Author Archive for Nabila Mohd Hassan

SIPA, I choose you!

Choosing the right graduate school is no easy feat. There are so many factors to consider that you end up going round in circles trying to prioritize A over B. Drawn a decision matrix? Pros and cons list? I’ve been there and totally feel your pain.

It’s especially hard when trying to make a decision blindly without knowing anyone who’s been there or if you’re like me, without even knowing or understanding U.S. higher education systems and what you should be looking for. I thought a lot about what experience I wanted at graduate school and most importantly, what I wanted to get out of it when I was deciding between schools.

Here were my 4 reasons for choosing SIPA from an outside perspective. These reasons are why I am now proud to call myself a Seeple:

#1 A student body with incredible diversity

The profile of students at SIPA is diverse, more so than most graduate programs. Diversity of thought, nationality and people was very important to me as I wanted to learn and meet people with different perspectives and experiences. As an MPA candidate, the citizenship of students is typically 60-70% international, which to me, indicated a diverse group of students. Other programs at SIPA also have a good range of diversity.

#2 A school with a global perspective

My long-term career goal is to move back to Southeast Asia which is why it was important for me to choose a school that had a global perspective. That said, I also choose to study in the US which is why it was important that the school had the right balance of both international and domestic courses and approaches. I was looking for a truly international setting from people to curriculum, and for courses to have an important global angle.

#3 A curriculum with hundreds of topics (that includes technology policy)

The course offerings at SIPA are extensive and covers almost any topic you might be interested in from an international and domestic perspective. This is great for people like me who is still undecided about a specific career path as breadth of classes can help me narrow down my options. Also, I was (and still am!) specifically looking to pursue more technology focused classes so the Technology, Media and Communications specialization really resonated with me. This focus on technology and technology policy was less evident in other schools.

#4 A location with unparalleled opportunities 

It’s undeniable that there is nowhere else like New York City as it really is where the world connects. Before moving to New York, I thought the claims that there’s nowhere like New York were overrated but having lived here for over a year now, it’s a hundred percent true. The city is constantly buzzing with activity – from career opportunities and networking events, to the latest Broadway shows and incredible food. The city has something for everyone and as a graduate student, I wanted to push myself and be open to new ideas and experiences, be it academic or social.

Most importantly, I would suggest thinking about the reasons that you’re going to graduate school and what you want to get out of it to help you choose the right school for you!

Five Things to Know About New York If You’ve Never Been Here

Note from Admissions: When Nabila, who is from Kuala Lumpur, told me that her first time in New York City was also her first day as a SIPA student, I was stunned. She wrote this about NYC in the fall semester. I was saving it for today, April Fools’. As someone born in New York, Nabila’s thoughts on this city made me laugh. She captures what I love about NYC with honesty.

Now that COVID-19 is impacting our city and community so hard, reading her words make me want to laugh and cry! I’m worried for my city – I think we all are – and this post lets me take a moment to appreciate the people who make up the heart of this city.

I hope this brings a little lightness to your day like it did for me, and that it lets you appreciate the people who are going out to keep everything running, as well as the people staying in to make it safer for everyone.

— Emily Tao, Admissions


Before starting school at SIPA, the only time I had been to New York was a 12-hour day trip from Washington, D.C. where I arrived way too early — so early that no tourist sites were open (pro tip: the Empire State building opens at 8am). I spent about half my time in Central Park (don’t laugh but that park is b-e-a-utiful). My knowledge of New York was based solely on television shows and movies — though I doubt that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the best benchmark of the city since it just kept getting destroyed. Looking at you Avengers!

I took the leap to come to New York because, well, it’s New York, and because SIPA is my dream school. I thought I knew everything I needed to know about SIPA and the city, so I didn’t bother joining any virtual sessions or doing any due diligence. Once I got here, I realized I was grossly unprepared to live in this city and that initial shock took some time to adjust myself to.

To help you not be me, here are five things you need to know about New York if you’ve never been here*:
*Actual New Yorkers may fight me on this 🙂 

#1 No, it’s not like Friends, Sex and the City or Gossip Girl
Sadly, your friends will most likely not be your neighbor (maybe, but really – no). If you’re lucky, they might live a 15-minute walk from you which is basically the same thing as being neighbors. Why?

