Author Archive for Emily Tao

The January 5th deadline has passed. What happens now?

It’s Winter Break but January is a busy time for us here in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid due to the influx of applications (and application-related questions!). We’re very excited to be reading your applications, by the way. But enough about us – I’d like to update you a little on what to expect.

I submitted my application by the January 5th deadline. What now?

Now, we ask for your patience! In the meantime, you can review the Admissions FAQs for peace of mind: “Decision notifications are posted to the application portal. You will receive an email when a decision is available. The Admissions Committee will begin reviewing fall applications starting in January once all required materials have been received. Fall decisions are communicated in mid-March.”

You can also check out the SIPA external funding sources page, either to explore what is available or start on gathering (more) resources for scholarships and funding.

I’m shooting for the February 5th deadline, what about me?

Make sure you have everything in order to take your shot for February 5th. This blog itself has many resources, so do dig around a little bit. At this point I encourage you to follow up with your recommenders if your letters aren’t all in. Remember that all application materials must be in by the deadline for you to meet that deadline; the Admissions Committee cannot review an incomplete application.

If you have questions about the application, remember that we are here to help you with this process. BUT – you will receive a faster response from us if you email sooner. As in, don’t wait until the last minute! It’ll be difficult for you AND us! Here are some tips to communicate with our office so you can help us help you. (And the #1 Last-Minute Tip before submitting: Proofread. Once you submit your application, you’ll be unable to make changes to it.)

What can I expect the next few months?

Other than decisions releasing sometime in March, we’ll also have Class Visits coming up in a few weeks for the Spring semester – we’ll send an email once that is available. We’ll be highlighting some SIPA student life events here on the blog, and welcoming a new Program Assistant as well.

I’d also still encourage you stop by an Information Session because you can get your questions answered in person with our admissions staff. You can also check out the Columbia University and SIPA campus areas to get a feel for the place. Even though it’s a little chilly here, campus is beautiful in the winter. (Check out @columbia.sipa on Instagram for more sweet views and SIPA community highlights!)

And if you can’t make it in person soon, register for our Virtual MIA/MPA Info Session this Thursday, January 17. Executive Director of Admissions, Grace Han, and Financial Aid Officer, Rory Placa, will give an overview of the SIPA programs and the application process, and you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions via online chat.

Use the optional essay to your advantage

Application deadlines are here, and the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid has been getting a lot of calls and emails lately. We’re glad you’re reaching out to us with your questions.

I’m choosing to tell y’all about something that has NOT been asked about, which is the optional essay.

[Before you get too far:  You are not required to write this! If you’ve said all you need to say about yourself as a candidate and you don’t have it in you to write more, that’s totally understandable! The optional essay is truly, Optional. And don’t feel guilty about being relieved that you don’t have to read the rest of this post.]

So why answer a question that hasn’t been asked? Because I think it’ll give some of you an advantage in your application. This is what the optional essay is in the application for: An opportunity to discuss something you weren’t able to address elsewhere; OR, an opportunity for you to explain a situation that needs more detail.

SIPA does not have an ideal model of an applicant. Our candidates come from more than 100 countries around the world, with a variety of undergraduate and graduate studies, career backgrounds, expertises, and aspirations. We value this diversity immensely because these differences enrich the class experience for everybody.

Instead, what the Admissions Committee looks for falls into the broad categories of: relevant professional experience; proven academic ability; quantitative coursework; and a passion for public policy and International Affairs.

Because there is no One Ideal Applicant, the admissions process is holistic – meaning, the Admissions Committee takes the whole of your application into account. We are looking at the gestalt of your application, if you will.

This is where the optional essay – and knowing what the Admissions Committee is looking for – comes in. Use the optional essay to explain any discrepancies or unique situations that you weren’t able to address anywhere else in the application. Is there something that you want to tell the Admissions Committee because it will add to you as a whole?

Tell us why you’d be a stellar policy candidate despite your previous studies being in something unrelated. Tell us why you’d come out on top of the core economics courses at SIPA despite the quantitative grades on your transcript not reflecting that. Tell us what unique perspective you can add to the classroom, even though you have an employment gap due to family reasons.

Life happens. The Admissions Committee are people too. They’re understanding and respectful. But sometimes there is nothing for them to take into account as a whole, if you are the only one who can provide the information and don’t do it.

Because each applicant is so different, we can’t possibly tell you what specific topic we’re looking for. I will just say: The optional essay is NOT another personal statement, or a place to rehash something already explained in your application. Perhaps it’s just a few paragraphs that can’t all “flow” together, and that is fine. Maybe your optional essay is just one sentence – we appreciate brevity.

