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DogsArePeopleToo

Cornell CIPA vs Georgetown McCourt vs Duke Sanford

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Hello everyone,

I am finally hearing back from the places I applied to. I have been offered admissions to Cornell CIPA, Duke Sanford and Georgetown McCourt (we expect Maryland - College Park to come through as well).

This is all great, but now is decision time. And that's why I turn to you, the supportive and insightful community at The Grad Cafe.

Because I will be attending through the Fulbright program, I'm in the fortunate place where cost is not the top factor. I'd appreciate your perspectives on a few other issues:

  • How would one know which is a better school? I live overseas, so I can't tour the campus.
  • Name recognition and ranking: Cornell is an Ivy League school but CIPA is not in the top 20 for MPA/MPP. How much does that matter in terms of the student experience and future success? (i.e., does the Cornell name count positively or does CIPA's ranking count negatively?)
  • How much does Georgetown's DC advantage really matter? And how much of a disadvantage is Duke's and Cornell's location?
  • Anything else you wished you knew and considered before deciding?

Many thanks in advance.

Edited by DogsArePeopleToo

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  • How to know which one is a better school? Ask about their employment reports. See if you can skype a current student. Google their curriculum and courses. From what I hear, Georgetown and Duke are almost always seen in a good light. However, the problem with Cornell CIPA is that it isn't a full-fledged department. It seems like an amalgamation of courses from other departments without any attempt to truly integrate the material, networks, or students. That should be something to keep in mind.
  • Name recognition and ranking: don't bother with USNWR. It's basically useless for public policy. Unlike law and business rankings, public policy rankings don't reflect real employer reputations. There are 9 schools, in no particular order, that I've repeatedly heard of and have strong public policy reputations:  Princeton*, Harvard, Columbia, Chicago, Duke*, Georgetown, CMU*, Berkeley*, Michigan*. Cornell isn't included for reasons noted in the first bullet point, among others.
    • I've posted about ranking issues in greater detail here: 
  • Can't speak for Georgetown specifically. I'd imagine that it is a very significant advantage to have employers like the State Department just a 15 minute drive away. If you don't go to Georgetown, be sure to take advantage of networking events. I've done just fine without the DC advantage at CMU, but DC may be more important to certain individuals.
  • Things I wish I knew: specific coursework can be *very* important for job prospects. Obviously, CMU isn't on your list, but just from personal experience: most of my interviewers have been impressed by my quantitative skills because CMU gave me the opportunity to explore quant fields like machine learning. I lucked out in choosing my school and instinctively focusing on the school's strengths in data analytics. If either Georgetown, Cornell, or Duke offers an array of coursework that can give you specific *skills* in the field you want to focus on (e.g. I've heard that Georgetown's language and security studies departments might be cool if you're interested), give that school extra consideration when picking between the three.
Edited by PolicyStud

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Hey! 

I'm just going to comment on McCourt and the DC advantage. 

@PolicyStud is absolutely right about how the rankings are not all that important and the schools he has named are the same ones I've repeated heard of. 

I'm going to be attending the McCourt School this Fall. I've chosen McCourt because of the following - 

1. DC gives you the opportunity to work with professors who are working on projects in organisations you'd be interested in joining post graduation. This makes it MUCH easier to get a job post graduation. 

2. There is always something or the other going on in DC. As a student, you'll get to attend conferences/ panel discussions/ guest lectures. Basically you enter the policy world the moment school starts (rather than when it ends). Your network will be much wider. 

3. I know that the McCourt School focuses a lot on the skills that policystud is talking about. They are Quant heavy. Again, these skills are highly valued in the job market. 

Overall, I think the McCourt School is FAB. I haven't done much research on the other schools you've mentioned so I'm not going to comment on them. 

 

Hope this helps :)

Best of luck. 

Best,

Natasha Ahuja. 

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@nahuja32 Hi Natasha! Congratulations on your acceptance to Mccourt! It's cool to hear you've made your decision already.

I'm considering McCourt and wanted to know how you heard about your first point and if you can elaborate on it. I saw your post in the McCourt page where you talk about how you can do this by being an RA/TA for the professors but reading that I thought about the traditional research assistant job doing research in an academic setting for a paper or book that the professor would be working on. 

