Archive for Application Tips

Our top ten posts of 2017

Happy New Year everyone! It’s 2018. Can you believe it?! Here’s a look at our top 10 blog posts from 2017. With a couple of days left before our general deadline this Friday, Jan. 5th, we have some last tips for you to submit an outstanding SIPA application as well as insight to our community.

#10: Tips on the short essay policy question

#9: How NOT to write your personal statement

#8: When you’ll receive your admission decision

#7: A Quantitative/Language resume breakdown

#6: What’s with the GRE/GMAT and TOEFL/IELTS?

#5: The best cafes on campus (because, well, food is important)

#4: What Fall 2016 admitted students should know going forward

#3: Top 10 tips for communicating with us

#2: Next steps for Fall 2017 admitted students

And drum roll please….

The #1 blog post of 2017 was: How to access (and prepare for) the admissions video essay

We hope you’ve enjoyed time with your loved ones during the holidays. Good luck on the application!

We are closing early today at 1 PM!

The Office of Admissions and Financial Aid will close early today for the Christmas holiday, December 25 and 26,  at 1 PM EST. We will re-open on Wednesday, December 27 at 9 AM EST. We hope everyone travels safe and enjoys the break.

Don’t forget, our general deadline, with SIPA fellowship aid consideration, is at 11:59 PM EST on January 5th. The video essay is only available after you submit your application and pay the app fee; it’ll appear in your Applicant Status page once those steps are completed. As a refresher, make sure to check out our series of application tips that were posted earlier this year.

Do’s and Don’t on your SIPA application

What’s in an App: personal statement

What’s in an App: optional essay

What’s in an App: admissions video essay

What’s in an App: professional resume

In addition, we have info on the top criteria that we look for in an ideal applicant – professional, relevant experience; strong quantitative aptitude; and commitment to the field of international affairs or policy. This next deadline is important, especially if you’re looking to be considered for SIPA fellowship aid; both domestic and international populations are considered for this funding. There are also external funding resources you can explore; other sites like,,, etc. will be helpful. We encourage you to review this info and start early with your financial planning. Good luck on the application! Happy Holidays!

Here’s a Few Do’s and Don’ts on Your SIPA Application

We know you’re in the thick of preparing your applications. Here are a few pointers on how to apply. Remember, our next deadline is coming up fast on January 5th, 2018. Don’t miss out on SIPA fellowship aid consideration and submit your app by this date. We are also in the process of reviewing our Early Action applications; decisions will be released by early January!


1. Take your time on creating the Quantitative Resume

This part of the SIPA application may seem like a chore, but it’s important for the admissions committee to really understand the applicant’s quantitative background. You can also use this section to showcase any research that you have done, professional work or classes that you have taken to bolster your quantitative background. My best advice is take your time on this section and make sure it is polished!

2. Take advantage of the Optional Essay

Applicants often ask if it is crucial to fill out this section of the application…..and the answer is it all depends. If you have anything that you are concerned about on your application, like your GRE Scores, a low GPA, or not having enough work experience, this is where you can really take the time to explain yourself. The admissions committee will not make any assumptions on your application and this is the opportunity that you have to fill in those gaps or red flags.


1. Avoid having a vague Personal Essay Statement

This is the one section of your application you will be able to show your personality and convey your goals post-graduate school. The more confident and specific you can be in your personal statement the better it will be for you to tell your story. I would say avoid listing all of your accomplishments from your resume – because believe it or not, it happens and it’s not compelling to read.

2. Make sure you address your essays and tailor personal statements to SIPA and not another school

We understand that most applicants are also applying to other graduate programs in addition to SIPA, however, it is important applicants are diligent and address their essay to the correct school. The last thing that you want to happen is to submit a very generic essay and then address it to the wrong school.  

What’s in an App? Quant Resume

SIPA requires applicants to furnish a professional and quantitative resume. This blog post offers guidance on creating a quantitative resume, including tips on making the most of this component of your application.

You may be wondering “What is a quantitative resume?” For our Office, a quantitative resume is a tool that helps the Committee evaluate a candidate’s previous quantitative background. The coursework at SIPA is notably quant-heavy; four of the eight (or nine for MIAs) Core courses are quantitative in nature. We want to ensure our students are in the best shape to tackle SIPA’s quantitative coursework.

