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Top 10 school w/o funding vs. top 20 w/ funding


camilo9292
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Hey everyone,

 

So I've been admitted to both Syracuse Maxwell's MAIR program (top 20) and American SIS's masters program (top 10).

 

I just got financial aid information from Syracuse and they are offering me $16k for the first year with a half-time GA position with stipend valued at $7k. Syracuse's program is 1 1/2 years long and costs a total of $56k.

 

American University offered me no money and their two year program costs $62k. All I was offered was $42k in loans, the rest will have to come from somewhere else.

 

I'm caught in a tough decision. American was my top choice and remains my top choice but Syracuse is offering me a decent amount of assistance. On the other hand, American University is in Washington DC and right in the neighborhood (almost literally) of the career path I want to take with surely more opportunities to network, Syracuse is a bit further off from DC and I imagine more difficult to get into the field. Plus American has the program that suits my career better (United States Foreign Policy and National Security) while Syracuse only has the International Relations degree with a security track. 

 

Any advice?

 

I think I'm leaning towards American but Syracuse's offer has really given me something to think about.

 

Thanks in advance

Edited by camilo9292
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Money can really mix things up. 

It sounds like you feel pretty good about American, despite the financial burden. Are you currently in significant debt right now? 

 

Here are some words of advice I recently got from a current PhD student:

'Following the $ is only smart to a point. A good package doesn’t mean much if you don’t get hired after the PhD, and getting a good job after the PhD can quickly make up for some levels of assumed debt."

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Money can really mix things up. 

It sounds like you feel pretty good about American, despite the financial burden. Are you currently in significant debt right now? 

 

Here are some words of advice I recently got from a current PhD student:

'Following the $ is only smart to a point. A good package doesn’t mean much if you don’t get hired after the PhD, and getting a good job after the PhD can quickly make up for some levels of assumed debt."

I'm not in significant debt, just a couple thousand from my undergrad but nothing terrible as of now. I was all set on American until Syracuse came in with their financial aid package and made me reconsider based on the money I'd be getting

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This is actually a situation where it seems to me that it might be better to take the unfunded offer. It's a difference of about $30k, right? If you can actually afford it, and if American will give you significantly better job prospects (I can only assume this, I don't know your field), then it seems like it would balance out pretty quickly. The cost of living would also be higher than Syracuse, though.

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This is actually a situation where it seems to me that it might be better to take the unfunded offer. It's a difference of about $30k, right? If you can actually afford it, and if American will give you significantly better job prospects (I can only assume this, I don't know your field), then it seems like it would balance out pretty quickly. The cost of living would also be higher than Syracuse, though.

 

That's what I'm thinking. I am very sure that American will give me a better opportunity to get a job in my field compared to Syracuse. I think taking the short term hit for the long term gains is worth it then. My biggest issue though is the cost of living and finding a job while there.

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It's clear to me, at least, that your heart is already with American. Don't overthink it.

You're very right. The Syracuse financial aid information made me rethink and I didn't want to make a silly decision based on my preference but I think in the end it'll be a better choice to go to American. Thanks!

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You're very right. The Syracuse financial aid information made me rethink and I didn't want to make a silly decision based on my preference but I think in the end it'll be a better choice to go to American. Thanks!

Can you leverage your financial package from Syracuse with American? Let them know that you got a stipend and GAship from Syracuse and see if American can make a similar offer. People do this all the time with MBA schools.

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Being a native Washingtonian, I can assure you that American is well known for their foreign policy/IR, and many people who get hired shortly after graduation either went to local schools like American/GW or went to Tufts/Columbia/other top-tier programs. 

 

However, there are a few things to keep in mind: make sure that you do as well as you can in the program and network while you're there - after graduation, you're going to be competing with lots of Georgetown folks, among others, and I hate to say it, but for many recruiters, prestige seems to matter a lot.  Another thing to prepare yourself for is the high COL - the neighborhood by American (Tenleytown) and the surrounding area is pretty pricy. It's not as bad as San Franciso/New York City/Boston, but it's bad.

That being said, out of Syracuse and American, American is clearly your better option. I hope you enjoy DC :)

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Can you leverage your financial package from Syracuse with American? Let them know that you got a stipend and GAship from Syracuse and see if American can make a similar offer. People do this all the time with MBA schools.

As a matter of fact I just did that today so I'm hoping for the best!

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Being a native Washingtonian, I can assure you that American is well known for their foreign policy/IR, and many people who get hired shortly after graduation either went to local schools like American/GW or went to Tufts/Columbia/other top-tier programs. 

