Archive for Admissions

Join us for Summerfest 2017 in Boston, DC or NYC

If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about graduate school, then now’s your chance. Join SIPA for a free evening reception and mini graduate-school fair this summer in Boston, Washington, D.C. or New York City. You’ll get to pick the brains of alumni, students, and staff from five top graduate programs in public policy and international affairs.

Representatives from the following graduate programs will be available to discuss their admissions requirements, the application process, financial aid, and more:

  • Columbia University – School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA)
  • Georgetown University – Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service
  • Johns Hopkins University – The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS)
  • Princeton University – The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs
  • Tufts University – The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy

Just click on each event below to register.

Summerfest Boston June 2017
Thursday, June 22, 2017 at 05:30 PM until 08:00 PM
Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy
160 Packard Ave
Medford, MA 02155-5815
SIPA Rep: Grace Han, Executive Director of Admissions & Financial Aid

Summerfest NYC 2017
Thursday, July 20, 2017 at 05:30 PM until 08:00 PM
Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs
International Affairs Building
420 W 118th St., Fl 15
New York, NY 10027-7235
SIPA Rep: It’s all hands on deck! Come and meet our entire office at this event!

Summerfest DC July 2017
Tuesday, July 25, 2017 at 05:30 PM until 08:00 PM
Georgetown Law Center
600 New Jersey Ave NW
Washington, DC 20001-2022
SIPA Rep: Kaitlyn Wells, Assistant Director of Admissions (yup, that’s me!)


Can’t attend? Then follow each event on Twitter at , , , and .

Next steps for Fall 2017 admitted students

This post was adapted from a previous version.

Most of you reading this blog post received the admission decision you were hoping to get when you applied to SIPA this year. You should be proud of your achievement. There was a competitive applicant pool and your application was exemplary. And now that the celebrations have died down a bit, I wanted to recap a few things that every newly-admitted student should know going forward.

The Welcome Portal

The Welcome Portal has everything you need regarding next steps. It tells you about upcoming deadlines and special events, offers advice on how to apply for student housing, includes details about Admitted Students’ Day in April, and even explains the visa process and ALP requirement for international students. So review the Welcome Portal to explore the many benefits of being a Columbia University student. This is also where you’ll go to accept your admissions offer by April 15/May 1, depending on what your admission letter says. (Log-in details for the Welcome Portal may be found in your admissions letter.)

I also invite you to follow us on Instagram (@Columbia.SIPA) and share your admissions story with us!

Your Status Page

Before the academic term starts, you’re going to get sick and tired of me mentioning the Status Page (especially through reminder emails). But I only bug you because I care, and I want you to start off the school year without any delays. Your Status Page is where you go to review your Application Checklist. There are a few items on your checklist that we must have in order to finalize your academic record before August 2017. And if your record isn’t finalized, you won’t be able to register for classes during Fall 2017 orientation. (Gasp!)

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. I can guarantee that 90% of you have not submitted all of your official documents to our office. Here’s what I mean: 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 guess what, it’s 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 as an unofficial copy. It’s technically been altered, so it doesn’t count as an official document.

To help you remember that fact, I added these nifty little notifications at the top of your Status Page that tells you which documents we’re missing.


But wait, your Status Page has a green checkmark next to your transcript(s) and you’re still seeing these notifications. Well, chances are the notifications are there for a reason. The checklist is referring to your unofficial copy tied to your admissions application: just cross check the upload date and hover over the checkmark to see if the pop-up text reads “Received Copy” or “Received.” Still confused? Then read this blog post,  “Dissecting the Application Checklist.” (And yes, the blog post is highlighted in yellow on your Status Page for all time.) (P.S. These messages may not appear on your Status Page until after you have responded to your admission offer and paid the enrollment deposit.)

Hover over the check mark to confirm to see if the document was an unofficial or official copy.


Got it now? Good! The process for sending us your official transcripts and test scores is outlined in the Welcome Portal. I’ve also included it below:

Official transcripts and test scores are due by July 1, 2017, unless instructed otherwise. (International students who won’t have conferred degrees until after the deadline can email us and we’ll make a note in their account.)

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

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

You may mail your official transcripts to:

Columbia University | SIPA
Office of Admissions & Financial Aid
514 West 113th Street
New York, New York 10025

Or email to, but 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 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 scores.

Conditional Admission

Supplemental Quant

Some students are required to take additional quantitative preparation prior to enrolling at SIPA. Follow the instructions in your admission letter, but it basically says this:

To complete this requirement (as described in the admission letter/Welcome Portal), you must take two courses in Principles of Microeconomics and Principles of Macroeconomics or a single combined course in Principles of Economics.

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.  I can’t recommend any institution over another, so, unfortunately, I can’t offer further guidance on where to complete this requirement.

Please submit final transcripts verifying your successful completion to the Admissions Office by July 1, 2017. If you are completing the economics course(s) during the summer, you must send proof of course registration to the Admissions Office by July 1, 2017; the final transcript must be received by the Admissions Office no later than August 18, 2017. 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. I’ve already gotten several inquiries about waiving this requirement, and the answer is no. This is a policy set by the university and we cannot change it. The only way to waive out of it (as described in the admission letter/Welcome Portal), is to provide new TOEFL or IELTS scores that show at least a score of 110 on the TOEFL or 7.5 on the IELTS. Improved scores must be submitted to the Admissions Office no later than June 1, 2017.

All About Money

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. You do not have to pay these items 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. And keep in mind that you’ll  continue to see a lovely reminder (below) on your Status Page until your deposit is paid, and only after you’ve submitted your response form.

