Jump to content

Recommended Posts

Hi everyone! I've recently received admissions notifications for grad school and decided to turn to The Grad Cafe for help and/or input in deciding which school I should attend. Hopefully i get some feedback soon, considering the deadline is on April 15!

Anyway, a little background on myself. I am a 23 year old female person from Malaysia. Got my Bachelor's in International Relations from Boston University (Class of 2015) and am currently working as a researcher at a foreign policy think tank in my country. Hoping to go back to grad school this Fall 2017. I applied to all IR MA programs, 6 in total, and all 6 accepted me. The 6 schools and programs are:

  1. Columbia SIPA (MIA)
  2. Johns Hopkins SAIS (MA)
  3. University of Denver Josef Korbel School (MA in Intl Human Rights)
  4. George Washington Elliott School (MA in Global Communication)
  5. UT Austin LBJ School (MGPS)
  6. Tufts Fletcher (MALD)

I honestly did not expect to get into all 6 programs, which is why I am having trouble deciding. I've created an Excel spreadsheet to look over all the relevant details in order to help me make the best choice but what do you guys think are the programs I should give more weight to? All of the programs i've applied to are of the international human rights/humanitarian policy with a global communications/public service/policy orientation. I like these programs because they are all interdisciplinary and most emphasize on practical applications of knowledge rather than theoretical. For example, rather than complete an MA thesis, some of these programs require Capstones or practical internships instead. My weaknesses are economics and numbers.

Some of these schools have also offered me scholarships/fellowships - the only two who haven't are SIPA and SAIS. What i'm taking into consideration when picking schools/programs are mainly cost of attendance, scholarship/fellowship offered, reputation/ranking and cost of living (since i'm guessing i'd most probably have to live off campus, self housing). Prior to receiving admissions notices, I had my own personal choice ranking but now, some of it has shifted. For example, NYC cost of living alone is a number that i am not sure I would be able to afford (let alone cost of attendance of 80k per year) so Columbia has moved down slightly on my list. I am going to apply to government scholarships from my country that would cover cost of living etc, everything total but the problem is i have to make a commitment to a school soon and scholarships here generally have 3-4 rounds of interviews so it might not work out in my favor soon enough.

That's pretty much the basic gist of it! Looking forward to any and all input, opinions, first hand knowledge and experiences that you guys can offer! 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It sounds like you're right to put high importance on cost of attendance, especially since public service and humanitarian careers will likely have modest starting salaries. 

I know that SAIS in particular has a reputation for being heavy on quant skills, so you would probably need to put extra work in given your weakness in that area. 

I'm curious why you didn't apply to BU, since you did an IR degree there for undergrad. I'm applying there as well, so I'm curious to hear what you thought. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
17 minutes ago, Tkul_Z said:

It sounds like you're right to put high importance on cost of attendance, especially since public service and humanitarian careers will likely have modest starting salaries. 

I know that SAIS in particular has a reputation for being heavy on quant skills, so you would probably need to put extra work in given your weakness in that area. 

I'm curious why you didn't apply to BU, since you did an IR degree there for undergrad. I'm applying there as well, so I'm curious to hear what you thought. 

 

Thanks for your reply! 

With regards to BU, to be quite frank, I wanted to go to a different school because i wanted to learn from different professors, experience different parts of the US, meet different people and make different connections. As a Pardee alum, I would highly, highly recommend BU to you. I established great relationships with my professors, most of whom were always willing to help me out whether it's a problem I had with classwork or future plans. They're knowledgeable and professional, and for that alone, I would say go for it.

Me personally - i wanted a change in scenery and the schools/programs I've applied to were chosen based on not only my own careful research but also past input from my professors at BU (although one of them did recommend me to apply again to BU because they do have a MA program in global communications, which suited my interests). A few other reasons were I was travelling abroad over end of Dec/early January and came back only to have emergency surgery on my stomach so I also just did not have the time or will to work on an application and rush it to meet the deadlines.

As for SAIS, i also have heard that they're heavy on quant/econs and I agree that I might struggle a little with the curriculum there, however, it also the highest ranked out of the 6 programs/schools and I'm wondering if the reputation+DC location would be worth it to pursue. Again, of course, SAIS didn't give me financial aid so between SAIS and GWU, i'd feel more comfortable within my means to go for GWU if i was going to go for DC connections. 

What do you think of the rest of the schools/programs? Good luck with your application to BU!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi there, 

 

I am in a similar boat as you are! I am deciding between these schools: 

Fletcher - MALD (with scholarship)

GWU - MA Middle East Studies with a concentration in International Affairs and Development (small scholarship)

SAIS - MA program (no scholarship)

and I am waiting to hear back from the University of Michigan (MPP Program) because they are ranked #3 for MPP, have a lot of faculty interested in international affairs and offer internationally-focused courses, and I live in Michigan so I would receive in-state tuition. 

