Archive for SIPA – Page 2

The Waiting Game

The people who all knowingly state patience is a virtue must have never felt the acute anxiety that accompanies waiting for graduate school application decisions. They must have never have known the paranoia that comes with the obsessive refreshing of your inbox in hopes (or deep fear) of seeing that subject line: There has Been an Update to Your Application Status. I remember this feeling vividly when I was applying to graduate school, and the anxiety consumed me so much that I actually had to turn off my email notifications because I found myself checking it even when I had not received a notification, just in case one “slipped” through.

Playing the waiting game is stressful, especially when your future hangs in the balance. But as you wait, remember, you’ve done all you could do. You put your best foot forward on your application, in your test scores, in your letters of reference, in your personal essays where you talked about that life changing study abroad experience. Having come out the other side of this dark tunnel, I wish I could have managed the anxiety better.

While nothing alleviated the nerves entirely, I did try and preoccupy my time with two simple distractions. First, I made sure I occupied my time with activities. Either with taking on more projects at work, sort of the more occupied my mind is the less I have time to worry about the decisions. Or hanging out with my friends, because when I was out having fun I wasn’t thinking about checking my email. It also helped that I have some pretty great friends and former coworkers who were my support group and “knew” that I was going to be ok no matter what the decisions ended up being.

Second, I took what I call the “Ignorance is Bliss” approach, and tried to be proactive by pretending I got in to all the schools I applied to. This led me on a quest to get as much information about the institutions I hoped to attend. I did a lot of online research, but I also tried to set up as many chats as I could with alumni and students and visit classes. This was easier for some than others, based on the fact I had applied to several schools abroad. However, meeting or talking to people from the schools is a great way to learn more about the programs while also getting a feel for the type of people these institutions attract. I found it really helpful, and depending on the person and their personalities, they either made me excited about the result I might receive ( in one case made me rethink my decision to apply in the first place!).

It seems when we as applicants finish applying and are waiting for the results, we have this fear that if we don’t get in to our dream schools our futures will be drastically altered by some sort of cosmic shift, however, that is simply not the case. I know this because I received rejections from really great schools, schools I wanted to go to. But I also got into to schools I never thought I would get into. For example: Columbia SIPA.

We as individuals put so much pressure on ourselves that the fear of not succeeding can consume us while we wait. If we don’t get in, we want to know why. Why was I not qualified enough?  Even I am guilty of this — after all I’m only human. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from talking to alumni from various graduate schools, it’s that there is no secret sauce for how to get in to specific schools. Every school has their own criteria, and honestly, that could vary from applicant to applicant. This knowledge made me realize I did all I could do. I created the best application I could muster, hit submit, and prayed that luck was on my side.

Of course, rejection of any kind can sting a bit. However, if there’s one thing I learned from the graduate school application process it’s que sera, sera — what will be will be. It sounds cliché, but I really do think applicants need to remember that life will go on after decisions are rendered. You may find yourselves in a place where you are accepted to all the schools you’ve applied to and you now have to choose between too many options. Pre-decision anxiety is real, but post-decision anxiety is a far greater beast.

My final piece of advice for those applicants currently in the thick of decision season is: No matter what happens this application cycle, you will be okay. You cannot make a wrong choice. You will end up where you are meant to be, and soon this will be a distant memory.

SIPodcasts: A Look into Podcasts by SIPA Alumnae

In this Women’s History Month, and on International Women’s Day, the SIPA Admissions blog would like to highlight four SIPA alumnae who have taken the power of technology and information sharing and brought it to the accessibility of podcasts. Podcasts are all the rage in the most recent years and the trend has overtaken SIPA students and alumni. Never missing an opportunity to educate the masses, these four SIPA women have created podcasts highlighting topics spanning from identity to international affairs to networking to inequality:

Where Are You From?
George-Ann Ryan MPA ’20

Simply put, “Where Are You From” is about “two girls who are tired of being asked where they’re from.” In this podcast, GeorgeAnn Ryan and her colleague Zana cover topics such as Marvel’s Black Panther, parenting methods like belt beatings, and more serious topics like stereotyping. Allow George-Ann and Zana to make you laugh, think, and ponder with their enlightening podcast.

