Author Archive for Emily Tao

Decisions have been released; COVID-19 update

First, the biggest news: admissions decisions are out for the MIA, MPA, and MPA-DP programs. Thanks again to all of you for your patience, and as usual, we are honored to have read your applications.

Second, in providing a safe and healthy campus, SIPA’s Office of Admissions and Financial Aid is working remotely for the time being. This is tough timing for you and us, since meeting everyone is one of the highlights of this whole process. You can find updated information on COVID-19 on Columbia’s website here.

Finally, here are some updates that may be directly relevant to you right now:

  • Class visits for the Spring 2020 semester have been cancelled, since all classes have been moved online.
  • Again, the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid is not open, but our staff is working remotely. The best way to contact us will be by email. There may be a delay in our responses, so please be patient. Here’s a few tips to effectively communicate with our office.
  • Our student program assistants are working remotely as well, helping out with email and the blog. We’ll be publishing blog content as usual.
  • Let us know what you want to know through this feedback form. Our students and staff are happy to write about topics most important to you, especially as you are making your graduate school decisions. Let us know what you want to have a discussion about.

Our office is still responding to emails and calls, and I ask for your patience as we adapt to ever-changing policies.

Stay healthy and continue watch out for each other and our community. And congratulations to the newly admitted students of the Class of 2022 – I hope that it will only go up from here!

On Columbia University SIPA and COVID-19 – The situation is still evolving

Usually during this time in the year, we are busy preparing to release decisions and preparing for Admitted Students’ Day. This year is no different, except we are grappling with COVID-19 at the same time.

Columbia University has been closely monitoring the situation, and we have all been working to continue acting as a resource for all of you while working to take care of each other and our community. Because the situation is changing so quickly:

  • You can find updated information on COVID-19 on Columbia’s website here. As of now, no Columbia student, faculty, or staff has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • While options to Visit SIPA are still open including class visits, this may change quickly depending on the situation. For example, we had to cancel a few weeks of class visits due to the new COVID-19 events policy. We are exploring digital options for faculty webinars for our admitted students and will update the schedule as soon as we have updated information.
  • If you’re looking for alternative online class visit options, I encourage you check out this New Courses at SIPA playlist which highlights, well, new courses at SIPA in a wide range of focus areas. SIPA’s notable professors explain their own words – and in just one minute – how their courses help prepare SIPA students to do practical work once they graduate.

Until then, we hope that everyone continues to stay safe and wash their hands. The Office of Admissions and Financial Aid is still open until further notice, and as usual we will update everyone as the situation evolves.

New Year, New Students / Cohort / PAs!

Our Fall 2019 PAs: Nabila, Steven, George-Ann, Stuart

January always feels like the longest month, and I’m sure many of you feel that way! We’re catching up from the holidays, application deadlines keep coming, and work is picking back up.

Here at Columbia, the incoming Spring cohort is on campus for SIPA orientation. The Admissions and Financial Aid office will be closed on Monday in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and on Tuesday the entire SIPA community will be back for the spring semester.

What does this mean for you, prospective students?

  • The new spring semester will mean two new program assistants adding their voices to this blog! You’ll still see posts from Nabila and Steven over the next few months, but they won’t be in the admissions office this semester. They brought a great energy to admissions, but don’t worry — George-Ann and Stuart will still be with us this spring, and our new program assistants will be introducing themselves on the blog soon.
  • February 5th is our final admissions deadline. While we had our final admissions Q&A webinar earlier this week, you can still contact our office with questions. Remember to use this blog as a resource, and be mindful of other deadlines as we approach February 5th. Common obstacles I’ve seen for people completing their applications are missing letters of recommendations and the video essay — so be sure to follow up with your recommenders and submit your video essay!
  • Spring class visits will open up late February, so keep an eye out for that email. We wait until the spring semester is firmly scheduled so that students are not still adding and dropping classes and you can have a smoother class visit experience.

Finally, I’m excited to welcome these new J-termers (students who start in January) to SIPA. Thank you for trusting us with your applications, and joining Columbia SIPA is a great way to start off the new year!

Roundup: Final reminders before the January 5th deadline

For those of you applying for the January 5th Fellowship Consideration deadline, you’re almost at the finish line! If you’re anxious about submitting, you may instead see the finish line coming at you. I’m here with a few final pieces of advice to help you along:

  • If you cannot submit your application by the January 5th deadline, there is also a February 5th deadline for the MIA, MPA and MPA-DP applications. Just know that January 5th includes consideration for SIPA fellowships, while February 5th is just consideration for admission to SIPA.
  • Don’t forget to make sure your letters of recommendation are submitted! You can submit your application before your letters are in, but we cannot review your application for admission if those recommendation letters are missing. Remember that we require two letters, and a third optional letter is allowed.
  • I love this student breakdown of the Video Essay, showing how four people prepared in different (but not wrong!) ways for the final part of the application. Here is a breakdown of the video essay from the Admissions perspective. Remember that the video essay is available after you submit your application and pay the application fee. I encourage you to not wait until the last minute for this, just in case you run into any technical issues.
  • Many of you have told us about being torn between policy and law school. Many SIPA students have been where you are. Read about how they thought about this big decision here.
  • Noticing that some of our SIPA students were absolutely going to Washington, D.C., after graduate school, I asked them – Why choose SIPA in New York if you want a career in D.C.? They had a lot of reasons.
  • I will never stop reminding people to make sure you wrote the correct school name in your essays, and double-check if you wrote “Colombia” or “Columbia”!

Finally, I’m going to throw it all the way back to September 2019 with advice on managing stress during the application process.

You are capable. You are smart. You got this. We look forward to reading your applications.

SIPA alumni on Forbes 30 Under 30; new Columbia Displaced Student Scholarship

The U.S. celebrated Thanksgiving last week, and wherever you are, I hope you were able to spend some time with loved ones and eat a good meal together. Now that we’re back, here’s a SIPA news roundup:

SIPA Alumni Featured on Forbes 30 Under 30

Forbes just released their 30 Under 30 list, which includes co-founders of education-tech startup Learnabi Rahel Tekola MPA ’18 and Niara Valerio MPA ’19! We are so excited that Rahel and Niara are being recognized for their amazing work, especially since we got to know them when they were program assistants at the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid! They shared how they met as students at SIPA and started Learnabi in this blog post from February 2019.

Congratulations Rahel and Niara!

First University-Wide Scholarship Program for Displaced Students

The United Nations estimates that more than 70 million people are currently living as refugees or asylum-seekers, or have been internally displaced due to wars and natural calamity – the largest such population in human history. We’re proud that prospective SIPA students can apply for the world’s first university-wide scholarship for displaced students. Hear from Warda Sahtout MIA ’20 and other Columbia University in the City of New York students about the impact of this scholarship and learn more about applying at

Warda Sahtout MIA ’20

Upcoming Scholarship Opportunities

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

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 U.S. citizens preparing for a career in public service.
Deadline: January 31, 2020

Finlandia Foundation National Scholarships

Requirements: Applicants must be U.S. or Finnish citizens with a minimum GPA 3.0.
Deadline: February 1, 2020

Kappa Kappa Gamma Foundation Scholarships

Requirements: Applicants must be members of Kappa Kappa Gamma.
Deadline: February 1, 2020

Zeta Phi Beta National Education Foundation Scholarship

Requirements: Applicants need not be members of Zeta Phi Beta. Eligibility criteria and award amounts vary, and some are available for international students.

Deadline: February 1, 2020

"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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