I think the first thing you should ask yourself is what are your interests within international affairs. I know that can be hard, because for me I'm trying to use my Master's degree to narrow it down further, but generally speaking I am focused on the Middle East (especially Lebanon because I am Lebanese American), human rights, development, and have strong interests in media, gender issues, and child rights as they pertain to education and refugee/economic migration. Obviously, this is still extremely broad.

Next is definitely cost. SAIS was my number one specifically because of their strong Middle East Studies program, DC location, and focus on economics. I know that my quantitative skills are weak, so I wanted to use SAIS to ensure that I became well-versed in economics. I'm not sure I need it at all for what I enjoy doing, but I know that it is valued in the IR world and would make me a bit more competitive for jobs/open up more jobs to me. SAIS also didn't give me any funding, while the other schools did, so I really don't think I'm willing to commit to $90,000+ in tuition along with DC living expenses for two years if I don't get any funding. I am waiting to hear back from a few scholarship so it is still on my list, but I'm really looking between GWU and Fletcher until I hear back from Michigan. The nice thing is that for people who don't receive financial aid, SAIS gives you until May 1 to make your deposit, so there is a bit more time to figure out scholarships, etc. depending on your other schools. To end with a simplified opinion about cost, I don't think it's smart to have more than $50-80k debt overall, including tuition and living expenses. With SAIS, it would be at least $130k if not more, and I absolutely do not think it is worth the extra $50k.

Other considerations are what KIND of work do you want to be doing? Let's stick to my interest in the middle east and development as an example since I don't know your specific focus. Do I want to be working as a Foreign Service Officer for State or USAID and maintaining relationships with Middle Eastern Countries/implementing policy programs? For you it would be different since you're Malaysian, but perhaps there is a way to enter the Malaysian Foreign Service? Especially if you are located in DC and make it a point to connect with Malaysian diplomats at the Embassy there? Do I want to be conducting research at a think-tank? Do I want to be writing articles and reporting on foreign policy news for a media outlet? Am I considering a PhD later on? If yes, do the schools I am considering allow me to undertake a Master's Thesis so that I am a better PhD candidate later? Do I want to be doing field work through an international NGO or a UN agency such as UNHCR, UNICEF, ESCWA, etc? Am I interested in entering the private sector and doing international government consulting? Is there something else I could do with my interests that I haven't thought about? This question is even harder to answer, especially for those of us who have many interests and haven't found our "passion" yet, but in general, it's easy to narrow it down to your top 2 or 3 choices. Then, take a look at how the school prepares you for these two or three choices. Where do most of their graduates end up working? If you hope to stay and work in the US, think about how easy it is to get a job in the city you study in as an international student. If you want to move back to your country afterwards, is there a particular school that has a stronger connection to Malaysia than others? 

 

These are the questions I am asking myself. I still have 3-4 schools I am considering because of it, but it helped me to eliminate two schools that I don't think will fit me as well as the others I mentioned. If you want to talk in more detail and bounce ideas off of each other, feel free to message me and we can email/skype/facebook chat :) We might even be classmates next year, who knows! Best of luck to you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 3/14/2017 at 2:12 AM, turkish coffee said:

Hi there, 

 

I am in a similar boat as you are! I am deciding between these schools: 

Fletcher - MALD (with scholarship)

GWU - MA Middle East Studies with a concentration in International Affairs and Development (small scholarship)

SAIS - MA program (no scholarship)

and I am waiting to hear back from the University of Michigan (MPP Program) because they are ranked #3 for MPP, have a lot of faculty interested in international affairs and offer internationally-focused courses, and I live in Michigan so I would receive in-state tuition. 

I think the first thing you should ask yourself is what are your interests within international affairs. I know that can be hard, because for me I'm trying to use my Master's degree to narrow it down further, but generally speaking I am focused on the Middle East (especially Lebanon because I am Lebanese American), human rights, development, and have strong interests in media, gender issues, and child rights as they pertain to education and refugee/economic migration. Obviously, this is still extremely broad.

Next is definitely cost. SAIS was my number one specifically because of their strong Middle East Studies program, DC location, and focus on economics. I know that my quantitative skills are weak, so I wanted to use SAIS to ensure that I became well-versed in economics. I'm not sure I need it at all for what I enjoy doing, but I know that it is valued in the IR world and would make me a bit more competitive for jobs/open up more jobs to me. SAIS also didn't give me any funding, while the other schools did, so I really don't think I'm willing to commit to $90,000+ in tuition along with DC living expenses for two years if I don't get any funding. I am waiting to hear back from a few scholarship so it is still on my list, but I'm really looking between GWU and Fletcher until I hear back from Michigan. The nice thing is that for people who don't receive financial aid, SAIS gives you until May 1 to make your deposit, so there is a bit more time to figure out scholarships, etc. depending on your other schools. To end with a simplified opinion about cost, I don't think it's smart to have more than $50-80k debt overall, including tuition and living expenses. With SAIS, it would be at least $130k if not more, and I absolutely do not think it is worth the extra $50k.