Rent. People have very different budgets and that budget will take people all over the city. Life can be glamorous — hanging out in Lehman Library, sharing snacks from all over the world is glamorous — just not the way that TV does glamour. Having lunch on the steps at the Met? Definitely not. Everyone has very busy schedules and graduate students, I would argue, have 30-hour days. I have friends who juggle internships, part-time jobs, full 18-credit semesters and a thriving social life. Yes, they’re superhuman. Scheduling time to catch-up is a real thing and is really no different elsewhere, with the biggest difference being time taken thanks to public transport. Which brings me to…

#2 Everyone has a love/hate relationship with the subway 
When I first got here, I hated the subway because it’s confusing and always delayed and just so unpredictable.

“Why are some stations not connected for uptown/downtown? Why are there so many people here? I need to leave this station and walk to another ‘connecting’ station? Where can I find train time info? Where is that smell coming from? The B/C is delayed AGAIN? 15 minutes later and still no train. So much for being on time…”

Do I exaggerate? I think not. Ask anyone who lives here. ANYONE. After a year in the City, I still hate the subway but I hate it a lot less. I hate a lot less to the point that maybe I actually do quite like the subway? After visiting some other cities in the U.S. (Bay Area, I’m looking at you) the subway is definitely an old, rusty, sometimes smelly, game changer, and I would rather have it than not have it at all. Pro tip though, trust an actual New Yorker over Google Maps any day because they know the best way to game the system.

#3 The Empire State Building is really not that tall
If you’ve lived or visited any major city in Asia, be prepared to be underwhelmed by the skyscrapers here. Yes, New York has a lot of tall buildings, and yes they are clustered very closely together but compared to many major cities in Asia, the buildings don’t feel exceptionally tall. For reference, here’s a condensed (and selected) list of tallest buildings (excludes the UAE…) :

Shanghai Tower: 2,073 feet
Ping An Finance Center: 1.965 feet
One World Trade Center: 1,776 feet
Taipei 101: 1,667 feet
Petronas Twin Towers: 1,483 feet
Empire State Building: 1,454 feet

That said, the New York skyline is breathtaking an unbeatable and you will very likely travel far distances to get a glimpse of it. Don’t believe me? Google ‘best places to view the NYC skyline’ and I’m sure hundreds of results will show up, one of which is this link. What makes the skyline special is just the sheer number of buildings and the surrounding rivers that somehow reflect the sun at just the perfect angle.

#4 There is a never-ending list of things to do
New York is busy. Busy in the best way that word can be used to describe anything. There is always, and I mean always, something to do here. And what’s even better is that there is something for everyone. Literally. If you have a niche interest, do a quick search and you’ll find like-minded folks.

Interested in the arts, theater and culture? Broadway, museums, art shows. Interested in festivals? There are plenty in Central Park and Brooklyn in the summer. Sports? Yep, never-ending options. Parties? Indoors and outdoors. Glamping? Try Governor’s Island.

You’ll never hear any Seeple complain that they’re bored or have too much time in this city. Even SIPA has an endless list of events – from panels and networking sessions to student organisation socials and brunch. There is no such thing as being bored. Personally, I’m a huge foodie so I often travel outside of the SIPA bubble (the trek is real), to explore and find new places to eat. My all-time favorite place though is Central Park, there really is nowhere else quite like it.

That said, this also means that New York can get very crowded, depending on where and when. This might be the only city in the world where there are endless tourists regardless of season, rain or shine, winter or summer. Pro tip: Avoid Times Square because it is truly the worst place and is tourist central. Do it once, but don’t do it again. In fact, if you plan on having visitors, wait to go with them so you only need to go once.

#5 Re-adjust your understanding of time and distance 
When I first moved here, a friend from home gave me the helpful advice that 30 minutes is close after I complained that it took me 20-25 minutes on the C train to Midtown. You heard it here first. THIRTY MINUTES IS CLOSE. I thought she was mad. But now I get it. It took me a while but eventually I understood what she meant. 30 minutes is close and totally manageable in this city because you need to travel that distance to get anywhere, to see anything and to actually explore and enjoy the city. So the next time someone says they live all the way downtown, don’t freak out. Instead, embrace the opportunity to explore a new area and plan your trip so you can go with friends or watch some Netflix on your commute. I promise, that 30+ minute trip will be worth it!

