Author Archive for Kaitlyn Wells – Page 2

Yes, it’s true. Decisions are out!

By now you’ve heard the news that MIA/MPA/MPA-DP Fall 2017 admissions decisions are out. Some of you received the wonderful news that you’ve been admitted to SIPA, and others received some news they weren’t hoping for. No matter where you fall on that spectrum, I promise to address your questions this week in a series of blog posts. For today, I want to give everyone more time to process their decisions…and to celebrate the achievements of those who were admitted. To mark it, here’s a look at all of the emotions — in gif form — those who were admitted must have felt when they read their letters.

First, you got an email stating your admissions decision was ready. 

Nervous eyes

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You clicked on the email but wanted to remain surprised. So you sort of side-glanced your computer screen and splayed your fingers over your eyes so you wouldn’t read ahead.

fingers spread out over face

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You read and read, and then you realize it’s a waste of an email…Because we tell you to click on a link to move on to the next step.

While entering your account information on the log-in screen you think: “Why all the extra steps?! I already filled out a 20-page application, submitted essays, got over my fear of public speaking by answering that ridiculous video question, donated my kidney, and…”

Jurassic Park scene with child eating green jello, but she stops because she sees a dinosaur and get scared

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You’re confronted with your Status Page and little intimidating hyperlink that connects you to your letter. (Another link?!)

Nervous women in SNL skit saying "I feel like I'm going to pass out" while shaking her head

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And you’re somewhat annoyed with us.

Dean Winchester from the TV series Supernatural rolls his eyes

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After all of that, you nervously wait for your decision letter to load.

Pop sensation Britney Spears in a red dress while on the show X Factor, cringes and puts her head down.

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And you read and read some more.

An orange tabby cat watches a computer mouse run around on the screen

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Then, confetti sprouted from the digital heavens and at first you weren’t sure the international symbol for celebration was real.

Older gentleman on the TV show Lost has his eyes darting back-and-forth nervously.

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That Frank Sinatra tune was also pretty cool, huh?!

As you continued to skim your admission letter, circling in on “congratulations,” you knew we weren’t playing a sick prank on you.

Cartoon dinosaur dressed in red flannel drops a canned drink and his face has a shocked expression on it

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Two yellow Minions scream in joy

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Cue the much-deserved Happy Dance.

Andy from The Office does a happy dance as elevator doors close on him

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Close up of Sailor Moon as she screams in joy

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Screaming happy while on couch

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Saved By The Bell's Carlton does his famous happy dance

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Merida from Disney's Brave does a happy dance

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A little girl pumps her fists and her abdomen in time with one another while competing in a beauty pagent

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Former First Lady Michelle Obama waves her arms in a circle while dancing

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Jordan Peele dressed in 80s clothes shouts "Nooice" for "nice."

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In the end, you knew you deserved it because you are…

Emma Roberst from Scream Queens is dressed in pink scrubs and says "Awesome"

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A ‘confidential’ look at our Fall 2017 applicants

As a member of the Admissions Committee, I finally have a chance to breathe after long days trapped in conference rooms and even longer evenings and weekends strapped to my home office desk. So I’m spending my “down time” to address some looming questions I get every year, which drills down to “what do your applicants look like?” Don’t shake your laptop in frustration, but the truth is there is no hard-and-fast rule on SIPA’s “ideal” applicant. And I wouldn’t want there to be one. The Admissions Committee values diversity in all facets because that diversity makes for more dynamic and interesting conversations both inside and outside of the classroom. We want you to learn from both your professors and your peers!

However, I know no one’s ever satisfied with that answer, so I went data mining in our application system to give you an insider’s look at our applicants and their behaviors. Here’s a backstage peek of our Fall 2017 MIA, MPA and MPA-DP applicants.

