Author Archive for Emily Tao

Meeting current and future students, preparing for graduation, and a “Stealthy Starbucks”

While it’s slowing down a little bit for the Admissions and Financial Aid office, we’re still busy with everything happening on campus. Students and faculty are wrapping up finals, and the Class of 2019 is preparing for graduation — SIPA’s is this weekend, and the Columbia University-wide Commencement is next Wednesday.

You may have noticed that we’ve had a number of guest posts from SIPA students on the blog, talking about everything from student life to projects they worked on — we’ll keep this up so that you can continue to get a full student perspective.

A few updates:

  • I got the pleasure of meeting a group of Marist College students a few weeks ago, whose guidance counselor is herself a SIPA alum! Not all of the students were planning on applying immediately after graduation, but as I told them: If coming to SIPA is your goal, connect with us at Admissions sooner rather than later. It’s helpful to have time to learn and prepare for the application process instead of rushing last-minute while juggling everything else going on in your life.

  • A friendly reminder that the Yellow Ribbon Program is open for the 19/20 academic year. The application is available here under “The Yellow Ribbon Program.” For more information, please email sipa_finaid@columbia.edu.
  • SIPA alumni gave some advice for incoming students last year. I think it’s still relevant today in figuring out how to navigate any graduate school system.
  • And finally, a bit of light reading as we head into the end of the week: “At CIA Starbucks, even the baristas are covert”

If you’re a blog reader and are interested in a topic that we haven’t covered, feel free to email or submit an idea. Two recent posts were based on suggestions by readers like you.

APSIA, G4, and Connecting With Us

I’m preparing for a webinar right now with colleagues from several peer instutitions along the East Coast (The G4: Columbia SIPA, Georgetown MSFS, Tufts Fletcher, and Johns Hopkins SAIS), and I wanted to remind our blog readers about opportunities to connect with not just us at Columbia, but a variety of other great policy schools and graduate opportunities.

First, let’s explain the acronyms and names. The G4 (Group of 4 schools) are part of the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA). APSIA has many affiliated policy schools, but the G4 schools have been travling together to inform students about educational and career opportunities in international affairs for more than 40 years.

APSIA itself has a fantastic list of Fellowships & Scholarships, and their website lists a variety of global events where you can learn more about a graduate degree in international affairs. Last year Columbia SIPA attended APSIA events in Madrid, Paris, London, as well as a variety of places across the U.S.

It’s never too early to start thinking about entering a career tackling political, social, and economic challenges in the world. Even if you’re not planning on applying to graduate school this year, tap in APSIA and these other resources earlier. Reach out to us at SIPA, as well! Graduate school applications can be quite thorough and time-consuming to complete, especially if you’re applying to several schools at once, so it never hurts to prepare early.

As a quick update on what Columbia SIPA is up to, we have a few final webinars for admitted students coming up (check them out in the Welcome Portal!). The school year is winding down too, and SIPA students are barreling towards graduation in just a few weeks. Let us know what’s been on with you — I’m assuming it includes Beyonce and Game of Thrones, at the very least.

SIPA Admitted Students’ Day 2019

Last week we held our annual open house for the newly admitted MIA, MPA and MPA-DP incoming Class, Admitted Students’ Day 2019. While it was fantastic for us to meet many of the names behind the emails and calls, it was especially great for the admitted students to meet each other and the larger SIPA community, including faculty, alumni and current students.

Admitted students get a lot of specialized content to better inform them of what SIPA offers as a policy graduate school. This includes Faculty Webinars like this one with Vice Dean Scott Barrett,  and additional ones with Professor Tamar Mitts and and upcoming webinar with Professor Dipali Mukhopadhyay. While we can only share the first webinar, you can learn more about Professor Mitts’s work in big data within counterrorism here,  and Professor Mukhopadyay’s work in rebuilding countries post-conflict here.

Admitted students have also been meeting up with alumni all over the world, most recently in Washington, D.C.

Overheard at this D.C. meetup? “I was on the fence but after tonight I’m sold. I can see how close the alum are and it’s great y’all came here to answer questions.”

I encourage every person interested in SIPA, admitted student or thinking of applying in a bit, to directly connect with SIPA as much as possible. This might be connecting with SIPA alumni and/or current students, but it can also include researching what courses are available, or visiting classes in the fall and spring semesters. Finding out if a graduate school is right for you can be time-consuming, so it’s never bad to start early.

It was great meeting all of the admitted students last week – we hope you had fun – and we look forward to seeing the Class of 2021 in the fall.

A quick April update

We assume you’re all as busy as we are this April, so here’s a few updates on what’s been going on at SIPA:

Tomorrow is our Admitted Students’ Day event for the incoming SIPA Class of 2021. We’re excited to welcome them to Columbia University’s campus to meet the SIPA community of faculty, alumni, current and other admitted students! The Office of Admissions and Financial Aid will be closed tomorrow for the event, so please be patient with us if it takes a little longer to get back to your calls or emails.

Are you following @columbia.sipa on Instagram yet? Current SIPA students Kier Joy and Daniel White led a virtual tour of the International Affairs Building and led an admitted student Q&A. We’ll add their answers to Instagram soon, so here’s a sample: One admitted student asked “How does the size of the student body impact your ability to find community?”

  • Kier: “The advantage of being in a larger policy school is that there’s bound to be someone who’s interested in what you’re interested in! For example, I’m interested in the intersection of policy, blackness and America – so I created a WhatsApp group with black students at Orientation and got very involved with SIPA Students of Color on campus.”
  • Dan: “Classes are big enough to have discussions, but small enough that you can’t hide.”

