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Georgetown MSFS vs. Fletcher


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I'll give it a go even though I'm also just in the decision-making stage. I will say it's interesting how little attention MSFS gets on these boards. Then again its class size is 1/2 that of Fletcher MALD, and only a 1/4 the size of SAIS, so clearly there are less people in the program, in the first place, to talk about it. I know people at all of the programs except MSFS, so unfortunately I have heard great/mixed things about all the top programs BUT Georgetown. [Which lends it a bit of mystique, I suppose.]

 

Seems to be a lot of similarities on the surface between Fletcher and MSFS. Both are small programs housed within a larger graduate & undergraduate campus. They both appear to be less quantitatively-demanding than SAIS and SIPA, which could be a Pro or Con depending. Quality of academics is comparable, with each school having globally-renown faculty and a diverse student body (~30-40% international student body). Each has high placement rates in the public and non-profit sectors, especially compared to SAIS. 

 

A seemingly big difference is in their curriculum. Fletcher makes a big to-do about the program's flexibility. MSFS only offers 4 concentrations, so to speak, but if you look at the courses offered and "sub-concentrations," there is a LOT of variety there; it just won't be categorized as specifically as it would be at Fletcher. 

 

Then there's the many subjective Pros & Cons:

 

Location is a big one: I'm thrilled at the prospect of living in DC for the culture as much for the networking potential, whereas nothing about moving to the Boston suburbs excites me. Like I said, it's all subjective, unless we're talking Government internships during the semester (need to be in DC), for example, or taking classes at Harvard (need to be in Boston).

 

Name and prestige factor? Depending whom you ask, Georgetown SFS is the top school for IR in the world. The entering class size is ~90, and if these boards are any indication (I'm not saying they are!), it's much more selective than Fletcher, and a little more selective than SAIS. The Georgetown name is world-famous and recognizable to the lay person; Fletcher/Tufts is not. Within the IR world however, both names are very well respected and boast excellent alumni networks. 

 

A "sense of community" seems to be a particularly tricky one to address. That seems to be Fletcher's biggest soundbite, on the boards and elsewhere. If there are any MSFS people around, I'd love to hear their thoughts on this, considering the program is one of the smallest (therefore suggesting individual/community focus ...) ?

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  • 1 year later...

So I would say ultimately it comes down to a difference of goals...

Fletcher is more academic/theory based, and MSFS is focused on preparing practitioners. There are absolutely differences in culture, but to me it seems figuring out if you want the practical or academic is the first step.

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  • 5 years later...

So this is my current choice too. Can anyone chip in? I'm ignoring the finance side for now as I've a few things in play. 

I've been really impressed by Fletcher so far, and I've enjoyed their events. I hadn't really been considering SFS too seriously until this week. I like the small cohort and close community at Fletcher. 

From what I've read, SFS is also small but is also quite cutthroat. Is that correct?

Edited by EscapingBrexit
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16 hours ago, EscapingBrexit said:

So this is my current choice too. Can anyone chip in? I'm ignoring the finance side for now as I've a few things in play. 

I've been really impressed by Fletcher so far, and I've enjoyed their events. I hadn't really been considering SFS too seriously until this week. I like the small cohort and close community at Fletcher. 

From what I've read, SFS is also small but is also quite cutthroat. Is that correct?

I am assuming you are a Brit? Do you want to stay in the US after graduation? If yes, go to Georgetown...the simple fact you are in DC gives you proximity to internships/consultancies that can ease your path to a post-graduation role that does not require visa sponsorship (i.e. World Bank, IFC etc.). 

Also, I know you say you are ignoring the finances, but I cannot emphasize this enough....go to whatever school is cheapest.

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25 minutes ago, AdvancedDegreeAlumnus said:

I am assuming you are a Brit? Do you want to stay in the US after graduation? If yes, go to Georgetown...the simple fact you are in DC gives you proximity to internships/consultancies that can ease your path to a post-graduation role that does not require visa sponsorship (i.e. World Bank, IFC etc.). 

Also, I know you say you are ignoring the finances, but I cannot emphasize this enough....go to whatever school is cheapest.

