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Georgetown MSFS vs. Hopkins SAIS


IR2015

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Holding cost of attendance equal, could anyone walk me through some of the differentiating factors between MSFS and SAIS? Obviously there's size, but beyond that, what different factors could make someone choose one over the other? Some things I'm interested in understanding more about:

 

  • Academic focuses
  • Culture (social life, in-class dynamic, etc)
  • Post-grad career paths and opportunities
  • Opportunities for language learning
  • Opportunity to study/intern abroad
  • Anything else that would give one school a leg up over the other

Any thoughts on this will be much appreciated!

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SAIS and MSFS both gave me the same amount of funding. With all of my sources of funding added together, something like 75% of my total schooling cost for the next two years will be covered (this includes my tuition, rent, food, personal spending etc.).

 

Here is my brain dump of what I've pieced together so far. MSFS and SAIS are both pretty much tied for #1 IR degree program in the world. So whichever one you pick, it's going to take you places for the rest of your life. The differences between the programs are bound to be minor.

  • That said, MSFS has a focus on small classroom sizes, whereas SAIS often has 20-28 students in a class.
  • MSFS graduates smaller numbers, while SAIS graduates larger numbers which could help networking later in life.
  • MSFS is on Georgetown University campus. It's an actual, full-blown undergrad + grad campus, located on the edge of D.C. whereas SAIS has no "campus" in D.C., just the buildings where their grad classes and seminars are held. Housing and transportation will likely be easier/cheaper for Georgetown, although you will still have to deal with transportation when you go to downtown D.C. for your internships. SAIS is located just down the street from Barry's house, so you probably will be able to just walk to wherever your internship is in 20 minutes or less after class (or vice versa).
  • I don't think there will be a chance to study abroad since this is a supercharged grad-level education lasting only two years, unless it's part of your program like Bologna or Nanjing (could be wrong).
  • I heard someone say MSFS is more if you want a career at State, and SAIS is more if you want a career in other places. I don't think that's true. Individual school personalities may give SAIS a leg up on World Bank and MSFS a leg up on getting into the foreign service, but I don't think either school is going to cut you off from any careers you're thinking of pursuing. We will be massively qualified regardless of which school we choose.
  • On the MSFS site today I saw that they give scholarships for one language course per term, provided you apply for the scholarship during the narrow time window given. The strong feeling I got was that it was 100% awarding so long as you applied for it exactly when you were told to apply for it. I don't know if SAIS has a scholarship like this.

We are in a fortunate position in that we could throw our darts at the dartboard to choose between MSFS and SAIS, and we'd be pretty much equally qualified for our follow-on careers in international affairs. These differences are pretty darn minor. I'm going to talk to an MSFS student and a SAIS student to get their general opinions on what they wish they had known before they picked, etc. before I make my decision.

 

That said, I'm leaning slightly more towards Georgetown at the moment. I'm a full-blooded American, but I studied at college overseas for three years and never had a chance to live or study at a U.S. college. I also like the smaller class sizes that Georgetown has. However, I'm far from decided. Georgetown has a powerhouse professor in the "area studies" region of Asia I'm interested in, while SAIS has an entire institute dedicated to that region. The schools are pretty much equally prestigious. It's such a tough choice.

 

I really want to hear everyone's thoughts on what they think we should be considering in order to make the best decision we can.

Edited by ir_gradstudent
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I forgot to mention the SAIS requirement that one of your two (or three) concentrations be International Economics. This requirement doesn't exist at Georgetown. That's several more classes worth of targeted study you can undertake if you don't need a harder grounding in quantitative economics.

Edited by ir_gradstudent
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I forgot to mention the SAIS requirement that one of your two (or three) concentrations be International Economics. This requirement doesn't exist at Georgetown. That's several more classes worth of targeted study you can undertake if you don't need a harder grounding in quantitative economics.

 

Great insights. I got an email today from SAIS about the waiver exam. Since I am in India, attending the summer session for the class will be difficult. But they also write that I can only take the waiver exam once!! now that's a bit scary. 

 

Do you happen to know anything about this? 

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A few points in response ir_gradstudent's post based on my experience as a Georgetown SFS undergrad with plenty of friends in both SAIS and SFS graduate studies, including MSFS. Sorry for focusing on the semantics but hopefully provides some help.

 

-MSFS and SAIS were equated as being neck and neck, but a better comparison would be GSFS (SFS graduate school, including the broad host of programs) vs SAIS (which is actually how it is ranked in the SFS-SAIS #1-#2 in Foreign Policy, assuming we're playing this game). Both programs have their strengths in various areas, but MSFS being the most selective within GSFS is on average more competitive than SAIS.

-Transportation for Georgetown is not easier, given its being off the beaten path and without a subway, and housing is not cheaper, as Georgetown is the place with the John Kerrys of the world live.

-Don't be overly excited about Asian Studies at SAIS based off an institute. I would compare their course lists. Both institutions have utilized adjuncts to fill their gaps, resulting in SAIS and SFS probably having the greatest breadth and depth of course work on Asia. However, all in all its pretty fair to say that Georgetown edges out on Korea and Japan (Mike Green + Sheila Smith), while SAIS is strong on China and Southeast Asia. Regionally, SFS for Asian IR and SAIS for Asian econ.

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Thanks everyone for the POV! This is extremely helpful.