This first chart doesn’t seem to change each year. It shows a timeline of when everyone submitted their applications for review to the Fall 2017 term (full-time students only). If you remember this year’s deadlines, it’s easy to tell where the spikes in applications occurred. The application went live in mid-August 2016 and they quietly trickled in for the Spring 2017 deadline (Oct. 15), and the Fall 2017 early-action deadline (Nov. 2). Then they skyrocketed in time for our scholarship deadline (Jan. 5) and the final application deadline (Feb. 5). As you can see, everyone is a fan of procrastinating, and thus, waits until the last minute to submit their application for review. I understand the reasoning behind it, but it can be a real challenge for everyone in the Admissions Office when so many applicants wait until the end and want their hands held from someone in our office (did I mention there are only five of us for all of you?). So do me a favor: if your friend applies to SIPA in the future, encourage them to turn in things well before the deadline. Thanks. 🙂


Never surprising is the fact that most of you said you want to be considered for fellowship (1/blue = yes and 0/green is no). So that’s why our scholarship/fellowship deadline is a month before the final application deadline; and why we can’t consider anyone for aid past the deadline. The Admissions Committee needs the extra time to review everyone’s materials and make decisions. While awards can go up to full tuition and fees, the average award for incoming students is half tuition and fees; but that can vary depending on how strong the applicant pool is. So if you’re still researching funding sources, check out our External Funding database today and browse the SIPA Funding page for insights into the average awards for assistantships (which are only available to second-year students).


This chart gives you a sense of the applications by degree program, which reflects that of the class size in general. The MIA/MPA programs are larger, around 425-450 students combined, and there’s another 50 for the MPA-DP program.


Another question I’m often asked is which concentration is the most popular. My answer is they’re pretty evenly split among the six degree programs, and this chart supports that for the most part. The next question I’m asked is if your odds of admission increase or decrease with a program’s popularity. The answer: absolutely not. I’m never comparing one applicant to another. As long as you’re qualified, put your best foot forward, and apply by the application deadline, your application will be reviewed and you’ll have an equal chance of admission.

With advancements in technology, I can actually link the application system to the blog and easy tell who has visited the Admissions Blog this year.  So when applicants call or email me asking for advice about something they read on the Blog, I can just access their account to get a sense of which articles they were reviewing so I can better assist them. (Creepy or cool?!) While digging through this tracking data, I found it interesting to see that when I break down our applicants by concentration they closely mirror that of the ones who have visited the blog. I like to interpret it as meaning the blog is so popular that everyone is reading it! (OK, so it’s not an exact link, but you get the hint.)


A couple more questions I get are about if there’s a particular track applicants can travel to increase their odds of admission. Of course it’s a “no” but to put that in perspective I wanted to share a look at how many applicants are Peace Corps and Armed Forces members. Both designations are a sliver of our overall pool, and no one should ever feel obligated to pursue a path that isn’t for them. However, we recognize the importance of creating a diverse class so we are slowly increasing these figures in order to help these communities have access to an advanced education.

Speaking of diversity, you’ve also probably heard us discuss our large network of more than 20,000 alumni from 150 countries, and we’re not kidding. In fact, just looking at our applicant pool it’s easy to see just how far we reach. This year, our applicants called 152 different countries home:

Afghanistan Greece Philippines
Albania Guatemala Poland
Algeria Guinea Portugal
Angola Guinea-Bissau Qatar
Argentina Haiti Romania
Armenia Honduras Russia
Australia Hong Kong S.A.R. Rwanda
Austria Hungary Saint Barthelemy
Azerbaijan Iceland Saint Kitts and Nevis
Bangladesh India Saint Lucia
Belarus Indonesia Saudi Arabia
Belgium Iran Senegal
Benin Iraq Serbia
Bhutan Ireland Sierra Leone
Bolivia Israel Singapore
Bosnia and Herzegovina Italy Slovakia
Botswana Jamaica Slovenia
Brazil Japan Solomon Islands
Bulgaria Jordan Somalia
Burkina Faso Kazakhstan South Africa
Burundi Kenya South Korea
Cambodia Kosovo South Sudan
Cameroon Kuwait Spain
Canada Kyrgyzstan Sri Lanka
Cape Verde Laos Sudan
Central African Republic Lebanon Sweden
Chad Liberia Switzerland
Chile Libya Syria
China Macau S.A.R. Taiwan
Christmas Island Madagascar Tajikistan
Colombia Malawi Tanzania
Congo (Brazzaville) Malaysia Thailand
Congo (Kinshasa) Malta The Gambia
Costa Rica Mexico Timor-Leste
Cote D’Ivoire Moldova Trinidad and Tobago
Croatia Mongolia Tunisia
Cuba Morocco Turkey
Cyprus Mozambique Uganda
Czech Republic Myanmar Ukraine
Denmark Namibia United Arab Emirates
Dominican Republic Nepal United Kingdom
Ecuador Netherlands United States
Egypt New Zealand Uruguay
El Salvador Nicaragua Uzbekistan
Ethiopia Niger Venezuela
Fiji Nigeria Vietnam
Finland Norway Yemen
France Pakistan Zambia
Georgia Palestine Zimbabwe
Germany Paraguay
Ghana Peru

