Author Archive for Steven Reid

A week in the life of a 2nd year student

If you haven’t guessed it by now, the 2nd year student is none other than moi (aka Steven, who is writing this post). Some things to keep in mind while reading this:

  1. I’m not a morning person and like to sleep in so my days begin a little later.
  2. I’m taking 16.5 credits and working this semester so I’m doing a quite bit of running around. Talk to enough people at SIPA and you will hear some pretty hectic schedules (i.e 2 jobs, 5 classes and is in 3 groups 😯 )

Everyone at SIPA (especially 2nd years) has a “rough day”…and for me, a rough day is the day that most of your classes are on. All that intro to say that my rough day is Monday:

3 classes…..

6 hours……..

2 sips of water (if I’m lucky).

Monday:

2:10pm: I start my Mondays off with Decision Models and Management, a super interesting operations management class with a lot of excel optimization model building. This is one of my favorite classes this semester, and I’m learning a lot. The professor, Lucius Riccio, is funny and smart. Homework every week though so I spend a lot of time working on that — despite that, highly recommended class.

4:00pm: I walk about 20 steps to my next class Cyber Threat Intelligence. Another interesting class, lots of insightful reading. I find myself looking up random malware and Youtube-ing videos on how to hack and learn more about vulnerabilities or past hacking incidents. LOTS of Acronyms.

4:05pm: Stomach loudly grumbling in class.

4:10pm: Get some gummy snacks from the vending machine. (PRO TIP: Get a locker and put snacks in it or bring snacks in your bag for your rough days. #dontstarve)

6:10pm: I crawl to my last class, Community Economic Development. I learn all the things about how affordable housing is financed.

8:00pm: Fin

tired arrested development GIF

Tuesday:

A WAY LIGHTER DAY THAN MONDAY!!!! My school day doesn’t start until 6:00pm (International Trade)! I usually spend Tuesdays working on Decision Models and cleaning out my inbox (email inboxes fill fast at SIPA. There is A LOT going on). Two days into the week and I’m already fatigued.

I burn my incense and play a lot of R&B at home. After Mondays, I need a day to decompress and exfoliate.

Wednesday:

From 11am to 5pm: I am at Admissions working and writing blog posts for all you beautiful people, as I am currently doing right now as I write this.

After work @ 6:10: International Political Economy class

6:15pm: Stomach growling again.

8:00pm again:

tired arrested development GIF

Thursday:

Just working at Admissions from 11am to 5pm, writing more posts and answering all your questions on SIPA!

5:01pm:

black lives matter freedom GIF

Friday through Sunday:

A mix of more incense, more R&B, endless readings and problem sets, more sips of water, more gummy snacks and building up the will and core strength to do it all again next week.

brain studying GIF

Note from Admissions: For those applying, Steven will be online to answer your admissions and student life questions on Wednesday, December 4. Check your email to RSVP for our live Q&A.

Surviving (and thriving) the Video Essay

Photo Credit

Remember: The video essay is available after you submit your application and pay the application fee.

The Video Essay component of the application process can seem terrifying, but fear not because we are here to help! At this point, you might feel both relieved at having submitted your application and tired that there’s the final final step to complete the application. We’ve been there and totally get it. It’s 100% normal!

In writing this post, we found that each of us prepared for the video essay differently, which means there is no one ‘right’ way to prepare as everyone has their own process when it comes to it. We brainstormed on what we felt worked and also what we wish we had known when we were preparing.

Here are the main steps we took to prepare for the Video Essay:

Prepare like it’s an interview…or a first date – George-Ann MIA ’20

The video essay is a conversation between yourself and the Admissions team. There’s no judgement or pressure to be uber gregarious. Instead, prepare to chat about anything from pressing current affairs issues to your favorite flavor of ice cream. Read some news articles about current affairs, write and practise some talking points about yourself, relax, and, most importantly, be yourself.

Unlike an interview, there’s no expectation for you to be fully kitted out in a suit and tie — dressing comfortably is fine. Just remember that this is an externally facing video so wear something that you’d be comfortable wearing meeting new people.

Give yourself time – Stuart MIA ’20

Remember, you can only start the video essay after completing the rest of the application, so it’s important to give yourself plenty of time prior to the application deadline. As with anything, technical issues are certainly a possibility, and you don’t want you to be stressed about missing the deadline.

