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Hello everyone,

I've been lurking this forum throughout this past application cycle, and it's truly proved incredibly helpful as I applied. All of you have different backgrounds and perspectives, and I thought it would be helpful to hear from the people who probably went through or are going through the same thing as me.

I applied to a few IR programs, and I'm waiting to hear back from a few more. But as of right now I am in between American SIS and Syracuse Maxwell, both from which I have received acceptances. I applied to Maxwell's IR program, and to SIS' International Peace and Conflict Resolution program. American was my top choice because my main research goal is in conflict resolution, and the program would allow me to take coursework in more specific interests of mine such as culture and gender. However, I have received no funding from American. While Maxwell's program isn't in conflict resolution, their IR program offers Peace, Security, and Conflict as a career track to specialize in. More importantly, they have offered me a tuition scholarship and graduate assistantship totaling $51,000. I have no loans from undergrad, and I was expecting to take out loans for my Masters. But I wasn't expecting to receive such a generous amount from Syracuse. If I was between American and Syracuse with no money from either school, I would have chosen American. But interestingly enough receiving aid is what is making this decision complicated.

I am looking into specific stats of what percentage of alumni ended up in what sector and what positions they're in, as in that's the best way of really gauging how worthwhile a degree from a school is. But I was curious in knowing what all of your experiences were when having to decide between two schools. American is in DC, which is the ideal place to be for IR. However, with the way Syracuse's program is set up, I could do the summer and last semester of the program in DC as well, which works out nicely. If there was anyone who could provide me with some insight on American's alumni networks versus Syracuse's alumni networks in the field, I would greatly appreciate it. I've heard a lot about the "Maxwell Mafia" but I wanted to see if anyone has any insight to offer on the Syracuse alumni network versus American's in the arena of non-profit and government work.

I know that this should be an easy answer (pick Syracuse), especially since I want to work in the non-profit sector therefore taking out more loans than I need isn't smart. But I wanted to consider every single thing before I made my decision. Is it even worth considering the $80,000 debt for the ideal location and better ranking of American SIS? American is a better fit for me in terms of coursework, research interests, and location. More professors in the program have the same exact specialization as I hope to have. But Syracuse has it's global internships and Maxwell in Washington, and it's the shorter program (16 months instead of 24 months), as well as the aid. If anyone could share their main priorities to consider when stuck between two grad schools, and how they maneuvered through that decision, I will truly appreciate it! 

Edited by irapplicant17

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The answer is obvious: go to Maxwell. You would be nuts to turn down that offer to attend American.

What will be the difference in your future career based on which school you attend? Almost nothing, especially since you'll get your last semester in DC. I would advise differently if you were not talking about two schools that are very similar. American may be a better fit in terms of coursework and research interests, but will it be worth a huge amount of debt? Probably not in my opinion. You're talking about $80,000 in debt to head to a school that is similarly ranked simply because the program sounds like a slightly better fit. If Maxwell did not have a Peace, Security, and Conflict focus, I might hesitate to provide this advice but it sounds like it won't be too different. Also, do not think that American is much more highly ranked than Maxwell. They're both very close in terms of their ranking.

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I have to say I'm stuck in a similar situation right now.  I've been accepted into UConn with a GA that covers my entire tuition and provides a living stipend, but I've also been accepted into Brown (my dream school) that would leave me $60,000 in debt.  I have also been accepted into Syracuse, but no word on funding yet.  I keep telling myself its not all about money.  Brown gives me more of what I want out of a program.  

I would talk to American, and plead with them.  Tell them you want to go to American, but you're trying to be fiscally responsible and Syracuse provided you with a very generous offer.  I would recommend making a spreadsheet of what each school would cost you overall after graduating.  Ask each school their graduation rates for IR, because it doesn't matter if have to take out very little loans if you can't get a job after graduation.  

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6 hours ago, JerryK said:

The answer is obvious: go to Maxwell. You would be nuts to turn down that offer to attend American.

What will be the difference in your future career based on which school you attend? Almost nothing, especially since you'll get your last semester in DC. I would advise differently if you were not talking about two schools that are very similar. American may be a better fit in terms of coursework and research interests, but will it be worth a huge amount of debt? Probably not in my opinion. You're talking about $80,000 in debt to head to a school that is similarly ranked simply because the program sounds like a slightly better fit. If Maxwell did not have a Peace, Security, and Conflict focus, I might hesitate to provide this advice but it sounds like it won't be too different. Also, do not think that American is much more highly ranked than Maxwell. They're both very close in terms of their ranking.