Forget me not

Many applicants are surprised to learn about the quantitative resume requirement for all applicants. Instructions on completing the resume are found within the Application Portal. There’s even a sample quantitative resume for you to follow. This two-column format is preferred, as it helps our readers assess each applicant uniformly. An application lacking a quantitative resume is incomplete, preventing the Committee to arrive at a well-informed decision. Don’t forget the quant resume!

Be consistent

No component in your application sits in isolation. In fact, the Committee considers all parts of your application to gain a greater sense of who you are. That said, make sure your quantitative resume supports the other components found in your application. Engineers, mathematicians, economists, scientists, and other general nerds coming from a rigorous quantitative background should have a longer-than-average quantitative resume. That’s cool! Perhaps the less numerically-gifted will have shorter resumes. That’s cool, too! These resumes help showcase who you are. Own it!

Also, check for consistency when reporting grades on the resume. It’s a bit odd when an applicant reports earning a B in microeconomics, but the transcript indicates earning a C.

The Devil is in the Detail

When it comes to the quantitative resume, we know we’re asking a lot. From short descriptions of the course down to the textbook one used, we value the work and detail poured into your resume. These details help establish a baseline understanding of the concepts covered in class, and can easily be found in the course syllabus. There is no need to copy and paste the entire document; just the textbooks and a few lines about the topics taught will suffice. If locating your syllabus proves truly difficult, find a syllabus of the current equivalent course taught at your institution. We truly appreciate the legwork put forth to complete this resume, and we hope it will pay off upon matriculation into SIPA.

What’s in an App: Professional Resume

Written by Kier Joy, MIA ’19

Professional resumes can often confuse SIPA applicants. There’s so many different ways to do a resume: chronological, targeted, functional, and combination. And a quick google search on which one to do for a graduate school application and how to do them best will give you dozens of sites with conflicting advice on what’s best. This blog post will help applicants with what exactly the SIPA Admissions Board is looking for in a professional resume. So no worries on the conflicting Google advice, this article is here to save you from the stress and confusion.

The Type of Resume

At SIPA, we would like our applicants to have around 3-5 years of work experience. In order to properly assess this timeline of work experience, it’s best for the admissions board to see a chronological resume, in which they can see the “story” of your work experience. To do a chronological resume, each subsection should begin with the most recent experience and end with the experience furthest in the past. For example, professional and relevant experiences that you are currently doing should be listed at the top of your relevant experience subsection. Experiences you’ve done in undergrad should be listed toward the bottom of the subsection, should you include those experiences.


You’ll often hear that resumes that are longer than 1 page just get thrown in the trash. That’s not the case for grad school applications and definitely not for your SIPA professional resume. This resume can be longer than one page because the admissions board would like a full image of your work and educational history. This often requires resumes that are longer than one page. Now, with this being said, the resume doesn’t have to include every single responsibility and achievement ever earned in the dozens of professional experiences an applicant may have. Be succinct and concise but don’t feel as if you must limit yourself to one page.


Because length is not a large issue, your resume should be at a legible font. I suggest something like Times New Roman or Helvetica at font size 10 or 12. Margins should be set at .5. This fills up the space while allowing for the page to not look crowded. Any room after a line can allow for more information to detail experiences.


Basic Information

The basic information on your resume should include your name in bold and all caps. It should also include an accessible email, address, and phone number. It should be very simple and not stylized in any fancy way. Play with bold and italicized formatting to get an even and professional look, but never do too much.


Education is the first subsection of your resume. This section should include the previous university(s) you’ve attended, along with the degree obtained, graduation date (or time span spent at university), GPA, and where the university was located.

Relevant Experience

The next subsection, and arguably the most important, is the experience. The relevant experience section should give us the most in-depth look into your experiences and how they relate to your academic interests and potential SIPA experience by describing all the relevant positions you’ve held in past jobs, internships, or volunteer experiences. In bullet point format, you should describe each experience and the major achievements made while in the positions. Some simple tips to make these descriptions best is to always start off your bullet point with resume action verbs and quantify your accomplishments. We recommend having about 2-4 bullet points per position.


Another subsection of a professional resume includes are skills. This can include anything from language skills to technical skills. Applicants often include any skills on statistical programs such as R or Stata. Applicants can also give the admissions board an idea of their language skills in this section by listing what language ability they may have. I suggest keeping the skills to something relevant and also don’t list skills that are commonly expected from most, such as proficiency in Microsoft Word.

Following these tips will help clear the confusion that may come with building a professional resume. Upload yours when applying to SIPA and give the Admissions Board a crystal-clear image of what you have to offer to SIPA and Columbia University.

"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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