Application feedback for those who weren’t admitted to the Fall 2016 term

Decisions have been released for the two-year programs, and many of you received the letter you were patiently hoping to read for several weeks. However, not everyone got the news they wanted when they checked their email last week. For those who wanted to know where their application took a wrong turn, the Admissions Office cannot answer that question for every applicant we turned down. I wish we could, but we simply do not have the resources to go through every application, re-review them and offer individualized feedback.

Instead, I’m going to share some information from our website, entitled “Requesting Feedback.” But before you read it, go back to your Status Page, scroll down to the bottom, and download the PDF proof of your application. Take another look at it, and try to review it objectively. Then, read the text below because it outlines the application criteria we used to evaluate your application for admission. If you’re honest with yourself and your application materials, you’ll be able to spot the shortfalls in your application easily.

applicationproof-statuspage

Ultimately, it’s my hope you’ll be able to use the information below to strengthen your application for next year and re-apply to the program. (In fact, I encourage it, as it’s not unheard of for a re-applicant to receive admission after they’ve taken a couple of years to strengthen their qualifications.)

Academic Background
The Admissions Committee looks for a strong undergraduate academic record, especially in the areas relevant to the core curriculum, such as political science and/or economics.  They look for strong grades (in the American grading system, a grade of A or B) in courses that demonstrate writing skills and quantitative skills.

Quantitative Background
The committee looks for evidence of the candidate’s ability to handle quantitative coursework since the degree’s core requirements include economics and statistics. If you do not have a strong background in this area you might want to consider taking additional economics or statistics coursework before you reapply. You may take these courses at any university, college, or community college that is convenient, and please take them soon enough, so that you can include a transcript with your future application.

Career Goals
Your essay should provide us with sufficient information about your professional objectives and their connection to the programs offered at the School of International and Public Affairs. While we understand that not every student has come to a clear decision about his or her future plans, your application will be improved if we have some understanding of your career goals. If your essay does not clearly describe your intended career plans, we suggest rewriting your essay to provide more information about your professional ambitions and why you have chosen this professionally-oriented policy program rather than another type of graduate school to pursue those goals. It is also important that your essay explains how your prior professional and volunteer experiences have contributed to your career plans. You should explain clearly what role you played in the organizations where you have worked or volunteered in the past, what skills you developed, and how they have prepared you for a career in your chosen specialization within International Affairs. Please note that “International Affairs” is not a specific enough designation for your career goals. It is an umbrella term for a great variety of specific careers.

Professional Experience
The Committee looks for professional level, relevant work or volunteer experience in your fields of interest. The average SIPA student has 3-5 years of post-undergraduate relevant work or volunteer experience. But this does not imply that all students fall within the same range. Accepted applicants ranged from students straight from undergraduate institutions to professionals with 30 years of experience. Students admitted directly from undergraduate study usually have summer work, internships, or volunteer work that is directly related to their career choices. Generally, the shorter the duration of work experience, the more directly it must be related to the applicant’s chosen field of interest. If you feel that the lack of professional experience is a weakness for you, you may want to gain more experience before you reapply or see the above category for suggestions on how to rewrite your essay to explain how your prior professional and volunteer experiences have contributed to your career plans.

TOEFL
International students whose first language is not English and whose bachelor’s degree was not earned at an institution where English is the primary language of instruction; must demonstrate proficiency in English with a TOEFL score of at least 100 (or IELTS score of at least a 7).  If your score is below this minimum, there is concern that you may have difficulty understanding lectures and preparing written assignments.  You may want to consider intensive English training before you retake the TOEFL (IELTS) and reapply.