Archive for Admissions

Program Assistant Introduction: Niara Valerio

Niara Valerio, 2nd year MPA - IFEP & GPP student

Niara Valerio, 2nd year MPA – IFEP & GPP student

Class has officially started for the 2018-2019 academic year! With this semester, we have a brand new group of program assistants who will be assisting the SIPA Office of Admissions. We’ll be featuring our new PA’s over the next couple of weeks. For today’s post, let’s give a warm welcome to Niara Valerio!


Niara is a current graduate student at Columbia University studying International Finance and Economic Policy with a specialization in Gender and Public Policy. Niara grew up in New York City and completed her undergraduate degree at Harvard University where she studied Economics and Government. Prior to enrolling at SIPA, Niara worked as an Investment Intern at Women’s World Banking Capital Partners and served as Economic Affairs Adviser to the Permanent Observer Mission of the African Union. Niara has a strong interest in women’s economic empowerment and hopes to work for either a venture capital or private equity fund after graduation. She recently started her own ed-tech company, Purpose Tutors, which provides test prep and mentorship to underserved students in the South Bronx. Her hope is to gain the experience to one day start her own fund to invest in female and minority led companies.

What were you doing before you came to SIPA?

I was working as an Economic Affairs Advisor at the Permanent Observer Mission of the African Union to the United Nations.

What attracted you to SIPA and Columbia University?

I wanted to come to SIPA because I was attracted to all the different course offerings and how international the school is. I was especially interested in the Gender and Public Policy Specialization. My focus is on Women’s Economic Empowerment and I wanted to attend a school that allowed me to pursue my interests in both finance and gender.

Have you taken classes at other Columbia Schools?

Yes, I’ve taken several courses outside of SIPA, I took a class at the Mailman School of Public Health “Public Health and Abortion Policy” and one at the Institute for Research in African-American Studies (IRAAS), “Gender, Sexuality and Labor in the Caribbean.” I really valued the opportunity to get to know other students and professors within the Columbia community and outside of SIPA.

Did you choose to attend SIPA to change careers, or to gain experience in a career path you already had experience in?

A little bit of both, I already had some exposure to finance and economics prior to attending SIPA but I wanted to get more experience in Gender and Public Policy. I think SIPA is a great place to blend different interest areas because the course offerings are so diverse. You can really tailor your coursework to suit your own interests.

How did you obtain your internship?

My internship last year was with Accion EAST in their SBA Lending division, I actually applied via SIPA Link and heard back pretty quickly, I was offered the position on the spot, but I think I was very lucky in that regard, that doesn’t usually happen.

What has been the best part of your SIPA experience?

The people I’ve met for sure! I think SIPA attracts a really dynamic, interesting group of people with unique perspectives; you have the opportunity to be exposed to so many different cultures and backgrounds. I definitely appreciate how much I’ve learned from my classmates.

[Photo courtesy of Niara Valerio]

Three Tips for Efficient Communication with our Office

The Office of Admissions and Financial Aid is meant to be a resource for you as you go through the admissions process. Help us help you stay efficient in getting information by following these three tips for communicating with our office:

  1. Use the same name and email address each time. Whether communicating with us or opening an application, consistency is important for us to search and recall past communications to help you get what you need.
  2. Familiarize yourself with the Admissions FAQs. Have you ever been asked a question that the asker could have done a quick internet search to find the answer? We have! We love to speak with people and help them out, but we can get backlogged with questions that are clearly answered on the Frequently Asked Questions page. Those are questions that we collect directly from applicants like you, so chances are that you’ll find the answer to your question more quickly that way. (But we do answer all emails sent to our office, in case you’re wondering.)
  3. General professional email etiquette will speed things up. This includes using descriptive subject lines in emails, including your contact information in your email signature, and avoiding long emails. “Long” emails can be subjective, but if for example, we receive an email with multiple detailed questions, it’ll take us longer to dig through it. With that, you can consider breaking them into separate emails over a short period of time to allow us to respond more efficiently.