The $80,000 in debt is definitely the major factor for sure, and I definitely agree that it won't be worth taking that much if it's avoidable. Thank you for your input! 

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6 hours ago, brittanyandrea said:

I have to say I'm stuck in a similar situation right now.  I've been accepted into UConn with a GA that covers my entire tuition and provides a living stipend, but I've also been accepted into Brown (my dream school) that would leave me $60,000 in debt.  I have also been accepted into Syracuse, but no word on funding yet.  I keep telling myself its not all about money.  Brown gives me more of what I want out of a program.  

I would talk to American, and plead with them.  Tell them you want to go to American, but you're trying to be fiscally responsible and Syracuse provided you with a very generous offer.  I would recommend making a spreadsheet of what each school would cost you overall after graduating.  Ask each school their graduation rates for IR, because it doesn't matter if have to take out very little loans if you can't get a job after graduation.  

I think I'm definitely going to reach out to American to see if there is something I could do about the money situation. I'm not too optimistic about them changing their minds, but it's happened before so I'll give it a try. 

I've actually been working on detailed lists for both schools to measure out the pros and cons. According to Syracuse, they would cost around $78,000 including their estimate for housing, living expenses. So far according to my calculations of tuition and how much DC would cost, I arrived at $92,000. Both have good rates of graduation and finding a job, but I'm definitely going to reach out to both programs for more specific details. 

Good luck making your decision! You're definitely choosing Brown?

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1 minute ago, irapplicant17 said:

I think I'm definitely going to reach out to American to see if there is something I could do about the money situation. I'm not too optimistic about them changing their minds, but it's happened before so I'll give it a try. 

I've actually been working on detailed lists for both schools to measure out the pros and cons. According to Syracuse, they would cost around $78,000 including their estimate for housing, living expenses. So far according to my calculations of tuition and how much DC would cost, I arrived at $92,000. Both have good rates of graduation and finding a job, but I'm definitely going to reach out to both programs for more specific details. 

Good luck making your decision! You're definitely choosing Brown?

 

I haven't fully decided. I'm visiting UConn next week to hopefully help decide.  I'm leaning towards Brown due to it being a 1 year program vs. 2 at UConn and because I feel like it has stronger connections in RI which is where I would like to live long-term.  

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2 hours ago, brittanyandrea said:

I haven't fully decided. I'm visiting UConn next week to hopefully help decide.  I'm leaning towards Brown due to it being a 1 year program vs. 2 at UConn and because I feel like it has stronger connections in RI which is where I would like to live long-term.  

Your reasons make sense, hopefully visiting the campuses helps you out. Good luck! 

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Definitely reach out to Gia at AU about the offer you received from Maxwell. The IPCR program at SIS is excellent, and there are so many opportunities here in Washington. But still, it's probably not worth the debt.

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I'm in almost literally the exact same situation. I've been accepted into SAIS, Elliott, and SIS but all without funding, and Maxwell just offered me $18,000 over the 16 month program (bringing it down to $42,000). I'm conflicted, as I have friends who'll be in DC and I've been leaning towards Elliott most of this time because of their amazing alumni networks and reputation. However, can I responsibly potentially take on so much debt when Maxwell is a great school in which I could spend my final semester in DC and take on a third of the debt?

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2 hours ago, akdoehler said:

I'm in almost literally the exact same situation. I've been accepted into SAIS, Elliott, and SIS but all without funding, and Maxwell just offered me $18,000 over the 16 month program (bringing it down to $42,000). I'm conflicted, as I have friends who'll be in DC and I've been leaning towards Elliott most of this time because of their amazing alumni networks and reputation. However, can I responsibly potentially take on so much debt when Maxwell is a great school in which I could spend my final semester in DC and take on a third of the debt?

First I would try to leverage your offer. Being in DC cannot be understated.

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14 hours ago, irapplicant1776 said:

Definitely reach out to Gia at AU about the offer you received from Maxwell. The IPCR program at SIS is excellent, and there are so many opportunities here in Washington. But still, it's probably not worth the debt.

I'm definitely going to try reaching out to them! I was looking at the costs, and as it stands right now, the debt difference between both schools is around $60,000. That's quite a hefty amount, so I'm definitely going to reach out to American before I make a decision. 