Lastly, decisions will go out in mid-March 2017 on a rolling basis. I can’t give you an exact date, but I can tell you we’re finalizing the review process as I type out this sentence. There are checks and balances in place that the Admissions Office has to do by hand to ensure accurate results, so please be patient with us. As soon as your admissions decision is ready we will email you the news. Just be patient. And good luck to all of our applicants!

[Modified Photo Courtesy of CreateHER Stock]

Seeples Spotlight: Amir Safa

This semester the Office of Admissions welcomed three new Program Assistants (PAs) to the team. This week I’m introducing you to each of them in the form of self-interviews. Our last addition to the team is Amir Safa, and he’s concentrating in Economic and Political Development and specializing in Advanced Policy and Economic Analysis. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University College London in archaeology and comes to SIPA with over 10 years experience in the financial industry including investment banking and asset management. For his interview, he elected to write a mini blog post about what SIPA means to him. Here’s what he had to share:

In my final semester here at SIPA studying Economic and Political Development, I offer some thoughts out there about what this experience has meant to me. SIPA has provided me with a wonderful opportunity to refresh myself intellectually after a decade of work experience. The program opened the door for me to meet so many people from all over the world; from countries I only knew from far far away. You can travel the world by walking the corridors of SIPA where you will hear so many languages and stories from people’s lives. The journey continues in the classroom. I decided to take courses that focused on regional economies, including ones examining China, Japan, Latin America and Europe. I am currently learning the nuances of Japanese Economy, not only from Professor Takatoshi Ito but also from my classmates who are visiting from Japan’s Ministry of Finance.

One of my favorite experiences at SIPA was working in an instructional capacity for “Global Energy Policy” with Professor Manuel Pinho, a former IMF Economist and Minister of Economy of Portugal. The students came from all disciplines and departments within the whole university including, SIPA, the Law School, School of Engineering, and the Earth institute. Lectures focused on energy economics, policy, and global trends in renewables. Students learned outside the classroom through problem sets and weekly guest lectures. It was a great opportunity to meet different students from different places and work through the course material together.

I will save the best part for last: I had a pretty unique experience at SIPA. My wife is very understanding of all the time I spend in the library completing group projects, going to class and writing papers into the night. She understands because 90 percent of the time she is right there next me completing her assignments (she is also a student at SIPA!).   

So what is my advice for new students? Break out of your comfort zone, have a coffee with someone from a place you have never been to, and take a class on something you don’t know anything about.

Seeples Spotlight: Andrew Liu

This semester the Office of Admissions welcomed three new Program Assistants (PAs) to the team. This week I’m introducing you to each of them in the form of self-interviews. Next up, Andrew Liu. He’s studying International Security Policy, worked in the Pentagon’s Office of the Secretary of Defense as a security policy intern last summer, and served as an active duty Marine for about seven years. Here’s what he has to say about his time at SIPA.

What were you doing before you came to SIPA?
Before SIPA, I served in the US military as an active duty Marine for almost seven years. My assignments have taken me from the Quantico Highlands of Virginia to the sunny beaches of Southern California and the hot deserts of Afghanistan. I’ve worked in managerial roles as a platoon commander and in planning and advisory positions as a staff officer.

What attracted you to SIPA and Columbia University?
I was attracted to SIPA and Columbia University for both professional and personal reasons.

I decided on SIPA for its reputation and faculty and its location. I knew the school’s prestige and faculty would best support my career change into policy. Earning a master’s degree from a top-tier program is a major requirement of the field. I knew that being affiliated with certain institutions alone presented career opportunities. I was also impressed by the school’s faculty. To me, a two-year investment in education was only worth it if I was being instructed by a world-class faculty of leading scholars, thinkers, and practitioners.

