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Feedback on MSFS alumni


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Hi everyone,


At this point, I am really only choosing between MSFS and SAIS and was hoping to get feedback on MSFS's alumni network.


The employment data from MSFS suggests that a large chunk of graduates do end up in the private sector and multilateral development banks. Compared with SAIS (and that might just be due to the larger class size), however, I'm struggling to find MSFS alumni in visible positions in the private sector and to a lesser extent at the multilateral development banks.


Am I missing something here?


My feeling is that in terms of academic reputation, SAIS and MSFS are fairly even so the alumni network in the MDBs/private sector might be the deciding factor for me. I am not pursuing a career in the foreign service.

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I think smaller program -> fewer alums. I thought this too when checking out organizations I'd want to work for. I might see one Gtown grad to every 2 or 3 HKS or SAIS grads. But there are more SAIS grads to begin with!


Have you tried checking LinkedIn? I've had a lot of success reaching out to alums and current students asking for input that way. 

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Got a new account just so I can answer this without outing myself.

Look, clearly I'm an MSFS graduate, so the bias is there, but I think that there is a goldilocks argument to be made on Alumni communities. You don't want a small 20-30 people programme which is too small to have significant impact and network. But you also don't want a huge, SIPA/GW style programme where you're one of so many people that being in that "club" really carries no importance.


I think MSFS (and less so- SAIS, it's much bigger) is actually better for networking. Because only 90 people a year get in, you know everyone. You've had coffee with everyone/partied with everyone. It feels like a community. If there are 250 people in your year, there is no way for you to meet everybody, so you hang out with people with similar interests, and that's that. In joint happy hours with SAIS and SIPA I was always struck how they didn't all know each other. 


Now when you call an alum and say "I'm from MSFS", for that alum, he thinks of his own year, the small, select club, where he knows everyone, so he will help you on a much more personal level. It's elitist, it might be douchey, but it's true. I've had meetings scheduled within days with UN agency directors, NGO heads, top journalists. I've once even landed in a new country and had 3 meetings scheduled within my first week with MSFS graduate diplomats from two embassies and a CEO. Because when you get that MSFS email, you respond, and make time. Never had an alumnus not answer an email.


In a large programme, you get lost. You're one of many. You got in, but so did 300 other people. You don't know them all. Your connection to the community and dedication will just not be the same. When you will get that email as an alumnus, it will be less urgent to answer. In retrospect, even though I didn't even think about it at the time, the perfect programme is big enough to cover different fields, but small enough so that everyone knows each other. For me, MSFS fit the bill and I couldn't be happier. There might be other schools out there, but I can tell you that my other alternatives, GW, SIPA, Fletcher or SAIS weren't even close.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Ditto all the other comments. Plus the MSFS program (not to be confused with other master's degrees at SFS) is known as the most powerful graduate degree in the world (though HKS probably beats it in reality) for policy positions. I've also seen a fair number of grads on linkedin who have impressive and cool private sector jobs. So in terms of employment options and the sheer strength of your degree I'd say MSFS beats SAIS by a long shot. The only reason I'd pick SAIS is the student body, in addition to being a fair bit larger, seems like a lot more fun than SFS. 

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