Prospective political science student

Hello all I am currently a senior in high school and I am interested in political science and maybe pre law. I have my top 3 schools narrowed down (some are sports related if that is what you’re wondering), and it’s kind of a weird bunch.

I have narrowed it down to University of Mary Washington (VA), Gettysburg College (PA), Catholic University (DC) as of right now although that could change. Each has their own positives and negatives.
UMW is by far the cheapest, but it is not the best academically on the list.
Gettysburg is affordable, but it would be the most expensive for me and my parents, by far, and it is the farthest from DC, however, it has the best overall academics on my list.
Catholic is a good balance and is in DC, but it is still fairly expensive and still far from overall academics than Gettysburg.

I am just curious, would it be worth it to spend the extra blank amount to attend a better school in Gettysburg, or would it be better to attend the cheaper Catholic University, or even cheaper UMW?

I’m not looking for a specific answer, some advice is all I need, thanks!

PoliSci parent here: graduating debt free will make more of a difference to your career than which of those 3 entirely respectable colleges is the name on your diploma.

The political science field expects you to do lots of no/low pay internships before you get a proper job-and even then the entry level jobs are not well-paid. Being in the greater DC area will give you practical access to lots of internships, which are what you need. If you need to service college debt your ability to take those internships and poorly paid entry level jobs-which will lead to the jobs you really want.

Also, you are very likely to want to get a grad degree about 3-5 years after college- and those aren’t cheap! If you are still servicing undergrad debt that makes it even harder to afford.

Thank you for the helpful advice. I was kind of thinking about the cost factor because I would be interested in attending law school, advancing further in politics (masters, phd), or getting a masters in public policy, and like you said, none of those options are cheap. Also DC is where a lot of things are happening, so having connections there is vital. I will continue researching!

Is your state of residency in VA, PA, MD or elsewhere?


I’d look into the career placement/internship programs for each school. While it is likely that a DC based school will offer more opportunities, some schools outside of DC have very robust programs placing students with summer or semester internships.

Re post #5, that’s true, but imo a big advantage of DC based schools is the ability to intern during term time as well.

@BKSquared @SJ2727

I agree. With Gettysburg, they have a Washington Semester, which sounds great, but it’s almost like a study abroad program as opposed to simple internship opportunities. Catholic is a metro stop from Capitol Hill and UMW is a short amtrak ride to Union Station, which I think would lead to better opportunities using a shorter amount of time.

Perhaps try to talk with poli sci students at Catholic and learn about the difficulty (or ease) in securing relevant internships in DC. Often bigger schools get disproportionately bigger pieces of the pie, as Catholic students are vying for the same spots as other local students from Georgetown, Howard and American, for example. Catholic’s physical location is indeed the best for internship in DC. Gettysburg is not far from Harrisburg, where similar intern opportunities should be available, perhaps?

FWIW, although we did not visit any of the schools on your list we did visit 3 in DC, and they all said the same thing: the only students who do not get internships are those who do not want them. You may not always get first choice, but it sounded like there were more than enough internships to go round.

Let me complicate this: there’s nothing quite like actually being in DC when you have poli sci, govt, or related interests. Politics is in the air.

And I wouldn’t call it a short train ride from UMW. More like 80-90 minutes- and that’s just one-way.

But if $$ is an issue, focus on the 2nd best choice.

I see this argument regularly, that state capitals have comparable types of internships, but I’m not convinced. Not only does DC have Capitol Hill and its seemingly insatiable appetite for interns (free labor!) and all the national departments, it also has a number of other organizations that may add different angles to the field of politics one is interested in too. Examples: headquarters of a number of international organizations, the Smithsonians, Library of Congress, National Archives… heck, my daughter even found out about some at Ford’s Theater! She also knew someone at her college who interned at the White House. I’m sure there are many others I’m unaware of.

Thank you all so much for your help. Right now I am leaning more towards Catholic University, with UMW in second, but I’ll definitely apply to both. I’ve been to Catholic’s campus twice and the metro stop is basically right on the campus which can give access to Capitol Hill, the White House, the Smithsonian, different NGO’s, think tanks, etc. I realize it is more expensive than UMW, but I feel the cost (whatever it comes to) might be worth it due to the immediate proximity to DC.

If anyone has any further input that would be greatly appreciated!