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HKS Concurrent MPP Program

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Hi there,

 

So I'm in the process of deciding what to do moving forward and whether I still want to try applying for the MPP program at HKS. To give a bit of background, I'm just out of undergrad (graduating in May) and applied to law schools this cycle with the intention/hope that I'd land at HLS and would be able to apply to their joint degree program to do an MPP with HKS while I was there. It would be pretty easy since I'd be able to use my LSAT score and just have to write my essays. However, that was before I got into Yale Law. Now, I'm almost 100% going to be attending YLS and am unsure about what I should do moving forward based on a few factors including (1) my likelihood of success at getting into the HKS MPP program from Yale and (2) whether the program is really useful to me at this point and adds enough value for the cost. I'd love to get some insight on these

 

First, I'm deferring my admission this year and will be enrolling at Yale in the Fall of 2018. I was pretty much always planning on doing this no matter what law school I got into, primarily for personal reasons of needing a bit of time to rest before heading right into law school and also to earn a bit of money on the side to help cover personal costs during 1L year. Now, this also gives me the opportunity to take the GRE and write my essays for the HKS MPP program if I decide to apply. I'm not really worried about either of those components (I self-studied for the LSAT and scored in the 99th percentile and from what I've heard the GRE is no LSAT. I'm also pretty confident in my ability to craft some great essays). However, my biggest concern is the fact that, having just come out of undergrad, I don't have much professional experience that I've heard is really necessary for HKS. On the plus side, I think that I have more and more substantial experience than most in my position (and all of it has been in government, in the office of a Congressman who I've gotten really close to and has given me substantial projects to work on) but it still doesn't compare to a person who may have been working in policy for a few years out of undergrad. My Congressman is also an HKS alumni and said he would personally write a recommendation for me, but I'm not sure if any of this is enough to overcome that experience gap. If it's not, there's not really much I can see myself doing about it because while I may get a policy-related job during my gap year, that would be the extent of the experience I could use while applying and once I'm in and through law school, I highly doubt I would ever find the time or desire to go back to school (particularly coming from Yale, I just want to get out there and do the work I'm passionate about already). So, unfortunately this is the only time where I really see myself having the opportunity to go to HKS. Do you think that applying my 1L year at Yale would help my chances of admission given the prestige of YLS? Or am I screwed because of my lack of a career at 23?

 

Second, I'm trying to assess the cost-benefit of doing the HKS concurrent program with YLS even if I were to apply and get in. On the one hand, many of the people I've worked with personally in the policy realm have done MPPs at HKS and have told me a great deal about the program and it is definitely something I'm intensely interested because of my desire to work in domestic policy. I feel like there's a lot of skills that I could pick up by taking on the MPP program that I might not otherwise get with just plain law school (particularly in things like economics and foreign policy analysis which I'm very interested in). However, doing the program would take an extra year and likely tens of thousands of dollars of increased debt (although, I was awarded the maximum need-based financial aid at both HLS and YLS so I have high hopes that I could at least get a good amount of whatever aid HKS offers). And while I think the program would be personally beneficial in the skills it could teach me, I'm skeptical about whether it would really help me in any way in my actual career. I highly doubt there is any job out there that the addition of an HKS MPP would get me that my YLS JD would not already qualify me for. I think the most compelling part of HKS would be the access to the Harvard alumni network which is stronger than that of Yale due to its sheer size and something I definitely am going to be bummed that I'm missing out on now that I won't be going to HLS.

 

Anyway, I hope this is the right forum for this question. Because I'm so government and policy career -oriented and because my question is HKS-specific I thought this would be the place to post. I'd love to hear any feedback anyone has. Thanks so much!

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Honestly, you'd likely get into HKS with your background (even without much work experience) but I'm not really sure you need it. A Yale JD means a LOT, and as long as you take advantage of opportunities while at Yale (e.g. join a policy-oriented club, take econ and foreign policy analysis classes as a 2L/3L, etc.) you'll be fine.

