The final category of admission decision is always the most difficult – those we are unable to admit. As you have gathered by now, admission to SIPA is competitive. We field applications from around 100 countries each year and the pool is very “deep” with talent and potential.
We seek to admit candidates that clearly demonstrate the ability to handle our rigorous curriculum and who are able to articulate their professional goals and how a SIPA education will help to achieve the stated goals. It is also true that most of those admitted to SIPA have accumulated full-time work and life experience since graduating from college.
The Admissions Committee is quite aware that there are number of variables associated with differences in culture and education systems. In some countries for example, it is normal for a student to go directly from college into a graduate program and then on to full-time employment. We also understand that some students spend considerable time completing internships during their course of study (or participate in extended leaves to work or intern) and that yes, this does constitute professional development.
However, one the greatest strengths of SIPA is the interaction that takes place between students in the program – interaction flavored by experience that can only be gained over time. I could try to elaborate with details from my own background (I entered graduate school at age 28 after working for 5 years) but rather than do that, let me quote an alumna of SIPA that did come straight out of college into our program, Olutayo Akingbe. Below is a question we asked her along with her response:
What was the most challenging part of your SIPA experience?
I would have to say that being very young (21 when I entered SIPA) while my colleagues were years older than me was a challenge for me. I didn’t have the work experience, or the life experience, that a lot of my classmates could bring to the table that enriched class discussion.
I turned the challenge into my advantage by using it as an opportunity to learn from the experience of my classmates but in hindsight, I wish I had a little more world experience before attending SIPA. I think I would have gotten more out of my education in the end.
On the topic of rejection, I will offer some personal thoughts. It is never easy for me to sign off on a rejection letter, but I take some solace in the fact that I know I would not be where I am today without having experienced rejection of my own.
Many, many years ago when I was a senior in college (and the walk to classes was uphill both ways) I knew that I wanted to get out of the U.S. for a while after graduating. I had my heart set on the Peace Corps and enthusiastically submitted my application.
A few months later I got a letter in the mail telling me a story many people hear this time of year: it was a very qualified and deep pool and I did not make the cut. It was very hard news for me to hear at the time, but looking back, it was the best thing that ever happened to me.
I still wanted to go overseas so I applied for English teaching jobs in several countries and ended up taking a job in Pusan, South Korea. I not only had a wonderful time in Korea, I met my wife while teaching. Looking back, I could not be more thankful that the Peace Corps letter was not the one I had hoped for; even though at the time I received it I was dismayed.
When I think about it a bit more, some of my greatest “failures” have turned into success stories. I played soccer most of my young life but did not make the team in high school. I was devastated but a friend recruited me to run cross country and I ended up getting a distance running scholarship in college. Shortly before moving to New York I had applied for what I thought was the perfect job for me on the west coast. The school took a pass on me and a short time later the door opened for me to move to New York which was the best thing that has happened for me professionally.
I share these stories to provide encouragement. Life is full of twists and turns. We often grapple to understand why things do not always turn out the way we want them to, only later to realize that difficult news opened doors we were later happy to walk through. Many of you will receive offers of admission and you will come to SIPA and do wonderful things. I have no doubt that those who do not come to SIPA will also go on to do wonderful things to help make the world a better place.
We have yet to start sending decisions but stay tuned for updates.