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MPP/ Applied Social Research Chances? European vs US Schools


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Hello Everyone,

I posted this to Reddit but someone suggested I posted this here for advice. I'm struggling with making a decision about grad school, whether if it is worth applying, waiting off until the next cycle, or doing a one year masters in lieu of a post-bac. I am very interested in gaining more experience in the field of applied social research and move into policy development and management, but unfortunately I have not been able to find a (paying) job as a research assistant, so I though going for my masters would be a chance for me to boost my CV to gain the skills I missed in my undergrad and have an advance degree in something that I am interested in.  


I recently took the GRE, and scored below my practice averages and scored 152V 156Q, and I am feeling so disappointed and discouraged right now. I have pretty bad testing anxiety and choked during the second half of the test not even finishing the verbal sections. My GPA isn't great either at a 3.4 with a BA in Econ (but I took the easy route in school). I am now taking one class in economic research methods to boost my record a little, but I am not sure if this is really helping.

I wanted to continue my education with an MPP or applied social research masters for social policy in hopes to work for international organizations such as UNDP, UNDESA or local NGOs that emphasize on research for social and economic development. I know that my grades could still get me into a lower tier MPP program, but I am not sure if it is worth the investment as I know that MPP graduates starting salary is usually not very high, and I don't think I would be qualified for any funding.

I don't have much research experience, which I think is also holding my application back. I worked on a research project for one of my professors and under a PhD candidate (whom I worked directly with) in Tanzania as the assistant, collecting and cleaning data and managing local workers. I have one UN agency internship, and I am currently working as a volunteer research assistant for a local NGO that works in East Africa, collecting country background information for technical support.

The professor I worked for on the project agreed to write a letter of rec for me, but asked to see my application packet before hand, specifically asking me for my GRE scores, letter of intent, and CV. I am too embarrassed to show him my scores, afraid he will reconsider his decision even after being in the top 20% of his class and working for him.

Applications are close in February (some are rolling but with no option of funding) and I don't know what to do. Most of the schools I wanted to apply to where in Europe which don't require the GRE, but I was still considering schools here such as, American University, and UMASS Amherst or the Demography program at UCI. Now I am thinking to just apply to European masters, they are less expensive and some are one year programs, maybe I can do this in lieu of post-bac or graduate diploma? I don't think the training I have right now is sufficient enough for me to get a job beyond an internship. I have applied for research assistant jobs all over the country and abroad and I haven't heard back aside from unpaid internships.

I guess I am asking for advice or personal stories. I am just stuck in a rut beating myself over this. My parents are not very supportive of my career route. I don't know whether its better for me to focus my energy on finding a job that is relevant and push back my masters until I feel like I am a more qualified candidate, or put in the effort now and just apply for the masters.

TL;DR Low GRE okay GPA, looking for advice on how to move forward and whether if it is worth it for me to apply.

EDIT: If anyone was interested in what programs I wanted to apply for here are some schools I am interested in Europe:

Univ. of Copenhagen- Global Development, Pompeu Fabra- Sociology and Demography, Central European University- MPA, University of Stockholm- Applied Social Research, UCL- Social Policy. My goals for going into a masters program is to firstly gain more research experience within social policy preferably at an international level, and then learn more about the policy making/ managerial side of organizations, that's why I have been going back and forth between one-year research masters or policy programs that do have a significant research work related portion.

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