Top 10 Application Tips – # 7 Fellowship Statement

This is the seventh entry in our “Top 10″ list to assist you with understanding the process of submitting your admission application to SIPA.  This entry is focused on advice regarding the section of the application entitled “Fellowship Statement.”

Funding a graduate school education can be challenging and I will offer additional insight regarding financial aid in some future entries, the point of this entry is to provide guidance on the information that we ask for on the admission application.

Question:  What do I need to do to be considered for a scholarship from SIPA?

Answer: Every single person that applies to SIPA is considered for scholarship funding.  Thus, all you need to do to be considered is to complete the admission application.

When an Admission Committee member reads the application and makes a decision, he or she can note that they wish for the candidate to be considered for scholarship from SIPA.  After all of our admission decisions are made the Committee then takes files that have been marked “consider for fellowship” and deliberates on who will be awarded funding.

Question:  Are international students treated differently in the scholarship consideration process?

Answer: No, all applicants are treated the same regardless of citizenship.  Scholarships are based on merit and we are looking for the best possible candidates for admission.  This may lead to the question . . .

Question:  “What characteristics does a successful scholarship candidate possess?”

Candidates we typically award first year scholarships to “stand out” among the crowd so to speak.  You could say that along with academic and professional excellence, successful candidates possess a unique story, motivation, and/or drive backed by action that sets them apart from the rest of the pool of applicants.

It might also be a candidate that overcame extreme obstacles to achieve success.  There is no formula or checklist that we use to nominate candidates for first year fellowship, we typically tell the Committee to identify the top 10-15% of files they read as worthy of scholarship consideration.

The decision of who to award scholarships to is very difficult for a few reasons.  First, our applicant pools are extremely qualified each year.  Every admitted applicant possesses an impressive record of accomplishments matched by unique characteristics that the Committee believes will make a strong contribution to the admitted class.

Second, the Committee is only able to award funding to approximately 10-15% of the admitted class.  SIPA reserves the majority of scholarship funding for second year students.  Not receiving a scholarship offer from SIPA as a newly admitted candidate should not be taken as a slight, it has more to do with the very accomplished pool of applicants and the limited amount of funding for the first year of study.

Non-Columbia Fellowships

SIPA does partner with several organizations to provide funding for admitted candidates.  In some cases we provide matching funding and in other cases we just wish to recognize the affiliation by granting our own scholarship to a candidate.  The organizations we partner with are listed in a drop down menu on the Fellowship Statement Page of the application.  See below for a picture:

You may choose up to two organizations you either have an affiliation with or organizations you have submitted applications to for funding.  The process is competitive and we are often not able to award funding to everyone that has a relationship with an affiliated organization.

For example we receive applications from many qualified alumni of the Peace Corps and we do set aside funding to recognize excellence during service in the Peace Corps, however with the large number of Peace Corps alumni applying we are unable to provide funding to every qualified candidate.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) – Timing

U.S. citizens and permanent residents interested in receiving funding from the Federal Government should submit the FAFSA, but please do not do so prior to January 1st, 2011.  The 2011-2012 FAFSA will be needed and the Department of Education does not post the form online until the new year starts.

Question:  What is meant by “head of household?”

Answer: By head of household we mean that you are either entirely responsible for your own finances or that you are the main source of income in a family unit.  The family unit should not include your mother or father.  An example of head of household would be that live on your own or that you are married and have been earning 50.1% or more of the income for your household (which might or might not include children).

Assets and Liabilities Sections

The instructions are fairly clear on the site, please only enter your assets/liabilities and if married include those of your spouse.  Do not include parental information.

Question:  Do I need to provide proof of the ability to pay for my education costs when I apply?

Answer: No.  Admission decisions take into account merit only, not the ability to pay.  International students admitted to the program will have to provide proof of funding to have a visa issued, however this process does not take place until after an international candidate has been admitted and paid an enrollment deposit.

Question:  Is the International Fellows Program (IFP) different from general SIPA scholarship funding?

Answer: Yes.  Consideration for scholarship funding through the International Fellows program is different from general SIPA scholarships.  To apply, applicants must submit a 300 word statement about why they wish to be considered.

It is not mandatory to apply for IFP funding, applying for IFP funding is optional and candidates who do not apply will not be viewed negatively.  For more information on the IFP program, please click here.

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