BONUS!!! #6 That grad school life in New York City 
There is nowhere else you should do grad school but New York. Trust me on this. I visited other schools since I’ve been here and really, I couldn’t imagine not being in this city and what it has to offer especially as a grad student. Because New York is such a hub, we have an abundant amount of job prospects and opportunities. In the City (and beyond SIPA), there are plenty of panels, talks, coffee chats, meets up and networking sessions all year round. There are also plenty of opportunities to work part-time (could lead to that dream job! Or maybe supplement income!) and also meet people from different backgrounds. And this ranges from public to private sector opportunities because NYC has the UN but it also has Wall Street so really, NYC is as diverse as it can be. Whatever you’re looking for, this city has it all because New York is always THE stop on people’s list to visit/host an event/find opportunities. Also, there’s that saying that you should live in NYC at least once when you’re in your 20s, so you know you have to do it!

Lastly, you might get to New York and feel completely underwhelmed like me but rest assured that it only gets better from there on out. Don’t trust me, check out the 101 things to love about New York City here.

New York, I love you 3000.

RISE Up!

This post is co-authored by George-Ann Ryan and Nabila Hassan, both of whom were members of RISE’s steering committee

Are you a potential SIPA student who wants to know what student organizations are available to satisfy your interest in social justice, inequality, and similar topics? At SIPA there are many organizations that cater to students who want to know how to apply their coursework and experience to issues of social and economic equity, one of which is RISE.

But first, who is RISE? 

RISE is the student working group on Race, Inequality, Solidarity and Economics (RISE) whose mission is to create a safe environment for students to work towards solutions to problems of social inequality, such as wealth and income inequality, poverty, and racial, economic and gender disparities.

How will RISE achieve this? 

  1. Knowledge sharing: Bringing together students, scholars and activists who are researching and working on all dimensions of inequality. RISE frequently partners with other student organizations and committees to explore multiple dimensions of inequalities
  2. Inclusivity advocacy: Advocate for greater inclusion of income disparity, poverty, racial divides and other dimensions of inequality in public policy curriculum
  3. Community building: Promote and enhance organizational efforts for social, economic and racial justice through active partnership with other student organizations
  4. Civic and political engagement: By connecting SIPA students to relevant volunteer and activism opportunities across New York City

Our main avenue to achieving our goals is through events where we invite practitioners, academics, artists, activists, and social entrepreneurs to educate and share with us about how their work has improved conditions for the communities they serve. 

Flagship event: Inequality of Rights Workshop

Last April, RISE held our inaugural Inequality of Rights Workshop, analyzing inequality through an intersectional lens. All of our privileges lie at the intersections of all our identities. Whether it be gender, race, economic status, or migration, our multifaceted identities provide insight into how we approach policy problems. RISE, along with other students groups, wanted to analyze how our intersecting identities impact how we are impacted by public policy decisions and start a conversation about what it really means to create policy that positively impacts everyone. Speakers were a combination of practitioners and academics including Dr. Suresh Naidu (Columbia SIPA), Ravi Ragbir (New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City), Eddie Taveras (FWD.us), and Helen Ho (Biking Public Project).

At the Workshop, Suresh Naidu gave an overview of the role of economic rights in the fight for equity through economic research and policy as well as all the ways in which our present policy framework denies us our economic rights. Ravi Ragbir shared his battle with and the importance of knowing your rights when navigating the migration process.

Why did you join RISE? 

George-Ann: My background in economics and public policy, especially as it relates to economic inequality and the ways in which racial and gender identities exacerbate it, meant that when I came to SIPA and saw the group’s name I was hooked from the get go. Making equitable policy begins with being able to see and propose remedies for the equalities present in our society

Nabila: I am interested in racial inequality and that was a huge motivator for me to pursue graduate school. RISE was a perfect fit that expanded on my interest and taught me that inequality exists across broad dimensions and often times multiple dimensions are intersecting with one another making the problem of inequality intertwined and complex 

Why is RISE an important dimension to the conversations at SIPA? 

RISE is a great way for those of us whose course load does not have the room to directly explore issues of equity in depth to discuss how we can apply our learned skill set to these issues, meet a diverse pool of like-minded students, and share resources and materials.

How does RISE engage with the broader SIPA community?

