Author Archive for Columbia SIPA

Four things you should know about the FAFSA

As graduate school deadlines continue to pass and come up, don’t forget to continue planning on how to finance your degree. For applicants applying to the upcoming fall term, who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents, don’t forget to complete the 2020-21 FAFSA.

  1. Submitting the FAFSA is free. You do not have to pay to complete the FAFSA, and any website or service offering to do it for you is a scam. You can also complete the FAFSA using the MyStudentAid App.
  2. If you’re a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and applying for a SIPA Scholarship, submit the FAFSA by the stated deadline on your admissions application. 
  3. To ensure we receive your information, designate Columbia University: School of International and Public Affairs as the recipient by using our school code number: 002707.
  4. You should not put your parents’ information when completing this FAFSA. In graduate school students are considered independent when filing the FAFSA application. The information you submit should be your own.

For Columbia SIPA, the FAFSA is required to determine eligibility for fellowships and federal aid. For graduate students, federal aid options come in the form of an Unsubsidized Loan, Federal Work Study, and Graduate PLUS Loan. You are not required to accept any federal loans offered.

We encourage students to create a financing plan that covers the duration of the program, and to reach out to our Financial Aid team if you want guidance.

Upcoming external funding 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, visit our External Fellowships and Funding Sources page.

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

Kappa Kappa Gamma Foundation
Requirements: Available only to women who are members of Kappa Kappa Gamma. There are a variety of programs available — please consult the website for further information and application details.
Deadline: February 1, 2020

Zeta Phi Beta National Educational Foundation Scholarship
Requirements: The Zeta Phi Beta Sorority’s National Education Foundation offers a number of scholarships and fellowships to both members and non-members. Eligibility criteria and award amounts vary, and some are available to international students.
Deadline: February 1, 2020

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation
Requirements: College students who plan to pursue careers in government or elsewhere in public service. Truman Scholars receive up to $30,000 for graduate or professional school, participate in leadership development activities, and have special opportunities for internships and employment with the federal government.
Deadline: February 4, 2020

Japanese American Association of New York
Requirements: Full time course of graduate student in accredited U.S. university in the greater New York area in academic year 2020-21. The student must demonstrate an interest in and ideally is already involved in furthering U.S. – Japan relations.
Deadline: February 10, 2020

Pi Gamma Mu Scholarship
Requirements: Pi Gamma Mu’s scholarships are intended for the first or second year of graduate work in the areas of sociology, anthropology, political science, history, economics, international relations, public administration, criminal justice, law, social work, psychology, and human/cultural geography.  Applicants must be members of the Pi Gamma Mu Honor Society.
Deadline: February 15, 2020

New York Grace LeGendre Endowment Fund, Inc.
A woman who is a United States citizen and a resident of New York State, have a bachelor’s degree, currently enrolled in graduate studies in an advanced graduate degree program at an accredited New York State college or university and have already completed at least one semester in that program.
Deadline: February 28, 2020

Pat Tillman Foundation
Requirements: Active and veteran servicemembers and their families by providing scholarships for tuition and fees, living expenses, and books. The average award is $10,000.  Scholars demonstrate extraordinary academic and leadership potential, a track record of perseverance, and a deep desire to impact change in our country and communities through their studies in medicine, law, business, policy, technology, education and the arts.
Deadline: February 29, 2020

Why Alejandra Cordero chose MPA in Development Practice (MPA-DP)

Thanks to Alejandra Cordero MPA-DP ’20 for this guest post. She is a second-year student from Quito Ecuador.

If you’re interested in learning more about the MPA-DP program, don’t miss out on this upcoming virtual information session.

Why did you decide to pursue the MPA-DP program at Columbia SIPA?

During my undergraduate studies I worked with a social entrepreneur in Ghana that proved through his work the importance of truly understanding the needs and problems faced by the communities and people any project or policy is trying to help. Through this experience, I realized the importance of fieldwork and engaging with the people you want to help. When looking at different Master’s programs, I knew I wanted a program that would prioritize the connection of the classroom with the outside world.