    Another email etiquette tip? Avoid copying multiple parties on the same email. I know when I see four other people copied on an email sent to me, I may just let someone else answer the email first, or it’ll spawn more emails itself as we all check who is going to take point on it. If you’re unsure who the email should go to, trust that the person you send it to will direct it to the right place!

Remember, we’re here to help you, and we love when you help us help you.

The 2019 Columbia SIPA Application is Open

Exciting news: SIPA’s 2019 Application Portal is officially live!

The admission application is definitely a whole process, and before you start your application, we recommend the following steps to stay organized and efficient.

  1. Subscribe to the Admissions Blog. (Yup, this one.) We’ll have information from admissions staff, students, alumni, and financial aid that you won’t want to miss.
  2. Add the Application Deadlines to your calendar. All materials must be submitted by the deadline to be eligible for the entry term.

MIA, MPA, MPA-DP Program Deadlines
Spring 2019 (MIA/MPA only)
October 15, 2018 at 11:50pm EST

Fall 2019
Early Action Deadline: November 1, 2018 at 11:59pm EST
Fellowship Consideration Deadline: January 5, 2019 at 11:59pm EST

Final Application Deadline: February 5, 2019 at 11:59pm EST

  1. Register and attend an in-person or virtual information session. Along with getting your questions answered by admissions staff, these sessions include application tips. We’ll add more throughout the year, so be sure to check back.
  2. Practice your Video Essay response. We’ve met many applicants utterly anxious about this step, which won’t help in the essay at all. Practicing will help you feel more comfortable and less jittery.

If you want more advice or need some guidance, email us at sipa_admission@columbia.edu with any questions about the application process. (Just be sure to read up on the basic information before emailing to ask  us an already-answered question – it’ll help speed up the response times!)

And if you just want to get your application started, click here. We wish you all the best of luck.

Congrats to the Class of 2018, and Looking Ahead

We love this photo of the SIPA Class of 2018 at the university-wide commencement on Wednesday (photo credit to recent grad Yashshri Soman!). Each school has their own graduation ceremony throughout Commencement Week, and on Wednesday all of the schools gathered on Columbia’s South Lawn. For SIPA, 736 students from 68 countries earned degrees across all of our programs.

For those of you who can see yourself in the sea of blue in a few years, the Fall 2019 application will go live in August. The application itself is a whole process, and we know that many of you are preparing for it now. To help you think through it, here’s a roundup of posts to help you as you approach the written portions of the application:

  • What’s in an App: Personal Statement – For some in the Admissions Committee, the personal statement sets the tone for the rest of the application – it’s your SIPA raison d’etre. But, the personal statement has a 400-word limit – how do you get all that important information down in a limited capacity? (We actually advise applicants not to waste words quoting others, but I think French philosopher Blaise Pascal’s quote is pretty apt: “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.”)
  • How to plan for your recommendation letters – This is difficult to tackle last minute, so get some info on who you should ask, how you should ask them, and what should go into a letter.
  • What’s in an App: Optional Essay – Is the optional essay really worth doing? This post covers specific ways in how this essay can further your application.
  • Some advice on the optional essay prompt – I’ve seen some skeptical quizzical expressions when I tell applicants that the optional essay truly is optional. Here’s some more general information on common questions we get about the optional essay.

For those of you thinking about applying for the Fall 2019 cycle (or beyond!), I hope that this gives you a good foundation as you start getting your materials together. We’ll notify y’all when the application goes live in August.

And a few reminders before we sign off:

  • A reminder to our Fall 2018 waitlisted candidates that final decisions will roll out by mid-July. Candidates will receive an email as soon as there is an update.
  • The Yellow Ribbon Program Scholarship application opened on Monday, May 14th. You can learn more about eligibility and requirements here – we encourage you to apply soon, as funding is given on a first-come, first-serve basis.
  • Make sure you stay involved with us before the application cycle opens in August 2018 – our information session calendar will list on-campus and virtual sessions, and we’ll add more off-campus events here throughout the summer and fall.