RISE also engages with the broader SIPA community through having representation on the Diversity Committee where a member of RISE’s Steering Committee, alongside chosen Steering Committee members of whom many are also representatives of student organizations,  acts as a student voice to the administration in reflecting our sentiments in how the school manages issues facing students from marginalized communities, driving diversity initiatives, and letting them know how students feel about the campus climate to that effect. RISE also collaborates with faculty and other student groups on events and programs to further the conversation beyond our membership and, sometimes, beyond SIPA’s doors!

Interested in what SIPA students are doing to further diversity? Check out this article, ‘The Quest to Build a More Diverse, Equitable and Inclusive SIPA’ here.

Want to learn more about RISE and what we’re up to? Like and follow our Facebook page!

Exploring New York City Neighborhoods

This post is brought to you by your fellow 2019-2020 contributors – George-Ann, Stuart, Steven and Nabila.

Start spreadin’ the news
I’m leavin’ today
I want to be a part of it
New York, New York
– Frank Sinatra

New York City can be overwhelming if you’ve never visited, and it can be especially terrifying if you’re trying to figure out where to live. Putting down roots is s.c.a.r.y. especially when there are so many factors! Where’s a cool area to live in? What’s the commute like? Should I live near SIPA? Will I even leave my house during winter? Is it that cold? (No, it’s really not that cold…)

We’ve got you covered! Take a trip with your fellow Seeples and explore New York City’s diverse neighborhoods. We asked the current SIPA community to share where they live, what their commute is like, what they love about their neighbourhood and also some tips and tricks for you to navigate and prepare for life at SIPA @ New York!

Want to experience the commute for yourself? Visit SIPA, see it for yourself and weigh in on the debate! Sit in on a class and/or join us for an on-campus information session. More information on how to do both can be found here

Note: Commute time refers to commute time to SIPA

THE BRONX

Source: TheCultureTrip.com

Name: Steven
Neighborhood: Co-op City, THE Bronx
Commute time & method: 45 min – 1 hr (no traffic one way), 1.5 hr (traffic one way), BX12SBS Bus then 1 Train
What you love about your neighborhood: It’s lowkey highkey pretty much a retirement community so it is quiet and a nice change from the constant speed of the city. It’s chill and there’s green space so it operates as a getaway from the city. There’s also Pelham Bay Park close by which is a really nice park to hang out in. I also like getting out of the SIPA/Columbia campus bubble and seeing other parts of the city. Plus, I’m back where I grew up, so it’s cool to see how my neighborhood has changed.
What’s not so great about it: The obscene distance from Midtown. Living here has taught me the value of express buses and trains. Anyone who lives at the ends of the city knows this plight. The distance really impacts your decision on whether to be social or not, especially if you are going to a party in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn (you will be on the train for at least 2 hours). You also become a time manager, leaving for and the events hours early to get back home before dusk. After a late night at E’s or Amity Hall, I usually take an Uber all the way back. 🙁
Pro tip: Download a lot of Netflix, print out study material, get a lot of reading/Netflix done. Watch some videos on Lynda and learn a new skill. People become very adept at making that travel time productive. Or you can also get a nice nap in. Catch up on that sleep that you’ll definitely lose at SIPA.

MANHATTAN

Source: CityandStateNY.com

Name: George-Ann
Neighborhood: Fort George, Washington Heights
Commute time & method: 15-20 minutes on the downtown 1 trains
What you love about your neighborhood: Oh Washington Heights how I love thee. I can not count the ways. It’s near enough to campus to be an easy commute while not being so close to campus that I feel that I can’t disengage. I also love how walkable it is – I can get groceries, a haircut, and my eyebrows threaded on my block. It is also sooo much cheaper than living in Morningside Heights.
What’s not so great about it: I live pretty near to the GWB bridge to New Jersey so sometimes, when there is bad traffic, I can hear the honking of impatient drivers but it’s nothing that a record player and some good speakers can’t fix.
Pro tip: Washington Heights has plentiful co-ops. Because people own the units, your landlord can be an individual and not a huge real estate company so rent can be a bit cheaper with this kind of arrangement. Also, podcasts are your friend. I can get through half of my favourite podcasts each way during my commute and it makes the time fly by!

