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Cornell CIPA or Columbia SIPA?

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Hello all!

So I applied to 4 schools, 2 admits (Cornell and Columbia) and 2 rejects (Harvard and Princeton). Just looking for opinions on where you would head in this situation, the pros and cons are as follows

Cornell PROS:
15k per year scholarship, will be paid off with my military aid.
Program flexibility (no strict course requirements)
CIPA has shown a lot of concern/personal attention during the admissions process
I love Ithaca, and it is close to home.

Cornell CONS:
Newer, less well-known program.
Less established network.
CIPA is not a school in itself, its faculty are pulled from other parts of the university.

Columbia PROS:
SIPA Network
NYC (career prospects)
Faculty are dedicated specifically to public affairs.

Columbia CONS:
Weak financial aid (est. 50k-60k in debt)
NYC (expensive, huge, overwhelming)
Less personal attention

Personal Considerations:

My career path is largely set (getting a commission in the Army), would be good to have civilian employment options after school but I can go back to active duty as well.

Strongly considering going reserve route and pursuing a PhD in either Govt or Public Policy so PhD placement is important.

I see myself staying in the NY area if I don't go back to active duty, so CIPA/SIPA aside, both Cornell and Columbia definitely have brand status where I intend to work.


Edited by Jufarius87
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I'm a current SIPA student.  


If you are thinking about PhD work after grad do not come to SIPA, unless you want to do Sustainable Development (their only program at that level).  


Ask professors and they will tell you that our curriculum is not geared towards doctoral work.  It is a professional school and locating a professor who will be your sponsor for the dissertation will be difficult.  If you were Political Science, then the College of Arts and Sciences would be available and then by all means come to Columbia. But unless you are interested in Sustainable Development, SIPA probably will not be the best fit.


This is not to say that some people here will be pursuing a PhD. There are some folks who will be this year and next. This is just not the kind of environment where that field is actively promoted.

Edited by are we there yet?
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Current CIPA Fellow here, let me address your concerns about Cornell--

Newer, less well-known program.


Public administration at Cornell has actually been around for a pretty long time (originally it was a part of the business school starting in the 1940s), and I believe that the CIPA program was started in the early 1980s. I think that CIPA has come a long way since that time, and it is really obvious how dedicated the administration is at making CIPA more well-known. There has been tremendous growth in the last decade and that momentum is only going to continue. Especially given that you might want to stay in NY after graduation, the Cornell brand is going to be a plus. You will find Cornellians in every level of government, and I think we have a huge presencence in NYC. No one is ever going to look down on the fact that you have a degree from Cornell, even if CIPA is not [yet] as well-known as some other programs.


Less established network.


I had this concern as well when I was a prospective student, but as I mentioned above, you will find both Cornell and CIPA alumni everywhere. We have networking events in both DC and NYC each year, and all of the CIPA alumni I have spoken with have gone out of their way to help me. A number of agencies have specifically approached CIPA saying that they want to hire our students for internships and full time positions, and there is always a flurry of emails about networking opportunities and job opportunities from alumni.


CIPA is not a school in itself, its faculty are pulled from other parts of the university.


This should really be the least of your concerns. CIPA has a number of advocates high within the ranks of the Cornell administration--including the Provost--who support the establishment of a school of public affairs. You probably received an email that CIPA will soon be joining the College of Human Ecology (and lowering its tuition too). This is only the first step in a larger plan to improve the CIPA's visibility and eventually start a new school. The fact that the public affairs faculty is pulled from many different parts of the university isn't too strange, given how Cornell operates. At Cornell, students are admitted to fields (eg, the field of public affairs), and not by departments. Faculty members typically have appointment in a department, but advise students across many fields, such that you might have a PhD student in the field of policy analysis and management who is advised by a professor in the economics department. This truely is a benefit for the students because it allows you to easily take courses anywhere in the university. Additionally, professors from other departments seem to seek out CIPA students to take their classes, because they want to bring in the policy viewpoint into the discussions.


In the end, no matter where you attend, your experience is really going to be what you make of it. Before I came to Cornell, I was also concerned with some of the same things (ranking, location, faculty), but I've found that these aren't as significant as I made them out to be. Looking at your personal considerations that you mentioned, I can tell you that Cornell has a number of graduate students with military experience (mostly in CIPA and the Johnson school), and that about ~10% of graduates will pursue a PhD. A number of them will stay at Cornell, mostly in PAM, CRP, Govt, or Natural Resources, but also at other schools. While this is a "professional" program, the fact that you are taking coursework and doing research with professors in other "academic" departments will only strengthen your options for doing a PhD. Also, the ability to do a thesis while at CIPA can also serve as a springboard into a PhD program.


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So I am currently in Ithaca for Open House (tomorrow, 21 MAR) but I've already been impressed with both CIPA and the ROTC program here.

1. CIPA helped me secure last minute lodging when my appointment with the ROTC leadership was set for a different date.

2. They've offered to put us in contact with current fellows (I've also notice current CIPA fellows, like the poster above have a very positive view of their program and take the time to talk about it).

3. CIPA seems to be making a lot of strong moves and I think its reputation will only grow. I am especially happy about the move to the College Human Ecology. Aside from the lowered tuition, it puts us close to the PhD program in Policy Analysis.

For my own purposes the ROTC program here has been phenomenally helpful with the administrative aspects of switching from Enlisted to Commissioned service. Unless something catastrophic occurs tomorrow (which I don't see happening) CIPA is the clear choice for me.


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