 

However, there are a few things to keep in mind: make sure that you do as well as you can in the program and network while you're there - after graduation, you're going to be competing with lots of Georgetown folks, among others, and I hate to say it, but for many recruiters, prestige seems to matter a lot.  Another thing to prepare yourself for is the high COL - the neighborhood by American (Tenleytown) and the surrounding area is pretty pricy. It's not as bad as San Franciso/New York City/Boston, but it's bad.

That being said, out of Syracuse and American, American is clearly your better option. I hope you enjoy DC :)

I'm very aware of the COL... very aware! LOL. I've had family who lived there and I've heard their takes. 

 

But yes, I've also been told that I have to network extensively because of good competition. I will be attending American University and will do my best, thank you very much!

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Yeah, I'm sure debt sounds scary...but I've had people like my mom who believes in the concept of 'good debt.' I'm familiar with the programs that you applied to and Syracuse didn't really appeal to me as beng the program that would benefit me the most (despite it being a rather scholar-based program). Schools like American and GWU are quite hard to get funding for...especially if you are coming straight out of undergrad like myself. However, I definitely find them to be the most beneficial programs in terms of career prosectives and getting the best understanding of FP + security issues.

 

I'm thinking of going to GWU Elliott and did not receive any funding from them. Thankfully, I don't have any burdens of debt from undergrad or anything else.

Edited by Guest
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Hi, I wanted to chime in on this discussion and present an opposing view.

 

First, I'm not exactly sure how accurate your cost projections are. I've also been admitted to Syracuse and a DC school (Elliott) and I am pretty that the price difference between Syracuse and American is probably larger than what you're presenting here, especially once you start factoring in the cost of living in DC.

 

Second, you should also consider that the programs at Syracuse offer semester-long opportunities to study in DC (and elsewhere, but given your interests, DC is probably the place for you), for which they also have available financial support.

 

Third, the GA position may potentially enable you to gain some meaningful research experience... and you're going to be paid for it! 

 

Fourth, Maxwell's alumni network is very active in DC. I've also read on these forums and elsewhere that they are very willing to step up and advocate for other Maxwell students/alums. Also, from scouring LinkedIn as well as the recent alumni profiles listed on Syracuse's website, I get the impression that Maxwell grads do just fine for themselves and are capable of landing good jobs in both the public and private sectors after graduating. 

 

Anyway, I'm in a similar position to you and I figured I'd give you my .02. I wish you all the best in making your decision!

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...and I hate to say it, but for many recruiters, prestige seems to matter a lot.

This is the first time I've ever heard that about fed govt recruiters, and have mostly been told and seen the opposite.

But my stint in fed gov was only just over a few years, and I did not live in DC for much time at all.

Is that an individual recruiter preference, or is that organization, department (little d), and/or office dependent?

I'm surprised to hear it, so I want to learn more! I've also made several posts on here about how little fed gov seems to care about school rank/prestige (I was hired out of a no-name school, and have been on a few hiring committees, but that doesn't mean it's true across the board, it sounds like).

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I think it depends on how much of a cost difference you're looking at. I can't tell exactly the cost based on what you said, but if you're looking at about $40k vs the $62k in debt, I would go with your preferred program. If you were looking at something like $20k vs. $60k that might be different in my opinion.

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Hey everyone,

 

So I've been admitted to both Syracuse Maxwell's MAIR program (top 20) and American SIS's masters program (top 10).

 

[...]

 

I'm caught in a tough decision. American was my top choice and remains my top choice but Syracuse is offering me a decent amount of assistance. On the other hand, American University is in Washington DC and right in the neighborhood (almost literally) of the career path I want to take with surely more opportunities to network, Syracuse is a bit further off from DC and I imagine more difficult to get into the field. Plus American has the program that suits my career better (United States Foreign Policy and National Security) while Syracuse only has the International Relations degree with a security track. 

 

I second the discussions about Maxwell alums and the reach that they have in DC. I just met one in the Executive Office of the President who was very helpful to me, so I don't think you should take too seriously the fact that they're not in DC. 

 

On the other hand, the MAIR is unlikely to be what you are really interested in if you want to do US foreign policy and national security. In my experience, that is more a field in MPP studies. I don't know what kind of Master's program American is offering, but you might want to look at the match or mismatch between your interests and the actual degree you're getting.

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Well guys I got great news which will definitely sway me towards American. 

 

My sister is moving to DC and I'll be able to live with her and my family is paying off a good portion of the money that isn't covered by loans! Thank you for the assistance... it seems I'm going to DC!