One thing that all of us did early in the process was test our microphone and camera. I personally used Skype to test everything prior to even accessing the video essay, but you will also do this in Testing Mode within the video essay application. I also made sure the lighting was good and the microphone could clearly capture my voice (try to complete the essay in an area with limited background noise or use a headset). Looking and sounding my best helped improve my confidence, and I’d certainly recommend starting early as one of the best ways to make your video essay experience go smoothly.

If you do encounter technical issues, don’t panic, you’re not the only one. First, follow the steps outlined here to try to troubleshoot the issue. If that doesn’t resolve your issue, contact the admissions office immediately and they can provide further assistance.

Take It Easy – Steven MIA ’20

So, I did the exact opposite of what George-Ann said and got decked out in a suit and tie (oops) and it was completely unnecessary (still looked good, though). I got way too amped for my question and almost stumbled out the gate. If I were to do it over again I would:

  • Breathe and take a couple of seconds to read the question.
  • If it is a policy question you know well, don’t try to jam all your knowledge into the video. Just answer the question and tag on anything extra after if there’s time.
  • If it is a policy question you don’t know much about, focus more on what you have heard and what you think about it, or possible future developments of the topic.
  • If it’s question about yourself, don’t overthink it, just speak calmly and slowly. Don’t be too concerned about providing the “right” answer.

Make those 60 seconds count – Nabila MPA ’20

Yay, you’re ready to do that Video Essay! Once you’re done with Testing Mode, click the green READY button. This will give you your official prompt question. You will have 60 seconds to prepare for your answer so use those 60 seconds wisely! But, no pressure. Really. No Pressure.

When I was preparing for the video essay, the general consensus on graduate school forums is that there is no one type of question. So I figured I should think about how I can best tackle any answer that comes my way, since the questions can really range from Brexit to the ideal SIPA student. My solution was to focus on structure, structure, structure. The general framework I used is a high-level essay structure. Effectively, a clear and concise 30-second elevator pitch that answers the question.

When answering my question (Sadly, I forgot the question the moment I was done with the video essay because, adrenaline), I listed 3 points/ideas as a starting point and built it up by including examples to support those points. While I was tempted to go into a lot of details, I felt that the more ideas I had, the less clear my answers would be since 60 seconds goes by so quickly. You’d be surprised how much you can get done in 60 seconds when you need to! After that I took a deep breath to calm my nerves, and to remind myself to speak slowly, as I watched the seconds countdown to deliver the answer.

Lastly, remember there’s more to the application than your Video Essay. The video essay is just one component of the application and it provides the Admissions Committee a sense of who you are given there is no opportunity for interviews. So just remember this is not the do-or-die factor for your application.

Good luck!

Want more resources?
Click here for a walkthrough of how to access the app and what it looks like, see this post.
Click here for a post on what to expect in the Video Essay.

Getting Involved in Campus – Inside and Outside SIPA

Of course, you’re thinking of applying to SIPA for all the great classes climate policy and impact investing we have and all the super smart professors butttttt…….you might be forgetting something……

THE PEOPLE!!!!!!!

The people at SIPA is one of SIPA’s best attributes. The people here are awesome and one very important way to meet more people is getting involved in campus groups and student life!!!! I myself, am the Communications and Marketing Chair of SIPA Students of Color, aka, I tell people in SIPA about the events and talks we are having as well as spending a lot of time looking up memes for newsletters. Due to this role, I have met some cool people who I am glad to say are very good friends (awwww <33).

There are many great student organizations here, some of which include Digital & Cyber Group, Migration Working Group and SIPA Pan-African Network. Anything you are interested in policy-wise, you can find it at SIPA. And if you can’t find it, you can start a new group. You’ll soon be drowning in events with interesting guests including diplomats, CEOs, managers, policymakers and more!

Now SIPA is lovely and all, but you may need a break from the International Affairs Building – seriously, we spend a lot of time here – and it’s important to get out of the SIPA bubble and meet people from other schools.

Columbia University Life is always throwing events that bring together students from different graduate schools. Last year, I met students from Columbia Business School and Columbia Law School at a Latin Student Mixer. Every now and then, I go to talks/events/panels at Maison Francaise/Journalism School/Law School/[other schools that are not SIPA] to meet students from other fields of study and get a feel of something other than international affairs and economics. There are so many cool things going at SIPA that it is easy to forget how much is happening across Columbia University and at the other schools here. I sign up for a lot of experiments so I have met postdocs at the Zuckerman Institute as well.