Considering Sanford too, for what it's worth :)

 

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@sleeplesswithcoffee, you get the opportunity to do both at McCourt. It depends on which professor you work with and what they're working on. I heard about it through 3 recent alumni (graduated in 2016). They are currently working in DC and their RAship helped them secure a job. 

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These are very helpful responses, so thank you all for taking the time to share your thoughts.

On 3/17/2017 at 0:29 AM, PolicyStud said:

Can't speak for Georgetown specifically. I'd imagine that it is a very significant advantage to have employers like the State Department just a 15 minute drive away. If you don't go to Georgetown, be sure to take advantage of networking events. I've done just fine without the DC advantage at CMU, but DC may be more important to certain individuals.

With respect to the above, I've heard from a few people who say the DC advantage is significant but say they've done OK without it. Am I missing anything in this summary?

Someone who graduated from McCourt about a decade ago told me that he believes the faculty doesn't include many practitioners. You seem to think to the contrary, @nahuja32, is that correct? I agree with the rest of what you've written - very helpful!

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Hi there, just thought I'd respond here:

On 3/16/2017 at 5:08 AM, DogsArePeopleToo said:

Cornell is an Ivy League school but CIPA is not in the top 20 for MPA/MPP. How much does that matter in terms of the student experience and future success?

I'm actually a CIPA student, in my first year and would love to share some thoughts. First off, congratulations on your Fulbright! I am actually a Fulbright alumna (Brazil, 2015) and there are many Fulbrighters in the program now.  With regards to networks, I have access to not only CIPAs network, but the entire Cornell and Ivy League network. This has given me access to really amazing opportunities, Ivy-league networking events and databases, and is recognized both domestically and globally.  

I was accepted and received funding at the Harris School and CIPA and had an incredibly hard decision. UChicago's Harris School was rated #4 in the country, and is well-known for its evidence-based, quantitative policy program. I was very impressed with the school at the open house, as well as by the students I met there. At both CIPA and the Harris School, I met very engaged students and staff who were eager to help and answer questions.  I eventually chose Cornell's program, while not ranked as highly as the Harris School, because I focus in Food and Agriculture Policy, and I wouldn't have been able to focus in that area at UChicago. I say this all to emphasize that the multidisciplinary nature of the program has been an incredible asset to my future success, as I wouldn't have been able to break into the field of Food and Agriculture Policy otherwise. 

And that brings me to the next comment:

On 3/16/2017 at 3:59 PM, PolicyStud said:

However, the problem with Cornell CIPA is that it isn't a full-fledged department. It seems like an amalgamation of courses from other departments without any attempt to truly integrate the material, networks, or students. That should be something to keep in mind.


CIPA's program does integrate core coursework, and I feel its greatest asset is what you seem to be critiquing: CIPA's multidisciplinary nature. I am very grateful that I am able to dovetail public policy and food security coursework with one another, and I've taken courses in departments like Nutritional Sciences, International Agriculture and Rural Development, and Applied Economics as well as Public Administration, Government, and Political Science. I am pursuing an MPA not only to learn about public policy but to learn how to apply it to my field of interest, Food and Agriculture Policy. My colleagues are also able to focus in on their niche policy concerns, and represent a wide variety of areas like Health Care Policy, Arts Management, Human Rights and Social Justice, and Education Policy to name a few- I think it's fantastic! Further, I feel that it is very well integrated - I have already been a part of many hands-on projects, secured funding and was sponsored to do research for a month in Colombia, have gotten a job for the summer working internationally in my field of interest (because of networking and a connection leveraged through Cornell), and am excited to come back next fall for my final year. 
 

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17 hours ago, EGSweitzer said:

With regards to networks, I have access to not only CIPAs network, but the entire Cornell and Ivy League network.

Thank you for the thoughtful feedback. I wanted to follow up on this bit quoted above...would you mind elaborating how, as a CIPA student, you have access to the entire Ivy League network?

I have heard a lot of good things about the flexibility of the CIPA curriculum. I think it is a credit to CIPA.

 

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