Other considerations are what KIND of work do you want to be doing? Let's stick to my interest in the middle east and development as an example since I don't know your specific focus. Do I want to be working as a Foreign Service Officer for State or USAID and maintaining relationships with Middle Eastern Countries/implementing policy programs? For you it would be different since you're Malaysian, but perhaps there is a way to enter the Malaysian Foreign Service? Especially if you are located in DC and make it a point to connect with Malaysian diplomats at the Embassy there? Do I want to be conducting research at a think-tank? Do I want to be writing articles and reporting on foreign policy news for a media outlet? Am I considering a PhD later on? If yes, do the schools I am considering allow me to undertake a Master's Thesis so that I am a better PhD candidate later? Do I want to be doing field work through an international NGO or a UN agency such as UNHCR, UNICEF, ESCWA, etc? Am I interested in entering the private sector and doing international government consulting? Is there something else I could do with my interests that I haven't thought about? This question is even harder to answer, especially for those of us who have many interests and haven't found our "passion" yet, but in general, it's easy to narrow it down to your top 2 or 3 choices. Then, take a look at how the school prepares you for these two or three choices. Where do most of their graduates end up working? If you hope to stay and work in the US, think about how easy it is to get a job in the city you study in as an international student. If you want to move back to your country afterwards, is there a particular school that has a stronger connection to Malaysia than others? 

 

These are the questions I am asking myself. I still have 3-4 schools I am considering because of it, but it helped me to eliminate two schools that I don't think will fit me as well as the others I mentioned. If you want to talk in more detail and bounce ideas off of each other, feel free to message me and we can email/skype/facebook chat :) We might even be classmates next year, who knows! Best of luck to you.

 

Hey Turkish Coffee! Great reply, thanks! Definitely lots of stuff to consider!

I think i'll take up your offer on discussing and bouncing ideas off each other. Will be messaging you soon!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 3/13/2017 at 8:12 AM, ForeignFish said:

Hi everyone! I've recently received admissions notifications for grad school and decided to turn to The Grad Cafe for help and/or input in deciding which school I should attend. Hopefully i get some feedback soon, considering the deadline is on April 15!

Anyway, a little background on myself. I am a 23 year old female person from Malaysia. Got my Bachelor's in International Relations from Boston University (Class of 2015) and am currently working as a researcher at a foreign policy think tank in my country. Hoping to go back to grad school this Fall 2017. I applied to all IR MA programs, 6 in total, and all 6 accepted me. The 6 schools and programs are:

  1. Columbia SIPA (MIA)
  2. Johns Hopkins SAIS (MA)
  3. University of Denver Josef Korbel School (MA in Intl Human Rights)
  4. George Washington Elliott School (MA in Global Communication)
  5. UT Austin LBJ School (MGPS)
  6. Tufts Fletcher (MALD)

I honestly did not expect to get into all 6 programs, which is why I am having trouble deciding. I've created an Excel spreadsheet to look over all the relevant details in order to help me make the best choice but what do you guys think are the programs I should give more weight to? All of the programs i've applied to are of the international human rights/humanitarian policy with a global communications/public service/policy orientation. I like these programs because they are all interdisciplinary and most emphasize on practical applications of knowledge rather than theoretical. For example, rather than complete an MA thesis, some of these programs require Capstones or practical internships instead. My weaknesses are economics and numbers.

Some of these schools have also offered me scholarships/fellowships - the only two who haven't are SIPA and SAIS. What i'm taking into consideration when picking schools/programs are mainly cost of attendance, scholarship/fellowship offered, reputation/ranking and cost of living (since i'm guessing i'd most probably have to live off campus, self housing). Prior to receiving admissions notices, I had my own personal choice ranking but now, some of it has shifted. For example, NYC cost of living alone is a number that i am not sure I would be able to afford (let alone cost of attendance of 80k per year) so Columbia has moved down slightly on my list. I am going to apply to government scholarships from my country that would cover cost of living etc, everything total but the problem is i have to make a commitment to a school soon and scholarships here generally have 3-4 rounds of interviews so it might not work out in my favor soon enough.

That's pretty much the basic gist of it! Looking forward to any and all input, opinions, first hand knowledge and experiences that you guys can offer! 

