I'm lucky enough to be spoiled for choice, but each of these schools bring something unique to the table, and I'm not sure which to choose.
First, background. I have a strong background in economics, b/n my undergraduate major and a couple years in macroeconomic policy. I'd like to focus on strategic studies at my chosen school. I'll likely be going for a job in the Foreign Service after finishing the MA. I'm probably going to combine this degree with an MBA. Finally, I don't handle cutthroat environments well and prefer relaxed areas.
Finances: Fletcher is giving me $20k (half of tuition), SIPA is giving $15k, SAIS $13k, and I don't know Harvard's scholarship offer yet (if one exists).
- Fletcher (MALD) was the first to notify me and has been showing the love. From what I've read, their program is the most flexible and the most close-knit. They're also giving me the most money. I haven't attended the open houses yet, but the general sentiment seems to be that students are quite happy there (something that carries a lot of weight for me). My principal concern about this program is its brand/reputation. Just from conversations with friends/coworkers, there is little recognition of the program relative to SAIS and especially HKS. I don't know how much the outside-DC location will harm job prospects.
- SIPA (MIA) has a large and strong program, but I worry that it is too big and sprawled out. I've read that some students need to submit cover letters and CVs for courses, which is very unappealing to me. But it carries Columbia's strong name. New York would be an amazing place to live, though I don't know how much I'd be able to do without a salary.
- SAIS (MA) has maybe the best reputation in IR and what seems like a highly touted strategic studies concentration, but I worry about its econ requirements (which I feel will be unnecessary given my background) and reputation for arrogance.
- Harvard (MPP) has a name/brand unlike any other school. If I end up not going into the Foreign Service, it probably positions me for a job better than any of the other schools. It has a unique curriculum, but one that focuses more on public management more than other programs. Its international focus is also more lacking compared to the other programs.
Thoughts? If any of my impressions are incorrect, let me know. Anything I'm missing? I'll be visiting the programs' open houses, and my decision will be largely influenced by those. But it would be helpful to have outsider opinions too.