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Which schools are more likely to accept MPPs out of college?

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I attended an info session at HKS and there was a college senior in my group and the woman leading the session essentially told him that unless he was a really outstanding applicant there was no chance of acceptance (I believe she said only 5% of the incoming class are straight from undergrad). When talking with a staff member at Harris, she said that about 1/3 of their incoming class has 0-1 years of experience, which is the highest portion that I've seen. Most of the top programs are closer to 15% for straight out of undergrad acceptances (SIPA, SAIS, and McCourt are all around there I believe). Not sure what the more mid-tier and specialized programs looks like, but those would probably be more accepting of younger applicants.

Edited by virgogrl56

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You will get so much more out of your graduate school experience if you spend a few years working beforehand. Not only will you have a better chance of getting into a top school (AND receiving scholarship money), but you'll have a much better sense of the coursework you want to take and how it will help your professional goals. Plus, you will be more likely to get hired after you finish an MPP if you have a few years of experience in addition to a degree. 

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5 minutes ago, wcw said:

You will get so much more out of your graduate school experience if you spend a few years working beforehand.

Seconding this. The question isn't what schools are likely to accept you straight out of college, but whether you will have a fulfilling experience that successfully positions you for a career in your chosen field. Even if you're confident you know what you want to do, this may change once you've actually worked in the space, and work experience will make it far easier to credibly network and focus your education while in grad school. 

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Current MPP here: def don't waste your time if you haven't worked a little bit first. You will find the classes extremely frustrating and it will be quite difficult for you to connect with your older, world-weary (joking, but only slightly) peers. 

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I think it really depends on the person's background. For example, someone coming straight out of undergrad who's done 2-3 summer internships at State and says they want to be an FSO (but want to get a grad degree first) is way more credible background-wise in my book than someone who's been teaching English abroad for a year or two and then up and decides they want go to grad school to be an FSO.

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All of them accept kids out of undergrad. I even know a few who received full rides, too. Not to be callous, but it's an expensive degree without much financial return, and they need tuition-paying butts in seats. A lot of especially the top programs swear up and down that they don't take undergrads, and especially because it's not true, I really think they say it selflessly for the undergrads' own benefit. There's many ways to skin a cat and I am no cat-skinning expert, of course, but imo, in America, there are few good reasons to get a professional degree without prior work experience, especially one you pay for, and especially this one. This field is so experience-based that the master's without work experience will confer no salary or responsibility bump on the job market. You'll be starting in the same place as your undergrad friends, only you'll be older and possibly in more debt. 

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When I was doing my MPA at Syracuse, there were a couple of students who came straight out of undergrad, but the vast majority of the class had full time work experience coming in.  Those that did come straight out of undergrad were very focused, extremely smart and very high achievers.  6 years out of grad school, they are doing very well.  People do MPAs/MPPs straight out of undergrad and do well, but it's certainly not the right/feasible choice for everyone.

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On 12/18/2017 at 11:27 AM, jj1776 said:

I think it really depends on the person's background. For example, someone coming straight out of undergrad who's done 2-3 summer internships at State and says they want to be an FSO (but want to get a grad degree first) is way more credible background-wise in my book than someone who's been teaching English abroad for a year or two and then up and decides they want go to grad school to be an FSO.

As someone who has taken the latter route in order to get experience in the country that I hope to specialize in, I have to say that my experience supplements my coursework and research in a practical way. There are people who do take the latter route because they don't know what to do with their lives, and I do agree that's the majority of the people who do expat teaching abroad work, but I would also argue that someone who's never been out of the country doesn't necessarily make the best FSO either.

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Undoubtedly there's value in living and teaching abroad, and I wasn't trying to diminish that route or generalize as to the motivations of those who take it. The point was simply a counterargument to those who claim that gaining a year or two of experience (as opposed to coming straight from undergrad) will help clarify one's professional goals and also help one get more out of the grad school experience. While that may be the case in many instances, in some instances it's not. I think it would be tough to argue that someone who's interned at State for several summers and is committed to becoming an FSO has a less clear idea of their professional goals or the skills that they would need to hone during grad school than someone who has been working full time for a few years (not at State) and also wants to be an FSO.

