Jump to content

SAIS or SIPA to PhD?


Recommended Posts

Hello GCers,

I have to decide within the next two days, so I'd appreciate some fast advice!

Here's my situation: after a patchy undergrad degree where I bounced around majors and ended up with a ~3.6, I have been working in development in South America for 3 years. I want to study my PhD in economics focusing on the Pacific Pumas phenomenon (Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru) and how public debt plays a role in economic growth/stability.

Up until today, I was pretty much set on going to SAIS in the IDEV program, where I have a scholarship that means I will only have to take out loans of about 35k. I think that SAIS's Latin American Studies program also seems very strong and well-funded, plus SAIS is known for its economic rigor especially within the IDEV program.

However, SIPA reconsidered my financial aid and bumped my scholarship up from half to full-tuition. But over the course of two years, my debt will still probably be about the same as at SAIS. The advantages I see at SIPA are that I could take economics courses outside the MPA program(?) which I'm not sure is an advantage or not.. and it seems there are more tenured faculty, which means maybe I might have a better chance at an RAship?

It's always a bit discouraging to see when people on TGC say not to go to these programs if aiming for a PhD, but these programs seem much more highly regarded than a terminal MS in economics without funding from X Ivy league school. And since I have the funding, I'd like to have a try at the Chris Blattman route and wanted to know which school you all think will be better for my shot at a PhD.

Link to post
Share on other sites

In my non-expert opinion, the quantitative/economic rigor of SAIS' IDEV seems like the obvious choice given your goal. Economics PhD's are heavily quantitative (as I'm sure you know), so you'd be best served to go to a program that will best develop those skills. Based on what I've heard, it sounds like you should also take multivariate calculus (and probably linear algebra) if you haven't already.

Finally, I do not think it's correct to consider pursuing SIPA's MPA and pursuing HKS' MPA/ID as both being on the "Chris Blattman route." The latter--which is what Blattman did--is much more advanced quantitatively and requires multivariate calculus for admission. Blattman said it came close to what would be expected in the 1st year of an econ PhD program.

Link to post
Share on other sites

For what it's worth, I interviewed lots of former and current SAIS students during my decision process and everyone said the Latin American Studies Program is almost bizarrely well-funded and managed.

I was also told (and again I have no first-hand knowledge of any of this) that SAIS' econ courses are not particularly rigorous for those with undergrad econ educations. Again you should take this with a grain of salt, but I'm not sure SAIS econ requirements would necessarily prepare you for a PhD.

Link to post
Share on other sites
53 minutes ago, mapiau said:

For what it's worth, I interviewed lots of former and current SAIS students during my decision process and everyone said the Latin American Studies Program is almost bizarrely well-funded and managed.

I was also told (and again I have no first-hand knowledge of any of this) that SAIS' econ courses are not particularly rigorous for those with undergrad econ educations. Again you should take this with a grain of salt, but I'm not sure SAIS econ requirements would necessarily prepare you for a PhD.

It might be different for the IDEV program, though. HKS' MPA/ID, for example, is quantitatively rigorous even though the MPP can be completed with little quantitative rigor. That said, I'm not familiar with SAIS' IDEV program, so it'd be great if someone with more knowledge of the program can step in here.

Edited by Ben414
Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you @Ben414 and @mapiau for your responses.

I think it's really hard for me to gauge how rigorous the IDEV econ courses at SAIS are. I've heard SAIS isn't as difficult as its reputation might suggest... But when I hear that it generally comes from someone trying to convince a prospective student that they need not be afraid of the required economics coursework.

Blattman said on his blog any of the programs could be geared to be highly quantitative but at the time he went the MPA/ID was the standard bearer. But you're right, standalone the MPA at SIPA doesn't seem to be as highly touted.

I have pretty much all the math coursework I could need (though a couple B's were littered in there, so I may retake Real Analysis at some point for an A). 

Right now, I'm leaning towards SAIS. I'd love it if there were any former IDEV students that could attest to (or tell me I'm an idiot) the rigor of rhe econ coursework. Deadline for fellowship recips is the 20th!

Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, Boost said:

Hello GCers,

I have to decide within the next two days, so I'd appreciate some fast advice!

Here's my situation: after a patchy undergrad degree where I bounced around majors and ended up with a ~3.6, I have been working in development in South America for 3 years. I want to study my PhD in economics focusing on the Pacific Pumas phenomenon (Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru) and how public debt plays a role in economic growth/stability.

Up until today, I was pretty much set on going to SAIS in the IDEV program, where I have a scholarship that means I will only have to take out loans of about 35k. I think that SAIS's Latin American Studies program also seems very strong and well-funded, plus SAIS is known for its economic rigor especially within the IDEV program.

However, SIPA reconsidered my financial aid and bumped my scholarship up from half to full-tuition. But over the course of two years, my debt will still probably be about the same as at SAIS. The advantages I see at SIPA are that I could take economics courses outside the MPA program(?) which I'm not sure is an advantage or not.. and it seems there are more tenured faculty, which means maybe I might have a better chance at an RAship?