 

If I go to SAIS, I'd potentially look at doing a year at the Nanjing campus, but am concerned that the academic quality there is not as strong, and that being in Nanjing for the year would make networking more difficult.

 

My concern with Georgetown is whether or not MSFS would limit me more to public sector/government work without the option to pursue private sector, which seems to be more of SAIS' strength.

 

At the end of the day, is there really much of a difference in the opportunties provided? Once the schools are at the level of SAIS/MSFS, I'm assuming neither would shut any doors in the field of IR (either public or private sector)...

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  • On the MSFS site today I saw that they give scholarships for one language course per term, provided you apply for the scholarship during the narrow time window given. The strong feeling I got was that it was 100% awarding so long as you applied for it exactly when you were told to apply for it. I don't know if SAIS has a scholarship like this.

 

SAIS language courses are included in the tuition. Most people take four classes plus a language course. You aren't charged extra for language courses which is a big plus, in my opinion. There's also a really wide selection of languages to choose from (though some concentrations specify what language they want you to have proficiency in).

 

If I were to pick one major plus that MSFS has over SAIS is that its career services is known for being pretty hands on and supportive. Which makes sense, because it's a bit smaller of a school, but I think you get more individual attention.

Edited by WinterSolstice
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A few points in response ir_gradstudent's post based on my experience as a Georgetown SFS undergrad with plenty of friends in both SAIS and SFS graduate studies, including MSFS. Sorry for focusing on the semantics but hopefully provides some help.

 

-MSFS and SAIS were equated as being neck and neck, but a better comparison would be GSFS (SFS graduate school, including the broad host of programs) vs SAIS (which is actually how it is ranked in the SFS-SAIS #1-#2 in Foreign Policy, assuming we're playing this game). Both programs have their strengths in various areas, but MSFS being the most selective within GSFS is on average more competitive than SAIS.

-Transportation for Georgetown is not easier, given its being off the beaten path and without a subway, and housing is not cheaper, as Georgetown is the place with the John Kerrys of the world live.

-Don't be overly excited about Asian Studies at SAIS based off an institute. I would compare their course lists. Both institutions have utilized adjuncts to fill their gaps, resulting in SAIS and SFS probably having the greatest breadth and depth of course work on Asia. However, all in all its pretty fair to say that Georgetown edges out on Korea and Japan (Mike Green + Sheila Smith), while SAIS is strong on China and Southeast Asia. Regionally, SFS for Asian IR and SAIS for Asian econ.

 

Thanks for the inside info! I was thinking of housing being cheaper outside of Georgetown, a short commute away, not living near the school within walking distance. For SAIS, it's located smack dab downtown, so the same "short commute" would see you paying vastly more rent. I think! Am I still wrong on this? And is there ample parking space for personal vehicles at Georgetown? Any grad student housing option from the school?

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Thanks for the inside info! I was thinking of housing being cheaper outside of Georgetown, a short commute away, not living near the school within walking distance. For SAIS, it's located smack dab downtown, so the same "short commute" would see you paying vastly more rent. I think! Am I still wrong on this? And is there ample parking space for personal vehicles at Georgetown? Any grad student housing option from the school?

 

SAIS is close to a metro stop (Dupont Circle) on the red line. It is very easy to live further away on the red line in cheaper (relatively speaking - DC is an expensive city) housing areas and still have a short commute. Or even on a completely different metro line, and transfer over to catch the red line to get to campus. Living in the more residential areas outside of Georgetown would mean taking the bus or driving. And living further outside Georgetown would also mean it's more difficult to get to internships, etc. in the city. That being said, commuting difficulties obviously won't be the make or break factor in deciding a school, so I wouldn't feel limited by the location of either school in making your choice.

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Thanks for the inside info! I was thinking of housing being cheaper outside of Georgetown, a short commute away, not living near the school within walking distance. For SAIS, it's located smack dab downtown, so the same "short commute" would see you paying vastly more rent. I think! Am I still wrong on this? And is there ample parking space for personal vehicles at Georgetown? Any grad student housing option from the school?

I think you are underestimating DC's public transportation system. SAIS, being right next to DuPont Circle, is easily accessible by metro and bus at basically all hours. In fact, one of the Georgetown shuttle stops is in DuPont Circle.

That said, pick the school that's best for you, not the school that has the best commute. You don't want to base your professional career on a 30 minute commuting difference or small amounts of rent difference, and you can make things work if you need to.

Edited by graddypaddy
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Thanks for the inside info! I was thinking of housing being cheaper outside of Georgetown, a short commute away, not living near the school within walking distance. For SAIS, it's located smack dab downtown, so the same "short commute" would see you paying vastly more rent. I think! Am I still wrong on this? And is there ample parking space for personal vehicles at Georgetown? Any grad student housing option from the school?

 

Georgetown doesn't offer graduate student housing, but options are ample in the neighborhood proper. A good number of my classmates live in Burleith/Georgetown/Glover Park, and a sizeable number live in Dupont, where campus is a simple GUTS shuttle away. Price-wise, they pretty much run the gamut from around $800 to $1800/month for both the Georgetown-adjacent as well as Dupont neighborhoods. You can certainly find something within your budget if you look hard enough.

 

There is some space for parking personal vehicles on campus, but that's expensive and I wouldn't advise it. It works in a pinch though. You can easily rent a parking spot for around $200-$300 a month from folks who've rented townhouses in the area.

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