Archive for Application

Studying Cybersecurity at SIPA: A Course Guide

Photo: SIPA students and recent graduates traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with senior industry professionals and SIPA alumni working in the field of cybersecurity and threat intelligence.

Threats emanating from cyberspace impact governments, the private sector, non-profits, and individuals. The borderless nature of (most of) the internet as well as the fact that the private sector owns much of the infrastructure creates difficult policy challenges that governments and companies continue to confront. Thankfully, SIPA is helping train students to tackle these challenges through innovative coursework that allows students to explore the technical, legal, and policy aspects of cybersecurity.

As a current student, I’ve taken several courses focused on this area, and I’ve found SIPA to be a great place to study cybersecurity policy. While I concentrate in International Security Policy, there are courses applicable to students in all concentrations. An International Finance and Economic Policy student might explore cyber risk to financial stability, for example, while an International Security Policy student may be more interested in cyber conflict. As you apply to SIPA and prepare your personal statement, use this guide to assist in your research and allow you to explore the potential paths you can take in this exciting field.

Basic Technical Background (a great place to start!)

  • Computing in Context – This course teaches the Python programming language through a series of lectures and labs taught by a computer science professor. Then, a SIPA professor explores how these skills can be applied to solving public policy problems. This is an extremely popular class at SIPA that provides a very marketable skill set. While I haven’t personally taken the course, I’ve spoken to several fellow students who found the course challenging but highly practical.
  • Programming for Entrepreneurs – This hands-on short course, which requires no technical background, takes place over an intensive four days and covers the fundamentals of computer science, data structures, web development with HTML/CSS, as well as some basic SQL. While I had some basic web development experience from my undergraduate studies, this course still provided me with valuable skills and was a great first course to gain some additional technical background prior to taking other courses on this list.
  • Basics of Cybersecurity – This course equips students with the basic technical knowledge needed to succeed in other cybersecurity courses at SIPA. Students learn the basics of how computers and the internet work, networking concepts, and network defense and security. When I took this course, it was taught by an active-duty U.S. Army cyber officer, and it was fascinating to learn these concepts directly from an experienced practitioner.
  • Cyber Risks and Vulnerabilities – This course complements the Basics of Cybersecurity course by focusing on the risks and vulnerabilities of various devices and protocols. The course includes demonstrations of common hacking techniques or tools to illustrate how these vulnerabilities are exploited and the potential impact. You should aim to take this course after taking Basics of Cybersecurity.

General Problems in Cyber Policy and Cyber Conflict

  • Cybersecurity: Technology, Policy, and Law – This innovative seminar course brings together professors and students from SIPA, the Computer Science department, and the Law School to explore cybersecurity issues from the lenses of all three disciplines. The course culminates in an interdisciplinary research project. Students interested in any aspect of cybersecurity or the impact of technology on policy and law will benefit greatly from this course. Tip: if you’re interested in this course, demonstrate your interest in cybersecurity by taking other related courses and joining the student Digital and Cyber Group. The course always has a wait list and this will differentiate you.
  • Dynamics of Cyber Conflict – This course focuses on the national security aspects of cybersecurity, specifically how cyber conflict has developed and how it differs from other types of conflict. Through an interactive exercise, students will learn how to formulate practical policy recommendations to respond to a cyber incident. Taught by Professor Jason Healey, the editor of the first history of cyber conflict, this course is always popular and comes highly recommended.

Skills-Based Courses

  • Introduction to Cyber Threat Intelligence – This course introduces students to the skills required to work as a cyber threat intelligence analyst in government or in the private sector. While not required, students will benefit from having some prior technical knowledge, either from another SIPA course or from work experience. Taught by Professor JD Work, who has extensive government and private sector experience, the course has numerous hands-on intelligence analysis exercises that provide valuable experience (and are fun!).
  • Cybersecurity and Business Risk – This course examines cybersecurity from the perspective of the private sector. It explores the risks of conducting business connected to the Internet and how businesses understand and manage these risks. This course is especially beneficial to International Finance and Economic Policy students interested in cybersecurity. Taught by Professor Neal Pollard, the CISO of UBS, the course will help prepare you for cyber risk related roles in a wide variety of industries.

