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Hey Guys,

 

What a wonderful time to be alive! Yet there are many decisions to be made!

 

 

I have been offered admission by three MA programs:

 

 

SAIS Washington DC;

Fletcher;

American University;

Georgetown's Security Studies program—though I will hear from them next week, I feel it is in the bag.

 

 

My predicament is the following. I am a non-American student whose main areas of interest are international relations and international security. I want to devote my life to academia (preferably based at the USA) but that requires a top-notch PhD. The programs I am most interested in are incidentally the most selective: Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, Chicago and Yale.

 

My question for Grad Café’s devoted followers is the following: Which of the MA programs I mentioned above would best prepare me for the PhDs admissions I mentioned beneath?

 

By now, I have realized that American admission committee’s do not focus exclusively on one item on the applicant’s CV. But since I want to walk the road towards tenure, my academic credentials will carry significant weight both for my PhD admission and my career.

 

I might be too picky, but I am troubled with the following observations:

 

- SAIS might be considered too policy- or economics-centered.

- I have the feeling that American U is sometimes held as a step beneath or not “prestigious enough”.

- Does Georgetown’s Security Studies program carry the same reputation as the MSFS/Foreign Service?

 

What do you guys think?

 

Thank you

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All of these are terminal Master programs that are in no way intended to prepare you for a career in academia. While it will certainly not be held against you, completing one of these programs will by no means work in your favor for a PhD or later academic career. If you already know you want to go down that path, I suggest you take another year, get some more research experience in a related job and apply for PhD programs during the next application cycle. In any way, I think that way you will save yourself some serious time and money. Unlike in Europe, you don't need to complete a Masters before entering a PhD program, that's why American PhDs take you 5-6 years.

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None of these programs are going to prepare you for a PhD program. I'm a current Fletcher MALD student and those here who do go onto pursue a PhD often stay at Fletcher - it seems as though the PhD program here is rather endogenized. Fletcher is also extremely career/"policy world" oriented. You would be better off either holding off and applying for PhDs next cycle or attending a one year MA program at a school like LSE or the University of Chicago. I've had discussions with former professors, one that pursued a PhD at Chicago, and they all recommended me to transfer if I wanted to pursue a PhD later on. 

That's what I've learned thus far, good luck. 

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5 hours ago, gutrot13 said:

None of these programs are going to prepare you for a PhD program. I'm a current Fletcher MALD student and those here who do go onto pursue a PhD often stay at Fletcher - it seems as though the PhD program here is rather endogenized. Fletcher is also extremely career/"policy world" oriented. You would be better off either holding off and applying for PhDs next cycle or attending a one year MA program at a school like LSE or the University of Chicago. I've had discussions with former professors, one that pursued a PhD at Chicago, and they all recommended me to transfer if I wanted to pursue a PhD later on. 

That's what I've learned thus far, good luck. 

12 hours ago, pyrhuss said:

All of these are terminal Master programs that are in no way intended to prepare you for a career in academia. While it will certainly not be held against you, completing one of these programs will by no means work in your favor for a PhD or later academic career. If you already know you want to go down that path, I suggest you take another year, get some more research experience in a related job and apply for PhD programs during the next application cycle. In any way, I think that way you will save yourself some serious time and money. Unlike in Europe, you don't need to complete a Masters before entering a PhD program, that's why American PhDs take you 5-6 years.

Thank you guys. Feel kinda devastated since I invested so much time and money during this admission season.

 

The thing is that I have accumulated considerable research, teaching and writing (policy briefs, papers and op-eds) in my home country. I feel that I have reached a limit of what I can accomplish here—I have even completed an MA here. My original plan was to relocate to the USA, sit for a MA program and then scout for PhD opportunities during my last year.

 

Please hear me out on my next move:

I have my mind set on SAIS. The fact that I have secured a full scholarship for attending SAIS makes the choice easier—that is why waiting another year is not a choice.

 

My plan is to find work as research assistant  position (though I heard they are in short supply at SAIS). Methinks that the PhD admission committee would value it.

 

Plan B: I complete the MA at SAIS and join a top PhD program in Europe—there are many that I like.

 

Plan C: I complete the MA and work towards a PhD at SAIS. It might not be a top 10 program at the USA but it carries an IMMENSE reputation back at my home country—the top dogs at the local IR scene are all SAISistas.

 

Let me know what you guys think,

article-writting, paper

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I know it is not completely impossible for people to do a phd after SAIS, just uncommon for a phd in the U.S.  Looking at employment stats for SAIS and other similar masters programs, it seems there's usually a few each year. One of the alums I spoke to is doing a phd at the graduate institute in Geneva. I would talk to admissions about it. 

Edited by Srbf

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FWIW, I do know two people who did the MA at SAIS, worked for a couple of years, and then got PhDs. So not entirely impossible. Plus, this may not be reflected in the employment stats since both of them went to work at government agencies immediately after graduation. PM me if you want more details.

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While the SAIS program isn't designed to prepare you for academia, since you know what you'll be getting into, you can start gunning right away and making connections with professors, seeking advice and mentorship to help guide you to being prepared for a PhD.

Having SAIS fully funded seems like a pretty good opportunity (especially if you change your mind). I know some people might initially think "but the opportunity costs!!", but working as an RA or for a non-profit while you write more PhD applications isn't going to net you a whole lot of money, and I think being in a university environment could be just as beneficial.

It sounds like you already made up your mind, but to me it seems like a no-lose situation to go to SAIS.

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I am a current SAIS student and while I agree with the others that SAIS is not designed to prepare you for a PhD, there are some people who pursue one afterward (either right afterward or a couple of years out) - at SAIS and elsewhere. It's not by any means bad preparation for a PhD, but the usefulness of it will depend entirely on which courses you choose. Keep in mind that you will have required courses in economics that won't pertain much to your area of interest. The fact that you have a full ride there might still make it a good option - just keep in mind that it might involve a year of lost time, since the MA is a two year program whereas most pre-PhD master's or intro classes for a PhD would only last about a year. I can't tell you much about the availability of research opportunities with professors in the Strategic Studies program - it might be worth trying to get in touch with some profs in advance to ask about that. Barring that, there are opportunities to pursue research with academics at think tanks around DC.

 

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Thank you guys. This Admission season has been a helluva ride!

 

The fact is that I from a Latin American country and never been to the USA. Applying to a PhD in another is a daunting task. I am not used to such a wide availability of career paths--it is simply overwhelming. And unless you are a Pointdexter—certainly not my case—you get the cold shoulder in terms of financial aid.

 

I figured it would be safer to apply first to a professional MA. The fact that I was awarded a very generous scholarship made it a no-brainer. If it quenches my thirst for further graduate studies, I go back home with a top degree. If I choose to earn a PhD, I could continue at SAIS, go to Europe or start a new program at an US uni—I will make sure to make the most in terms of networking while at DC.

 

Thank you for all your support and hard truths.

 

Joseph B

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