going to a university overseas, I wanted to be in a capital or economic hub for the value of networking. Bologna is great for academics, and the courses are fantastic, but you won't be job-hunting there.

 

 

Fletcher

Pro: Probably the best school for diplomacy. There are a surprising number of former foreign ministers and such that come to Fletcher to study. You also have a lot of former military folks. This was just my impression, but the student body that I met at Fletcher felt more diverse than at SAIS in the sense that most SAIS students I've met were targeting jobs in DC whereas Fletcher students were truly global in their goals. But again, that was just my impression.

 

Con: You are in suburban Boston. Fletcher is one of the more academic IR schools. You're removed from NYC, DC, etc., so the job hunt can be a bit tough. That being said, Fletcher sponsors trips for their students to the major cities for informational interviews and networking. And Fletcher is a very globally-respected brand with a tight-knit alumni community, so doors will open for you. But it might require moving down to DC first, for example. 

 

Neutral: Whether or not it's true, Fletcher's reputation is more on the soft skills than hard quant skills. They have started offering more practical workshops, but it's behind some of the other schools in that sense. But again, quant is not everyone's goal.

 

Neutral: My impression is that Fletcher folks tend to steer toward public or non-profit work. Not exclusively by any means, but at least for the first couple years, it seems to be the trend. 

 

Pro: Cost. Fletcher is affordable in comparison (and cost of living is lower than other cities), and they're admissions department is very open to considering additional funding. Last year, I was offered an increase of $2k late in the game when I was debating schools. 

 

Pro: Personalized. Perhaps the admissions department is just that good, but Fletcher goes out of their way to know you and personalize your requests and needs. My hope is that this would translate into their study.

 

Pro: If  you want a European study, Fletcher has a lot of great options for a semester or year overseas. I was looking at the Diplomatische Akademie in Vienna, but I know that there are others. They also have great support for overseas internships (as does SAIS).

 

 

 

 

 

I loved the vibe at Fletcher, but it does feel more academic/more in a bubble (you're on Tufts' campus). SAIS is in the heart of DC, which brings its own pluses and minuses - it really depends on your goals which one would be the better fit. 

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@RPVC - define private sector. :) DC has a thriving private sector international development scene (Chemonics, Deloitte, DAI, etc. etc. etc.). 

 

If you're looking for the private sector outside of federal contracting, to be honest, you're going to have a tough time at either school - grads at both schools definitely land commercial jobs every year, but often you need to go through a long networking chain to get there. A lot of people have luck with start-ups in the global south, but that's often on your own as well.

 

But if you are looking for federal-contracts in international development, either school will be fantastic. If you're targeting an organization like Deloitte that does many things besides int dev, SAIS would likely be better, as the Big 4 often hire in classes of general consultants, and then it's up to you to transfer into the emerging markets team. For any int dev-only contractors (DAI, Creative, Chemonics, ACDI/VOCA), people jump between private and non-profits all the time, so any top IR school would be fantastic. 

 

 

@QuintiliusMaximus - I was in the midst of professional growth, and while I felt at the time that Fletcher was my top pick, there was a definite opportunity cost to going back to school. I sent them a formal letter detailing this situation, as well as including some financial details about cost of living and how my original scholarship would not be sufficient for my goals. I don't think they typically go above about $20k, but sometimes they will offer a little bit more if the reasoning is sound and if they've had money freed up. But send in your request early.

 

 

 
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Thanks, greenapplesea!  Yeah, I don't want to be greedy, but if they sent me a random email saying "here's an extra $2k!!" I wouldn't be upset. :)

 

So, the bare bones analysis seems to be that SAIS is the more professional, quantitative program and Fletcher is the more academic and diverse in terms of concentrations and classes.

 

One thing I did hear about Fletcher is that although they offer exchange programs abroad, many students elect to remain in the area and take courses at the Kennedy School and MIT.  Also, there are 3 spots max open for each exchange program, so the chances seem small that one would be accepted into their program of choice, if at all.  

 

I don't have as much international experience as I would like, so I feel like it would be beneficial if I had the opportunity to live and study abroad, which I guess is another point in favor of SAIS.  If it was easier to do an exchange program at Fletcher, I think my decision would have been made already.

 

Anyway, I'm glad this thread has elicited such detailed feedback! 