Name: Nabila
Neighborhood: Morningside Heights, Manhattan
Commute time & method: 12 minutes, walking
What you love about your neighborhood: The sleepy neighbourhood feel in a busy city and it’s pretty convenient.
What’s not so great about it: You’re always in that SIPA bubble – ALWAYS.

Name: Christina
Neighborhood: Midtown East, Manhattan
Commute time & method: 50 mins on the subway but I take a LOT of Vias because they are cheaper than Uber/Lyft and they’re only 30-40 minutes
What you love about your neighborhood: I hate commuting, but I’ve been in my neighborhood for over 6 years! I’m a creature of habit and I don’t want to move.
What’s not so great about it: My commute is LONG and inconvenient, with a ton of walking.
Pro tip: Sometimes it’s worth it to take a ride-share to cross town and take the subway from there. Otherwise, you will waste your whole life switching trains. Check the train schedules on the weekends – just because Google maps says your train is running doesn’t mean it is.

Name: Stuart
Neighborhood: Chelsea, Manhattan
Commute time & method: 25 minutes, 1 train
What you love about your neighborhood: It’s a great, walkable neighborhood, and I love that I can escape the Columbia bubble. I can walk to the High Line, Chelsea Market, the West Village, and other great parts of the city.
What’s not so great about it: My commute is just long enough that it never makes sense to go home in between classes.
Pro tip: Take into account the subway locations when you’re choosing an apartment! I have multiple subway lines within a block of my apartment and it makes a huge difference.

Name: Alex
Neighborhood: Stuyvesant Town, Manhattan
Commute time & method: 45 minutes to an hour on the subway / 45 minutes on Citi Bike
What you love about your neighborhood: I love that Stuyvesant Town is like a mini campus within the city. It’s quiet, very green, and has lots of amenities. It’s close to other cool places like the east village. It also has a real neighborhood feel unlike some other places in NYC
What’s not so great about it: It takes 10 minutes to walk to the nearest subway
Pro tip: Check L train times on the weekend before going through the turnstile or you’ll be waiting for the train for 20-30 minutes

QUEENS

Source: TheCultureTrip.com

Name: Sophia
Neighborhood: Flushing, Queens
Commute time & method: Roundtrip 3 hours, on average. I was taking the Q44 SBS to the 7 Express (pray for no delay) to the 2/3 Express to the 1 every day last year!
What you love about your commute: I love taking the train (nearly) end-to-end because I was able to generally get a seat on every ride. I usually nap on the train in the mornings and read in the evenings. While the commute was long, I feel grounded in my community when I’m on the 7 train– it reminds me of why I decided to study Urban Policy at SIPA!
What’s not so great about it: The train delays can be very rough… especially when you have 9 AMs. (Side note, check outthis great New York Times visualization on unpredictabilities of subway commutes)
Pro tip: Print out your readings (you’re allotted $$ to print from CUIT and SIPAIT) and read them on your commute! In addition, I recommend bringing snacks for your commute if it can skew on the unpredictable side. Last but not least, renting a locker from SIPASA alleviated the burden of carrying a bunch of belongings around with me every day.

Name: Errold
Neighborhood: South Jamaica, Queens
Commute time & method: Long Island Rail Road to Penn Station (34th street) and then the 1 train uptown. This is usually ~1h 15minutes at max. I’m lucky because the Locust Manor Station is across the street from my building. If not I would have to take a bus to the E train at Jamaica Station, and then the E train to 50th street to the 1 train. That takes 2 hours!
What you love about your neighborhood: Tons of Caribbean food options! South Jamaica is known as a rough area, but it is residential and is filled with tons of great people. It’s also a multi- generational neighborhood and there are a lot of mutual connections. Tons of parks as well to play basketball or jog around. I have been here my whole life so its home and will always feel good.
What’s not so great about it: It’s far from everything!!!! The distance means I am always on an adventure. I tend to leave early from events because I know my commute takes longer than all my friends or coworkers.
Pro tip: Bring something to keep your mind off of the commute. I usually read in the mornings and I am able to get through over 20 pages a day in the morning. Check the weather as much as possible. In NYC the weather could be sunny when you leave your home, and then when you get out of the train at 116th or 110th the weather can be something completely different. I have been in situations when the weather would be beautiful at 7:40am, but when I get off of the 1 train it is pouring.

