Author Archive for Emily Tao

Upcoming scholarships and deadlines

The SIPA Financial Aid Office maintains a database of external funding opportunities, and we wanted to alert students to some upcoming application deadlines. For more external scholarship awards, visit our External Fellowships and Funding Sources page.

  • American Water Works Association Scholarships
    Requirements:
    Scholarships for students pursuing careers related to water supply and related fields
    Deadline: December 2, 2019
  • Margaret McNamara Education Grants
    Requirements:
    Applicants must be at least 25 years old at the time of the application deadline, a national of a country listed on the MMEG Country Eligibility list, enrolled for a full academic term after award and not related to a World Bank Group, IMF or Inter-American Development Bank.
    Deadline: January 15, 2020
  • Boren Graduate Fellowships
    Requirements:
    Applicants must be US citizens planning an overseas program that meets home institution standards in a country outside of Western Europe, Canada, Australia or New Zealand.
    Deadline: January 29, 2020
  • Lint Center for National Security Scholarships
    Requirements:
    Scholarships provided to Counterintelligence and National Security Workers, their children and scholars, and to advance the study of National Security, cross-cultural studies, and global understanding.
    Deadline: January 31, 2020
  • Straus Historical Society Scholarship
    Requirements:
    Applicants must be US citizens preparing for a career in public service.
    Deadline: January 31, 2020

Professor Glenn Denning, MPA-DP Program Director, giving the keynote address for the One World Festival

Last week Professor Glenn Denning, our MPA-DP Program Director led a public talk at #OneWorldFestival event at Queen’s University, Belfast. Professor Denning discussed how the world can build a sustainable food supply system in a time when an ever-increasing population is to reach 10 billion by 2050.

As he put it: “It’s not rocket science – we have all the knowledge we need. What we need to do is invest pro-actively and strategically or we face the catastrophe of famine and extreme environmental degradation we have all been warned about.”

Read more on what Professor Denning shared before the audience of the event here.

Learn more about the MPA-DP Program. Follow us on:

“Should I apply?”

I had the pleasure of meeting many prospective students while attending Idealist graduate fairs in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle recently. A question I kept getting over and over was, essentially, “Should I Apply?”

I’m still not sure how to answer because:

    1. You are the only person who knows if this is the best time for you. I can’t decide for you, nor can your family, mentors, or academic advisors. It’s a personal decision to make.
    2. If you are afraid of rejection, I promise you that I cannot “chance” you with the few pieces of information you provide when we chat. The SIPA website goes over what we look for here. We value a diverse class who can learn from and support each other, drawing from their various personal experiences, different areas of study, and career trajectories. This is the benefits of an interdisciplinary program like SIPA’s.

But if you want a short answer to “Should I apply?” — here’s my best shot at answering.

“I’m not sure if I’m the right type of student for SIPA. Should I apply?

I linked this post from 2012 that still rings true:

You should not apply if you don’t know what you want to do when you graduate. SIPA’s MIA, MPA and MPA-DP programs are only two years, which is not a lot of time. Knowing what direction you want to take your future in is important for moving your career forward, and using SIPA to get you there. Decision paralysis is real when you get to Columbia – each one class you take might mean 10 you cannot take. The Admissions Committee looks for your direction in your personal statement and application. Graduate school is challenging and a big investment, and we want to make sure this is the best path for you and your needs.

You should not apply if you’re interested in a straight theoretical/academia experience. There’s a reason we look for professional experience in the application is because SIPA’s programs are meant to prepare students as practitioners in their field, who can apply the theory as well as learn it.

You should not apply if you can’t interact with people with different perspectives. Even for a policy and international affairs school, SIPA is on the more diverse side (and working towards improving this), with almost 60 percent of our incoming class this year made up of international students. These different experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives all add to the learning experience of the classroom, but if you cannot engage these differences without going on an angry rant, for example, you should not apply.

I know SIPA looks for relevant professional work experience, but I think I’m ready. I’m coming straight out of undergrad. Should I apply?

Some people said “No, don’t apply yet” because you more out of the SIPA program when you come in already having enriching experiences.

Another student coming straight from undergrad said a strong yes. “SIPA’s rigorous education forced me to think about these issues in ways I previously never had.”

I highly recommend reading the linked blog post for perspectives from actual SIPA students who applied straight from undergrad. “Know that you are the only person who can decide when the time is right for you; and that the Admissions Committee does see applicants that would be fantastic candidates after a year or two of working. Graduate school is a huge commitment in time, resources, and opportunity cost, and every candidate should make sure they can get the most out of their time in school.”

“There is a part of my application that isn’t so great. Should I apply?

My short answer is, if you truly believe this is the right step for you, “Yes” — and use the optional essay to explain any unusual situations that you weren’t able to address anywhere else in the application.

I think there’s a misconception that successful people, like those who get into Columbia University SIPA, never fail. That they are flawless people who succeed in everything. But for anyone who has work experience, mistakes happen, and successful people learn from failure. Failures can help you grow.

