Archive for Application Tips

It’s time…

We’re thrilled to announce that SIPA’s 2018 Application Portal has officially opened. But don’t click the APPLY NOW button just yet. Before wading through the choppy waters of your admission application, we recommend you get your ducks in a row. To get started…

1. Subscribe to the Admissions Blog <– Yes, this blog!

2. Add the Application Deadlines to your calendar <– Absolutely all materials must be submitted by the deadline to be eligible for the entry term.

SPRING 2018 (MIA/MPA only)
October 15, 2017 at 11:59 p.m. EST

FALL 2018
Early Action Deadline: November 2, 2017 at 11:59 p.m. EST
Fellowship Consideration Deadline: January 5, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. EST
Final Application Deadline: February 5, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. EST

3. Register for and attend an in-person or virtual Information Session <– We’ll add more throughout the year, so check back frequently.

4. Practice your Video Essay response <– Yes, it’s required, but don’t stress too much. Just review the link for detailed help.

5. Relax and enjoy this photo of the Admissions Office’s unofficial mascot, Sutton. Yeah, we know she’s adorable. <– The photo up top. No, she’s not for sale.
Want to learn more? Email us at with any questions you have about the application process.

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]

One last chance to ask your MIA/MPA application questions

To help those near and far with their last-minute application questions, I’m hosting a special Facebook Live session to go over your application questions about the MIA and MPA programs. We’ll walk through the application checklist and address any last-minute concerns you have as an applicant. Just click the link below to register.

Facebook Live: Application Tips
Thursday, February 2, 2017
09:30 AM until 10:00 AM EST (UTC -5)


For those of you with video essay issues

Some applicants have run into technical problems submitting their video essay responses. If that’s you, here are some steps you can take to submit your video response by the upcoming deadline.

Troubleshoot with these steps first…

  1. Access your application using Google Chrome. You can download it for free here.
  2. Use a hardwired connection, such as an Ethernet cable. This will help make sure your internet connection is stable, as opposed to a wireless connection.
  3. Especially if abroad, try using a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, to upload your video.
  4. Use your headset or a microphone when speaking to make sure you’re clearly understood.
  5. Test, test, and test again. Here’s a look at when I walked applicants through the submission process.

If all else fails…

We’ve updated our application system to allow you to submit your application without the video response. So after you’ve reviewed all of your materials, you can hit that submit button and pay the application fee. Then you can return your Status Page, scroll down to the Application Details section and click on the link to record your video response after the fact, but by the application deadline. (See screenshot below.)

video essay details

If you continue to have issues uploading your video response and have exhausted all options, please connect with us immediately. We can see everything you do in the application system and can walk you through the process if need be. Just keep in mind that all application materials are required for admission, so please plan ahead so you have plenty of time to upload that missing video essay.

Some advice on the optional essay prompt

We receive several emails and calls from applicants asking for advice about the optional essay, so here are a few things to keep in mind if you plan to submit the optional essay as part of your application.

First, what is the optional essay?
As taken from our Application Checklist, the prompt for the optional essay is:

This optional essay will allow you to discuss any issues that do not fall within the purview of the required essays. Please share any additional information about yourself that you believe would be of interest to the Admissions Committee. Please focus on information that is not already reflected in the other parts of your application or might not be clear in the information submitted. 

Is it a requirement?
Nope! We aren’t trying to play a mind game with you, it really is optional! There is no formal interview process for your application to SIPA, so applicants often take advantage of the optional essay to address topics that might typically come up in an interview. If you don’t think you need to write anything, then don’t feel obligated to do it.

What is the word limit?
There isn’t one! This is one of the most common questions we get, but unfortunately we can’t give you an exact number. We do recommend that you use the other essay prompt word limits as a guide (200-400 words). Remember, this essay is only meant to share information that isn’t otherwise made clear in the other components of your application; it shouldn’t be a second personal statement.

What should I write about?
We don’t want to read your senior thesis as your optional essay. The essay is meant to provide added value by explaining any shortcomings you see in your application, expand on something previously mentioned, or to highlight a relevant achievement. For example, maybe due to personal circumstances you had a bad semester at your undergraduate university and your GPA dropped, or you have gaps in your resume. The optional essay can provide a space for you to explain these instances and tell us why that doesn’t reflect your ability to succeed at SIPA.

If you think there are not any shortcomings to explain, you can expand upon something you view as a strength that makes you an ideal candidate; especially if you were unable to mention it elsewhere in the application. This might include something in your resume that you didn’t get a chance to address in your personal statement, such as a volunteer experience, or relevant professional project you excelled at.

Does it have to cover a single topic?
Do not feel obligated to stick to just one topic. The essay doesn’t need to be one continuous narrative.  If there are multiple things you would like to address, feel free to devote a paragraph to each.


I hope this information is useful as you finalize your applications for admission. Keep in mind our application deadlines for Fall 2017 are coming up: January 5, 2017 with fellowship consideration, and February 5, 2017 without fellowship consideration.

[Photo Courtesy of Casper Folsing (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)]

"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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