Name: Sasha
Neighborhood: Ozone Park, Queens
Commute time & method: 1 hour 40 minutes door-to-door, A Train
What you love about your commute: It’s nice to take just one subway and not have any transfers or connections. I can get a solid hour of reading (or napping) undisturbed.
What’s not so great about it: During midterms/finals, I tend to stay in the Lehman library as late as possible, and the late-night commute gets even longer.
Pro tip: Always have water and snacks. Either for yourself for when there are long train delays, or to pass along to someone who might be hungry and need it more than you.

BROOKLYN

Source: NYCgo.com

Name: Alexon
Neighborhood: Bay Ridge, Brooklyn
Commute time & method: 1 hour, 1/2/3/N Trains
What you love about your commute:  Mmm…I love how the NYC subway is this weird social experiment that literally brings people from all walks of life to the same, underground level. I like not paying rent thanks to my favorite roommate: my pops. Also Bay Ridge doesn’t feel like NYC. It’s nice to stay grounded but I hate commuting forever.
What’s not so great about it: The strange stank and occasional rat.
Pro tips: Google Maps’ algorithm is faulty at best in determining optimal subway routes. Trust a true New Yorker’s suggestion.

STATEN ISLAND

Source: ny.curbed.com

We’ve heard rumors that a few Seeples live here but sadly, we couldn’t find them… 

Note from Emily at Admissions: I actually know this borough a bit, since I grew up here many years ago and my family lives in Staten Island!

Commute time & method: 90 minutes each way, approximately. You can take the MTA express buses, which you can find real-time updates at bustime.mta.info. You can also take the subway all the way down to the Staten Island Ferry, which is free and runs every hour of every day, and then you’ll be in the northern tip of Staten Island.
What you love about your neighborhood: Most young hip commuters live in the northern St. George neighborhood, I think. The rent is much more affordable here, though the commute to midtown is a lot more manageable than Columbia.
What’s not so great about it: Nobody will ever visit you, unless you are literally family.

And last but not least, a special feature…

NEW JERSEY

Source: FortLeeNJ.org

Name: Veronica
Neighborhood: Jersey City Heights, Jersey City (JC), New Jersey
Commute time & method: I either take the bus or a car. Commute time to NYC midtown can be as fast as 15 minutes, but Columbia campus is between 30 minutes – 1 hour 30 minutes. The Holland Tunnel connects Jersey City and New York City. Most JC commuters travel to NYC via Holland Tunnel, Lincoln Tunnel, GW Bridge, the PATH train, NJ Transit bus, the ferry or car.
What you love about your neighborhood: Jersey City has a unique vibe and it’s super diverse. Actually, it’s the most diverse city in the country according to WalletHub! Speaking of diversity, you can find some of the most authentically traditional and flavorful food in Jersey – and super affordable. For Jersey restaurants, day bars and nightlife, check out Surf City, Skinner’s Loft and Razza Pizza. If you’re into history, science and/or parks, go to the Ellis Island Museum, Liberty Science Center and Liberty State Park.
What’s not so great about it: The traffic is the worst! It can take 10-15 minutes just to get out of Jersey City proper.
Name: Hansol
Neighborhood: Fort Lee, NJ
Commute time & method: 40 minutes – 1 hour; carpool, Columbia shuttle, NJ Transit bus or jitney to cross the George Washington Bridge → A train to 125th → 10 minute walk to campus
What you love about your neighborhood: Fort Lee is a small yet vibrant town filled with NYC commuters. Also, with the large Korean community here, you can expect many clean and modern cafes and restaurants (I might be a bit biased). If you take the carpool, you get to jump into a stranger’s air-conditioned car for free and MAYBE strike an interesting conversation (if you are into that sort of thing). Most of the time though, all you will say is “good morning” and “thank you”. Also, you get to enjoy about 20 minutes of quiet time, which can’t be taken for granted in NYC
What’s not so great about it: Living in NJ usually means you will need a car to get to places. In my opinion, Fort Lee is logistically too far from NYC as a sleep-only place. Predicting the Bridge’s traffic conditions is like predicting the weather, do not be surprised if you get stuck for over 30 minutes on the Bridge. It will happen when you least expect it
Pro tip #1: Carpool – This is the best option to cross the Bridge since it is free and takes you directly to the subway station. If you take NJ Transit or Jitney, you will have to walk some distance in the underground tunnel to the subway station. But, carpool requires you to live near a pickup area (near the Bridge), be dropped off there by other means, or know someone who commutes by car and is willing to give you a ride
Pro tip #2: Columbia Shuttle – There is only one stop in NJ but it is free and clean. You can take the 1 train from 168th which will take you directly to campus. Regardless of where you choose to live, SIPA is definitely accessible and you will not only survive the commute but you’ll also bond with your fellow Seeples facing the same plight. Relationships can (maybe?) blossom on the subway. Either way, it’s a win-win!

