How Can New Students Can Get the Most Out of Their SIPA Experience?

It’s finally May, and our Class of 2018 is coming to the end of their journey here – graduation is less than 2 weeks away. Before they leave us, our Program Assistants imparted advice to future SIPA students as they look back on their own two years here.

Tedros Abraham, MIA ‘18: I have two pieces of advice for newly admitted students: Try to make a personal connection with at least one professor early on, and start applying to internships and jobs in the fall.

Professors at SIPA make themselves accessible and are always eager for students to come to their office hours before the rush of midterms and finals. By engaging professors in your field, you can gain access to practitioners who will be able to offer you insight on how best to position yourself in school for success afterwards. Furthermore, building a relationship early on will allow professors to write you strong letters of recommendation.

Between moving to a new city, readjusting to the rigors of academic life, and getting to know your cohort, it is easy to put off thinking about summer internships and jobs after school. However, doing so in your first semester is critical since so many competitive jobs and internships in larger organizations and government agencies have deadlines in the fall. The Office of Career Services hosts regular recruiting events on campus and sends weekly lists of opportunities. Take full advantage of these events and actively pursue opportunities on your own.

Mark Jamias, Five-Year Joint Bachelor/Master Program, ‘18

  • Many come to SIPA to grow as professionals, pushing the boundaries past their realms of working experience. Take classes for the learning curve, not the grading curve. In other words, don’t be afraid to get a B or a C in challenging classes. It’s better than an A in something you already knew.
  • One can learn just as much, if not more, from one’s peers. Take the time to prioritize people: learn what they do, understand from where they’re coming from and why they’re doing what they do. Every person at SIPA has their unique, amazing story (Hint: That’s why we chose you). Listen to theirs; share yours. Also, taking one hour out of your studying time to attend your partner’s opera performance, a classmate’s Capstone presentation, or simply to chat (read: vent) with a friend won’t cause you irrevocable academic doom. Besides, the people you meet here are much more interesting than monetary theory.
  • Break out of IAB: Step out of the International Affairs Building and visit Columbia’s other grad schools. There’s literally nothing stopping you from venturing to the Law School or Business School to attend talks and other social events. Take a few classes outside SIPA. Join university-wide clubs to get a true taste of Columbia’s diverse palate. Want your worldview really challenged? Go talk to an engineer; one can find them in Mudd at all hours of the night and day.
  • Make friends with the Five-Years. They’ve been at Columbia for 3-4 years, and they know what’s up. From the best coffee on or near campus, tricks to get discounts and free things using your Columbia ID, and fun library hacks and seat-scouting/staking strategies, the Five-Years have seen things and know their way around (read: work) this place.

Rahel Tekola, MPA ‘18: One of the best things I did before coming into SIPA is taking a step back and asking myself what is it that I want to gain out of this program, and what things can I do during my time at SIPA and New York City that will allow me to leverage the school and city to help me explore career, education and professional development opportunities.

Before moving to NYC I made a list of professors I wanted to meet with at SIPA, organizations and companies I wanted to connect with in NYC and practitioners in my area of interest that would entertain me for coffee. This exercise allowed me to hone in on my interests and really embrace the best parts of SIPA and NYC these past two years.

Suzanne El Sanadi, MPA ’18:

  • Take time every weekend to explore New York. The city is full of incredible opportunities ranging from the Bronx Zoo to the Transit Museum in Brooklyn!
  • Go on as many of the international student-led trips at SIPA as you can – you’ll not only learn about other cultures and governments but also make lifelong friends.
  • Jin Ramen is the best ramen spot up near Columbia – I wish that I had discovered it my first year!

Sebastian Osorio, MPA ‘18:

  • SIPA claims to be “where the world connects”, and it is really like that. With more than 100 nationalities among the student body it is truly the most international policy school. This means that you will find here a multiculturalism that will open your mind to new and different ways of thinking. Also you will make friends from all the corners of the world. What you gain from them is as important as what you get from class.
  • SIPA is a big school, which is great. The school needs a large academic offering for students with so many different backgrounds and interests. This means that you can take a lot of different courses in the same school – from the ones in Economic and Political Development, to the ones suited for people interested in journalism or energy or security policies.
  • SIPA offers the possibility to cross register courses from other schools at Columbia University. If there is another class or professor that you like but is not at SIPA, you can easily cross register with them and use them as credit for graduation. You can choose courses from the ones at Law, Engineering or Business Schools to the ones in Statistics, Psychology or Sociology departments, for example.
  • There are courses that you will find extremely interesting and some others that you will think weren’t suited for you. Make sure to talk to a lot of the second-year students for recommendations about classes aligned to your interests or extremely good professors.

A final reminder to our admitted students that today, May 1st, is the enrollment deadline for the upcoming fall semester. And we haven’t forgotten about our waitlisted candidates – we’ll start reviewing those applications this month. You’ll get an email once there’s an update, so thank you for your patience.