Thank you for your advice! I'm very fortunate in that a visa isn't a concern for me as a Green Card holder, and I will of course go to the cheaper school. At the moment they look like they will cost about the same. 

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3 hours ago, EscapingBrexit said:

Thank you for your advice! I'm very fortunate in that a visa isn't a concern for me as a Green Card holder, and I will of course go to the cheaper school. At the moment they look like they will cost about the same. 

Since funding is not an issue, I think the big difference is would you like to go to a school with a broader range of career options (emphasis on options) or one that is more narrowly focused. 

What I mean by this. I know a lot of people in MSFS who designed their education / experiential learning to be more nuanced / niche to random things (examples off the top of my head are Data Science perspective of IR, Business Ethics, or Political risk. They were able to customize their education by leveraging Georgetown's resources as a University with lots of other professional programs (Law, Biz, Communications, and etc. + DC resources. 

I'll even give that Fletcher has a marginally higher quality of education than MSFS (in terms of consistency in high professor teaching quality), and its possible to bootstrap yourself into a more nuanced academic focus. However, my friends at Fletcher found themselves decently more narrowed in terms of education/career customization opportunity. 

This is important because NEARLY everyone has some level of change in terms of what they want to do going in vs. going out of grad school. 

Edited by GradSchoolGrad
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20 hours ago, EscapingBrexit said:

So this is my current choice too. Can anyone chip in? I'm ignoring the finance side for now as I've a few things in play. 

I've been really impressed by Fletcher so far, and I've enjoyed their events. I hadn't really been considering SFS too seriously until this week. I like the small cohort and close community at Fletcher. 

From what I've read, SFS is also small but is also quite cutthroat. Is that correct?

I wouldn't say its cut throat. Its more like there are so many different things going on you suffer from tyranny of choice and people feel FOMO. So there is a FOMO fear that I can see can translate into being cutthroat. 

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On 3/26/2021 at 11:57 AM, GradSchoolGrad said:

However, my friends at Fletcher found themselves decently more narrowed in terms of education/career customization opportunity. 

Could you elaborate on which sectors/industries Fletcher is limited to? I'm considering the MALD program at Fletcher and would love to learn more.

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7 hours ago, visiblevariation said:

Could you elaborate on which sectors/industries Fletcher is limited to? I'm considering the MALD program at Fletcher and would love to learn more.

Its not like anything is definitively closed off no matter which grad school you go to. However, what I'm referring to is the days of when you can bank on a job offer based upon grad school name with little to no performative expression of skills or baseline knowledge are going away (granted not dead). 

The reason this applies to Fletcher is that the opportunities to pad your resume with experiential learning is simply not as a robust compared to its top competition. This impacts all career fields - government, non-profit, and private sector. HOWEVER... realistically, this really impacts private sector most, because they care most about prior experience. With Fletcher, you have one summer internship to pad your resume. With the other power IR schools, you can get engaged all year long with lots of different things. 

For example, if an MSFS or Elliot student wants to get involved in Space Policy, they can start doing side projects with DC firms concurrent to attending classes. The Fletcher student has to wait until the summer internship (yes there may be some collaborations with a Fletcher professor, Fletcher research org, or Boston area org, that can also count, but the opportunities are not as expansive). After the summer internship is done, the MSFS and Elliot students can be on their 2nd academic year of experiential learning activities. 

A lot of the consultants, research centers, private sector entities, and etc. are not easily accessible to Fletcher students but can be to DC/NY schools. 

Basically, you get more accessibility to try out different things up close with the practitioners when you are in the DC/NYC schools. This helps in truly letting you decide what you want to do and gives you more opportunities for pivots. 

Yes, I realize HKS (another major school for IR career pathways), also has the location issue, however, I would argue that because HKS has so much access internally and with the Harvard Enterprise at large, the location disadvantage is well made up for. Fletcher alums often argue  to me (in real life, not this forum) that because they have access to Harvard classes and some perks that that they have equivalent access to all of Harvard's resources. As you can imagine, access to some resources does not mean access to all the resources, the brand, the network, and most importantly, Harvard's funding for the various different things to get involved with. 