To give prospective students a sample of the rigorous academics at SIPA, faculty members have been leading condensed virtual lectures and Q&As with prospective students. Thanks to all of you who joined in – we hope you learned something new! Here’s the first Faculty Webinar from Vice Dean Scott Barrett on “International Cooperation to Limit Climate Change.” Let us know what you think!

To those of you who have given feedback on what blog content you’d like to see, know that we have some SIPA students working on answering your questions. Wishing everyone a great week, and looking forward to meeting you admitted students tomorrow!

Next Steps for Admitted Students, Fall 2019

First, another congratulations to you on being accepted to Columbia SIPA! I hope you celebrated this achievement – it was a competitive applicant pool – and are now ready to go over a few things that every newly-admitted student should know. Top takeaways for you:

  • Check the Welcome Portal – a lot. Even if you’re not sure if you’ll end up here yet. Honestly, the Welcome Portal has everything you need regarding next steps. If you don’t want to read two iterations of this information, I would recommend the Welcome Portal.
  • Submitting your official documents and transcripts. This probably applies to you and is a new policy for SIPA.
  • Check your Status Page to avoid delays in registering for classes at SIPA.
  • Money, deposits and financial aid.

Check the Welcome Portal, even if you’re not sure where you’ll end up yet.

The Welcome Portal has everything you need regarding next steps. Even if you’re still deciding where you’ll be for the next few years, the Welcome Portal provides information to help you make that decision: about accepting your offer, upcoming deadlines, student housing information, and special events and webinars, including Faculty Q&As and Financial Aid advice.

The Welcome Portal also breaks down the following information about official transcripts, test scores, and other items that require a few extra steps for you to ensure you can start your school year off with no delays.

(For conditional admitted students: Some applicants were admitted on the condition that they take additional quantative preparation courses, or to enroll in ALP courses for the summer/fall, prior to enrolling at SIPA. Your overall application and achievements are admirable, and we believe you’ll be better equipped for success at SIPA by completing this coursework. Please check the Welcome Portal of the specific requirements and deadlines for these conditions.)

Submit your Official Documents – This is really important!

When you review the Welcome Portal, you’ll see 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 suggest you triple-check your Status Page to make sure all official Transcripts and Test Scores have been received by our office. If we don’t get these official documents by August 20, you will not be able to register for classes.

In the past few years, at least 90% of our accepted students did not submit all of their official documents to our office. This might be because you just haven’t submitted it because it wasn’t required until now. Another possibility is that items are sent to the wrong address or not delivered correctly, or for some reason the document submitted is not considered “official.” For example, even if you opened and scanned your official transcript from your college registrar, we cannot consider it “official” because it has technically been altered.

Check your Status Page

The last thing you want is a delay to starting off your school year, and that is easily avoided by checking in with the Status Page. This is where you’ll go to review your Application Checklist. Even though you’ve been accepted, there are a few items on the checklist that we need to finalize your academic record before August 2019. And if your record isn’t finalized, you won’t be able to register for classes during orientation. Don’t be that person!

Distinguishing if you’ve submitted your official vs unofficial documents can be confusing, so I’ll walk you through how to check this on your Status Page.

When you look at your Status Page, you see a green checkmark that indicates what we’ve received. Hover over this checkmark to see the pop-up text that will indicate if this item was “Received,” or we’ve only “Received Copy.”

An example of an official received item – hovering over the green checkmark shows a popup of Status: Received.

However, this applicant’s popup states “Status: Received Copy” next to their PTE Score Report. This means that their official test score has NOT been received by the Admissions office. (We’re sorry about this, we know it’s a hassle, but it’s a quirk of the system that we’re working with here.)

“How do I send in my official transcripts and test scores?”

All of this information is in the Welcome Portal (seriously, check it out if you haven’t already), but: Official transcripts and test scores must be on file by August 20, 2019. International students who won’t have conferred degrees until after the deadline should email us and we’ll make a note on their account.

There are extra requirements for students who attended Chinese institutions and students who attended a non-U.S. university. Specific instructions for all of this are, again, in the Welcome Portal.

A note on official test scores: If you truly know you sent us your official scores but we haven’t received them, there may be a workaround from re-ordering your test scores. Chances are your application name and email address are not recorded the same as the name and email address you registered to take the GRE/GMAT or TOEFL/IELTS/PTE with a few months ago. 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/cycle number and test registration number, for GRE and TOEFL scores; the appointment number and identification number for GMAT scores; or send us the official score report for IELTS/PTE scores.

Money, Deposits, and Financial Aid

Your enrollment deposit: You have until the date on your admission letter to accept your enrollment offer AND pay the $2,000.00 USD admission deposit. This deposit ultimately goes towards your tuition bill. While you don’t have to accept and pay the deposit at the same time, your deposit payment must be paid in full at once (so no partial payments). (UNIs will be generated within 1-2 weeks.)

Financial Aid and 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.)

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 the Financial Aid page for more information about funding your education, which includes a database of external funding opportunities.

Tuition, Fees, and Billing: Columbia University releases an annual estimated cost of attendance, which you can view for the 2019-2020 year here. Your tuition bill will be generated closer to the start of the academic term. You also have the option to set up a payment plan or coordinate your payments with a third-party sponsor. For more information on that process, browse the Student Financial Services website. (Note: The Office of Admissions & Financial Aid is not involved in this process.)

Contact Us

If you need anything give us a call or send an email. If you’re an admitted student with specific financial aid or fellowship inquiries, please email them with a descriptive and informative subject line to sipa_finaid@columbia.edu. Admissions questions can continue to go to sipa_admission@columbia.edu or sipa_new@columbia.edu.

You should also follow us on Instagram @Columbia.SIPA to share your admissions story and connect with future classmates!

And once again, congratulations to our admitted students!

"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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