Archive for documents

trouble submitting documents

In order for your application to be considered “complete” and ready for review, we must receive all the required documents, which include your resumes, recommendation letters, and transcripts.  We prefer documents be uploaded through the online application.  However, we have received a number of inquiries on what to do if you have trouble uploading these documents to your online application.  If the advice you received from the application technical support team (presuming you contacted them)  was insufficient and you continue to have problems uploading your documents; you may email  the documents to us ( as an attachment.

If you need to mail us documents; it is preferred that they be mailed together to expedite the process.  But we understand that it may be easier to just mail documents individually (such as recommendation letters) too.  Regardless, if you mail us a big packet or a small envelope, please have it sent to:

Columbia University – SIPA
Office of Admissions and Financial Aid
420 West 118th Street, 4th Floor
Mail Code 3325
408 International Affairs Building
New York, NY 10027 USA

All documents must be in English or accompanied by certified translations.  Please make sure these documents arrive to us by the application deadline, February 5th, in order for your application to be considered complete.  Please also note that this is our heaviest processing period so it can take up to two to three weeks to process information that was sent by mail.

You may track the receipt of your documents online (by logging into your online application) without having to call or email our office.


Top 10 Communication Tips 2011 – #6

This is the sixth entry in our “Top 10″ list for you to consider when communicating with our office and applying.

Number 6 – If you must mail something to our office use a private mail courier and request receipt confirmation.

Columbia is a huge university with one central mail room.  All “standard” mail is funneled to the main mail room and it can take a week or more for mail to be sorted and sent on to us.  This spells D-E-L-A-Y.

By utilizing a private mail carrier the parcel will be sent directly to our office, avoiding delays.  Also, we highly recommend getting a tracking number or receipt confirmation whenever something is mailed to our office.  This way the moment we sign for the package the courier will log delivery and you will be notified if you have signed up for email notification.

Even better, 100% of your documents needed for admission consideration may be submitted on our application site so you may want to consider uploading your information rather than sending anything by mail.  We want to make the process of applying as simple as possible so we accept self reported test scores and unofficial transcripts uploaded our application site.

It may sound funny to applicants but I cannot tell you how excited I get when we print an application and everything comes out in order.  When applicants upload all of the necessary documents and recommenders upload their letters as well, everything prints in one batch.  This means we can forward your application to the committee quickly.

If documents are mailed, after we print the application and review it we then have to go on a perilous search for missing documents.  The natural question you might ask is, “What is so perilous about searching for documents in an office?”  Well, I can tell you from lots of experience that paper and staples possess the unique capacity to slice human skin.  During the application season band-aids and hand lotion are a must and often times my hands look as if I got into fight with a cat.

Advice to Avoid Panic

As easy as we try to make the application process, I understand that there can be complications and questions.  Each year we receive panicked emails around the admissions deadline and no matter how easy we try to make the process, I am sure we will never eliminate every possible issue.  I thought I would highlight some examples of emails from the past in the hope that you can learn from others that have applied before you.  Names/data/etc. have been changed from the original emails.

Do note that we will work with applicants if we believe a good faith effort has been made to submit documents by the deadline and there is a complication of some sort.

In addition, many of the common questions we receive are answered in the online instructions so you can save yourself time and stress by carefully reading the instructions.

Check the Appropriate Boxes/Links/Menu Items

Email: I am writing to inform you that I unfortunately checked the wrong concentration in my application for the MIA program which I just submitted online. My apologies! In the first part of the application I checked “Human Rights”. Instead it should read: “Urban and Social Policy.”  Can you please make this change for me?

Email: My name is Sally Applicant.  On the application I mistakenly entered “Spanish” as my undergraduate language of instruction.  The correct answer is “English”.  I would very much appreciate it if someone in the SIPA Admissions office would update my file accordingly.

Advice/Answer: As you might imagine, it can be disruptive to our processing when we receive requests to amend information submitted in the application.  Make sure you pay close attention when clicking the options that are a part of the application.  Having to make manual changes slows the process down and may delay the processing of your application.

Understand our Process

Email: My name is Jon Applicant and I wonder if you could tell me if you have received a copy of my GRE report?

Advice/Answer: At SIPA GRE scores are self reported on the admission application, we do not look for official test reports until after applicants have been admitted and paid a deposit.  For a dedicated entry on this topic, click here.

