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Higher risks, higher rewards?


CFBrown
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So this is what it's come down for me. I'll try to keep it as brief and organized as possible, but could provide more information if needed.

 

For what it's worth, I'm pursuing a master's in a field most of you probably aren't familiar with. I guess it's not seen as being as "vital" so full funding is typically limited. Still, any ideas or thoughts you may have would be appreciated.

 

School A

 

Pros:

  • Shortest program to complete degree – 13 months
  • Second lowest (out of 5 schools I applied to) in cost of attendance – around $65K
  • Offered $10,000 scholarship – split into $5,000 for fall and spring semesters
  • Program has provided timely info throughout application process – stuck to decision dates posted online, been forthcoming regarding funding info
  • Department chair in her 2nd year, but has an interesting background; potential mentor
  • Lowest cost of living – mid-sized city

Cons:

  • Limited flexibility in curriculum – could not pursue special interests within my field until near the end of my program
  • Still have to apply and compete for assistantships – some positions don’t offer tuition remission
  • Security deposit due by April 15
  • Weather slightly colder than hometown

School B

 

Pros:

  • Top choice - loved my visit there, the subject of many daydreams
  • Best weather – could use a break from hometown’s harsh winters
  • Good curriculum – practical skills taught, opportunities to pursue special industry interests in second year
  • Opportunity to spend summer (fully-funded) working in Capetown, South Africa, or London
  • Tons of student organizations to get involved with
  • Major city
  • Encouraged to find work/internships while completing studies – perhaps employer could offer assistance with financing

Cons:

  • Cost of attendance - $110K - $120K for two years
  • Was not initially selected for funding (likely due to GRE scores) – would largely be financing studies through loans (at least for the first year)
  • Referred to apply for another university-wide scholarship fund that doesn’t make its decision until the start of school
  • Very slow application process overall
  • More information needed – will not know everything before needing to decide on School A
  • Higher cost of living

School C

 

Pros:

  • Best course offerings – tons of flexibility, teaches practical skills, can earn a concentration specific to my field of interest
  • Offers a center solely dedicated to my field of interest
  • City offers tons of employers/organizations with job opportunities related to my field of interests
  • Could complete studies at my own pace within a five-year limit – 10 courses needed for degree
  • Could get a job, gauge employer’s interest in funding me for graduate studies

Cons:

  • Highest cost of living - may take some years before living on my own again
  • Program does not offer funding opportunities outside of a few service organization scholarships, since it is already offered at a discounted rate from the university’s other graduate programs – most students funded through loans/employer/outside scholarships
  • Would be living with a cousin I don’t know that well until I can support myself
  • May not officially be accepted until after declining School A offer
  • Would prefer to take at least two courses per semester – working full-time may only allow me to take one
  • Masters of Professional Studies degree – not sure how that’s viewed in job market or academia if I decide to later pursue a PhD

 

 

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Forget C...

 

If you want to save money then go to A otherwise B.

 

Had it been me, I would have gone to B. You only earn the degree once in your life, better it be from a top place. And there is a higher prospect of getting a better job with a higher pay once you graduate.

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Forget C...

 

If you want to save money then go to A otherwise B.

 

Had it been me, I would have gone to B. You only earn the degree once in your life, better it be from a top place. And there is a higher prospect of getting a better job with a higher pay once you graduate.

 

Thank you, Hero Honda. I know this was a lot to read, so I appreciate anyone who takes the time out to do so. If you don't mind me asking, why forget C?

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I don't know, C looked the most appealing to me (costs aside - because I don't know how much it costs).

 

B sounds completely untenable. Exciting, yes, but $110-120K sounds like too much to borrow for a public relations master's. I'm guessing that most PR people cannot anticipate making that much in the first 10ish years of their career, so they wouldn't be able to comfortably repay that debt. Also, on closer examination some of the pros are thinner than they look. Student organizations don't really matter - in a full-time, 2-year master's program, you won't really have time to get involved in more than 1 or 2 of them. Weather is nice, but a secondary factor upon which to make a decision (especially for a program that will only be 2 years). The rest of the pros School C seems to have as well.

