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Go for the name brand school in an expensive city or the state school that let's you keep working?


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I need help deciding between two schools.


Note: the tuition is covered for both programs and I currently have a job in a city that's the main hub for my field. 


School A



  • Ivy League school
  • Top 5 program for this particular type of policy 
  • Will allow me to leave my current job on good terms. (I dislike my current job). 
  • I've seen the undergraduate campus and liked that. (Not sure what my grad building looks like).
  • major city
  • I like the program
  • I already have work experience so the school name can only help (hopefully)



  • No job in this new city
  • May have to end up taking out a loan to cover cost of living 

o   Does this negate the benefit of getting the tuition covered?

  • High cost of living 
  • Would require me to make a 2 day drive to drop off my car at parent's house

o   My car is leased, so I can’t just sell it

o   Parking in this new city is ridiculous and I wouldn’t be able to afford it.

  • My living situation is still unknown.

o    I still have to wait to hear back from on-campus housing (cheapest option)  

o   Because of this, I'm not sure how much furniture to take with me or sell

  • I could end up spending a lot of money as rent in this city is ridiculous
  • The overall public policy ranking is not great 
  • Very expensive up-front costs

o   cost of moving to new city

o   down payment needed for housing

o    down payment to hold my spot for school

  • Have to find someone to sublet my current apartment

o   And get back to this city to oversee


School B



  • I like the focus of the program 
  • going to school here will allow me to stay at my current job

o   This will allow me to continue living in my current apartment

o   I save on moving expenses as I can continue to live in my current apartment

o   Don’t have to worry about subletting my current apartment

o   This will allow me to continue to network with people in the field



  • Is not a "name brand" school
  • Will I get a good return of investment?
  • Commute to school will be annoying
  • No clean exit for my current job
  • Although the general public policy program is in the top 15, the specific specialized program that I am applying for (which is in a different department) is not 



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The cons you have listed for School A are the typical cons that come with uprooting your life to move somewhere new - not unusual for grad students. However, the way you have things listed, it does seem like you'd be happier there. Perhaps you should check with your parents or relatives if they can assist you with making the move.


Overall, the main question you have to answer for yourself is whether you want prestige (School A) or convenience (School B), and which matters more in your field.

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  • "Will I get a good return of investment?"
  • Honestly, this question would keep me from choosing school B.  If you're unsure of the ROI (particularly for policy), I wouldn't bite.  Like the previous poster said, your complaints about school A mostly relate to convenience.  Personally, I would swallow the temporary inconvenience for (what seems to be) a more guaranteed long-term ROI.  
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Agreed with the others. The cons of A could also be seen as pros - starting something new and exciting, expanding your networks, etc. I understand the stress of the inconveniences - I am about to move across country for grad school, too - but I wouldn't let them hinder you from a school that's a better fit. And I don't think it's a con to not have a job lined up, since you may want to take some time off work to focus on school. Good luck!

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