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The Fletcher School MALD, Chicago MPP, LSE, Denver


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Hi everyone!

I'm looking to get some opinions on these schools for a Masters program: 

-The Fletcher School MALD ($70K loan)

-UChicago MPP ($65K loan)

-LSE IR ($30K loan)

-UDenver Korbel School, International Security ($30K loan)

 Basically it's coming down to opportunity and cost for me. I'm looking to go into IR and have very little loans from undergrad. I would love to hear any opinions (esp from current students)- thank you in advance! This would be for Fall 2017 :)

Edited by Postgrad
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I wouldn't recommend you go to any of those schools for that level of debt. There's no doubt Fletcher is a whole lot better than Korbel - which is a very weak program - but not even Fletcher will do all that much for you if you don't have that much going for you already. 

'IR' isn't really a field, so you're going to have to be much more specific in articulating what it is you would like to do. 

A 4-week coding boot camp will do more for your career prospects than a two year grad degree from a SAIS or Fletcher. 

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A Fletcher student here. These IR schools are a wayy to expensive. Good school, lots of orgs to get involved in. But WAAAAAY too expensive for what you get. Professors are difficult to reach, the cohort is too big. Scholarships? Aside from the in house scholarship money, you are looking at a shit load of debt. All puny scholarships on offer are really competitive. 

Go to LSE or Grad inst in Geneva or Scinces Po unless you have some compelling other reason, or a trust fund. Don't be like me. 

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3 hours ago, turkeyduck81 said:

A Fletcher student here. These IR schools are a wayy to expensive. Good school, lots of orgs to get involved in. But WAAAAAY too expensive for what you get. Professors are difficult to reach, the cohort is too big. Scholarships? Aside from the in house scholarship money, you are looking at a shit load of debt. All puny scholarships on offer are really competitive. 

Go to LSE or Grad inst in Geneva or Scinces Po unless you have some compelling other reason, or a trust fund. Don't be like me. 

Thank you.

I believe this point of view will increasingly become conventional wisdom as public knowledge catches up with reality and the very difficult and weak job market for most IR grads. I work with, socialize with, supervise, and hire master's IR grads (hundreds in total) and believe me - it's tough out there. I was just at an extremely large event in DC and more than half of the grads with whom I spoke (they graduated 2-3 years ago for the most part) were precariously employed, under employed, on temporary contracts, or unemployed.

I love this field and have devoted the last 12 years of my life to it, but barring lots of family money, get a big scholarship or don't go. 

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One way to possibly minimize your risk is to go with an MPP, which is a more flexible degree.  I did a dual MPA/MAIR at the Maxwell School, and a surprising number of those of us who did the dual degree ended up working in local government, which can end up paying better than a lot of NGO jobs. It's easier to market yourself to a local government or otherwise domestic policy-focused job from an MPP than it is from an IR degree.  That can come in handy if, for example, you realize you really don't want to live in DC, New York or abroad.

I'd think carefully about specifically what kind of work you want to do. My fellow Maxwell alumni and I have so many different kinds of jobs that require very different types of skills.  For example, I do policy research, for which the statistics and economics skills are quite useful, while others are more involved in program coordination and contract management types of work.  Some folks work in very finance focused jobs (e.g. bond rating agencies).  Maybe neither of these degrees is the right one for you.  Not going to grad school now and getting some work experience instead as others have suggested might be a better option. A handful of folks I studied with at Maxwell, mostly those that didn't have a lot of prior work experience, ended up later getting another master's degree in a different field (e.g. finance, or in one case nutrition) when they had a better sense of where they wanted their career to go.

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I strongly agree with went_away turkeyduck regarding Fletcher and SAIS being very poor investments if you are going to accumulate a lot of debt. They are certainly not worth it and will not have the impact on your future jobs that you expect, especially Fletcher. Since Fletcher is in a suburb of Boston and removed from IR centers (a disadvantage compared to SIPA in NYC or all the schools in DC), they compensate with a lot of heavy promotion. So I was glad to see the response on here from turkeyduck81.

I slightly disagree on Korbel being far behind Fletcher. Many people, myself included, would say Korbel is a fantastic school and not far behind Fletcher. I have spoken with many grads from both institutions. But as always, consider how much debt you will accumulate. Good luck.

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First time poster at the forum, so my greetings to everyone! If I may ask some questions to the discussants, since I am in a similar situation of planning on attending an International Relations school, two of them being SAIS and Fletcher:

On 5/25/2017 at 4:09 PM, turkeyduck81 said:

A Fletcher student here. These IR schools are a wayy to expensive. Good school, lots of orgs to get involved in. But WAAAAAY too expensive for what you get. Professors are difficult to reach, the cohort is too big. Scholarships? Aside from the in house scholarship money, you are looking at a shit load of debt. All puny scholarships on offer are really competitive.

turkeyduck81, indeed the cost of the programs is not something to laugh at. Regarding your point on cohort size, and correct me if I am wrong, isn't Fletcher's MALD cohort the smallest amongst its competitors' (Georgetown, SIPA, SAIS) flagship programmes? (Admittedly Princeton has a significantly smaller MPA cohort, but the programme is more akin to an MPP than an International Relations programme.) 

Since, as I understand, you are a current Fletcher student, could you elaborate on the professors' aloofness? I was always under the impression–which is obviously not a first-hand one–that its professors were considered rather approachable.

22 hours ago, JerryK said:

I strongly agree with went_away turkeyduck regarding Fletcher and SAIS being very poor investments if you are going to accumulate a lot of debt. They are certainly not worth it and will not have the impact on your future jobs that you expect, especially Fletcher. Since Fletcher is in a suburb of Boston and removed from IR centers (a disadvantage compared to SIPA in NYC or all the schools in DC), they compensate with a lot of heavy promotion. So I was glad to see the response on here from turkeyduck81.