Next Steps for Admitted Students, Fall 2018

First off, a big congratulations on being accepted to Columbia SIPA! I hope you celebrated this achievement – it was a competitive applicant pool! – and are now ready to go over a few things that every newly-admitted student should know. In this post I’ll cover:

  • The Welcome Portal
  • Your Status Page (and how to avoid delays in starting off your school year)
  • Official Documents (this probably applies to you)
  • Conditional Admission
  • Money, Deposits, and Financial Aid

The Welcome Portal

The Welcome Portal has everything you need regarding next steps. Even if you aren’t sure where you’ll end up yet, the Welcome Portal provides information to help you make that decision: Upcoming deadlines, student housing information, and special events and webinars, including Faculty Q&As and Financial Aid advice.

The Welcome Portal is also where you’ll go to accept your admissions offer – your offer deadline is in your admissions letter, along with login details for the Welcome Portal.

You should also follow us on Instagram @Columbia.SIPA to share your admissions story and connect with future classmates with #SIPAClassof2020!

Your Status Page

The last thing you want is a delay to starting off your school year, but that is easily avoided by checking in with the Status Page. This is where you’ll go to review your Application Checklist. Even though you’ve been accepted, there are a few items on the checklist that we need to finalize your academic record before August 2018. And if your record isn’t finalized, you won’t be able to register for classes during Fall 2018 orientation. Don’t be that person!

Official Documents

When you review the Welcome Portal, you’ll notice a section that outlines upcoming deadlines for the Application Checklist materials, also known as official documents. These are hard deadlines for the Admissions Office to receive your official documents, mainly transcripts and test scores.

“But I thought I submitted my application and this whole thing was over!” Not quite, but almost!

In the past few years, at least 90% of our accepted students did not submit all of their official documents to our office. Safe to say, this may be familiar to you:

  • You applied to SIPA. You submitted a scanned copy of your college transcript(s).
  • You were admitted to SIPA with that scanned transcript(s). But, that is still a scan of a transcript, which means it is an unofficial copy.
  • Even if your college registrar’s office handed you an official transcript, since you opened it and scanned it, we must consider it an unofficial copy because it’s technically been altered.

“But my Status Page has a green checkmark next to my transcript, and I’m still seeing a notification that my official transcript has not been submitted. What gives?”

The green checkmark is referring to your unofficial copy tied to your application – just cross-check the upload date and hover over the checkmark (see below) to see if the pop-up text reads “Received Copy” or “Received.” Check out our “Dissecting the Application Checklist” post if you’re still confused.

“How do I send in my official transcripts and test scores?”

All of this information is in the Welcome Portal (seriously, check it out if you haven’t already), but: Official test scores must be on file by June 1, 2018; and official transcripts must be on file by July 13, 2018, (unless instructed otherwise). International students who won’t have conferred degrees until after the deadline should email us and we’ll make a note on their account.

Official test scores must be sent to us by the testing company (ex: ETS, GMAC).

– GRE / TOEFL ibt school code: 2161 (no department code)
– GMAT school code: MIA is QF8-64-56; MPA is QF8-64-99

Mail your official transcripts to us at:
Columbia University | SIPA
Office of Admissions & Financial Aid
514 West 113th Street
New York, New York 10025
(Reminder: Official transcripts must be in an envelope that is sealed and signed. )

While you can email them to sipa_admission@sipa.columbia.edu, note that the transcripts must be sent from the registrar’s office through a service like eSCRIP-SAFE in order to be considered official.

Official Test Scores

The same rules outlined above apply to your official test scores. But if you truly know you sent us your official scores, there may be a workaround from re-ordering your test scores.

Chances are your application name and email address are not recorded the same as the name and email address you registered to take the GRE/GMAT or TOEFL/IELTS/PTE with a few months ago. (You may recall us warning against this in the application instructions.) Thus, we couldn’t match the exam to your account because of the mismatch.

If that’s the case, contact the testing center and confirm your full name, date of birth and email address associated with your account. You’ll need to send us that information, along with the batch number/cycle number for GRE and TOEFL scores; the appointment number and identification number for GMAT scores; or send us the official score report for IELTS/PTE scores.

