What Fall 2016 admitted students should know going forward

Most of you reading this blog post received the admission decision you were hoping to get when you applied to SIPA this year. You should be proud of your achievement. There was a competitive applicant pool and your application was exemplary. And now that the celebrations have died down a bit, I wanted to recap a few things that every newly-admitted student should know going forward.

The Welcome Portal

The Welcome Portal has everything you need regarding next steps. It tells you about upcoming deadlines and special events, offers advice on how to apply for student housing, includes details about Admitted Students’ Day in April, and even explains the visa process and ALP requirement for international students. So review the Welcome Portal to explore the many benefits of being a Columbia University student. This is also where you’ll go to accept your admissions offer by April 15/May 1, depending on what your admission letter says. (Log-in details for the Welcome Portal may be found in your admissions letter.)

I also invite you to follow us on Instagram (@Columbia.SIPA) and share your admissions story with us using #IGotIntoSIPA. (There’s also a hidden surprise in the Welcome Portal that’ll make sharing your good news so much easier!)

Your Status Page

Before the academic term starts, you’re going to get sick and tired of me mentioning the Status Page (especially through reminder emails). But I only bug you because I care, and I want you to start off the school year without any delays. Your Status Page is where you go to review your Application Checklist. There are a few items on your checklist that we must have in order to finalize your academic record before August 2016. And if your record isn’t finalized, you won’t be able to register for classes during Fall 2016 orientation. (Gasp!)

Official Documents
When you review the Welcome Portal, you’ll notice a section that outlines upcoming deadlines for the Application Checklist materials, also known as official documents. These are hard deadlines for the Admissions Office to receive your official documents, mainly transcripts and test scores. I can guarantee that 90% of you have not submitting all of your official documents to our office. Here’s what I mean: You applied to SIPA. You submitted a scanned copy of your college transcript(s). You were admitted to SIPA with that scanned transcript(s). But guess what, it’s still a scan of a transcript, which means it is an unofficial copy. Even if your college registrar’s office handed you an official transcript, since you opened it and scanned it, we must considered it as an unofficial copy. It’s technically been altered, so it doesn’t count as an official document.

To help you remember that fact, I added these nifty little notifications at the top of your Status Page that tell you which documents we’re missing.

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But wait, your Status Page has a green checkmark next to your transcript(s) and you’re still seeing these notifications. Well, chances are the notifications are there for a reason. The checklist is referring to your unofficial copy tied to your admissions application: just cross check the upload date and hover over the checkmark to see if the pop-up text reads “Received Copy” or “Received.” Still confused? Then read this blog post,  “Dissecting the Application Checklist.” (And yes, the blog post is highlighted in yellow on your Status Page for all time.) (P.S. These messages will not appear on your Status Page until after you have responded to your admission offer and paid the enrollment deposit.)

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Got it now? Good! The process for sending us your official transcripts and test scores is outlined in the Welcome Portal. I’ve also included it below:

Official transcripts and test scores are due by July 1, 2016 (unless instructed otherwise).

Official test scores must be sent to us by the testing company (e.g., ETS, GMAC).

  • GRE/TOEFL ibt school code: 2161 (no department code)
  • GMAT school code: MIA is QF8-64-56; MPA is QF8-64-99

You may mail your official transcripts to:

Columbia University | SIPA
Office of Admissions & Financial Aid
514 West 113th Street
New York, New York 10025

Or email to sipa_admission@sipa.columbia.edu, but the transcripts must be sent from the registrar’s office through a service like eSCRIP-SAFE in order to be considered official.

Official Test Scores
The same rules outlined above apply to your official test scores. But if you truly know you sent us your official scores, there may be a workaround from re-ordering your test scores. Chances are your application name and email address aren’t the same as the name and email address you registered to take the GRE/GMAT or TOEFL/IELTS with a few months ago. (You may recall us warning against this in the application instructions.) Thus, we couldn’t match the exam to your account because of the mismatch. If that’s the case, contact the testing center and confirm your full name, date of birth and email address associated with your account. You’ll need to send us that information, along with the batch number/cycle number for GRE and TOEFL scores; the appointment number and identification number for GMAT scores; or send us the official score report hard copy for IELTS scores.

Fellowships & Scholarships

Financial Aid & Fellowships
If you received a scholarship or fellowship, you will have received a separate notification letter about your funding along with your letter of admission. (Early-action candidates had to wait until now to learn about their funding status.) For domestic students, we’ll also communicate student loans and work-study details in award letters, but you’ll only receive that letter after you’ve submitted a FAFSA at www.fafsa.ed.gov, using school code 002707. In order to be considered for financial aid, it’s important that you submit your FAFSA as soon as possible. The sooner you submit it, the sooner our financial aid staff can issue your award letter. Most financial-aid packages are released one to two weeks after your FAFSA is received.

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To see your funding letters, go to your Status Page, scroll down to where it says Status Update and click on the View Update link. From there, you’ll be directed to your admission letter (confetti! yay!). Then you’ll need to scroll down to the bottom of your letter. This is where you’ll see if you have one (or several) letters available to read. If there’s an additional dated hyperlink then that means you have another message in your account. So click on it!


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All students, whether funded their first year or not, will be able to apply for second-year funding. Most of this funding is in the form of assistantships for second-year students who succeeded in their first year of studies. (You’ll learn more about these opportunities during the spring semester of your first year.)

We also encourage you to visit https://new.sipa.columbia.edu/financial-aid for more information about funding your education, which includes a database of external funding opportunities.

Dual-Degree Funding
If you’ve been admitted to SIPA as a dual-degree student and were offered funding, the first year of funding is for 2016/17 and the second year of funding is for 2017-18. So if a dual-degree student starts at SIPA and spends Year 2 elsewhere, they get their first-year award, but not their second-year award from SIPA. (The same holds true in reverse.) We can’t extend any part of your second-year award beyond the spring semester of 2018, so you really have to complete your studies at SIPA prior to moving on to the next institution. Why? Well, in order to receive four semesters worth of aid from SIPA, you have to attend SIPA all four semesters. So if you decide to start your studies at another Columbia graduate school, then you actually become one of their students, and not ours, so funding and tuition payments become your responsibility with the other school. And keep in mind if you decide to defer your admission, you forfeit all of your funding because we awarded you merit-based aid on the condition you start at SIPA in the 2016/17 academic year.

Additionally, if any admitted students have any specific financial-aid inquiries, please email them with a descriptive and informative subject line to sipa_finaid@columbia.edu.

That’s all the advice I have for now. If you need anything give us a call or send an email. And once again, congratulations to our admitted students!