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GWU Elliott, Denver Korbel, or Maryland MPP?


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I think I posted this in the wrong topic originally, so here we go.

 

Hoping I can get some help in making my grad school decision! I have been accepted, with significant funding, to GWU Elliott for the Master's in International Affairs; University of Maryland-College Park for the Master's in Public Policy (MPP), and University of Denver Korbel School for the Master's in International Studies. I am SO excited to have been admitted to all 3, but now I'm having an extremely hard time choosing!

 

I have been offered about a half-tuition, "high achievement" fellowship from GWU, which has been my first choice all along (on paper, at least). I love that they are a brand-name program in DC and it seems to be the best program academically speaking. However, I've heard consistent reports that they are somewhat impersonal there, and not too much personal support is given to the students, although the career services office is top-notch. I've heard the word "cutthroat" thrown around, and although I thrive in a competitive environment, do not do well in a cutthroat one (i.e. people are stepping on others to get ahead). They also do not have any faculty that are pursuing my interest--international gender policy, perhaps through sport. I feel that between the 3 schools I'd probably get the most rigorous coursework and highest-quality student body at GW. They also have the most well-defined study abroad program, which is intensely important to me. And, of course, the location is key as I'd love to get involved with international work (not sure if policy or NGO yet), and I'd love to live abroad.

 

However, Denver is heavily pursuing me, and has a professor whose research focuses on exactly what I'm interested in (however, he is not getting back to me, but he is not teaching this semester so it's understandable). Being from the west coast, I loved the atmosphere at Denver, and I get the distinct feeling that they will throw their support behind me as much as they can, since they are building their program. They have an extremely competitive program abroad to Geneva, but I am fairly confident I would be chosen given my background and the fact that I was a top 5% applicant. Tuition $$ will be the same here as at GW. They are a highly-regarded program as well, but do not have the brand-name reputation that GW has, although they can claim Condoleezza Rice as alumni. Regardless of politics, that is impressive. I got a great overall feeling from the school but think it may be a "big fish, small pond" scenario... which isn't *necessarily* bad.

 

Lastly, UMD is a dark horse in this race as I had applied to their MPP program as a backup school. Then they came back with a HUGE financial aid package that would reduce my first-year tuition to zero and guarantee me a research assistantship. The structure of their program doesn't look like it would inherently accommodate what I want to do, but after speaking briefly to the admissions office, there are a number of students pursuing cross-specialization specializations (ha!), so it seems like I could do that. They have a few faculty with whom I could probably cobble together a relevant course of study--I can point to a handful and identify exactly how they would help me achieve what I want to do. GW does not have that at all. However, it looks like UMD probably specializes in domestic policy, as they don't have too many options for study abroad--though I remember mention of stipends for students who win international internships.

 

Anyone have any insight? As you can see, I am completely torn. Any help at all, including what will be the most beneficial for career prospects, reputation inside/outside DC, etc. would be really, really appreciated. Thank you!!!

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I'm going to push back on the idea that UMD specializes in domestic policy. Their new Dean is a former Assistant Secretary-General of the UN, and they are one of just a few public policy schools that are a full member of APSIA. There aren't a million study abroad programs, but I do think the ones they offer look to be high quality: https://www.publicpolicy.umd.edu/current-students/study-abroad

 

That being said...it is still an MPP vs an MA in IR, so I would look closely at the curriculum options and see if it's what you want. While some will disagree, I don't think that your employment options will be all that different at UMD vs at GWU, especially within DC. 

 

I also am deciding between UMD and GWU, and have been impressed with UMD's responsiveness and overall feel, while GWU has been very inaccessible. 

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