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I think its also worth mentioning that the mere fact that you attend one of these great schools is not going to land you a hoyty toyty job.  People aren't just giving away money to discover the knowledge thats locked inside these schools.  It's all about what you bring to the table- no one is going to pay you $150k to regurgitate things you learn in a textbook.  Grad school is typically meant to compliment expertise and skillsets you already have.  If you have no experience, expect a shit job making 50k coming out of school.  In the same vein, if you have no experience, good education can certainly accelerate your timeline to higher salaried positions.    

 

This may seem cynical- but from past experiences- those expecting a degree or many degrees to automatically equal a payday are usually disappointed. Think about what each school can give you and go from there.  Crippling debt ties you down and gives you no freedom to work a long-term strategy.

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For what it's worth, the Fletcher School is known for having a very very strong alumnae network in DC, the "Fletcher Mafia" as it's known.  And bunsen is right in saying that, if you have no other relevant experience, no one is going to pay you more because you went to SAIS rather than Fletcher. 

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I find these decisions difficult because I'm juggling what I want v. what I think I need.  Honestly, as somebody who lived in DC for three years, then moved abroad, then was recruited back to DC from abroad, I don't think that being physically in DC is all that necessary if you plan on making a career here.  Internships, networks, consultancy types - there are a zillion reasons to find yourself here, grad school need not be one of them at the beginning of one's career.

 

As for grad school, I find that I'm constantly revisiting my SOP - why did I want to go to school 4 months ago?  It's not so much about what I want to do in three years, it's about what I want to do in these 2-3 years between jobs.  Do I want to focus on quant and econ? Then SAIS.  Do I want more flexibility?  Then Fletcher.  Do I want a huge group of friends and sensory overload?  Then Fletcher.  Do I want a more professional environment?  Then SAIS.  Do I want the EU perspective?  Then SAIS.  Do I want more researchy experience?  Then Fletcher.  uuuuugh...I'm getting stressed just thinking about it!

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Ana - One of the things that Fletcher prides itself on is the extreme plethora of activities at the school. Whether that be the culture nights, the talks, the simulations, the conferences, or the other opportunities at the Consortium schools there's a lot the school opens up to students.  Add that to the flexibility of the curriculum and you find yourself with the paradox of choice. 

 

SAIS is more rigid in the curriculum and, since they encourage their students to intern during the school year in the 2nd year, there's less emphasis on activities and more on professional development.  Or, at least, that's been my impression from talking to students and visiting the schools.  Others can chime in as to whether these impressions are correct.

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@It's A Mystery- I would suggest figuring out your ideal position and reverse engineering your career from there.  Where do you want to be in 5-10-20 years? Running an NGO? Running for office? Exec at Goldman? Consulting for the World Bank? Spying on the EU?  

 

All these paths have different prerequisites- and I think SAIS and Fletcher are different enough to point you the right way.  

 

Other things to consider...how do you want to spend your time at grad school?  Was it a purely pragmatic decision to go (I want to get from here to here, I need to get a degree from here to do it)?  Is is something you've always wanted to do and it's the perfect time to do it?  Are you looking to meet people, network, and generally enjoy life?  

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I'm in the same boat! I got accepted at SAIS (DC campus) with no aid and Fletcher with a nice scholarship. Of course, I'm leaning towards Fletcher to save some money. My end goal, though, is to work in Washington, DC, so I would rather go to SAIS, all other things being equal.

 

I've been racking my brains trying to figure out what to do, but, depending on what I hear back from MSFS, I'll probably go to Fletcher. Many Fletcher alumni go on to top jobs in Washington, and I don't think a SAIS education is worth the extra debt. Boston may not be the international relations "hub" that Washington and DC are, but Boston offers a lot of academic and research opportunities (Harvard, Tufts, MIT, etc), if that's your thing. I'm also very turned off by SAIS's lack of funding. I understand that Fletcher awards scholarships to 90% of its students, while almost nobody at SAIS gets money. I just consider that rude haha.

 

I'd be very interested to hear everyone's final decision and how you came about it! 

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Pro: Personalized. Perhaps the admissions department is just that good, but Fletcher goes out of their way to know you and personalize your requests and needs. My hope is that this would translate into their study.

 

This. I've gotten an invitation to an alumni reception and personal e-mails (and calls!) from a current student and an alum. Through that contact, I've also been connected with a Fletcher alum who works in my career of interest. Granted, I was accepted back in December through Early Decision, so Fletcher has had a bit more time to "woo" me than other schools have.

 

But still, my takeaway? Fletcher is a Class Act.

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@aquarius - I agree!  I literally had a Full House/Michelle Tanner "How rude!!" moment when I saw the no funding letter. 