Roos & Shine
Josefine Roos MIA ’11

Inspiration at the root of Josefine Roos’s podcast. Best described as a “pep talk,” Josephine and her sister want you to listen to the podcast and feel as if you can take control of everything in your like and “seize the day.” They offer advice on how to pursue your dream career, network effectively, how to negotiate, and how to fake it until you make it. Take a listen and take some advice on how to be your best self.

What in the World?
Bunmi Akinnusotu MPA ’14

Education at its most accessible. “What in the World” informs its viewers of international affairs in a digestible and easily-understandable way. It’s brings on experts of color and women experts to explain our international system. Topics range from the Iran Deal to the recent Brazilian elections to G7 Summit. Educate yourself on international affairs with our alumni Bunmi Akinnusotu.

Sincerely, Hueman
Camille Laurente MIA ’16

We here at SIPA Admissions have highlighted this amazing podcast. You can find that post here. But we thought it was especially important to highlight just how Camille brings guest on her show to dive deeper into the topic even more. She’s had directors of major non-profits, celebrity mothers, and CEOs. Take a listen to her podcast and hear of the experiences of amazing people.

On financial aid, the JJWBGSP Scholarship, and student loan scams

To our Fall 2019 MIA, MPA and MPA-DP applicants: Thank you for your patience as the Admissions Committee reads your applications. Decisions will be released in mid-March (so, soon!), and you’ll receive an email telling you to check your Status Page.

We’ve already been receiving some questions about financial aid and wanted to give a few updates about that:

First, we’ll have a number of admitted students events, online and in-person, that will fully cover financial aid options at SIPA. A reminder that your financial aid information is confidential, and often the best way to get personal information tailored to you is by contacting our Office of Financial Aid at sipa_finaid@columbia.edu.

Second is a scholarship reminder: In case you didn’t mark your calendars last time we posted about it, the 2019 Joint Japan/World Bank Graduate Scholarship Program application opens tomorrow, March 7th, and closes on April 11, 2019. Find the full information for the JJWBGSP Scholarship on their website.

Finally, if you have a phone number, there’s a good chance that you have recently received numerous calls from someone telling you that your student loans are eligible for reduced monthly payments and/or forgiveness. There are a number of ways that student loan borrowers may be able to reduce monthly payments and/or qualify for partial forgiveness of their loan, but please be aware that these phone calls are all scams.

An article in the morning Metro describes an example; a borrower learns about repayment options that provide some relief, but doesn’t realize that the $50 monthly fee she’s being charged to sign up and remain in that option is completely unnecessary. Student loan borrowers have many options for repayment, and thanks to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program, many can get part of their loans forgiven, but all of this can be arranged by working with their loan servicer – completely free of charge. The monthly payments themselves might be a big enough financial obligation; don’t add an extra fee for services that shouldn’t cost anything.

Again, any SIPA students with questions about student loan repayment can always meet with or contact (sipa_finaid@columbia.edu) a member of the Financial Aid Office staff for guidance; we also have information on repayment and PSLF here. We know that student loans can cause stress, but take the time to get all the facts.

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: MPA/MIA v. JD

This piece was co-authored by Julia Chung, my fellow program assistant at the Admissions Office.

RBG
Image result for shrug emojiMadeleine Albright

For those of you who don’t know the International Affairs Building, where SIPA is housed, is directly attached to Columbia Law School. It is a very subtle reminder of the decision we, Julia and Samantha, made two years ago before they started graduate school. Julia, studied for the LSAT for a year after graduating undergrad, fully anticipating a career in law. Samantha, worked as a legal assistant for three years at a law firm in Washington, D.C., and similarly thought law was in her future.

