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WWS & HKS concentrations


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I’m trying to gather information about WWS MPP and HKS concentrations. More specifically, I’d like to know:

1. Will I be able to switch concentrations at some point after admission?

2. How important is the compatibility between my concentration choice and my SoP’s, essay, policy memo, etc? for example, if I have some experience in a given area (let’s say, domestic policy) but would like my gradschool degree to lean more towards, let’s say, IR, is that not a reasonable aspiration? If I present and explain this change in direction on my application materials, will it smoothen the “transition”? Or is it expected to nonetheless hurt my chances of getting admitted?

3. Can anyone elaborate further about WWS and HKS concentrations? I don’t have specific questions, I’d like to hear any additional information and thoughts you might have.


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Hi Pt.r. I don't know much about WWS, but at HKS students in the MPP program don't elect concentrations until their second year, which allows some time to consult with faculty, staff, and fellow students. I think it is understood that several students attend professional graduate schools looking to change focus. A committee may become concerned if your entire work experience is in transportation policy and you post-grad school goal is to move to a country whose language you do not speak and advise governmental leaders on health care (extreme example), but the value of some of these programs (especially generalist schools) is that you gain substantial skills and contextual knowledge at the same time. HKS MPP concentrations specify a minimum number of required credits across a varying number of distributions, along with a policy analysis exercise in that specific field. The categories are broad and the requirements can be fulfilled multiple different, creative ways. While you cannot write two PAEs, you could accumulate the credits that would otherwise qualify you for more than one concentration, and substantial opportunities for relevant learning happen outside the classroom (serving as a teaching fellow, serving as a research assistant, participating in a semester-long expert-led study group, leading certain policy-area student groups, etc.). At least for HKS I wouldn't stress too much about the concentrations, but do make sure that they sound appealing. Example: if what you're really interested in is public policy and information management, or public-private partnerships for real estate development, you might find other programs elsewhere have stronger and more numerous course offerings. If the concentrations sound interesting and like you could find a viable home within them, that's great. Don't just check out the concentrations, though, since it's largely self-directed: actually review the course offerings. That, too, may be instructive.

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1. For WWS, the concentrations honestly aren't a huge deal. You can switch your concentration after admission and it's not a big deal at all. You will more or less have to pick a concentration in your first year, but everyone has to take the same batch of core courses in their first couple of semesters and concentrations here aren't very restrictive, so I honestly wouldn't worry about it too much. In your second year you have a lot more flexibility to explore your interests.

2. I have no idea how much your choice of concentration factors into admissions decisions. I would venture to guess that it might be advisable to apply to a concentration that aligns with your demonstrated interests, though I'm not on the admissions board, so you'll have to take that idea with a grain of salt.

3. At WWS, there are four concentrations: International Relations, International Development, Domestic Policy and Economics & Public Policy. The first three require only a couple of courses to fulfill your concentration requirement, and the latter requires five economics courses beyond the core courses. It is possible to dabble in other concentrations, though, so don't sweat the concentration thing to much. The core curriculum is the heart of the program, so as long as that aligns with what you want out of your graduate curriculum, go ahead and apply. :)

Hope this helps!

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