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I've applied to several MA programs in international relations, and I'd love some pointers from people who anything about the following schools:

Johns Hopkins SAIS
George Washington U (The Elliott School)
American U (School of International Service)
The Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (International Policy and Development)

I've already been accepted into MIIS and they've offered a free Summer language program at the Middlebury campus in VT as well as a (small) scholarship grant, which is attractive to me because I don't have a working knowledge of Mandarin, the language I'm interested in, and MIIS's focus on language learning seems to be unmatched by other schools. The thing that worries me is that MIIS doesn't have the prestige of the other schools in DC, not to mention that DC is obviously far richer in job/networking/internship opportunities than Monterey. For what it's worth, my interests are in China-Taiwan relations, and I'm not super interested in development.

Assuming I get into at least one of the DC schools, which school is the best? I'm confident that I'll get in, but I'm not confident that I'll receive any merit-based aid like I did at MIIS (meaning I'll likely go into a larger amount of debt).

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For China-Taiwan relations, I would suggest SAIS. It has a few profs with Chinese studies concentrations in your area. Are you interested in economic or security related issues? I am suprised you did not apply to Georgetown as it has strengths in your area. Both have decent language training for Mandarin. I know that for undergraduate studies, American U has a good Chinese Studies program with excellent language training and exchange partners in China and Taiwan (NTU, Normal U and Chengchi U).

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I appreciate the response! SAIS seems to be the choice among most people I spoke too. I'm more interested in security issues, but I'm willing to have an open mind. I saw that American has exchange partners with Taiwan for undergraduate, but I need to speak with them more about those options for graduate study. 

Frankly, I don't have a great reason for not applying to Georgetown - for whatever reason I didn't see myself as competitive at all, and I'm pretty broke so throwing down the extra money for an application fee didn't seem worth it. I shoulda just put it on the credit card. Lesson learned, I suppose!

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Currently attending American SIS. I would say that the importance of being in DC cannot be overstated. There are so many opportunities here. I would not worry too much about university prestige and instead attend the school that gives you the most financial aid. SIS is not as prestigious as SAIS but I have met American alumni working in all sorts of government and development institutions. Note that AU does have Mandarin courses to help you fulfill the language requirement, but if I'm not mistaken those courses will not count toward your degree. 

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I concur with the above: I'd cross Middlebury off the list just based on location. Work experience and network are as if not more important than your studies, and you won't get any of that in Buttcrack, Vermont (no offense to Middlebury - it's beautiful country, and a great place to go for undergrad).

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MIIS is not in the same tier as SAIS, GWU, AU. If you're are looking outside of DC for IR programs, there are better ones than MIIS that will likely cost less. If you apply again next year for some reason (financial aid?), you might want to look at GSPIA in Pittsburgh, Korbel in Denver, Fletcher at Tufts, or even the Bush School at Texas A&M which is an up and coming school. Among the three DC schools you listed, they're all excellent- and all have reputations far better than MIIS. Some may argue one is better than another, but they're all great DC schools with little difference between them. Good luck with your decision!

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Thanks for the responses, everyone! Things will become clearer come March, but until then I appreciate all the thoughts. 

I'm surprised at the suggestions that I toss out MIIS - I've been told by many faculty at my undergrad that it's a great school, even if it's not as plugged in as the DC schools. Granted, I live in California so perhaps it's more well known on the West Coast than elsewhere. 

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15 minutes ago, cool_uncle said:

Thanks for the responses, everyone! Things will become clearer come March, but until then I appreciate all the thoughts. 

I'm surprised at the suggestions that I toss out MIIS - I've been told by many faculty at my undergrad that it's a great school, even if it's not as plugged in as the DC schools. Granted, I live in California so perhaps it's more well known on the West Coast than elsewhere. 

 

I've worked in DC for several years (albeit more on the development side of things, but have many IR-focused friends), and I've never heard of MIIS or met anyone who went there. You're going to grad school to learn but also to network and make good connections (including through alumni networks), and if your goal is to end up in DC, I would not suggest going with MIIS. Unless you got a full ride and would literally not spend any money, I'd recommend working some more and reapplying to the DC schools and others mentioned in this thread. Whole different matter if you want to stay in CA/an area with a visible MIIS presence, though!

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Good point, SenNoodles. When I was in DC, I never ran into anyone from MIIS either. It seems like USAID is full of graduates from American University (and a fair amount from Fletcher) and then State is full of GWU and Georgetown grads. And I met a lot of people from different state universities around the US and GMU in DC but never MIIS.

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I think MIIS may not place into many DC federal government jobs, but it has its niche. A career military officer told me that MIIS is known in certain military circles for its Defence Language Institute for language training and some well established Navy postgrad training courses. Talented career officers are picked and sent to further training at MIIS and move on to Defence Intelligence Agency, field or staff appointments at the pentagon. After leaving the military, MIIS alumni may work in private sector or other government intelligence agencies. Some alumni work in sensitive areas and may not be on LinkedIn.

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2 hours ago, CakeTea said:

I think MIIS may not place into many DC federal government jobs, but it has its niche. A career military officer told me that MIIS is known in certain military circles for its Defence Language Institute for language training and some well established Navy postgrad training courses. Talented career officers are picked and sent to further training at MIIS and move on to Defence Intelligence Agency, field or staff appointments at the pentagon. After leaving the military, MIIS alumni may work in private sector or other government intelligence agencies. Some alumni work in sensitive areas and may not be on LinkedIn.

But ultimately they're hired because they're vets, not because they went to MIIS.

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