This is all to say that class is great, but don’t forget that a big part of your grad school experience will be the people you meet. SIPA and Columbia in general have A LOT of interesting people to meet. Remember to take a break from schoolwork and wander around campus, go to different buildings and explore. The University Life app will keep you up to date about what is going on around campus so pay attention to it!

Why I Applied to SIPA – It All Started In High School

My path to studying at SIPA started from when I was a child. Growing up the Bronx, NY, I was surrounded by Spanish. I was fascinated by people speaking in a way that I did not understand. The sounds made me want to learn the language and its speakers. Once I entered 5th grade I began taking Spanish, and it was my favorite class. Having spent some of childhood in Jamaica and with my mother’s side of the family living there, I was traveling a good amount between Kingston and New York.

That Spanish class and the back-and-forth between countries began a love of other languages, cultures and traveling.

When I entered high school, I began to think what career path I would choose. My original plans included me becoming a forensic scientist or a occupational therapist. Teenage-Me liked solving mysteries and playing sports so I thought those professions would be fun (Adult-Me still likes those things). During freshman and sophomore year, I quickly learned that although I was good at Physics, Biology and Chemistry were not my strong suits. My less-than-stellar aptitude at the sciences dampened my scientist and therapist goals.

In my junior year, I was in a program that took high school students to Washington, D.C., to meet diplomats and Congressmembers to discuss diplomacy and national security. Meeting diplomats, learning about what they did and seeing how much they knew about the world left an impression on me. It was on this trip that I figured out I wanted to travel and learn more about the world. And the cherry on top, learning a language for work? I wanted to sign up immediately. Sadly you just can’t sign up for these kinds of positions.

From that point on in high school, I was researching undergraduate and graduate programs in international affairs focusing how to get into diplomacy. As my research into programs expanded, so did my interests in Latin America, which ended up as one of my undergraduate majors.

As I was leaving undergraduate, I was figuring out which field in international affairs I wanted to focus on. Economics had always interested me, but I always thought I was never good at quantitative/mathematical fields. After undergraduate, I spent some time working in the budgeting and finance in Boston. This experience helped me become more comfortable with the quantitative fields and pushed me to take the leap into studying economics.

When I was looking for programs, I wanted a broad one that had a strong economics background and IFEP won my heart. Also, the amount of course offerings at SIPA would allow me to learn about other policy fields. On top of this, with SIPA being in New York, I was able to come back home after living in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts for 10 years. I had missed the city.

Application Advice – Asking for Recommendations

You’re filling out your application and then DREAD fills you…….RECOMMENDATIONS.

You have to ask other people to tell SIPA why they think you should be accepted into SIPA. Now….. you know you’re awesome but now someone else has to talk about how and why you’re awesome. UGHHHHHH.

We here at SIPA have you covered. Simple actions can make this process go smoother.

The first thing you are going to need is TIME. PLEASE START EARLY. The minute you start thinking about applying, think about recommendations. More time will help everyone involved. More time will mean less anxiety. More time also allows for your recommender to write a great letter for you.

This is definitely advice I should have taken because I became waaaaay too stressed about asking my managers/former professors for recommendations. It took me three weeks to work up the courage to tell them I’m looking at grad school and need them to recommend me. Luckily they were very cool and still did wrote me recommendations, but moral of the story is don’t be like me and wait!

Second, DEFINITELY ask academic/professional contacts that know you the best, or at least ones you have some connection with. They should know you on a personal level and be able to speak about who you are as a person and how SIPA will assist you in getting to the next step in your career. If you don’t have a strong connection with any academic/professional contacts, you can ask professors of classes you performed well in, though having them write a recommendation may require more work. To assist them, it would be beneficial to write a mini-personal statement (similar to what you’d write for the application) on why you want to go to SIPA and how SIPA fits into your plans. A mini-personal statement is useful to have regardless if you know the person well or not. It will show them why you want to attend SIPA, as well as help you write the statement for your application. This mini-personal statement will help guide them in their recommendation of you and help them focus their writing. The mini give the person reading the recommendation a sense of who you are.

Third, if they seem to be taking too long, just kindly remind them that you need it before the deadline.

Lastly, remember to say “Thank you!”

"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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