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IR majors, convince me

andy_gandy_g Posts: 151Registered User Junior Member
edited April 2008 in University of Pennsylvania
sooo i have to decide between Stanford and Penn. both are amazing academically so i will most likely be deciding with other factors in mind. still, i was wondering if there were any International Relations majors around here that could shed some light on how good the IR program is at Penn, and what specifically you love about it. i know stanford's is one of the best in the country but im sure penn's is probably as good (plus better location.) i am pretty much in love with penn (as of now, still have to visit stanford)...but please tell me all you know about IR at Penn and why i should go there instead of stanford :) thanks in advance
Post edited by andy_g on
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Replies to: IR majors, convince me

  • jiayoujiayou Posts: 2Registered User New Member
  • Rister_ChutophsRister_Chutophs Posts: 1,373Registered User Senior Member
    PENN!

    -You're right that both are amazing academically but Stanford can't measure up to Penn in terms of social life/location.
    -You can take IR courses in the graduate/professional schools at Penn.
    -Penn has the largest percentage of international students in the Ivy League.
    -one of Penn's many strengths are the foreign languages which are an important part of IR
    -amazing study abroad opportunities (Stanford offers only "Stanford in ..." programs... at Penn, your experience will be a lot more authentic because they offer "immersion programs" where you really get to know the country your studying in.)
    -you' have more freedom choosing classes because Penn's GenEd curriculum has a lot of overlaps with the IR major requirements
    -Walter McDougall, PhD and director of the IR program (I wrote my essay about him :P)
  • 45 Percenter45 Percenter Posts: 4,084Registered User Senior Member
    You can take IR courses in the graduate/professional schools at Penn.
    This is a major advantage of Penn, especially under its "One University" policy, which strongly encourages undergrads to take courses in all 4 of the undergrad schools (College of Arts and Sciences, Wharton, School of Engineering and Applied Science, and Nursing), and in at least 8 of the grad/professional schools (Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Law School, Annenberg School for Communication, School of Design, School of Social Policy and Practice, Graduate School of Education, etc.), without the need for any special dispensation. It offers an undergraduate program that's unparalleled in its variety, breadth, and depth, and that goes far beyond the traditional liberal arts curriculum.
    Penn has the largest percentage of international students in the Ivy League.
    It actually has one of the largest percentages of international students of any major university in the US.
  • ilovebagelsilovebagels Posts: 3,499Registered User Senior Member
    As a graduating IR major from Penn (who picked it over Stanford), here is what I can say:

    ACADEMICS
    IR is one of the most rigorous liberal arts-based majors at Penn. Being admitted as a major requires first completing prerequisite courses in political science, world history, micro- and macroeconomics and scoring a minimum of 3.10. Then comes a one-on-one interview. To graduate, IR students are required to write a senior thesis that ranges in length from 50 to 100 or so pages. Students who cannot or will not do all this will major in political science with an IR concentration. Wussies!

    One of the unique aspects of Penn IR is the unbeatable academic breadth afforded by Penn's "One University" policy, which opens up all four of Penn's undergraduate schools and most of its graduate schools to you. For the IR major, this means you can take courses beyond the conventional scope of 'international relations' that will give you a richer perspective than someone who does not have access to business or law school classes. Any school has an anthropology department that will tell you why the WTO is evil, and any school has an economics department that will tell you why the WTO is great--at Penn, you can also take wharton classes that eschew both positions and tell you how the whole thing really works. I have--the multinational management courses at Wharton that count towards the Penn IR major are fascinating. The same benefits can be had from, say, a course called "China & International Law" taught in Penn Law.

    HONORS
    Ultimately the proof is in the pudding, and IR students do very well in grad school and job placement. The IR program is very rigorous and employers/grad schools know it. In the time I have been here, IR students have won Truman, Fulbright and Rhodes scholarships. I'm sure there are more but those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head

    CAREERS
    Freshly-minted IR grads go into elite consulting, banking, public policy, government, intelligence services, military, and other groups. I myself have interned for Apple (yes, that Apple) in Beijing for their Asia-Pacific operations, and will be moving to India to work in a management training program for a rapidly growing Indian conglomerate (I'm not Indian; I'm white as they get)



    My roommate, secret nemesis, and even more secret lover Mengcheng is also an IR major. Right now he is at a professor's house going through his book collection, but I'm sure he will return and offer his 2 cents (or 1.2 euro cents) worth. And while next year I will in India dealing with multinational management and malaria next year, Mengcheng will still be around to take you under his hyperactive and morally suspect wing.