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It doesn't really matter unless you have a burning desire to be in one of those cities. They're both great programs, 2nd tier (below Yale/Princeton), and very, very overpriced relative to career prospects and average starting salaries. Go to whichever is cheaper and don't go unless you get minimim 1/3 tuition scholarship.

I went to Fletcher (loved it) and now have one of those US gov jobs in DC that IR students strive for. Personally, I'd far rather spend 2 years in Medford and Boston than DC but that's just me. Regardless of where you go, you'll make 1/3 what tech and MBA people do and be barely making it financially (unless you're coming out of a good private sector, technically-focused job you want to go back to in which case I'm not sure why you'd want to do this degree). In general, I recommend prospective students consider joining the military, or going to a good state school(e.g. UMD MPP/UVA) over an expensive private MA. These degrees usually result in short term contracts, defense consulting, super low paid think tank/NGO gigs, or - best case - entry-level government. It's not all that glamorous.

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11 hours ago, went_away said:

These degrees usually result in short term contracts, defense consulting, super low paid think tank/NGO gigs, or - best case - entry-level government. It's not all that glamorous.

The poster is absolute right that many MA IR/policy degree holders have been readily disappointed with these career outcomes, no matter how prestigious of a school they go to.

That being said, what I'm highlighting is the strength of MSFS (and more so SIPA) for that matter is how I see so many people pivot into private sector roles (that do at least tangentially have to do with IR) after realizing traditional IR jobs are out of reach/not their thing. One of my friends is now an international Energy trader and another one of mine works in international development at a major tech company. This is the very real safety blanket MSFS and SIPA provides (granted you do have to go out and seek it) because you can more easily customize your learning with resources from the University at large and the city. 

I'm sure there are Fletcher folks that also pivoted to pure non-government related private sector jobs, and I even have heard of a few. But by comparison their career outcomes (granted this is among the very few private sector folks I have visibility of) are not things that really required a graduate degree. Simply put with MSFS and SIPA, you get the flexibility that is less present in Fletcher.

When it came to career talk, my MSFS connections knew that the undesirable options that the poster talked were a reality, but for those who couldn't get into their dream job of State Dept, super prestigious fellowship, or etc. knew they could resort to readily resort to the private sector before they were seriously in danger of resorting to a random military base in Alaska. My Fletcher friends dreaded the consequences of shaking out on the bad side of the career game because I know one who did indeed resort to going to a random military base in Alaska (others went to random military bases elsewhere). 

Edited by GradSchoolGrad
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11 hours ago, GradSchoolGrad said:

The poster is absolute right that many MA IR/policy degree holders have been readily disappointed with these career outcomes, no matter how prestigious of a school they go to.

That being said, what I'm highlighting is the strength of MSFS (and more so SIPA) for that matter is how I see so many people pivot into private sector roles (that do at least tangentially have to do with IR) after realizing traditional IR jobs are out of reach/not their thing. One of my friends is now an international Energy trader and another one of mine works in international development at a major tech company. This is the very real safety blanket MSFS and SIPA provides (granted you do have to go out and seek it) because you can more easily customize your learning with resources from the University at large and the city. 

I'm sure there are Fletcher folks that also pivoted to pure non-government related private sector jobs, and I even have heard of a few. But by comparison their career outcomes (granted this is among the very few private sector folks I have visibility of) are not things that really required a graduate degree. Simply put with MSFS and SIPA, you get the flexibility that is less present in Fletcher.

When it came to career talk, my MSFS connections knew that the undesirable options that the poster talked were a reality, but for those who couldn't get into their dream job of State Dept, super prestigious fellowship, or etc. knew they could resort to readily resort to the private sector before they were seriously in danger of resorting to a random military base in Alaska. My Fletcher friends dreaded the consequences of shaking out on the bad side of the career game because I know one who did indeed resort to going to a random military base in Alaska (others went to random military bases elsewhere). 

I have a very different take from the above, but wish the poster all the best in their choice.

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