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Well let me ask you, do the jobs you want require a JD or not? What are your professional goals? If you want to work in law then go for the JD and forget about the MPP, you can do that later if you still want to. However if you want a strictly policy job it might be more worth it to get an MPP instead of a JD. I have heard repeatedly from lawyers and law students that you should only study a JD if you wan't to be a lawyer in a realistic field (ie. family law, mergers and acquisitions etc.) If you would be happy doing something like that go for it but I wouldn't advise getting a JD for a job that doesn't require one if your goal is to end up in a government/domestic policy job which is what you say you want to do. Law school debt can be enormous, only you can know your financial means for that, and it forces a lot of law grads to go into big law in order to pay it off. Unless you can afford that degree or got a nice scholarship you will be seriously financially crippled with a JD and policy job that will not cover your debt, especially since you'll have very little work experience and it will be harder to land a mid/senior level paying job.  

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2 hours ago, Ella16 said:

Well let me ask you, do the jobs you want require a JD or not? What are your professional goals? If you want to work in law then go for the JD and forget about the MPP, you can do that later if you still want to. However if you want a strictly policy job it might be more worth it to get an MPP instead of a JD. I have heard repeatedly from lawyers and law students that you should only study a JD if you wan't to be a lawyer in a realistic field (ie. family law, mergers and acquisitions etc.) If you would be happy doing something like that go for it but I wouldn't advise getting a JD for a job that doesn't require one if your goal is to end up in a government/domestic policy job which is what you say you want to do. Law school debt can be enormous, only you can know your financial means for that, and it forces a lot of law grads to go into big law in order to pay it off. Unless you can afford that degree or got a nice scholarship you will be seriously financially crippled with a JD and policy job that will not cover your debt, especially since you'll have very little work experience and it will be harder to land a mid/senior level paying job.  

 

I do want jobs that require a JD. I definitely want to clerk after graduating and I think that even if I do get into pure policy jobs later on (I'm not sure exactly where in the government I'd like to end up, some pure legal jobs are really interesting to me but also some pure policy jobs) my Yale JD will be just fine to get me into the door anywhere. I don't think at this point I need to do any consideration on that point. YLS is actually the cheapest law school I've got into and their loan repayment assistance program is super generous as well so I'm really not worried about any of that at all. I think this advice would make more sense for others who are thinking about applying to law schools in the future or those who aren't going to YLS which is a hugely public service-oriented law school with most students wanting to work in some kind of public interest sector.

 

I think that the MPP for me is less about needing it as much as it is that I think I would enjoy the skills that are learned with it. I sat in on a class today actually on my visit to campus and it was fantastic. I like that the core curriculum has such a focus on things like economics and also that there are great IR classes available to take. So I think for me it's mostly an intellectual interest and an interest in the skills that the policy degree confers. The issue is balancing whether or not that is worth the cost... (although I must say, today's visit definitely made me much more excited about applying given how much fun it was)

 

I think in the end I will apply to HKS once I start my 1L year anyway just to see if it's even possible for me to get in. I guess the key will be whether I can craft my application in such a way as to emphasize the importance of the degree in conjunction with my law degree and whether or not that will end up outweighing my lack of professional experience. 

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Full disclosure: I am attending HSW business school and decided to pursue a concurrent degree with HKS so everything below comes from that perspective:

First off, getting into HKS is not as difficult as getting into a top law school or business school so don't worry too much there. From what you described, it sounds like you're a K-JD so the lack of work experience can be troubling but use the deferred year to take on volunteer/leadership roles in the community to show interest in public interest, if seriously interested in pursuing a concurrent degree. Obviously use the essays to explain your interest in pursuing a concurrent degree and why it makes sense for your professional career.

I stress the 2nd point - and it seems you've already started the thinking process on this - but you need to seriously think about all the reasons why you are pursuing a concurrent degree. Frankly, the ROI of such a venture is quite low. You are right - you will be able to pivot into policy jobs with a Yale JD, assuming proper networking (not vice versa). Only you will know if it's worth the extra year + opportunity costs (e.g. moving between Cambridge & New Haven for that split year, complications with OCI). If you're just interested in taking some policy classes, you're probably better off taking some classes at Yale SOM or Jackson Institute. Years ago I also considered Yale Law School and one of the many positive aspects about Yale was the flexibility in taking classes across grad schools - apologies if this isn't the case anymore!

TL;DR: in the short-term you have nothing to lose by applying to HKS except it's a bit annoying having to study for GRE, ask for recommendations again, working on application essays, etc. but nothing too hard. In the long-term, you have to seriously consider why you even want to pursue a concurrent degree and only you will come to that conclusion. 

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