 

I'm still not sure of my decision - I think I'll go to the open house in April at the DC campus and take it from there.  That said, I really loved the close-knit environment at Fletcher and the loads of classes they offer each semester. 

 

Not to ramble, but that was one big difference that I noticed in favor of Fletcher - SAIS Europe's course catalog seemed really sparse in comparison.  Also, I could be dreaming this, but I swore that there was a SAIS Europe student on some thread who said that because of the limited options, he/she was occasionally forced to take classes they didn't like/weren't interested in.  I know it's only one year, but that's half your degree!  I never heard a Fletcher student say that.

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I haven't looked closely enough at course offerings at either Fletcher or SAIS to have an informed opinion about it, but I do understand that Fletcher students can take courses at Harvard and MIT. For me, that's a clear advantage over SAIS.

I think I've just sold myself completely on Fletcher. Now if only Fletcher would move its campus to Capitol Hill...

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  • 3 weeks later...

Okay, current Fletcher student here. I almost never come on here anymore (they really have a way of keeping you busy here), but I received a ton of help on these forums when I was making my desicion last year and try to pay it forward. A few comments on the discussion going on here:

 

 

I feel like the main thing that could justify the additional expense (other than the awesomeness factor behind living in Italy for a year and going to SAIS in general) is evidence suggesting that a) SAIS has better job placements (both in terms of percentage and the types of placements) and B) the starting salary of a SAIS grad is substantially higher than that of a Fletcher grad.

You won't find this, because it doesn't exist. Honestly, in terms of academic/professional outcomes, SAIS and Fletcher are about as alike as two schools can be. That's certainly not to say the experience you will get at the two schools is the same, far from it, just that at the end of the day you'll have similar opportunities no matter where you go. So relax! You've gotten into two of the top schools for your field, you're going to be fine regardless of your choice so long as you put the work in. In the end it really just comes down to money and personal fit (that is, where you think you'd be happier/more comfortable/more academically fulfilled, etc...this is where the various schools diverge).

 

 

Pro: If you want an econ/quant-heavy career, SAIS is excellent, perhaps the best. This heavy quant training is what lends SAIS grads to the private sector (*again, note that private sector almost always still means federal contracts).

One thing I'll point out: Fletcher can be every bit as quant heavy as SAIS. The only difference between the two is at SAIS they force you to do it regardless of your level of interest, and at Fletcher its purely voluntary. Which is one reason I chose Fletcher. I was not opposed to quant training, but having to do nearly half my classes in something mostly irrelevent to my interests seemed like a huge waste. Some people here do load up on a ton of quant classes though.

 

 

For what it's worth, the Fletcher School is known for having a very very strong alumnae network in DC, the "Fletcher Mafia" as it's known.  And bunsen is right in saying that, if you have no other relevant experience, no one is going to pay you more because you went to SAIS rather than Fletcher.

Yeah, for all of SAIS' "location location location" talk (and I don't blame them for playing up their perceived strengths), we seem to place just as many people into DC spots at the end of the day. I would say the ability to intern in DC is a small advantage for SAIS, but nowhere near as significant as they make it out to be.

 

 

Ana - One of the things that Fletcher prides itself on is the extreme plethora of activities at the school. Whether that be the culture nights, the talks, the simulations, the conferences, or the other opportunities at the Consortium schools there's a lot the school opens up to students.  Add that to the flexibility of the curriculum and you find yourself with the paradox of choice. 

 

SAIS is more rigid in the curriculum and, since they encourage their students to intern during the school year in the 2nd year, there's less emphasis on activities and more on professional development.  Or, at least, that's been my impression from talking to students and visiting the schools.  Others can chime in as to whether these impressions are correct.

This is definitely true! I honestly feel like I've learned at least as much outside the classroom as I have inside. It can sometimes be an issue, when you want to go to every event and just can't.

SAIS, from when I visited, does indeed seem to take a more structured approach. They basically told us, "we have a system that we know works," and everyone is expected to conform to it. Fletcher is more about choice and flexibility. Not saying either is objectively better, but I myself preferred the latter.

 

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@rhodeislander - thank you so much for the  commentary - I think you really helped to round out this discussion.  

 

I had been hemming and hawing for a bit, despite really preferring Fletcher on almost all accounts, but your response helped push me over the edge, and I finally accepted my offer and put down my deposit!

 

Thank you so very much for helping me and others on this thread.  Paying it forward definitely works wonders! 

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