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I also want to chime in with a somewhat opposing view. It depends entirely on what the amount of the assumed debt is and what the starting salary, and the salary until mid-career (10-20 years) is likely to be for the career in question.

I'm a bit unclear on the total amount that you are being offered (whether it's $16,000 towards tuition + $7,000 in stipend, or whether it's a total of $16,000 including $7,000 for stipend support). But let's say that the tuition is $56,000 at Syracuse and they're giving you $16,000 for the first year + $8,000 for year two (if you continue in the GA) = $24,000 in tuition support, which brings the total cost of tuition at the Syracuse program down to $32,000. Then with a $7,000 stipend in the first year, let's say that you only borrow $13,000 for living expenses for the first year and maybe half that - so $7,000 - for the next 6 months. $32,000 + $20,000 = $52,000 in debt for the entire program at Syracuse. That's about $600/month in student loan debt over the 10 year standard repayment plan, or $396/month over 20 years.

Assuming no undergrad debt, you can reasonably expect to make $50K in your first year with a master's degree in international affairs. Even if you have a small amount of undergrad debt (<$30,000) you can probably manage an $80K debt load.

American didn't even offer you enough loans to attend the program, but with Graduate PLUS loans you can probably secure the entire cost of attendance. So let's say that you borrow $62,000 for tuition + $50,000 for living expenses over the next 2 years = that's $112,000 in debt. That's over twice the cost of Syracuse's program, and is about $1288/month in loan payments over 10 years, or $850 a month over 20 years.

Do you think that an IR degree at American will make you twice the salary you could've made had you gone to Syracuse? Or, phrased another way, do you think Syracuse graduates are making half as much as American graduates their first 10-20 years of their career? I highly doubt it! Even if there is a salary differential, it's unlikely to make up for the extra $500-600 a month you'll be paying in student loans after American. If you have to stretch out the loan payment over 20 years, the difference becomes even more pronounced - with standard interest, that Syracuse degree will cost you $95,000, whereas that American degree will cost you a whopping $205,000.

If a program is a top 20 program, I am assuming that students are getting jobs out of it. Syracuse has employment statistics for the MAIR program online; anywhere from 20-25% of their students work in the federal government after college (2008-2012 data; 74% response rate). Maxwell says that they get 4-5 speakers per month that come to recruit and give career and information sessions with students; they have 500 organizational contacts that post 50 jobs a month. I think that if you go to Syracuse you'll have plenty of opportunities. First of all, not everyone who currently works in DC went to college or graduate school in DC. Second of all, there are summer internships. And third of all, not all international jobs are located in DC - there are international organizations scattered across large cities in the U.S. AND located outside of the U.S.

 

In general, I think if one is making a choice between a funded offer and an unfunded one (for a master's degree*), one should calculate in projected future earnings based on realistic assessments of salaries in the field, what the cost differential is likely to be, and whether or not the other program is worth the additional cost. There are some low-tier or unranked programs that are unlikely to lead to employment post-graduation, so even if they throw lots of money at you it's not a good idea to go and might actually be worth paying full price somewhere else (especially in high-paying but very prestige-focused careers, like law or business). But when you're comparing a very good to great program with another good, just higher ranked program, where employment outcomes are relatively similar? I don't think it usually makes sense to go with the unfunded offer in that case.

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This is the first time I've ever heard that about fed govt recruiters, and have mostly been told and seen the opposite.

But my stint in fed gov was only just over a few years, and I did not live in DC for much time at all.

Is that an individual recruiter preference, or is that organization, department (little d), and/or office dependent?

I'm surprised to hear it, so I want to learn more! I've also made several posts on here about how little fed gov seems to care about school rank/prestige (I was hired out of a no-name school, and have been on a few hiring committees, but that doesn't mean it's true across the board, it sounds like).

Oh I'm not referring to gvn't recruiters, though I have heard that certain universities have closer relationships with governmental organizations than others (e.g. the relationship between Emory University and the CDC). I was referring to what I know about recruiters for the UN, World Bank, etc., and non-profits/think tanks - basically everything excluding the federal government. Just off the top of my head, I've seen several DC-based think tanks that have employees/interns exclusively from Georgetown, Columbia, and the like. That doesn't mean that you can't get hired if you go to American - on the contrary, plenty of American graduates seem to be very successful. I was just pointing out that while American is a good school and has a good reputation/alumni network in DC, there is some tough competition in DC when it comes to looking for good jobs post-graduation.

Edited by blinchik
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