SIPA is a leader in training the next generation of leaders in cybersecurity policy. I encourage you to explore these courses as you craft your personal statement. A personal statement that clearly demonstrates how SIPA will advance your career goals is a great way to stand out in the application process, and cybersecurity courses from SIPA are a great way to stand out in your future job hunt.

The Columbia SIPA 2020 application is open

Our 2020 application is live. Click here to start your application now.

The application process takes time and effort to fully complete. We recommend the following to stay informed and organized:

1. Subscribe to this Admissions Blog. This blog is continually updated with information from SIPA admissions, students, alumni, and financial aid — all of which will be helpful for this application process (and beyond).

2. Add the application deadlines to your calendar. All materials must be submitted by the deadline to be considered for admission.

MIA, MPA, MPA-DP Program Deadlines
Spring 2020 (MIA/MPA only)
October 15, 2019 at 11:59pm ET

Fall 2020
Early Action Deadline: November 1, 2019 at 11:59pm ET
Fellowship Consideration Deadline: January 5, 2020 at 11:59pm ET
Final Application Deadline: February 5, 2020 at 11:59pm EST

3. Attend an information session or meet the SIPA community off-campusThese sessions are available online and in-person, and the information sessions walk through each piece of the application, as well as best practices and common mistakes. We’re adding more events throughout the next few months, so check back on those calendars.

If you want more advice or need guidance, email us at sipa_admission@columbia.edu with questions. Be sure to read up on the Frequently Asked Questions first so we can be more efficient in helping you.

Click here to get your application started. We look forward to reading your completed application.

Five Things You Should Know Before Submitting Your Application

For you applicants submitting in the next few days (Early Action for Fall 2019 is November 1st!), here are some last-minute application tips. Our Admissions Committee reads many applications during the admissions process, which means they notice when people make similar mistakes in the applications. Here are some general application tips for before you submit:

  1. Proofread. Make sure little things like, say, the name of the school, is spelled correctly. And if you’ve looked over your application hundreds of times, get a friend or family member to look it over.  A fresh pair of eyes can really help.
  2. We do not need your official test scores at the time of application submission. There is a place to self-report your scores on the application. Once you have been accepted, we will ask for your official report, but if you have submitted unofficial scores to us there is no need to contact our office to see if we have received a report for ETS.
  3. Answer the (required) essay questions. Some schools may offer an “additional information” question as an option to address special circumstances that may have affected your grades, scores or professional history. While this is one way to use this question, we really want to get to know all our applicants on a personal level, which is why answering the prompt – especially for the second essay – is required. (SIPA’s application does have an Optional Essay, which you can use to share that additional information.)
  4. We do not have a minimum GRE/GMAT score or GPA. SIPA is a competitive program and we encourage our applicants to do their best in the admissions process. But there’s no cutoff for GRE/GMAT scores or GPA, because many of our students are several years out of undergrad and have honed skills they may not have had five or ten years ago. The one exception to this is our hard rule in English proficiency tests (TOEFL/IELTS/PTE). As SIPA classes are taught in English there is a minimum level of proficiency necessary to participate and contribute. You can view the cutoff and preferred scores for the TOEFL/IELTS/PTE here.
  5. Do not waste words in your essays. It is hard enough to confine your professional experiences and goals to a 400-word limit, so you need to be strategic about the way you write. Do not waste essay space rehashing information that is available elsewhere in your application, for example your name or the grades you received as an undergraduate. In addition, we want to hear from you, not Gandhi or John F. Kennedy. If you choose to include a quotation in your personal statement make sure that it is necessary and supports your personal story.

We can’t wait to read your applications — good luck!

Reworked from this 2013 post.

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.

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!

"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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