– George-Ann, Stuart, Steven and Nabila

Interested to experience SIPA for yourself? Register to join our on-campus information sessions. You can also sit in on a class starting mid-October for the fall semester and late February for the spring semester. Click here for more details.

Why I applied ‘Early Action’

I applied Early Action to SIPA, where decisions are non-binding, in November 2017 to start in Fall 2018. I applied early because, quite simply, I wanted an early decision. More than that, I applied early action because my graduate school journey started way back in 2016. I started thinking about going to grad school in early 2016, and it took me a while to decide this is what I really wanted.

Applying Early Action was the best decision for me because…

It gave me a deadline and…

SIPA’s Early Action deadline is in early November (for Fall 2020, it is November 1, 2019!), which was the earliest of all the schools I applied to. I used this deadline as an ‘early EARLY action’ in my planning and figured if I worked towards SIPA’s deadline, I would be prepared for all other schools’ deadlines. It was helpful for me because I worked backwards from the deadline to fulfill the application checklist. The checklist is also quite similar for the other schools I applied to, with the difference being the essays. This helped me gather everything I needed pretty early on, which was a huge burden off because you’re working through that checklist. Working on the essays for SIPA’s deadline also helped me articulate clearly why I wanted to go back to school and what I hoped to accomplish. This made it a lot easier to write the other essays too.

I heard back super early…

Applying early action means you get a non-binding early decision! I heard back from SIPA right after Christmas, which was a nice way to usher in the New Year. The admission e-letter plays Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” (turn that volume up!) and has falling confetti. It was basically just perfect. (That added touch made me so happy like you can’t even imagine.) (Sad story but the SIPA decision email actually went to my spam so I actually saw it two days after it was sent, but that doesn’t matter. So worth it.) And it adds to the holiday festivity. Given that you hear back around 8 weeks after you apply, and because it’s around the holiday season, I was definitely preoccupied so I didn’t have any anxiety or stress while waiting to hear back. So apply early action because no stress, no mess!

Which means I could plan the next 8 months…

Hearing back by the New Year also gave me time to plan the next 8 months leading up to SIPA. It gave me space to plan time for family, holidays, boring admin like banks and visas, and more crucially, when to leave my job. I didn’t feel stressed that I had a hundred things to do before moving, and I had time to troubleshoot problems. SIPA requires that you provide official documents once you are accepted. While some institutions have this all figured out and you only need to click a button, others have a more complicated process that requires many emails, calls and mailing paper transcripts (and things can get lost in the mail – trust me on this), for you to complete this and get the verified documents check. Lastly, I received a conditional offer for SIPA, which meant that I needed to spend some time improving on my quantitative skills (read: I had to take economics classes). Again, the 8 months gave me time to plan ahead on how to meet this requirement. But conversely, if I had not been accepted, I would have had time to apply to other/more schools, reapply or figure out an alternative.

And gave me a sense of security. 

Once I heard back from SIPA, I felt relieved. I felt strangely secure that at least someone wanted me. This gave me the confidence to apply to my remaining schools because maybe they would want me to? Probably not but maybe. This security also meant that yes, I was going to graduate school and got me very excited!

Was Early Action the right choice?

Applying to grad school made me very nervous, anxious and scared because I felt all my hopes and dreams were on the line. Applying Early Action was absolutely the best decision for me. I felt hugely relieved once I applied because it was out of my control by then. Because I’m a planner and I liked having the extra time to figure out a game plan, the early decision helped. That said, there are people who applied at the very last minute, so I think it boils down to personality and your comfort with uncertainty.

So, what you are waiting for? Apply Early Action!

The Fall 2020 Early Action Deadline is November 1, 2019.

"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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