Hi @ForeignFish! I can totally relate to your situation. I applied to 7 schools (3 of them are the same as yours) and didn't expect to get admitted into all of them, so now after the excitement has died down a bit, I am feeling overwhelmed. And those are not the only things we share in common. My concentration and specialization of choice are also in Human Rights/Humanitarian Policy and International Communication/Media/Advocacy. Quant subjects are also my weakness. And on top of that, we're from neighbouring countries, and basically speak the same language :D

Here are my top choices: 

1. Columbia SIPA - MIA: No funding

2. Tufts Fletcher - MALD: Some funding

3. NYU Wagner - MPA-PNP: No funding

4. DU Josef Korbel - MA in International Human Rights: No funding yet

I still want to go to SIPA as it's the school of my dreams, hoping that I can get funding outside of a scholarship that will cover some of the costs (no luck yet). Besides, a friend of mine living in NYC has offered a place to stay, which could cut my accommodation budget. But otherwise, I might go to Fletcher and do part-time jobs. A friend of mine who went to Fletcher a few years ago said that the classes were not as hard as he anticipated, though. I'm still deciding whether it'll be more of a downside or advantage (or if it's relevant to me, since we have significantly different backgrounds). The good thing is I have friends who are alumni of both schools, so I'm taking advantage of the opportunity to get honest opinions and experiences about each school from them. You can do the same if you know any alumni personally.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 3/18/2017 at 3:40 AM, Merantau said:

Hi @ForeignFish! I can totally relate to your situation. I applied to 7 schools (3 of them are the same as yours) and didn't expect to get admitted into all of them, so now after the excitement has died down a bit, I am feeling overwhelmed. And those are not the only things we share in common. My concentration and specialization of choice are also in Human Rights/Humanitarian Policy and International Communication/Media/Advocacy. Quant subjects are also my weakness. And on top of that, we're from neighbouring countries, and basically speak the same language :D

Here are my top choices: 

1. Columbia SIPA - MIA: No funding

2. Tufts Fletcher - MALD: Some funding

3. NYU Wagner - MPA-PNP: No funding

4. DU Josef Korbel - MA in International Human Rights: No funding yet

I still want to go to SIPA as it's the school of my dreams, hoping that I can get funding outside of a scholarship that will cover some of the costs (no luck yet). Besides, a friend of mine living in NYC has offered a place to stay, which could cut my accommodation budget. But otherwise, I might go to Fletcher and do part-time jobs. A friend of mine who went to Fletcher a few years ago said that the classes were not as hard as he anticipated, though. I'm still deciding whether it'll be more of a downside or advantage (or if it's relevant to me, since we have significantly different backgrounds). The good thing is I have friends who are alumni of both schools, so I'm taking advantage of the opportunity to get honest opinions and experiences about each school from them. You can do the same if you know any alumni personally.

 

 

Hello @Merantau, great to hear from you and what an insane coincidence it is to see that you and i are facing the exact same situation! 

SIPA is also my dream school but i think i have come to terms with the fact that I will not be going to it - and i'm okay with that. All the other schools we applied to are, in my opinion, of the same caliber and prestige so I personally think we will get the same quality of education regardless. I've narrowed down my choices to Tufts Fletcher and DU Korbel. May I ask why you're considering Fletcher over Korbel (disregarding NYU coz i did not apply there)?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 3/20/2017 at 2:18 PM, ForeignFish said:

Hello @Merantau, great to hear from you and what an insane coincidence it is to see that you and i are facing the exact same situation! 

SIPA is also my dream school but i think i have come to terms with the fact that I will not be going to it - and i'm okay with that. All the other schools we applied to are, in my opinion, of the same caliber and prestige so I personally think we will get the same quality of education regardless. I've narrowed down my choices to Tufts Fletcher and DU Korbel. May I ask why you're considering Fletcher over Korbel (disregarding NYU coz i did not apply there)?

Hi @ForeignFish! Sorry for the late reply, I've been drowning in a lot of hard thinking. Sadly I'm still not enlightened enough to make up my mind while time is ticking out.  I put Fletcher above Korbel for a few factors. First of all, I think it's a better known and more reputable school. In my field, I've meet colleagues who went there, but none from Korbel. Second, Fletcher is my personal choice, while Korbel was picked by the scholarship program sponsoring my studies in the US. It considerably affects my sentiment for each school since I applied to Fletcher by myself and I get to communicate with them, while my Korbel application was taken care of by the scholarship program, which doesn't allow me to get in tocuh with the school at all. Third, while I was browsing for info on Korbel, I stumbled upon articles about their humanitarian award for George W. Bush in 2013 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/03/du-george-bush-award_n_3541932.html which made me question the values of the school, and how conservative they actually are. 

What drew you to Fletcher and Korbel? 

How has your decision making process progressed so far?

 

Share this post


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.