What can I do now?

A few prospective applicants have asked me recently what they can be doing now to improve their chances of attending SIPA.  One thing you can not do now is start filling out the application.  The application for fall 2012 consideration will not be available until September 1st.  However, the first thing you can do is become familiar with the process and what we require applicants to submit.  You can do this by visiting our application check list site.

Do note that we have not finalized the personal statement questions for fall 2012.  An update will be posted to this blog as soon as final questions/topics have been decided upon.  There will also be a series on this blog that addresses each part of the application.  The series will likely start in August.

Second, it is no secret, both graduate school and New York City can be expensive.  My advice is always to be on the hunt for scholarship opportunities.  It is never too early to start looking.  My recommendation is that applicants spend a minimum of twice the amount of time applying for scholarships and grants as applying for graduate school.

Yes SIPA does award scholarships to incoming students, but not to the majority of incoming students.  Therefore it is wise to begin the search for scholarships and grants now.  I do not recommend waiting until after you receive your admission decision to start looking for funding.  We do our best to assist by providing a database of external grants/scholarships/fellowships.  You can access it by clicking here.

Many scholarships do require letters of recommendation and so you should also start thinking about the people you are going to ask to compose letters for you.  If you are applying for several graduate school programs and several scholarship programs you should start to think strategically about who you are going to ask for letters of recommendation and when.  I do warn against letter of recommendation fatigue.  What do I mean by this?

Let’s say you are applying for three graduate programs and five scholarship programs.  It might not be wise to ask the same person for a letter of recommendation eight different times in this instance.  Perhaps you contact the person you wish to write a letter for you and tell him or her that you would like two different versions – one for admission to a program and one for a scholarship opportunity.  You can then ask  the person to give you several copies in sealed envelops so the letters are ready to submit anytime you are ready.  Or you can tell the individuals to be prepared to receive instructions via email.  This is the case with SIPA.  We ask you to fill in the name and email of your recommenders in our system and once you do so the system generates an email with instructions on how to submit their letter.

There are other practical things to consider as well.  I recommend having one or two people proofread your resume and personal statement.  Start to think about who you will ask and contact them early so they can plan this into their schedule.

So my advice at this time is to start the planning process.  Find out when application and fellowship deadlines are and start to plug them in to your calendar.  As one of my old coaches said, “Luck favors the prepared.”  The application deadline for SIPA’s two-year, full-time MIA, MPA, and MPA-DP programs for fall 2012 is January 5th, 2012.