 

Assuming School C is affordable, according to you the curriculum is flexible and practical while allowing you to concentrate in your own interests; there's a center that focuses on your field; and the city is booming in your area, which means the potential for internships and potentially full-time employment post-degree. You can also live with a cousin to save on living costs until you can support yourself (as long as you don't suspect that your cousin is crazy, I don't see how this is a con). I also don't think the name of your degree matters much - whether it's an MA or an MPS - just that you have one in PR, and what the coursework is.

 

A sounds like another good choice - the program is only 13 months; it's the cheapest and a manageable debt load even before you factor potential assistantships in, and they seem to have their stuff together. The weather being colder is a bummer, but not a significant factor if you will only be there for 2 years. The fact that you have to deposit by April 15 isn't really a con of the program, just an inconvenience that only affects your decision-making capacity right now. Really, the only major con seems to be the more limited flexibility  - and even though, it sounds like the flexibility is limited in comparison to the other programs you are considering, not in general (you can still pursue special interests, and it's actually quite common for concentrations to be pursued towards the end of a program, after you finish core requirements).

 

Assuming C is affordable, I would pick C. If C is unaffordable, then A sounds like the better choice.

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I agree with juilletmercredi! I think B looks like the least attractive option on paper as it is extremely expensive when considering cost of the course and living costs together. And while being able to work abroad for one summer are definitely a nice feature (fully funded - by you. Through your fees.) I think that looking for a longer paid internship or job (at least a 1 year contract) after you graduate will be lot more feasible (you actually get paid...) and and beneficial for your career. You should be able to network and get necessary info for doing that in any of your programs.

 

Program C seems very good to me as you can finish it in your own time, which means you won't have to depend on loans as much but can afford to work for your living. And you'll like that once you are done. I know I did - I did my MA part time while working (at least part time with extra hours during breaks) and was relieved to have zero debt once I finished. I also like that it focuses exactly on what you want to look at which suggests that professional networking opportunities will be in your area as well.

 

And program A sounds very solid (I like efficiency like that) and feasible in terms of money. And if you can finish the program within 13 months I don't think that the city needs to be a major factor to consider as you'd only have to face one winter. But that's just me :)

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Thanks everyone, you've been pretty helpful. Speaking with some of my mentors last night, one of them suggested to pretty much rule out B because of the costs, while the other thought that it wasn't so easy because of having that international experience. I should also clarify that with School B the summer abroad trip is funded by my department. Still, School B would really exceed my debt threshold and would likely require private financing.

 

In terms of School C costs, the ten courses I need to graduate would cost a total of around $30K. Even if I never got to land a job in that area, that $30K would be financed through federal loans (which are okay), and I'd still stay underneath the maximum debt I'd want to accrue ($100K). As for my cousin, I don't know her terribly well, but judging her only from her Facebook posts she is a bit on the "wild" side. :unsure: Perhaps it'd help if I could pay her a visit to see how she really lives.

 

School A would require fed loan financing for my two summer sessions - which are the start and final "semesters" of my 13-month program, as well as my fall and spring semesters. So really it'd require more borrowing than School C, but I'd still remain under my $100K threshold and I finish the program sooner as well.

 

I take a visit to School A this Friday. Perhaps if I'm impressed enough with my experience, I'll just go ahead and commit there!

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Sounds like a good plan to me! Visiting school A should give you a good indication of whether you'll be comfortable there. And if it is within your budget (well, loan budget) it seems like a great choice! I would, however, also go and pay a visit to school C and your cousin - but bear in mind that you wouldn't be obliged to stay with your cousin but could simply be with her for a month while looking for a room. I suppose that the studies being part time you would not be eligible for student housing? If you are, it might be a good idea to check for that. But if your heart is really set on school A after the visit and it is financially feasible - do it! Haha! Good luck with the visit! Enjoy yourself :)

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  • 2 weeks later...

Update everyone:

 

I picked School A, which is Syracuse! I liked my visit there enough to feel that it'll meet my needs. There is some room in the curriculum and internships for me to pursue my special interests - which is cause-related and social change communications. School C would've been my choice had Syracuse offered me a less significant scholarship. Overall, School C would've been a big gamble for me having to relocate, stay with a family member I hardly know in one of the most expensive cities in the U.S.: Washington D.C. And as nice as School B would've been, I just couldn't bring myself to go that much further into debt.

 

Thank you all for your advice and thoughts!

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