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Real hard time deciding between International Relations/Affairs programs


sadao

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Was initially in fear of not getting in anywhere, and figured the easy choice would be the one (couldn't have fathomed that more would accept me) that would accept me. As it turns out, I've gotten in to quite a few programs for international affairs, international relations, security or whatever they want to call it. Having extensive Asia-Pacific region and language experience, I'm leaning towards Georgetown, UCSD, Syracuse, or American. My options are as follows (yes I paid a shit ton in all these application fees):

 

Columbia SIPA

Johns Hopkins SAIS

Johns Hopkins-Nanjing

Georgetown School of Foreign Service

George Washington

American

Syracuse

NYU

Boston University

UCSD

 

I suppose at this point Georgetown feels like the most appropriate fit, given their faculty's expertise on modern East Asian politics, but it's all up in the air. I do not factor funding heavily in my decision, as money comes and goes in a lifetime. But where you do your MA, especially in regards to IR, is a once in a lifetime decision that can greatly impact where you spend your career.

 

Thanks for any input.

Edited by sadao
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Wow - well, first of all congratulations on the incredible acceptance record.

 

But down to business: what do you plan to do after you graduate? And what would you like to focus on for the degree?

 

Congrats again.

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So, a couple of misconceptions abound regarding working for the Federal Government. 

1. They do NOT care at all which school you went to for undergrad or grad. Yes, they care about the content and curriculum... but the actual name of the school does not matter, not the ranking, the prestige, none of it. You don't get extra hiring points for it, you don't get shortlisted for the job because of it, nada. The only time it matters is if you want a political appointment-type job; history reveals that those peeps generally come from a handful of traditionally prestigious schools (you want to be the Sec Def, Sec State, Director of CIA, Director of whatever).

 

2. A lot of people I've noticed on this thread have the idea that if they want to work for one of the Federal Departments, they ought to go to school in DC. I would argue that the opposite is just as true: these places look for people with diverse experience and backgrounds - and believe me, they get loads and loads of people from the DC area with DC-area degrees applying to their positions all the time. If you're going to be in a grad program, then you're going to be in a grad program, not simultaneously working for one of those places, and not trying to work at one of those places until you've graduated. So, I strongly recommend looking outside of DC for your grad career to diversify your background and what you bring to the table.

Doing so will also not preclude you from doing summer internships in DC or with DC-area organizations. In some ways, you'll be more desirable, because you will be fresh blood, and will not have all the "dust" let's call it, of having already been in the DC circuit for months or years.

 

So, that said, I would not narrow your list down by geographic location in consideration of the ultimate job you want, because in this case, that type of job doesn't much care, and they will also pay for relocating you to wherever you are hired (sweet deal, right?).

 

Of course, if geographic location is important to you for other reasons, then by all means, narrow it down.

 

More important is the content of your studies. I really advise against studying the same old things everyone else does. Specialize in a unique and different way. Learn about something that not many people learn about or focus on. General IR classes are not of very much help, I can tell you from experience, in the Foreign Service. Looking at a nuanced angle of bilateral relations between, say, Pakistan and Russia, however, is very intriguing on an applicant's resume, and will set you up for jobs in more Departments than would a general look at "Asia in the 21st Century" or some garbage like that that can be read about in a few issues of Economist or Foreign Affairs.

Edited by jujubea
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^ Just read your second to last sentence about funding not being important. Oops. My eyes are probably a little foggy from refreshing my email and staring at the computer screen so constantly while waiting for admissions decisions.

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^ Just read your second to last sentence about funding not being important. Oops. My eyes are probably a little foggy from refreshing my email and staring at the computer screen so constantly while waiting for admissions decisions.

 

Maybe I should rephrase. Finances are not a make or break for me, but I would also never attend an institution that may hurt future firing chances, less related internships/fellowships, or a less related curriculum to my interests simply because it was cheaper.

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Wow - well, first of all congratulations on the incredible acceptance record.

 

But down to business: what do you plan to do after you graduate? And what would you like to focus on for the degree?

 

Congrats again.

 

I agree that a specific and unique focus is valued in the job market. In this scenario, the schools that offer this range of curriculum happen to be the top-tier schools in DC, with the exception of UCSD and maybe Syracuse. NYU and BU offer the generic and broad IR curriculum. 

 

Also, I've found it helpful to pull the hiring and job data of recent grads from schools, and the data does support DC graduates working in related departments in the federal government. Ex. Georgetown's SFS has an incredible % amount grads hired by the DOD.

Edited by sadao
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I agree that a specific and unique focus is valued in the job market. In this scenario, the schools that offer this range of curriculum happen to be the top-tier schools in DC, with the exception of UCSD and maybe Syracuse. NYU and BU offer the generic and broad IR curriculum. 

 

Also, I've found it helpful to pull the hiring and job data of recent grads from schools, and the data does support DC graduates working in related departments in the federal government. Ex. Georgetown's SFS has an incredible % amount grads hired by the DOD.

 

Great - I just wouldn't want anyone to think that they have to study in DC or their chances are shot. It's just not the case!

 

Also - a huge perk of schooling in DC is finding out how many different types of jobs there actually are within the Federal Government. Things you just don't hear about/learn about without rubbing shoulders in the DC area...!

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Great - I just wouldn't want anyone to think that they have to study in DC or their chances are shot. It's just not the case!

 

Also - a huge perk of schooling in DC is finding out how many different types of jobs there actually are within the Federal Government. Things you just don't hear about/learn about without rubbing shoulders in the DC area...!

 

Agreed, my recommenders and other contacts in DC have said the same thing. It's easy to say State Department, DOD, etc, but in reality there's an incredible amount of career options that can be in line with the same interests.

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