I found your comment interesting–and slightly disconcerting given my plans :mellow:. Why do you say that SAIS and especially Fletcher are not worth it? In terms of education acquired, connections developed, or employment prospects realized?

 

Thank you both for your attention!

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1 hour ago, HazyandNarrow said:

 

I found your comment interesting–and slightly disconcerting given my plans :mellow:. Why do you say that SAIS and especially Fletcher are not worth it? In terms of education acquired, connections developed, or employment prospects realized?

Pay better attention to wording: not worth it for that amount of debt. They're good programs, but this industry won't allow you many opportunities to pay down that kind of debt. This is why people need to have industry-specific work experience before signing up for such a degree. You try living in DC on a 50k salary, and suddenly the financials become a lot clearer.

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  Thank you for your reply, ExponentialDecay. Yes, I am assuming the qualification of debt in my question towards Jerry. Perhaps I should have phrased my question clearer: Why do you think that SAIS and Fletcher are poor investments, given the amount of debt? Are there any US International Relations programs (barring Princeton due to its magnanimous scholarships) that are considered better investments (given the amount of potential debt)?

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37 minutes ago, HazyandNarrow said:

  Thank you for your reply, ExponentialDecay. Yes, I am assuming the qualification of debt in my question towards Jerry. Perhaps I should have phrased my question clearer: Why do you think that SAIS and Fletcher are poor investments, given the amount of debt? Are there any US International Relations programs (barring Princeton due to its magnanimous scholarships) that are considered better investments (given the amount of potential debt)?

What positions are you considering after you graduate? At what institutions? What are the starting salaries there? Are there current graduates from the schools you are considering in similar positions?

 

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58 minutes ago, HazyandNarrow said:

  Thank you for your reply, ExponentialDecay. Yes, I am assuming the qualification of debt in my question towards Jerry. Perhaps I should have phrased my question clearer: Why do you think that SAIS and Fletcher are poor investments, given the amount of debt? Are there any US International Relations programs (barring Princeton due to its magnanimous scholarships) that are considered better investments (given the amount of potential debt)?

On the contrary, perhaps I should've phrased my answer clearer: jobs in the IR industry do not pay enough money to pay down that debt. You shouldn't be taking out that loan for a degree in money tree horticulture, if your goal is to work in IR afterwards. Caveat, this is my personal opinion, as someone who likes to have savings and doesn't want to live with roommates when I'm 40. This is America, not Cameroon, so of course you won't be living in a cardboard box in an alley, but you will most likely face significant financial sacrifices.

NGO jobs pay 40-50. Fed jobs pay 50-60. Private sector jobs pay a bit or a lot more, depending on what private sector specifically, but if that's your goal, you're better off getting an MBA. I live in the District, where I pay a third of my salary in rent (and I make more than the numbers I quoted) and I live with roommates. Studios start at 1300 in Petworth and 1700 anywhere you want to live (without utilities). I found my place via Craigslist, where most of the other people in my price range were in their mid-30s. I have a friend in his early 30s who just got really excited at hitting the high 60s in salary, and he's in a quanty field. The metro costs ~$3 a ride depending on from and to, a taxi is $10-15 for short distances, a coffee is $3-5, lunch is $10 self-service or $25 sit-down, drinks are $6+ at happy hour, a quart of milk is ~$2, basic white eggs are $2, a big bag of Doritos is $5. Sales tax is 5.75%. You're paying 20-30% of your salary in various taxes before you take it home. Add a, what, $800 monthly loan payment to all that, and you're squeezed pretty tight.

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I want to second what other have said about realistically considering the costs of the programs your considering, and how you will pay down the debt. It's commonly suggested that you shouldn't take out more debt than you expect to make your first year, and while you can play around with this guideline (for example, by resolving to live really cheaply for your first few years out of school), this is more difficult than it seems. "Living cheaply" is hard with in an entry level IR position forces you to live in an expensive city, and living with three roommates and having no spending money looks one way when it's a future that's wrapped up in the excitement of considering grad school, and another way when you're actually living it.

If you can't estimate what your starting salary would be, I'd advise thinking in more detail about your career. I'm in a comparatively low-cost program, but I'm still surprised that there are students who have only hazy ideas of what'd they'd like to do, and then apply to basically everything when they graduate. You should have a focused idea of the jobs you'll be applying for before you start school, which allows you to really tailor your classes and networking.

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I apologize for the late replies. I don't want to keep derailing Postgrad's thread, so I will try to be as pithy as possible.

On 5/29/2017 at 7:19 PM, datik said:

What positions are you considering after you graduate? At what institutions? What are the starting salaries there? Are there current graduates from the schools you are considering in similar positions?

 

I am interested in joining the diplomatic corps of my country–although my previous work-experience has been entirely in the private sector. The starting salaries would equate to about 50k per year. Yes, of course: Fletcher in particular has a plethora of graduates in diplomatic corps.

On 5/29/2017 at 8:05 PM, ExponentialDecay said:
On 5/29/2017 at 6:42 PM, HazyandNarrow said:

 

On the contrary, perhaps I should've phrased my answer clearer: jobs in the IR industry do not pay enough money to pay down that debt. You shouldn't be taking out that loan for a degree in money tree horticulture, if your goal is to work in IR afterwards. Caveat, this is my personal opinion, as someone who likes to have savings and doesn't want to live with roommates when I'm 40. This is America, not Cameroon, so of course you won't be living in a cardboard box in an alley, but you will most likely face significant financial sacrifices.

I am in complete agreement with you regarding savings. I am expecting to have about 40k in interest-bearing debt upon graduation.

Edited by HazyandNarrow
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