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MPP: HKS vs GSPP


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So it's a little over a week to go before the decision deadline and I've whittled it down to two schools: HKS and GSPP. I'm interesting in learning best practices of policy analysis (with management skills as well) so I can return to my home state of Ohio and do policy advocacy there around the topics of income inequality, civic engagement, and progressive movement making.

 

I got accepted to both schools and was not offered funding from either one. I'm leaning towards HKS because of the increased emphasis on management and "soft skills" and its nationwide network, but I'm a bit worried about the price tag. I see myself working for c(3)s and government for the rest of my life, so I would likely be able to count on public service loan forgiveness, and I have minimal undergraduate debt, so I feel comfortable taking on debt, but the accommodations GSPP makes for students to receive assistantships still perk my interest.

 

Anyone else making this decision? Anyone have any insight to afford? Opinions are much appreciated.

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So this is a post I made in a similar thread about 3 weeks ago. If I were in your shoes, I would pick Berkeley hands down. I'm already slanted towards Berkeley since I will be attending! I simply do not think the debt load of 100k plus is worth it compared to the minimal debt you'd accrue at Berkeley. So, here's what I wrote:

 

I'm just going to surmise what I've read in previous Berkeley & Harvard threads, research on the schools, and multiple skype sessions I've had with friends who are now alumni from both schools. 

 

Firstly, I'd go down the route least riddled with debt. Speaking to your points, I believe extra debt from HKS is NOT worth it, especially if you don't plan on working in DC or internationally and because you already have outstanding admissions with funding. The education you can receive at HKS is top notch, but that also holds true from your other admits. Both the Berkeley and Harvard name carry tremendous weight overseas (along with MIT, Princeton, and Stanford noted in my travels) but Harvard is undoubtedly King. Since Berkeley is in that elite class, the recognition will be there, so I wound't worry too much about prestige.

 

To your first point, Berkeley reigns King on social issues. An alumnus also confirmed that the women's policy journal/circle is absolutely buzzing and entertains a number of prominent women that visit Goldman. It's also been noted that Berkeley doesn't get as much of a constant stream of prominent people to speak at the school. However, professors in with your interests are aplenty and actually available to talk to relative to Harvard, not to mention the different centers they have tasked with resolving such issues. Also, I am much more for a tighter knit community that push and help each other out rather than the alternative. 

 

On curriculum, Goldman's is more quant focused relative to Harvard which I personally find as a plus. Goldman trains generalists and at HKS you must choose a concentration. I find the latter a little restricting since my personal interests lay across different courses in varying concentrations. This coupled with the fact that Harvard grads do indeed use a bidding system that's a bit disconcerting because some of your said points must go to classes you need first making it harder to get into popular courses such as HBS's famed Negotiations course. It seems much easier at Goldman to tailor your MPP to what you want career wise. No core curriculum is full proof but the idea of more applicable quant as ground training is appealing to me personally. 

 

As far as practicality of what you learn, at Goldman you MUST complete the notorious 48 hour policy project designed and assigned by faculty to simulate a real work place situation, the IPA (Introduction to policy analysis final written and oral presentation based on real client pro bono cases) at the end of year 1, and the APA (Advance Policy Analysis) solo project that serves as your master's thesis that is done with a client organization (that you typically get paid somewhere around $6,000 on average) at the end of year 2, along with a REQUIRED summer internship. I'm not sure about the range of HKS required projects but I know there are definite options, one of them being spending a significant time abroad (and domestically?) at a client location serving to use your policy skills to design and implement a solution to some problem. Alumni at both schools have noted that their multiple networking events at and around the school in surrounding cities (and both in DC) are pretty legit and you can even get multiple verbal agreements on job offers in a single event. That to me is probably the most important point, because after your first job offer, the school you went to is a one second glance when applying for positions thereafter. Also, if you already have a network in New York, the degree where you're going to obtain your masters should matter a lot less. However, if you want the west coast connection and a strong naitonal brand in general, you really can't go wrong with Berkeley.

 

Some questions I would further ask myself in your shoes. Do I like snow and the cold in general enough to live in it half the year? Do I value a tight-knit, supportive community or a bigger, seemingly more diverse sprawl of folks from around the world. How active do I want to be in interacting with professors (Berkeley is much more accessible). If not Federal or International work, what organizations would I like to work with and which schools have those connections? Just to name a few. I'm obviously slanting towards Cal because I simply see it as a place where I'll really enjoy Goldman, my life outside of it in an unbeatable environment for 20/30 somethings, and my life AFTER it, debt free and free to choose where I want to work not having to choose high paying/soul crushing work because of debt. 

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Awesome, thank you for the feedback. It's a tough decision process, but I have shifted this direction and am leaning towards Berkeley now. The big thing I'm worried about at Berkeley is that I want to get some management and negotiations training. I know I'll get that at HKS, but it seems like Berkeley is more focused on analysis.

 

Also, I think I just need to suck it up and realize that a lot of the awe and prestige of Harvard is no more than awe and prestige. If I'm not getting an engaging classroom environment and if people are more focused on career than social change, there isn't much of a value in the name itself. It is tough to say "I'm going to turn down Harvard," though...

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Awesome, thank you for the feedback. It's a tough decision process, but I have shifted this direction and am leaning towards Berkeley now. The big thing I'm worried about at Berkeley is that I want to get some management and negotiations training. I know I'll get that at HKS, but it seems like Berkeley is more focused on analysis.

 

Also, I think I just need to suck it up and realize that a lot of the awe and prestige of Harvard is no more than awe and prestige. If I'm not getting an engaging classroom environment and if people are more focused on career than social change, there isn't much of a value in the name itself. It is tough to say "I'm going to turn down Harvard," though...

 

Definitely a tough decision. No one can make it but you. And once you do make a decision, be happy with it and don't look back. 

 

Also, I'm actually concerned about negotiations too and the easy remedy there is to just use your electives over at Haas business school. I saw that the negotiations professor definitely has the credentials to fit the bill. I believe it's easier to cross register at Berkeley than Harvard because Harvard uses a bidding type system to get into classes you want. Sounds like at least half your worries were mine oddly enough. The Harvard name casts a sort of spell over people but I'm convinced that any of the Big Names will carry you far. It all comes back to how hard one is willing to work. Prestige can only go so far. Hopefully we'll be classmates!

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