It's always a bit discouraging to see when people on TGC say not to go to these programs if aiming for a PhD, but these programs seem much more highly regarded than a terminal MS in economics without funding from X Ivy league school. And since I have the funding, I'd like to have a try at the Chris Blattman route and wanted to know which school you all think will be better for my shot at a PhD.

I know two people who graduated from SIPA and are now pursuing PhDs - one in poli sci at NYU and the other in econ at Berkeley. I am also considering a PhD later and was looking at SIPA. Both told me that SIPA allows you to take PhD level courses, and suggested that I take real analysis and advanced micro at the very least, if not more of the math/higher level econ courses. Check if SAIS will allow you that. 

Plus, for a PhD you will need excellent recommendations. So you should see wherever you can get more interaction with faculty (through RAships, TAships, office hours etc.) and where there are more faculty members in your area of interest.

Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, kd7432 said:

I know two people who graduated from SIPA and are now pursuing PhDs - one in poli sci at NYU and the other in econ at Berkeley. I am also considering a PhD later and was looking at SIPA. Both told me that SIPA allows you to take PhD level courses, and suggested that I take real analysis and advanced micro at the very least, if not more of the math/higher level econ courses. Check if SAIS will allow you that. 

Plus, for a PhD you will need excellent recommendations. So you should see wherever you can get more interaction with faculty (through RAships, TAships, office hours etc.) and where there are more faculty members in your area of interest.

Thanks for the heads up! I have taken real analysis, but I'll probably take it again since I got a B.

I think you've got a good point about the recommendations. Does anyone know whether TAships or RAships are available at SAIS? I had an inkling that the IDEV course would get me more attention from faculty.. But obviously this post is all about me questioning my decision.

During undergrad I was terrible at forming relationships with professors, so I am sort of hoping by choosing IDEV I'd have a more structured environment where I could build a good reputation and recommendation letters. My fear at SIPA is that it is so big that I'd not know where to start. Any suggestions?

Again, thank you all for being sp helpful

Link to post
Share on other sites

No problem. I'm in a similar situation myself, but am more interested in issues of political economy of development, governance and service delivery and poverty alleviation with a South Asia focus. I would like to do a PhD later on (although I have to figure out whether this will be in econ or poli sci). Keeping that in mind, which would you suggest between Duke Sanford, Michigan Ford and Georgetown McCourt? All three have roughly the same costs for me. Please also tell me why you pick one or the other. 

12 hours ago, Boost said:

Thanks for the heads up! I have taken real analysis, but I'll probably take it again since I got a B.

I think you've got a good point about the recommendations. Does anyone know whether TAships or RAships are available at SAIS? I had an inkling that the IDEV course would get me more attention from faculty.. But obviously this post is all about me questioning my decision.

During undergrad I was terrible at forming relationships with professors, so I am sort of hoping by choosing IDEV I'd have a more structured environment where I could build a good reputation and recommendation letters. My fear at SIPA is that it is so big that I'd not know where to start. Any suggestions?

Again, thank you all for being sp helpful

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Just as an update for all future readers. I have chosen SAIS as I had to submit my deposit today to retain the scholarship.

@kd7432 Hmm, well frankly I'm not sure. I didn't apply to any of those schools because they didn't seem to have what I'm looking for. It seems to me that Georgetown MSFS is king when looking at area studies (I really don't know about McCourt). Since you're looking to do a PhD as well, have you tried to see which program would give you the opportunity to prepare best?

On a personal level, I wouldn't want to live in Michigan or North Carolina, so I'd most likely choose McCourt... but only you can really know if it's the best decision for you, I suppose.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 10 months later...
  • 2 years later...
On 4/21/2016 at 5:23 AM, Boost said:

Just as an update for all future readers. I have chosen SAIS as I had to submit my deposit today to retain the scholarship.

@kd7432 Hmm, well frankly I'm not sure. I didn't apply to any of those schools because they didn't seem to have what I'm looking for. It seems to me that Georgetown MSFS is king when looking at area studies (I really don't know about McCourt). Since you're looking to do a PhD as well, have you tried to see which program would give you the opportunity to prepare best?

On a personal level, I wouldn't want to live in Michigan or North Carolina, so I'd most likely choose McCourt... but only you can really know if it's the best decision for you, I suppose.

Hi there!

Did you end up attending a Ph.D program?? I'm in a similar situation between SAIS and SIPA...

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi there, do you mind me asking how you got SIPA to reconsider your funding? Or what led them to increase your scholarship?

I was so happy to get in to the MIA program, but I've only gotten a scholarship that covers a third of the total cost. I'm stressed about figuring out how to pay for the rest of it, or if it's even something I should consider.

Link to post
Share on other sites

SAIS econ courses are not rigorous and will not improve your PhD application. The only people who go on to econ PhDs from SAIS are people who had a strong econ and math background prior to coming to SAIS. If you think you need to improve your academics, you should have applied to econ MAs, not policy programs; although, as you already have real analysis, you may be more competitive as a PhD applicant than you think. 

If you can take graduate courses from the actual econ department at Columbia, you are better off going to SIPA than SAIS (since it would be difficult to take classes in Baltimore from DC...) but in general, the notion of attending a very expensive professional program in order to prepare yourself for an academic program is inherently wrong-headed.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.