Today, both Julia and Samantha are SIPA second-year MPA and MIA students respectively, and both made the crucial decision to pick graduate school over law school. We recently had a conversation about the decision to go with public policy instead of a legal degree:

Why did you want to go to law school in the first place?

Julia: In undergrad I thought that if I wanted to do public service and civil rights, the path was a law degree. I thought that to make the change I wanted to see in the world, I needed to do it through litigation. With this limited perspective on career paths, I studied for the LSAT in my senior year in undergrad and the year after graduating. (As a side note, my family told me that because I was good at arguing, I should be a lawyer. Don’t think that was sound career advice though!)

Samantha: I wanted to go to law school because I wanted to work in policy, and had met a lot of people in the industry, who happenstance all had law degrees. I thought that was the way it worked. After I graduated undergrad, I took a job with a law firm in Washington D.C. in order to gain experience in the field. It was sort of a test run, which I recommend everyone interested in law do before deciding on whether to go or not. It was long hours, a lot of work, but I loved it. Despite the intensity at times, the experience really made me think the life was for me, but I still was not 100% sold. I wanted to do policy, and I had yet to work with someone that was doing work in that realm.

What changed?

Julia: After taking the LSAT, I spoke to a Vassar alum who was a lawyer and he said: Only go to law school if you actually want to practice law or if you have $150k to spare. He said that I seemed to have passions other than law and I should pursue those first. Taking that advice and knowing that my heart was in civil rights, I started working at a community-based organization in Flushing, Queens, doing civic engagement work. After two years of working with many lawyers, I decided that the great work they did was not for me. I realized that law wasn’t my tool to make the changes in the world I wanted to see. I didn’t want to be worrying about legal precedence or writing briefs. I wanted to be more on-the-ground and not limited to finding solutions through law.

Samantha: A coworker was talking to me about how he was going to graduate school for a degree in international affairs, and this really piqued my interest. I started researching graduate institutions around the world, to see what kinds of programs were out there for international affairs and security policy. That’s when I came across a couple of schools whose programs really spoke to me. I ended up speaking to one of the partners I worked for about my career trajectory, and he told me not to go to law school unless I was 100% sure it was for me. He also said that we no longer live in the days where you need a law degree to inform policy. Since I was not 100% sure of whether law school was for me, despite my experience, I chose to apply to graduate school.

Why did you choose Columbia SIPA?

Julia: I looked at graduate school to switch career paths. I wanted to shift from community organizing to something else, even though I wasn’t sure exactly what “something else” was when I applied to graduate school. I came to SIPA because it is a full-time program that is academically rigorous with a strong student community, and has a strong Urban and Social Policy program with practitioners teaching courses. I sat in on Mark Steitz’s “Data Driven Approaches to Campaigns and Advocacy” and knew instantaneously that SIPA was right for me. I knew that SIPA would teach me the hard skills I needed to take the next step in my career.

Samantha: I chose SIPA because I felt the MIA program and the International Security Concentration would provide me with both the theoretical and practical foundation I needed to pursue my future career goals. I also liked the fact that SIPA’s cohorts are very diverse, and that I would be studying with students from all around the world. I felt very welcomed at SIPA when I came to visit during the application process.  I think I had some preconceived notions of what SIPA and Columbia University in general were going to be like; however, everyone was very welcoming and I just had a feeling that I was in the right place.

How will an MPA/MIA degree work towards your future?

Julia: I came to SIPA knowing that I needed more hard skills – policy analysis, data analysis, memo writing, program evaluation, etc. SIPA provided those hard skills and the opportunity to explore different policy areas. I came to SIPA only interested in civil rights, but will be leaving in May with knowledge on urban sustainability, design thinking in the public sector, and technology used in international crisis response. I think my MPA degree prepares me to think critically on today’s most pressing issues, but also gives me tools and the network to be able to address them. I also think that with a MPA degree, I have more flexibility to create the career path I want than I would have if I went to law school.