During my research, I came across the MPA-DP at SIPA. As I was reading through the program description, I was captivated by the program’s focus on giving students a “practice-orientated, interdisciplinary, education experience.”

I was also drawn to New York City. This is a city where you can meet people with very diverse backgrounds, where you can take a train and immerse yourself into different cultures, where you can try food from different parts of the world, and always find a new activity to do.

When thinking about where to study international development, New York is a perfect place. I am near the United Nations headquarters where every year leaders from all over the world come for the General Assembly sessions. I have Fortune 500 companies, NGOs, startups, and organizations that cover pretty much all industries. In addition, I am a train ride way from Washington, D.C. if I want access to the government sector.

What do you like the most about the program?

I recently finished my third semester at SIPA, one more to go. When people ask me what I like the most about the MPA-DP I always say, “my classmates.” Each individual in the program brings a unique experience  and set of skills. People from the MPA-DP program inspire you to do more, you learn from one and other, support each other in and outside the classroom and many of us end up working together with fellow MPA-DPs in academic competitions. Every year, MPA-DP students have been selected as finalist for the SIPA Dean’s Challenge, GPPN and many other competitions.

What do you think of the MPA-DP program, before and after becoming a student?

The MPA-DP program has been more that what I expected. A large percent of the learning does happen in the classroom, but I’ve learned that this program, SIPA and Columbia, offer students more than great faculty and classes. You get the opportunity to join and lead student organizations and meet individuals from around the world that are achieving a lot in their specific areas of development. You can join competitions and challenges such as the Dean’s Challenge, where you  work together with your team to come up with innovating solutions for a specific development issue. You can participate in consulting projects, simulation competitions, travel with different student organization and get access to a strong alumni network.

What did you do for your MPA-DP Summer Placement?

The summer placement is one of the experiences that I’ve appreciated the most at the MPA-DP program. During my summer placement I worked at Kantar Public in their Myanmar office. Kantar is a market research and consulting firm that works with governments, the public sector, non-governmental and academic organizations, and corporations around the world to help them deliver more effective policy, services and communications to the public.

During the summer, I worked across different quantitative and qualitative research project in a variety of development areas including women’s agency, food and nutrition, sanitation and education. This was a great learning experience. I was able to apply what I had learn in the classroom when doing data analysis and report writing and I learned how to organize and manage fieldwork. I also learned a lot about Myanmar, its history, culture, food and religion. This experience helped me have a better understanding of what I want to do after SIPA, and understand what skills I needed to further develop and what classes I should take in my last semester to get to the place I want to be by graduation.

Learn more about the MPA-DP Program here. Follow us on:
Instagram: columbiasipa_mpadp
Twitter: @ColumbiaMPADP

The Personal Statement: What We Look For

The personal statement is a common source of anxiety for applicants. We understand it can be difficult to articulate your past experiences, policy-related passions, professional goals, and how SIPA can help you achieve them in just 400 words. In this blog post, we’ll be anonymously reviewing two essays to give you some insight into how we think and hopefully help relieve some of that anxiety.

Prompt: Please elaborate on why you have chosen to apply to the MIA/MPA program. How will this program enable you to achieve your career goals? Describe your academic and research interests and career objectives.

Applicant 1:

This essay starts out with a personal anecdote about international travel. The first paragraph definitely grabs my attention, but the applicant loses me in the next paragraph by turning this into a creative writing exercise. It would have been far more effective to grab my attention with the first paragraph, and then immediately start telling me about their background, goals, and how SIPA fits into that beginning with the second paragraph. There is very limited space, so spending so much time telling a story is not the most effective.

The next two paragraphs continue to tell stories about international experiences with little substantive detail and a lot of platitudes.

Now in the fifth paragraph we finally seem to be getting somewhere. The applicant describes a professional experience, but this time they are more specific about their goals and what they accomplished.

