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International Student Perspective: SAIS vs SIPA

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I know there are several threads on this already but I would still request everyone to answer if possible, keeping in mind the fact that I am an International student and have specific questions:


I have been admitted to MPA (EPD concentration) at SIPA with 20k$ funding (non-renewable)

and MA at SAIS with no funding. I was turned down by the International Department program at SAIS (which was my first choice) and I have been asked to pick up any other concentration. Also, SAIS is very strict about re-appealing to ID; they just don't permit it.

In terms of personal preference, I lean more towards International development and economic policy but I am slightly flexible that way. So I could essentially take up things which lets me explore sustainable development and equitable growth. I am not fixated upon any organization or institution as such. I have experience in an bilateral development firm in the field of environmental policy, sustainability and resources. (But I am not planning to specialize in environmental policy) 


Now my questions:


- The estimated expenditure of both these schools is mind boggling! SIPA (75k$) and SAIS (66k$) so I will have to strike a fine balance between pursuing things that interest me and things which provide better employ-ability. I don't come from a very rich family and hence student debt is a very important factor.

- While SAIS seems to hold more prestige in the field of I.R. and International Economics, how easy or difficult is it for an international student to find a job in Washington (or NY for that matter). Clearly the working VISA issue has made things difficult

- Is it true that SAIS, owing to its better policy connections works better for domestic students and SIPA might open more options for International students? 

- While the Quant and Eco content at SAIS is A-grade, is the structure less flexible compared to SIPA?

- Why is SAIS so choosy about ID? (I don't have a background in Eco. perhaps that's why I was turned down. However my quant skills are good because I am an engineer by training)

- How does the second year student aid at SAIS compare with SIPA


What should an International Student choose?

People keep saying D.C. is the place for policy and keep referring to the World Bank, IMF and think-tanks

 a.) Not everyone from SAIS ends up in the world bank. Do they? And I am not sure what is it like for international students (I know an international student who is currently on contract though)

b.) Think tanks pay less! don't they? So while I might prefer the work compared to the private sector (I left the private sector to join the development sector!), I can't see how will I sustain with a huge student loan


Sorry for the long message, but I am having sleepless nights here!

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I can relate to the sleepless nights things as an international student. Especially the tuition fees.. Imagine all the cars you could buy. Or even a studio. Or anything actually. I'm facing similar choices so thought I'd react.


Anyway, imo you're considering world-class schools and the funding would be a major factor in the decision (in my country the tuition fees are peanuts compared to this). I have a similar background, so I have a hard time justifying that huge debt. On the other hand, and it might sound silly, but when you're talking about those kind of numbers, the difference of about 9k isn't that huge anymore. My intuition would be, if SIPA allows you to, go for SIPA and the funding. 20k is huge! Concerning SAIS aid in the second year, I believe it's greatly determined by your grades in the first semester and that funding is generally lower. This varies though, though I thought I read somewhere that around half of the students receive some amount of aid, but this can also hover around the 5k mark.  


As for the visa, it differs per type of visa. For some, I don't think it's possible to work in the first year and in the second year only for a maximum of twenty hours a week. Again, not sure how this exactly works, but if your visum doesn't allow you to work, I guess that will have consequences for you getting an internship in the US. In my case, I guess I'll have to return home for the summer internship.


Don't know if this helps you in any way at all, but at least know you're not the only one with these concerns!



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