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Go to SIPA, SAIS, or MSFS OR keep working?


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Hi everyone, 


I'm in a tricky situation and was hoping to get some of your input. My boss resigned about a month ago and the BOD at my organization made ME the Interim Executive Director (hooray!). There's a strong chance this may turn into a permanent position. It's at a local government agency that does socio-economic development in a low-income area of Houston. I've been working here for about 1.5 yrs and am really loving it, especially since I got promoted. 


HOWEVER, I did apply to grad school hoping to get back into international development at some point (my passion and love). I got into a lot of great schools, but I'm worried about a few things:


1. Money, money, and more money: school is expensive. I'm young-ish (28), and right now I make about $85k and will probably get a significant raise if I become permanent ED. I know making this kind of money out of grad school (and while working in international development), will be very difficult. Additionally, I'd be taking on more debt to do it. Also, I come from a low-income family and making enough to help support my family is very important to me.


2. Leadership opportunities: this position just fell into my lap, and I'm not sure I'd get an opportunity like this again after grad school. Should I just ride it out and try to move into international development without a masters at some point?


If I do end up going back to school, Georgetown MSFS is my top choice. I'd be doing a dual degree with an MBA. 


Any and all advice and suggestions would be greatly appreciated! I know I'm in a great position, but I really want to make the right decision. 


Thanks for your help! And congrats to everyone who got into great programs!


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Well, do you chase your dreams or chase the $? 


I'm in a similar situation where I'll be leaving many people's dream job to continue my dream at SFS. It's not easy to leave comfort and security, but living with regret and dreams unfulfilled carries a more frightening pricetag. 

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I have a friend who is in a similar situation. I'll start with this: grad school isn't going anywhere and neither is whatever funding package you receive. 


It sounds like you're not ready to leave your organization in Houston just yet: Will any of the schools allow you to defer for a year or two? 


You could tell them your situation (the ED resigned and you're filling in for now and want a year to ease the transition, or whatever makes sense to say). That way if after a year or two, if you decide the ED position isn't right for you or that you're ready to move on, you won't necessarily have to go through the whole application process again. Taking on this leadership position could help you both in terms of saving $$ for grad school as well as improving scholarships you receive (though it's not a given). If you enjoy what you are doing, don't feel the need to leave it to meet the imaginary deadline we all seem set for grad school (myself included!)


That being said, depending on where you want to go with int'l development, it will be very difficult without a master's degree. I work for a donor agency right now and EVERYONE there tells me that I will hit a ceiling (and can't join the foreign service) without a master's degree. If you want to focus more on implementers/NGOs, your experience may make up for the lack of a master's. The Int'l Development field is continuously professionalizing itself, so unless you are able to leverage your unique experiences properly (and network like crazy), it will be hard to break into the industry without the higher degree. Like I said, though, grad schools aren't going anywhere. There is no need to rush into a program if you're happy where you are now.

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I was about to respond at length, but ajcafe has captured the essence of what i wanted to say. There is a lot of wisdom in ajcafe's response. You have potentially much to gain by waiting a year or two for grad school, and would lose nothing but a little time; moreover, you are not realy losing because you are gaining great experience in the process, and strengthening your resume significantly. Unless there are other relevant factors you have not mentioned (e,g. a full ride to one of those schools might cause me to reconsider my view), i think this one is a relatively easy call. Congratulations on your professional accomplishments and the impressive admits.

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To me, the goal of graduate school is to get gainful employment in the field/role you want to be in making the kind of money you want to make, or working up to it. It sounds like you love your organization and are excited about this job; and you are making crazy money (we're the same age; $85K is pretty crazy money for someone under 30) with the potential to make even crazier money.

Graduate school is always going to be there, and if you got into the master's programs at these places this year you will probably also get in in subsequent years - perhaps when you're more ready to go back, or when you have decided that you are tired of your industry and want to move back into international development.

People are also bad at forecasting how they will feel about things in the future. I'm not sure that you will necessarily live a lifetime of regret and unfulfilled dreams if you don't go to grad school right now. First of all, not going now doesn't mean that you won't ever go. Second of all, I feel like most people can be happy in a variety of roles and positions - so even in the event that you never move back into ID, if you are happy with your role and industry at that point in time (and your salary!), who really cares?

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Everyone has had some really intelligent things to say! I wanted to add just one tiny caveat. 


You're gone through the MBA application process, so you probably are aware that getting an MBA after 28 becomes very difficult. Yes, older students are accepted, but schools will begin to refer you to their EMBA programs starting at 29. Here's a look at how CBS admissions views age (scroll down; also couldn't find one for Georgetown).


Just thought I'd offer that perspective from the MBA side. I do agree with much of what everyone else has said. 

Edited by Akueldo
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