As a New York native, I wanted to spend more time with my family. At the time of my decision, it had already been seven years since I moved away. I knew that a career in defense and security policy would keep me away from NYC, so I figured I spend as much time as possible with my family beforehand.

What most surprised you about SIPA after you arrived?
I was most surprised by the policy/culture-focused delegations throughout the school year (winter and spring break/summer). These student-led trips are generally planned out by peers native to each destination. For example, this past winter break, there were trips to Israel and Palestine, South Africa, and China. There are trips going to Morocco and Japan this spring. Some of my Russian/Central Asian friends planned a group trip to the Russian Federation last summer and are working on a Central Asia itinerary this year. Imagine visiting a best friend that moved abroad and who happens to work for the government in said country.

How did you find the core curriculum at SIPA?
The core curriculum was rigorous and necessary. I was particularly apprehensive about economics and quantitative analysis since it had been ten years since I’ve done anything related. I realized how necessary it was during my internship at the Pentagon. I was working on the NATO policy team when Brexit happened; I was able to break down and analyze its economic implications for the future of the Alliance.

How did you obtain your internship?
The International Security Policy concentration planned a trip to DC to visit SIPA/Columbia alumni and officials working in the executive and legislative branches of US government. We met with staff from the White House, Department of Defense, State Department, Treasury, Office of Management and Budgeting, and Congress. At the end of the trip, I sent out thank you email which subsequently connected me to an internship.

[Photo courtesy of Andrew Liu | Andrew during a SIPA Israel Delegation trip]

Seeples Spotlight: Ayanda Francis

This semester the Office of Admissions welcomed three new Program Assistants (PAs) to the team. This week I’m introducing you to each of them in the form of self-interviews. It’s ladies first, so say “hello” to Ayanda Francis. Ayanda is Jamaican-American, and she’s from Atlanta, Georgia. Before attending SIPA she was Fulbright ETA in Turkey, and after SIPA she plans to join the US Foreign Service. She’s concentrating in Economic and Political Development and specializing in International Conflict Resolution and Asia. At SIPA, she has been involved in SIPA Students of Color as the former finance chair, Women in Peace and Security as the former Vice President, and has spent her summer in Timor-Leste with UN Women.

What attracted you to SIPA and Columbia University?
My reasons can be split into two categories: personal and professional. Personally, my mother came to Columbia for graduate school and loved every minute of it. As a result, I had visited campus many times with her and have wanted to come to Columbia since I was around 10 years old. Professionally, SIPA happens to have an academic program that matches my desires exactly. I wanted to study both development and conflict resolution, and while many programs force you to choose between the two, SIPA has allowed me to study both in depth. The fact that Columbia is located in NYC doesn’t hurt either. 🙂

What experiences do you think prepared you to attend SIPA?
Attending an engineering school for undergrad definitely helped prepare me for the intensity and rigor of SIPA.  SIPA is hard, y’all! Be prepared.

What has been the best part of your SIPA experience?
Definitely meeting the rest of my classmates. Everyone is brilliant and accomplished and comes from such interesting perspectives that challenge me to look at issues in new ways, but they are also just genuinely awesome people to hang out with. Seeples are also of the work hard play hard mentality, so there’s lots of fun to be had.

Can you comment on the quantitative rigor in the curriculum?
Rigorous! I took the Calc- heavy micro and macro (6400 and 6401), as well as the quant-heavy economic development course. While not entirely murderous, these courses are not for the faint of heart.

What’s your internship experience been like?
I had a FANTASTIC time at UN Women Timor-Leste. I was working with the Women, Peace and Security team on women in the police force– helping the PNTL (national police force) assess themselves on how female officers are treated, what can be done to recruit and retain more women, and how to improve services for women overall. I was doing real and substantive work, representing the UN at governmental meetings, and had the freedom to suggest ideas and projects that would be taken seriously. The office is fantastic and Timor is lovely, so I would beyond highly recommend it!

How did you obtain your internship?
A class called “ Applied Peacebuilding.” I also HIGHLY recommend it. It’s project based, so you are guaranteed an internship if you get into the course. It’s much different than any other SIPA course you’ll take so I would recommend that those interested apply for it!

[Photo courtesy of Ayanda Francis, pictured left]

"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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