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Hoping to get feedback on the two schools I'm considering for an MA in International Relations this fall 2017.  I was admitted into the University of Mississippi's MA program with a teaching/research assistantship and stipend.  I was also admitted to University of Kentucky's Patterson School with in-state tuition plus $7500 scholarship for the year subject to review for the third/final semester.  That would make Patterson approx $23,000 more expensive total, although it's a higher-ranked school.  

I'm pretty sure I want to continue on to a PhD in political science, and my assistantship at Ole Miss would allow me to study under a professor and publish, whereas at Patterson, it's less likely because the focus of the program is more on the application of political science in the working world.

I'm not sure which to weigh more heavily for helping my chances of being admitted to a high-ranking PhD program:  the higher ranked Patterson MA program or the opportunity to do research and publish at Ole Miss.  Thoughts?  Advice?

Thank you--

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I don't have extensive knowledge about either program, but here are some thoughts:

1. From what you wrote it sounds like you would have to pay at Kentucky and you would receive a stipend at Ole Miss, which is a big plus for Ole Miss. It would be less of an issue if your plan was to find gainful employment after completing the MA, but if you are interested in doing a PhD then you are looking at ~6 years post-MA of making very little money - more debt is not a good idea.

2. As you've noted, the Patterson School MA is not designed to prepare students for academic careers. This is kind of a big deal, because...

3. With very few exceptions, PhD program admissions committees will care more about what you did during your MA than where you did it. Mississippi's program is more likely to provide you the opportunity to create a solid writing sample and narrow your interests well enough to write a great SOP, as well as RA/TA experience. Perhaps Kentucky is ranked above Ole Miss, but the program will not be focused on training you as an academic.


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If you want to continue in academia, go to the program where you'll get research experience and the chance to publish. That it offers better funding makes it an even better choice. Ole Miss all the way.

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