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12 hours ago, akdoehler said:

I'm in almost literally the exact same situation. I've been accepted into SAIS, Elliott, and SIS but all without funding, and Maxwell just offered me $18,000 over the 16 month program (bringing it down to $42,000). I'm conflicted, as I have friends who'll be in DC and I've been leaning towards Elliott most of this time because of their amazing alumni networks and reputation. However, can I responsibly potentially take on so much debt when Maxwell is a great school in which I could spend my final semester in DC and take on a third of the debt?

That's my exact dilemma! Right now what I'm doing is comparing the job and internship prospects between both American and Syracuse to see if there are major differences, if it matches what I want, etc. And I'm going to visit both campuses before making a final decision. But I factored in the cost of spending the summer and last semester of Syracuse in Washington, and I'd still only be $30,000 in debt compared to $90,000 I'd be if I go to American without any aid. It's definitely a hard choice. 

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8 hours ago, irapplicant17 said:

That's my exact dilemma! Right now what I'm doing is comparing the job and internship prospects between both American and Syracuse to see if there are major differences, if it matches what I want, etc. And I'm going to visit both campuses before making a final decision. But I factored in the cost of spending the summer and last semester of Syracuse in Washington, and I'd still only be $30,000 in debt compared to $90,000 I'd be if I go to American without any aid. It's definitely a hard choice. 

Honestly the more I think about it the more I'm leaning towards Maxwell. On top of a third of the debt, the fact that it's a 16 month program and knowing I'll wind up in DC within a year (I would also do my last fall semester in DC, and probably spend my summer interning for the European Parliament in Strasbourg) make choosing a non-DC school a lot more palatable and justifiable. Granted, I'm spending pretty much the entire first week of April doing grad school visits (Syracuse, GW, and AU all within that week) so I'll have to see how I vibe with all the schools, because I feel like that's super important. When are you going to visit Syracuse and American? 

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On 3/24/2017 at 11:57 AM, akdoehler said:

Honestly the more I think about it the more I'm leaning towards Maxwell. On top of a third of the debt, the fact that it's a 16 month program and knowing I'll wind up in DC within a year (I would also do my last fall semester in DC, and probably spend my summer interning for the European Parliament in Strasbourg) make choosing a non-DC school a lot more palatable and justifiable. Granted, I'm spending pretty much the entire first week of April doing grad school visits (Syracuse, GW, and AU all within that week) so I'll have to see how I vibe with all the schools, because I feel like that's super important. When are you going to visit Syracuse and American? 

I feel the same way! Every time I look at the pros and cons, Maxwell just finds a way of making up for a potential con. It's not in DC, but the option is there for the summer and last semester. And the price is honestly so worth it. There would be way less debt for a very similar experience. I am aiming to visit the schools during their respective admitted students day hopefully. Visiting the schools is definitely important and I think it'll make it easier to make a clear decision. 

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On 3/27/2017 at 1:30 AM, irapplicant17 said:

I feel the same way! Every time I look at the pros and cons, Maxwell just finds a way of making up for a potential con. It's not in DC, but the option is there for the summer and last semester. And the price is honestly so worth it. There would be way less debt for a very similar experience. I am aiming to visit the schools during their respective admitted students day hopefully. Visiting the schools is definitely important and I think it'll make it easier to make a clear decision. 

I can't make the SIS one on the 10th because I already took off work to visit Syracuse on the 3rd. I'm doing a one-on-one visit with the CRS program director at SIS on the 6th and going to GW's accepted students day on the 7th. Are you going to Syracuse on the 3rd?

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13 hours ago, akdoehler said:

I can't make the SIS one on the 10th because I already took off work to visit Syracuse on the 3rd. I'm doing a one-on-one visit with the CRS program director at SIS on the 6th and going to GW's accepted students day on the 7th. Are you going to Syracuse on the 3rd?

I'm still trying to see if I could make Syracuse on the 3rd, but that's the plan! I'm hoping visiting the campuses really gives me the final push I need to make my final decision.

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10 hours ago, irapplicant17 said:

I'm still trying to see if I could make Syracuse on the 3rd, but that's the plan! I'm hoping visiting the campuses really gives me the final push I need to make my final decision.

Cool, I'll be at Syracuse on Monday, definitely shoot me a message if you'll be there too!

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On 3/29/2017 at 1:18 PM, akdoehler said:

Cool, I'll be at Syracuse on Monday, definitely shoot me a message if you'll be there too!

Unfortunately, I won't be able to make it. But I would love to know how your experience is during your visit! 

Edited by irapplicant17

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What did you all decide? Was Maxwell the better choice in the end? If you hadn't gotten funding from Maxwell, would you have automatically chosen a DC school? 

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