Conditional Admission

Supplemental Quant

If you were required additional quantitative preparation prior to enrolling at SIPA, this means your overall application and achievements are admirable, and we believe you’ll be better equipped for success at SIPA by completing economics coursework prior to your enrollment.

You can complete this requirement by taking both Principles of Microeconomics and Principles of Macroeconomics with a B or better. (The single Principles of Economics course is no longer an option, except for Fall 2018 Early Action admitted students.)

These courses may be physical or virtual (online) but must be from an accredited academic institution. This course can be completed abroad as long as the institution is accredited in its home country. If you’re unsure, check the university’s website for their accreditation notice or consult with World Education Services for assistance. Free courses through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) or certificate programs through Coursera and other online services do not fulfill this requirement. Successful completion is defined as a letter grade of B or higher or its numerical equivalent. We can’t recommend any institution over another, so, unfortunately, we can’t offer further guidance on where to complete this requirement.

Please submit final transcripts verifying your successful completion of these courses to the Admissions Office by August 20, 2018. If you are completing the economics courses during the summer, you must also send proof of course registration to the Admissions Office by July 1, 2018. By completing this requirement, your admission to SIPA will become final.

SIPA Summer and/or Fall ALP

Some international students are required to enroll in summer and/or fall ALP as a condition of their admission. Your admission letter states if you are required to complete this coursework. We cannot waive this requirement because this is a policy set by the university. The only way to waive out of it (as described in the admission letter/Welcome Portal), is to provide new TOEFL/IELTS/PTE scores that show at least a score of 110 on the TOEFL, 7.5 on the IELTS, or 76 on the PTE. Improved scores must be submitted to the Admissions Office no later than June 1, 2018.

Money, Deposits, and Financial Aid

Your Admissions Deposit

You have until the date on your admission letter to accept your enrollment offer AND pay the $2,000.00 USD admission deposit. This deposit ultimately goes towards your tuition bill.

You do not have to accept and pay the deposit at the same time. So you can submit your response form and select “yes,” and then access your Status Page in a couple weeks to make the deposit payment. However, your deposit payment must be paid in full at once (no partial payments). This should be paid through the online portal. Just click on the corresponding hyperlink to submit your payment. You’ll continue to see a reminder on your Status Page until your deposit is paid, and only after you’ve submitted your response form.

Financial Aid and Fellowships

If you received a scholarship or fellowship, you will have received a separate notification letter about your funding along with your letter of admission. (Early-action candidates had to wait until now to learn about their funding status.)

To see your funding letters, go to your Status Page, scroll down to where it says Status Update and click on the View Update link. From there, you’ll be directed to your admission letter. Then you’ll need to scroll down to the bottom of your letter. This is where you’ll see if you have one (or several) letters available to read. If there’s an additional linked date under “The Following letters are available for this account,” you should click on it!

All students, whether funded their first year or not, will be able to apply for second-year funding. Most of this funding is in the form of assistantships for second-year students who succeeded in their first year of studies. (You’ll learn more about these opportunities during the spring semester of your first year.)

We also encourage you to visit the Financial Aid page for more information about funding your education, which includes a database of external funding opportunities.

Tuition, Fees, and Billing

Columbia University releases an annual estimated cost of attendance, which you can view for the 2018-2019 year here.

Your tuition bill will be generated closer to the start of the academic term. You also have the option to set up a payment plan or coordinate your payments with a third-party sponsor. For more information on that process, browse the Student Financial Services website. (Note: The Office of Admissions & Financial Aid is not involved in this process.) You can also browse this site to get a historical look at the tuition and fees SIPA (Columbia University) has charged each year.

Contact Us

If you need anything give us a call or send an email. If you’re an admitted student with specific financial aid or fellowship inquiries, please email them with a descriptive and informative subject line to sipa_finaid@columbia.edu. Admissions questions can continue to go to sipa_admission@columbia.edu or sipa_new@columbia.edu.

And once again, congratulations to our admitted students!

"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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