Remember, the optional essay is not meant to trip you up, nor is it a ~secret admissions test~. It is simply an opportunity for you to address your situation(s) to the Admissions Committee that you weren’t able to in other parts of the application.

For another perspective, here is an overview of the Optional Essay from a student who went through the application process.

Wishing you all the best of luck!

Checking in as we count down to January 5th

There’s about 10 days until the January 5th application deadline, and I wanted to check in on how you’re doing.

Hopefully you’ve gotten your test scores, transcripts, and letters of recommendation squared away, as well as having the bones of your personal state and short essay together. Not there yet? Definitely follow up with your people again. Sometimes things fall through the crack, especially since we all get busy towards the end of the year. Revisit your essays with fresh eyes, and double-check that you answered the prompt. Take a step back to rethink thinks if you’re stuck.

Will you be writing an Optional Essay? It’s not necessary, just another avenue to address in more detail an aspect of your application. And as you know, the application requires a CV – not the standard one-page resume you’d use for a job application – as well as a quantitative/language resume. If you’re still unsure about what to include, read this breakdown here.

If you’re all the way at the end: Did you write “Colombia” or “Columbia”? And remember that the video essay is only available after you submit your application and pay the fee! You’re just two minutes away from the finish line.

Remember, if you’re really unsure about something, the Admissions office is your resource through this process. Reach out to us, especially if you can’t find the answer from a reputable source. We’re honest with you in that this process is competitive, but don’t throw away your shot by not even trying! Do your best to ensure your application can give an accurate picture of not just who you are, but who you want to be after SIPA.

As always, we’re wishing you the best of luck, and we look forward to reading your applications. And don’t forget to take time for self-care. (New York Therapy Dogs and SIPA Office of Student Affairs teamed up to bring some self-care-in-dog form to SIPA students during finals week this year.)

We’re closing early today and will be back on January 2, 2019!

The Office of Admissions and Financial Aid is closing early today at 2:30pm for the Christmas holidays. Our office will be closed through next week and back open on January 2, 2019, at 9am ET.

Don’t forget, our general deadline, with SIPA fellowship aid consideration, is at 11:59 PM ET on January 5th. The video essay is only available after you submit your application and pay the application fee, and will appear in your Applicant Status page once those steps are completed. I hope you can find some downtime during the holidays to work towards completing the application. (I truly mean this — every year we see that people do everything in the application up until the video essay. They’re just two minutes from being done with completing it, which is so frustrating!) We really do look forward to reading your applications.

Until then, all of us at SIPA Admissions wish you happy holidays, a fantastic 2019, and best of luck with all of your end-of-the-year activities.

P.S. Columbia University is exceptionally pretty in the winter! Follow @columbia.sipa on Instagram for more beautiful photos and some 2018 highlights.

Holiday Office Closures and Updates for Spring and Fall Early Decision

Today is the last day of classes for the Fall 2018 semester, and we can’t quite believe how fast this semester has gone by either. Here’s a quick update of where we’re at with SIPA Admissions:

  • Congratulations to the incoming Spring 2019 class! Decisions went out to our future J-termers a few weeks ago (J-term because they start classes in January), and we can’t wait to welcome them to campus next month. They have an advantage of an extra summer semester to pack in more internships or work opportunities during their graduate school experience — which is already short as it is.
  • In observance of the holiday season, the Admissions and Financial Aid office will be closed December 24, 2018 through January 1st, 2019. We’ll be open, business as usual, on January 2nd, 2019.
  • This means for you Fall 2019 applicants who are submitting on the January 5th deadline – get your application questions in as soon as possible! Please do your research, of course — we don’t want to get backlogged with questions that could have been easily answered with an internet search — and plan accordingly to make sure you can submit your application on time.
  • A reminder from Financial Aid to U.S. citizens and permanent residents: SIPA offers scholarships to a limited number of admitted applicants, and those scholarships are based on not only candidates’ academic and professional credentials, but financial need as well. In order to receive consideration for these awards, don’t forget to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (the FAFSA) for the 2019/20 academic year. Columbia’s school code is 002707. We recommend that you complete this by about January 5th so that once the Fellowship Committee’s deliberations begin, we will have all required information from all applicants. The FAFSA is also required if you want to consider student loan options from the federal government or Work Study positions.

And to our Early Decision applicants waiting on your decision, trust that we’re working hard to get that to you before the end of the year! Thank you for your patience, and the Admissions Committee is grateful that you put so much work into your applications and to share your aspirations with us. We think SIPA will be a great place for many of you, and you’ll hear the official word soon.

"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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