Samantha: I believe the MIA will help me in my future endeavors because it helped me develop both hard and soft skills which can be applied to the jobs I am seeking in the foreign policy and international security fields. In law school I would not have been required to take a quantitative analysis course, or a cyber-security course, and I think these courses have really helped inform the way in which I evaluate the world around me. While law school would be useful in terms of understanding legality and jurisdiction for policy, I believe the MIA program has given me the opportunity to think critically about current international security policy issues, in order to better understand the nuances the make them complex and challenging to resolve.   

Do you have any regrets about your graduate school decision?

Julia: None – I’m excited to graduate and put all that I’ve learned to test!

Samantha:  I have no regrets about choosing to get my MIA at SIPA.  Every now and then I do think about law school and reflect back on when I made the decision to not pursue a JD. I remember where I was in life, and what career goals I had at the time that made me think I was not 100% ready to get my JD. If you asked me today if I think law school is in my future, I would say “yes.” But if you asked me if I could go back in time and remake the choice between and MIA and JD again, would I choose differently? I would say “no.” This has been a life-changing experience for me, and I would not change a thing.

Look, if you are a prospective applicant of SIPA and you still can’t make a choice, feel free to call or drop by the Admissions office and talk to a current student or Admissions Officer.

And don’t worry, if you decide that you want both an MPA/MIA and a JD, you can also apply for a SIPA/Law School dual degree. For more information, you can take a look at the website here.

Avery Library: Everything a Study Space Should Be

Before coming to SIPA, when I thought of the Ivy League I would immediately picture immense, neoclassical and gothic style buildings, foreboding structures made to resemble the campuses of Oxford and Cambridge. This style has always been appealing to me; something about the brick buildings and carved names of famous alumni and scholars is particularly conducive to studying, reminding you of how little you know and how much farther you have to go.

When you first step foot on campus, your eyes are immediately drawn to Butler and Low Libraries that sit on the edges of main campus like two enormous bookends. They’re pretty to look at it and they entirely live up to one’s expectations about what an Ivy library is supposed to be. However, if you take the steps up by Low and round the corner, you’ll pass by a hundred year old chapel, its humble Byzantine stylings immediately drawing you in towards the altar. A little ways more down the footpath and you’ll pass by an unassuming brick building that happens to be Avery Library, the largest architectural library in the world.

Whenever I am doing readings or looking for inspiration, I’ll try and find a seat at Avery. It’s often hard as there are a limited number of seats and the library enforces a strict no coffee or tea rule that sometimes discourages me from going. But every time I do happen to find a space I am reminded of why I love studying there. First of all, the library is essentially one large narrow hall. Long tables line the middle of the hall, while the walls are full of books up to two stories high. Great big windows along the entire building provide plenty of natural light and a view of the campus. For this reason, Avery strikes a perfect balance in terms of ambiance; it’s warm and inviting, without the stuffy feeling that other old libraries tend to have.

The winter only accentuates all of Avery’s best features, as the large windows give you a view of the snow outside, while the wood interior makes you feel like you’re at home in your study. During the cold season, I’ll often step outside and walk around the corner to the chapel, just to unwind and destress for a few moments. Then I’ll walk back, feeling refreshed and ready to dive back into my work.

On top of all of its natural charm, the basement of the library also has a nice cafe that offers food and a full range of beverages. The seating is cafeteria style and it is almost always buzzing with people. The library also hosts one of the world’s leading architectural art collections, with over two million drawings, sketches, photographs, and other historical artifacts related to the field of design and architecture. Sometimes I’ll catch an event at the library as well, since it regularly hosts visiting exhibitions and relevant speaker series events.

Whether you decide to go to Avery to study or just to grab coffee, it is always a welcome respite from the busyness of everyday life. If you decide to visit Columbia, take an opportunity to step inside and envision yourself here!

Note from Admissions: SIPA’s expert faculty and theory-meets-practice curriculum is part of what sets our programs apart. Register for Spring 2019 SIPA class visits here and experience it for yourself.

"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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