Financial Aid & 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.) For domestic students, we’ll also communicate student loans and work-study details in award letters, but you’ll only receive that letter after you’ve submitted a FAFSA at, using school code 002707. In order to be considered for financial aid, it’s important that you submit your FAFSA as soon as possible. The sooner you submit it, the sooner our financial aid staff can issue your award letter. Most financial aid packages are released one to two weeks after your FAFSA is received.


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 (confetti! yay!). 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 dated hyperlink then that means you have another message in your account. So 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 for more information about funding your education, which includes a database of external funding opportunities.

Tuition, Fees, and Billing
Annually, Columbia University releases the estimated cost of attendance. To date, we only have access to 2017-18 figures. You can review them here. We won’t know how much tuition will increase

Regarding your tuition bill: this 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 any admitted students have any specific financial aid or fellowship inquiries, please email them with a descriptive and informative subject line to Admissions queries can continue to go to or

That’s all the advice I have for now. If you need anything give us a call or send an email. And once again, congratulations to our admitted students!

I didn’t get the admission decision I wanted. What do I do now?

This post was adapted from a previous version.

By now you’ve checked your email and have learned that we released Fall 2017 entry admissions decisions. When you did read your decision, I’m sure you went through a mix of emotions. Good or bad, there are some things our waitlisted candidates and those who weren’t granted admission should know going forward. So I’ve gone through our archives to see which questions were frequently asked last year and came up with a few things you should know now that decisions are live. (If you haven’t heard back yet, keep an eye on your inbox as we have a handful more that will trickle out over the next few days.)

The Waitlist
If you’ve been waitlisted that doesn’t mean your story has ended with SIPA. Your application showed a lot of promise, but in the end, there were more highly competitive candidates than we have seats for at SIPA. That can be tough to read, but the good news is some of you will move from the waitlist to the admitted students list. Just be patient with us as it takes some time. Our waitlist isn’t ranked so I can’t tell you the likelihood of you being admitted. However, I can tell you that we’ll reexamine the waitlist starting May 2, 2017, and we’ll release final decisions for waitlisted candidates by July 1, 2017. (If you’re an international student, you’ll still have time to apply for a visa if you don’t procrastinate the process once you’re admitted off the waitlist.)

If you want to keep us informed of your academic and professional pursuits, we will only review new test scores and transcripts. So if you’ve retaken the GRE/GMAT or TOEFL/IELTS or have taken additional quantitative coursework to support your application, feel free to send them along by April 30, 2017.  Just email us the documents, your name and application number to with “Supplemental Waitlist Materials from Your Name” in the subject line.  I would also recommend you send us everything at once instead of in batches over several weeks.

And if you don’t want to be considered for admission to SIPA anymore, please send us an email at with your name and application number.

Please keep in mind that we cannot provide periodic updates on your standing. Thus, you should only email us if you have a specific request regarding your waitlisted application (e.g., to update your application or remove it from consideration).

Appeal An Admissions Decision
The Admissions Committee reviews each application thoroughly and with great care. All decisions are final, and there isn’t an appeal process.

Requesting Application Feedback
If you tracked the blog when we were discussing Spring 2017 admission then you probably already know the answer. For those of you who don’t, I’m just going to link you to those same resources. Due to the volume of applications, we cannot offer individual feedback. I recommend you review our Evaluation Criteria and Requesting Feedback pages.

Reapply To SIPA
If you didn’t get the admission decision you were hoping for, you are welcome to reapply to SIPA. As a reapplicant, you must abide by the same deadlines, fees and requirements as first-time applicants. As a benefit, you may reapply using the personal statement, reference letters, test scores and transcripts from this year’s application. But I encourage you to at least submit new essays (and possibly recommendation letters) as the questions change every year. When next year’s application goes live in mid-August 2017, email us at with “Reapplicant Request To Use Past Materials for Your Name” in the subject line and specify which of these materials you want to reuse. For details on reapplicant process, visit our Reapplication page.

Thank Your Recommenders
You’re either thinking “duh” or “oh yeah” with this step. It’s an obvious next step to take, but many applicants still forget to do this. And no matter the admissions decision, it’s a nice gesture to thank your recommenders one more time for their help. They took time out of their busy schedules to write you a letter, and I’m sure they’re curious to know how things turned out. And if you weren’t admitted, this could be your chance to hear some words or wisdom and ask them for suggestions on strengthening your application for next year.

Saying Goodbye
On behalf of the entire Admissions Committee, I want to thank you for your effort. We all got to know you through your application materials and it was an honor to read about your achievements and ambitions for the future. If you ultimately decide to decline your admissions offer, remove yourself from the waitlist or won’t reapply next year, please know that we hope you’ll continue to develop your academic and professional experience for whatever your future might hold. And I wholeheartedly wish you luck in your future endeavors.


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

[Photo courtesy of]

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

[Photo courtesy of]

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

[Photo courtesy of]

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

[Photo courtesy of]

And you’re somewhat annoyed with us.

Dean Winchester from the TV series Supernatural rolls his eyes

[Photo courtesy of Pinterest]

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.

[Photo courtesy of]

And you read and read some more.

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

[Photo courtesy of]

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.

[Photo courtesy of]

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

[Photo courtesy of]


Two yellow Minions scream in joy

[Photo courtesy of]

Cue the much-deserved Happy Dance.

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

[Photo courtesy of]

Close up of Sailor Moon as she screams in joy

[Photo courtesy of]

Screaming happy while on couch

[Photo courtesy of]

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

[Photo courtesy of]

Merida from Disney's Brave does a happy dance

[Photo courtesy of]

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

[Photo courtesy of]

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

[Photo courtesy of]

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

[Photo courtesy of]


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

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

[Photo courtesy of]



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]

"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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