The applicant concludes with only 3 sentences about Columbia and graduate school. This is the first time in the essay where I’m reading about how graduate school fits into their career, and it is very vague. This essay could be used for any school, and there is no detail about why this applicant wants to attend SIPA specifically.

There is also no detail about the applicant’s professional goals. The applicant simply tells us that they want to work in the foreign service. SIPA is a professional program and we want our applicants to have a clear, detailed understanding of how SIPA will benefit them in their potential career. It’s vital that applicants demonstrate that they’ve thought this through. Tell us very specifically what you want to do and what you hope to accomplish. The foreign service is very broad; the applicant does not even specify if they mean the U.S. foreign service. Tell us what region of the world or functional issue you hope to focus on and why you are passionate about it. If there are specific offices, embassies, or departments you’d want to work in, tell us that. The more detail you provide the more confident we are that you’ve thought through your path following SIPA.

Overall, this essay was not very effective because it told me almost nothing about the applicant and was not at all tailored to SIPA or even Columbia. Most importantly, the applicant does not answer the questions in the prompt.

Applicant 2:

This applicant begins their essay by stating their policy-related passion and how a degree from SIPA fits into that. This is a strong and direct opening.

In the next paragraph, the applicant explains the origin of this passion by describing the influence of their past experiences. They even briefly summarize the impacts of certain policies on this issue. They end the paragraph by stating their specific goals as it relates to this policy issue. I can sense the applicant’s passion.

By the third paragraph, the applicant is specifically articulating why SIPA is the right fit for them. The applicant mentions specific concentrations, specializations, and other aspects of the program that are unique.  This statement was clearly written for SIPA. The applicant even manages to slip in a mention of a specific professional accomplishment that is applicable to the program without simply repeating the information on their resume.

The applicant concludes with one sentence summarizing their interests and professional experience.

Overall, this essay effectively articulates the applicant’s passion for international affairs and public policy. It also answers the prompt and clearly demonstrates that the applicant has considered how SIPA fits into their goals. However, the essay is not specific about the mechanisms through which the applicant will achieve those goals. They do not describe their ideal career path with any specificity. The admissions committee does not expect that every applicant will have a perfect idea of what they want to do after SIPA, but they do want to see that you’ve thought about it and can articulate a specific potential career path. We want to ensure that you have enough of an idea to be able to spend your limited time at SIPA in the most beneficial way possible.

In short, ensure your personal statement clearly answers every question in the prompt, is specific to SIPA, and relates your personal story in a way that is relevant. Hopefully this will help you as you write (and revise!) your personal statement prior to our Fall 2020 deadlines. For more tips, we encourage you to read our other blog posts on What’s in an App: Personal Statement and How NOT to write your personal statement.

MPA-DP Spotlight: Urban Mobility Master Class and the Summer Field Placement

The MPA in Development Practice program has some distinct educational opportunities for students. Here we highlight two of them:

1. Master Class: Urban Mobility

On Saturday November 9th, six generations of MDP students came to attend Paloma Ruiz’s, Principal Executive of Transport Infrastructure for the CAF MasterClass.

Paloma (MDP’13 alumni) focused on the importance of urban mobility development in reaching overall inclusive and sustainable development. During the master class Paloma presented real-life policy cases from Colombia, Ecuador, China, the US, and Europe for attendants’ better understanding of how well planned transport infrastructure projects can reinforce institutional capacity and general improvements to people’s quality of life.

The Urban Mobility Master Class.

2. Ryo Ogura MPA-DP ’20 and his Summer Placement experience

Ryo Ogura (MPA-DP’20) spent his summer placement at the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in Beijing, China, a newly established multilateral development bank focusing on sustainable infrastructure investment. As an intern in the Office of Treasurer, he worked on robotic process automation to improve operation efficiency, long-term cash flow forecasting model building.

Ryo Ogura MPA-DP ’20 with colleague Jonathan Poon MPA-DP ’16 at AIIB.

Learn more about the MPA-DP Program:

"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

Boiler Image