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13 hours ago, jj1776 said:

Undoubtedly there's value in living and teaching abroad, and I wasn't trying to diminish that route or generalize as to the motivations of those who take it. The point was simply a counterargument to those who claim that gaining a year or two of experience (as opposed to coming straight from undergrad) will help clarify one's professional goals and also help one get more out of the grad school experience. While that may be the case in many instances, in some instances it's not. I think it would be tough to argue that someone who's interned at State for several summers and is committed to becoming an FSO has a less clear idea of their professional goals or the skills that they would need to hone during grad school than someone who has been working full time for a few years (not at State) and also wants to be an FSO.

Doing a job for 3 months is not the same as doing a job for 3 years. 

I know nothing about foreign service, but in my corner, people are advised to work for 2-3 years to see if they don't burn out from the field. A lot of people coming into this work are idealistic, talk about "making a difference", and are unprepared for how frustrating, bureaucratic, limited, and uncertain that making a difference is. It's also an uncertain career that requires a lot of personal sacrifice, in particular of the work-life balance and moving away from home type, which is not for everyone's personality and circumstances. Time in the field also helps with figuring out what problem you're trying to solve. Again, not sure how this maps onto FS, which is probably more like the CIA/FBI, and 22 year olds are indeed easier to teach regurgitation of the party line, but you can see the difference in policy essays between kids out of undergrad and people who have been in the workforce. The latter's are much more detailed and relevant to the actual concerns of the field.

That said, can someone out of undergrad be a brilliant applicant and know what needs to be done and how they will do it just based on 2 internships? Hell yes. There are some extremely smart and proactive people in the world. But by that same virtue, it's no more true that an undergrad with two state internships is ceteris paribus a better applicant than someone with foreign teaching experience than the reverse. There are a lot of important unknowns in either case, so it's an individual question. Is it a good idea to advise both people to wait before gradschool? Yes. Simply because it's a hella expensive degree with 0 application outside the policy world that any person without strong footing inside that world has a very high chance of never using. 

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On 12/24/2017 at 1:49 AM, ExponentialDecay said:

Doing a job for 3 months is not the same as doing a job for 3 years. 

I know nothing about foreign service, but in my corner, people are advised to work for 2-3 years to see if they don't burn out from the field. A lot of people coming into this work are idealistic, talk about "making a difference", and are unprepared for how frustrating, bureaucratic, limited, and uncertain that making a difference is. It's also an uncertain career that requires a lot of personal sacrifice, in particular of the work-life balance and moving away from home type, which is not for everyone's personality and circumstances. Time in the field also helps with figuring out what problem you're trying to solve. Again, not sure how this maps onto FS, which is probably more like the CIA/FBI, and 22 year olds are indeed easier to teach regurgitation of the party line, but you can see the difference in policy essays between kids out of undergrad and people who have been in the workforce. The latter's are much more detailed and relevant to the actual concerns of the field.

That said, can someone out of undergrad be a brilliant applicant and know what needs to be done and how they will do it just based on 2 internships? Hell yes. There are some extremely smart and proactive people in the world. But by that same virtue, it's no more true that an undergrad with two state internships is ceteris paribus a better applicant than someone with foreign teaching experience than the reverse. There are a lot of important unknowns in either case, so it's an individual question. Is it a good idea to advise both people to wait before gradschool? Yes. Simply because it's a hella expensive degree with 0 application outside the policy world that any person without strong footing inside that world has a very high chance of never using. 

I'd like to clarify my position on this and add to what @ExponentialDecay has said: Interning at State is definitely different from being an FSO because the latter requires knowledge of what it's like to be a long-term expatriate.

After being an expatriate for 1.5 years, I'm crawling up the wall at the prospect of not being there for my aging parents (I'm an only child), missing out on talking to my friends because I'm 12+ hours ahead of them, and generally missing the network of friends that I've built up over the years. It's really draining and I'm very glad to be applying this cycle to head home to the States. Can someone who hasn't taken the expatriate route intrinsically understand that they would have the same emotional reaction? Of course.

But I suspect for most undergrads who are interested in IR policy (like I was, once upon a time) that reality does not sink in because the attractiveness of living and traveling around the world tends to outshine the reality of high divorce rates, third culture children, and not being able to influence policy as they had originally hoped they would.

And that is why I agree with everyone who has said that going to a master's degree straight out of undergrad is a pretty bad choice, all things considered.

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