We also understand that sometimes, life happens, often unpredictably. Adjusting to college as an 18-year-old can be difficult. Some people have employment gaps because they overworked themselves, or had a chance to travel the world and grabbed it. Sometimes you have personal issues that affect you, and you don’t realize it until much later.

That being said, we want to ensure students who attend SIPA can handle the rigorous curriculum here, which includes a foundation in policy and quantitative coursework at a graduate level. We want to ensure that you are certain SIPA is the right decision for you, and that you are able to articulate that.

Use the optional essay as an opportunity to address this. And if you have nothing to address, that is totally fine too. That’s why it’s optional.

Upcoming deadlines for external scholarships, and graduate fairs

Scholarship Opportunities

The SIPA Financial Aid Office maintains a database of external funding opportunities, and we wanted to alert students to some upcoming application deadlines. For more external scholarship awards, visit our External Fellowships and Funding Sources page.

  • La Unidad Latina Foundation – Graduate students working on community programs which aid in the civic empowerment and educational improvement of the Latino community may apply.
    Deadline: October 18, 2019
  • Bush Foundation Fellowship – Applicants must be at least 24 years old at the time of the application deadline and lived for one continuous year immediately prior to the application deadline in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, or one of the 23 Native nations that shares the same geographic area with these states.
    Deadline: October 24, 2019
  • Harvey Fellows Program – Applicants must be Christian graduate students who possess a unique vision to impact society through their fields and who are pursuing graduate studies at premier institutions (top five) in their disciplines in the United States or abroad.
    Deadline: November 1, 2019
  • Soros Fellowships for New Americans Applicants must be immigrants or children of immigrants —who are poised to make significant contributions to US society, culture, or their academic field.
    Deadline: November 1, 2019
  • American Association of University Women International Fellowship – Applicants must be women pursuing full-time graduate or postdoctoral study in the U.S. who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
    Deadline: November 15, 2019
  • Navajo Nation Scholarship – Navajo students attending graduate school may apply.
    Deadline: November 25, 2019

Admissions Graduate Fairs Opportunities

Admissions representatives (me, specifically!) will be at these upcoming graduate school fairs:

If you’re near the Columbia University campus, take advantage of our Class Visit opportunities this semester.

Check if we’ll be in a city near you anytime soon – our team is travelling globally to meet excellent candidates like you. If you can’t make it to see us in person, we’re holding virtual information sessions too:

I look forward to meeting y’all, whether it’s in-person or online.

Where we will be to meet prospective students; and some admissions tips

Visiting the beautiful Furman University campus in South Carolina.

We want to meet you.

I just got back from our G4 recruiting trip in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina with representatives from Tufts Fletcher, Georgetown Walsh School of Foreign Service, and Johns Hopkins SAIS. The G4 (Group of 4 schools) is part of the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA), and the G4 schools have been traveling together to inform students about educational and career opportunities in international affairs for more than 40 years.

The G4 group is currently visiting schools throughout Utah and Colorado this week, and I’ll be in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle next week for Idealist graduate fairs.

A great way to keep up with us the next few weeks is through our Recruitment Calendar. It lists all of the places around the world that you can meet an admissions staff and alumni in person. We highly encourage you to come out and meet us, especially if you are applying this term.

Class visits are open.

If you’re considering SIPA or graduate school at all, I highly recommend you visit a class this semester. I always encourage students to read through course descriptions and syllabi online, and experiencing the SIPA faculty and students in person may help you decide if this is where you want to spend two years for graduate school. This is a big commitment, and we want to ensure our students find the right fit and community. A great way to do that is through a class visit.

Evergreen admissions advice.

The Spring 2020 application deadline is next week and fall applications are picking up as well. I’ve noticed some spikes in activity on the blog and wanted to link some archived posts that may be helpful those going through the application process:

  • If you don’t know where to start: Program assistant Nabila Hassan MPA ’20 made an entire application timeline for you. This isn’t a definitive guide to follow, because everyone works at their own pace. But when you have a lot to do, sometimes it’s nice to have a checklist and a place to start, from someone who has been through the process.
  • If you want to help us, help you: This is a short list on how to best communicate with the Admissions Office here. We’re a small staff and often get busy, especially around deadlines time, and we want to ensure you get your information in a timely manner.
  • If you can’t find applicable advice in the archives: As we recommend in the “how to best communicate with us” post, familiarize yourself with the resources available; we have a ton. If you can’t find the information on our blog and want an in-depth walk through, submit an idea to this blog. We absolutely take requests from y’all, including one about being a first-generation student at Columbia, how to manage stress during the application process, being really good at math, and advice on adjusting back to an academic lifestyle.
  • If the video essay is freaking you out: Our program assistants are putting together a post on this! Every year I see searches for “video essay” spike around application time, so we’re putting together new content to walk you through it.

"The most global public policy school, where an international community of students and faculty address world challenges."

—Merit E. Janow, Dean, SIPA, Professor of Practice, International and Economic Law and International Affairs

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