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Thread: Berkeley ARE vs HKS

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    Berkeley ARE vs HKS

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    Iíve been fortunate to have offers from Berkeley ARE and HKSís Public Policy PhD. I plan on attending Visit Days at both. I worry, though, that Iím still going to feel conflicted even after visiting the two schools.

    My interests are in environment/development economics and the policy implications of research in those areas. My general impression is that within this field, Berkeley ARE is the gold standard, and the curriculum seems more rigorous overall. However, HKS still has amazing faculty and potentially beats Berkeley in branding.

    Looking at recent past placements, I think Berkeley ARE places slightly better than HKS. My goal as of right now is to teach at a liberal arts college or work in a regulatory body or at a think tank, so Iím tempted to say I donít need to worry about marginal differences in placement.

    Another thought I have is that Harvard as a whole is better funded than Berkeley as a whole. Would this affect opportunities at the graduate school level (ie. being able to attend conferences that are far from campus)?

    Does this seem accurate? Iíd also appreciate suggestions on best questions to ask during Visit Days.

    Thanks in advance!

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    Re: Berkeley ARE vs HKS

    Congratulations on these acceptances. I wouldn't put any weight on 'branding'. Both have excellent reputations and regularly train top tier scholars. You own output will be far more important than the name brand (among these two). I probably wouldn't put too much weight on funding either. You could ask current students at each school whether they feel they have sufficient resources for data and travel to get a sense of whether this matters to them. I'd be surprised if it does.

    Main thing to ask on visit day is whether students are happy there. What they like about the program. Anything they don't like. Anything they know now that would have been useful when making a decision? Which professors are most accessible? Any professors that students avoid or that doesn't work with graduate students?

    I would focus on picking the program that has a larger group of students and faculty working in your area of interest, who get good jobs, and that students seem happy.

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    Re: Berkeley ARE vs HKS

    Thanks for your advice! So is it fair to say that holding everything else equal, the same types of opportunities would be available to me after graduating?

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    Re: Berkeley ARE vs HKS

    Quote Originally Posted by chipper View Post
    Thanks for your advice! So is it fair to say that holding everything else equal, the same types of opportunities would be available to me after graduating?
    Broadly, yes. Both places are very good in development economics. I'm not as familiar with the environmental field. Having said that, once you dig in a bit, you may find that one has some advantages over the other.
    Last edited by tbe; 03-08-2019 at 05:35 PM.

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    Re: Berkeley ARE vs HKS

    Thanks! I appreciate your thoughts!

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    Re: Berkeley ARE vs HKS

    Berkeley econ student here, with some knowledge of HKS as well.

    I'd second all of tbe's comments. Branding is irrelevant. I don't think funding opportunities would differ substantially, but perhaps you can ask more about this on visit days. Both of these programs are excellent, particularly so for your interests. Like tbe, I don't know about environmental at HKS, but I know both departments are very strong in dev and I know Berkeley ARE is strong in environmental. I would wager that overall the curriculum is slightly more rigorous at Berkeley ARE, though this may not be a large difference - in both programs you take some first year courses with econ and some within your department and potentially mixed with some other humanities students.

    On the whole, I agree these are not easy to distinguish (because both are similarly great programs!).

    Similar to tbe's comment, I'd recommend paying attention to the more holistic questions on visit days. What do you think of the other admitted students you talk to? You will be spending a lot of time with them, and you may learn a lot of the material more from your peers than from professors. You may even co-author with some of them. You'll likely be hanging out with them unrelated to classes. Do you have a preference for living in Cambridge/Boston or Berkeley/SF? If you've never been to either location, it could be worth having an extra day to go around town a bit. Again, you'll be living here for 5-6 years, you want to be somewhere that makes you happy (and productive).

    Good luck - these both seem like ideal programs for you, so you can't go wrong.

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