    MENGCHENG, FROM THE BOWELS OF HADES I SUMMON THEE
  • davida1davida1 Posts: 312. Member
    Penn over Stanford!? You should have strong reasons.
  • broetchenbroetchen Posts: 1,130Registered User Member
    Great post, ilb.
    Couple of quick questions"
    Did you have to take any pre-req's for those Wharton classes?
    Does IR at Penn require a senior thesis?
    Did you get that Apple internship through career services or on your own?
  • mengcheng9287mengcheng9287 Posts: 1,018Registered User Member
    it seems as if bagels has already given this thread an extremely cogent argument for choosing Penn IR over stanford (while giving me a beej)

    all i can say then is that penn is going to offer you a lot more great people's connections ontop of the superb academics. And its arguable that our history, econ, and poly sci departments are all slightly better than stanford's. and being an excellent IR student, youre going to want to broaden your horizons with some great graduate/business classes. and no one knows business like wharton. but thats just a side perk. come to the east coast, you will appreciate the fact that you are close to dc, the hub of the action. upenn ugrad undoubtedly.
  • legendofmaxlegendofmax Posts: 4,732Registered User Senior Member
    It's actually a real major!
  • 45 Percenter45 Percenter Posts: 4,084Registered User Senior Member
    davida1 wrote:
    Penn over Stanford!? You should have strong reasons.
    This is what is known as "conventional wisdom."

    BOR-ING.

    It's a lot more fun to learn as much as you can about each school and figure things out for yourself.

    (Be an opinion LEADER, not a follower. :) )
  • andy_gandy_g Posts: 151Registered User Junior Member
    thanks for all the answers you've been most helpful :) ...i think im leaning towards penn right now. i see myself in philly rather than in palo alto and if the program is so great...i actually have a few more questions if you would indulge me. how many students get into the IR program in a year?? my academic background is very limited and while i will do my very best to do well at penn (and am taking their word that if you get in you can definitely handle the coursework), could i reapply if for any reason i dont get accepted the first time?? how easy/accesible is it to take classes at the graduate schools and how soon could one take them?? thanks guys :)
  • ilovebagelsilovebagels Posts: 3,499Registered User Senior Member
    Great post, ilb.
    Couple of quick questions"
    Did you have to take any pre-req's for those Wharton classes?
    Does IR at Penn require a senior thesis?
    Did you get that Apple internship through career services or on your own?

    1. Thanks!
    2. For the management classes, IR majors are exempt from the requirements that Wharton students face. As for the international finance courses that can count towards an IR major, I don't have experience with those but I imagine those prerequisites in math and accounting would have to be met (frankly I don't know how you'd do the courses without them anyway!)
    3. Yes, IR major requires a senior thesis, honors or not. Honors simply requires a bigger one
    4. Through my own initiative, but with the aid of career services (they're very eager to help, you know!). Apple doesn't do much in the way of east coast recruiting, but they do offer internships. You just have to go to their website. My housemate got one too.
  • ilovebagelsilovebagels Posts: 3,499Registered User Senior Member
    how many students get into the IR program in a year?? my academic background is very limited and while i will do my very best to do well at penn (and am taking their word that if you get in you can definitely handle the coursework), could i reapply if for any reason i dont get accepted the first time?? how easy/accesible is it to take classes at the graduate schools and how soon could one take them??

    1. The program has ~100 students. That would make it about ~25 each year.
    2. Yes, definitely. Don't worry too much though. There is no hard limit on how many students they are willing to taken in, and if you've made it past the prerequisites, then they will figure you can surely handle the rest ;)
    3. It is very, VERY easy. All of Penn's schools use the same course registration/management system. For undergraduate courses in Wharton, SEAS, or Nursing (and of course CAS), the process is seamless. You simply go and add the course as you would any other. Some courses will be restricted by permit. All this means is you have to email the professor with a brief 3 sentence email saying you're so-and-so, you're an IR major, and you'd like a permit for the course in question. I've never had a professor refuse to issue me a permit.

    For grad schools, the one that you are most likely to use is Penn Law, which has the process explained here. Penn Law: Law Classes are not just for Law Students As you can see it's pretty straightfoward. Fill out a very simple sheet and wait.
    They say "upper-class students" but the definition is vague, perhaps intentionally. Depending on who you ask, an upperclassman is either anyone who is older than a freshman, or only juniors and seniors. Either way I certainly wouldn't recommend taking these law school courses as a freshman. You've got enough on your plate that year as it is!

    If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask! Philly is definitely more fun than Palo Alto, and I hope you get the chance to find that out yourself in the fall.
  • 45 Percenter45 Percenter Posts: 4,084Registered User Senior Member
    ^ (don't forget to tell him about all the bagels)
  • chocomanchocoman Posts: 2,293Registered User Senior Member
    ilovebagels is slightly mistaken. I believe the number of IR majors is in the 150 range, but since freshman aren't declared, and most sophomores aren't until the end of the year, most are juniors and seniors.

    Think of it this way: next fall there will be 5 senior thesis sections for IR, each with 20 people. I don't think all of them will be full, but that's a good estimate of how many seniors in IR there are.

    Too bad all of them will be wasting their time because I will be taking home the senior thesis prize.
  • freetensefreetense Posts: 96Registered User Junior Member
    IR at penn is better since you won't have californian hippies telling you what to think about the world

    also, LOL @ chocoman taking the senior thesis prize. maybe you haven't heard of me. i'm a big deal
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