I’m a recently admitted undergrad transfer student (rising junior level) who’s torn in making a difficult decision between attending three really great universities. I’ve been accepted to the Elliott School of International Affairs (ESIA) at George Washington University (GW), although I may change my major and study Political Science at its Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. I’ve also been accepted to Northeastern University (NU), where I would potentially double-major in International Affairs and Political Science, and my third option is to attend University of Richmond (UR), where my intended major would be Political Science.
I understand the obvious advantages of attending GW, being located in DC, having direct access to numerous internships and job opportunities, being part its large and strong alumni network, and potentially being able to take classes with some top notch and notable DC professional faculty. However, I’m not completely convinced any of this merits the amount of debt attending would put me into by pursuing my BA degree there. I understand ESIA carries some prestige along with the GW name brand that may offer some more unique connections than the other two schools, but it may be difficult to capitalize on taking advantage of those opportunities as much as I’d would like to anyway, mainly because I’d most likely have to work the majority of my free time to support my finances when I’m not in class, which doesn’t leave much time for government internships or exploration of DC’s resources, nor make that time any more affordable when most of those opportunities tend to be unpaid. I suppose I could attempt to take out additional personal loans to help counter-balance my free time while in school, but I’d like to hear from any knowledgeable or experienced individuals from the GW community and/or professionals working in the industry who could attest to the value of getting my BA degree at GW, considering my circumstances, and of course anyone else can feel free to offer their own insight as well.
Money is an important factor of course, and while I’m receiving financial aid from all three schools, GW demands a much larger investment compared to the other two, which strikes the major question of whether or not going through all that trouble and debt just to attend GW is worth paying the extra cost in the long run. Here are the major financial details I’m specifically debating between my choices.
(THESE ARE COSTS PER YEAR)
GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY:
Estimated cost of attendance - $69,100
Total grant aid - $43,815
Remaining cost to me - $25,285 (Cost I’d have to pay out of pocket or use loans to pay)
Estimated cost of attendance - $64,954
Total grant aid - $53,615
Remaining cost to me - $11,339 (Cost I’d have to pay out of pocket or use loans to pay)
UNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND:
Estimated cost of attendance - $63,040
Total grant aid - $56,000
Remaining cost to me - $7,040 (Cost I’d have to pay out of pocket or use loans to pay)
It would take me 5 semesters at both GW or NU to complete my degree, while it would only take me 4 semesters at UR. This only matters mainly with GW because it will ultimately end up costing me more money in loans by the time I graduate.
Although working would help me to pay my per year costs a bit, I’d still end up taking out at least $7,150 in loans per semester at GW, if not several thousand dollars more. I already have about $15,000 of educational loan debt currently, so if you add 5 semesters of loans to that, the total will be at least $50,750, and could range up to possibly $60,000 if I need to rely on additional financial assistance.
In contrast, since all of my tuition is being fully covered at the other two universities, any loan assistance that I might require to help with any remaining living expenses would be much more minimal. Attending NU would allow me to double-major instead of having to choose between International Affairs or Political Science as would be the case at GW (simply because I can’t afford the extra credits and extra semesters it would take me to do this there), and NU offers an incredible co-op program that would potentially still allow me to work in DC if I wanted to, but instead of a part-time internship as is normally the case for GW students during the school year, it would be full-time for 6 months, and I’d be able to undertake up to two co-ops while at NU. Additionally, NU’s co-op programs can be pursued virtually anywhere in the world, due to their extensive international partnerships with participating employers. During the regular school semester, I could potentially attempt to intern at the Massachusetts State House or another local government office. Also, while I don’t know how NU’s alumni and recruiting networks compare with that of GW’s, its Career Services have been ranked #1 nationally for the last four consecutive years, if I’m not mistaken.
In UR’s case, I’m guaranteed funding of up to $4,000 to pay for one summer internship while pursuing my degree, which I could also choose to be in DC, although during the summer it will be more competitive to acquire one. Otherwise, I suppose I could try and intern locally at the Virginia General Assembly, or perhaps abroad through one of their intern abroad programs. Also, while it’s not around the corner, Richmond is not too far from DC either, and I’d still technically have access to the city and its networking resources. I don’t know much about UR’s extent of connections or resources though.
While I know each of these schools are quality institutions, I am less familiar with how employers interpret their competitiveness with one another, and less confident in assuming that NU or UR can put me at a greater advantage than GW could, even with consideration to their strengths. I also realize and anticipate that I’d most likely need and want to continue my studies by going to graduate school to be able to better compete with others in my field. Working as a Congressional staffer and even running for public office myself at some point are part of my career interests, but I’m also interested in the Foreign Service and international politics and diplomacy. I already have a half of year of full-time job experience as a State Department intern in DC, so hopefully that will help make it easier to obtain additional government opportunities. I’m also open to hearing about job recommendations that align with my interests if anyone might see some sort of fit here.
The only other thing I can think to mention is that I just turned 31, so professional networking is pretty important for me to make up for what I don’t have in younger years to waste. I appreciate any helpful feedback/comments!