Email: My name is Cinderella and I am concerned that my online application does not reflect that GRE scores were submitted.  I entered the scores on the application but the status reads “Not Received.” Why is this since I self reported the scores?

Advice/Answer: We must print each application submitted and manually check it for accuracy and completion.  As you might imagine, with thousands of applications this can take a number of weeks.  We appreciate your patience and each applicant will receive an email when the completed application has been forwarded to the Committee for review.  Rest assured that we will work with applicants if there is an issue but we feel a good faith effort was made to get all of the required documents in on time.

Respect the Deadline

Email: My name is Peter Piper and I am a prospective student applying to your MIA program.  I will have all of the elements of my application completed and submitted by the deadline except for one letter of recommendation.  I had asked one of my professors on December 19 to write a letter of recommendation for me and he responded that he would be able to do this by the deadlines that I had given him.  Yesterday I wrote reminding him of the deadline, and I received a response this morning saying that he is traveling in Wonderland and would not be able to complete the letter of recommendation until he returns to the US next week.

Advice/Answer: Make sure to communicate with those writing letters on your behalf well before the deadline.  Starting your application early is recommended because our system will allow you to send out reminders to your recommendation letter writers.  For instructions on how to send reminders, click here.

Email: I have been unable to obtain my transcripts from my undergraduate institution because I contacted them and they are closed for the holidays.  What can I do?

Advice/Answer: Applicants should contact the schools they have attended well in advance of the deadline to make sure transcripts on time.  Please respect that it can take schools some time to process transcript requests.

Document Tracking

Email: I submitted my application but mailed my transcripts.  It is one day after the deadline but my transcripts show as not received.  Please check and get back to me as soon as possible.

Advice/Answer: During the busy portion of the application process (both before and after the deadline) we are unable to respond to each individual email we receive.  We have a process in our office and part of this process is to print a file, check to see if all of the documents/information were submitted online and if not, to match documents to the file.

In order to process files as quickly as possible, we first seek to complete applications that were submitted 100% online.

If an application is incomplete after we print it, we will set it aside and seek to match related documents after we have gone through all of the applications submitted.  It is therefore in your best interest if you can submit 100% of your documents on line.  If for some reason a document was mailed, we appreciate your patience as we complete the processing of files in our office.  As soon as a file is complete, we will notify you via email.

Also note, we do not track documents submitted to our office prior to an application being submitted.  We will seek to match documents sent to our office after an application has been submitted.

Status of Recommendation Letters

Email: Can I submit my application if one of my referees has not yet uploaded their recommendation letter? I have been waiting for the letter to be uploaded before I submit and don’t want to “cut it to close.” Will my referee be able to upload their letter if my application is already submitted (even if the letter is uploaded before the deadline)?

Advice/Answer: The status of recommendation letters should not impact the submission of your application.  Recommendation letters are tracked in a different application module.  We link information in the two modules and thus submission of your application should be completed when you are ready.  Do not let the fact that recommendation letters have not been received stop you from submitting your application.

Double Check Documents Prior to Uploading

Email: My name is Ted Typo. I was checking the résumé I uploaded and realize I uploaded a draft copy with many misspellings and typos.  I know you are so busy now, but can I replace them?

Advice/Answer: There are times when we may be able to add documents to a file after the deadline, however this is not always possible. Once a file is complete and printed, it makes a journey to several Committee members.  We cannot spend our time trying to track down files once they have been sent out for reading so make sure the documents you upload are complete and correct as of the deadline.

We Accept only What We Ask For

Email: My name is Extra Effort and I submitted an on-line application yesterday. I looked for a place to upload an addendum to my application but could not find a place to do so.  Can I email it to you?

Advice/Answer: Applicants to SIPA should only submit the information we request.  If you wish to include an addendum of any kind, there are two possible places to do this.  First, we are not concerned with the length of the résumé submitted.  If you wish to include information you believe is important for the Committee to be aware of, you may include such information in your résumé.

Also, if you feel the need you can use part 3 of the personal statement to include information you wish for the Admissions Committee to be aware of.  We do not allow for the submission of any documents beyond what we ask for on the application.

If You Mail Something, Use a Tracking Number

Email: Hello, my name is Porter Postal and I mailed my transcript to your address about a week ago.  It has not been tracked yet, can you tell me if you have received it?

Advice/Answer: First, we prefer that 100% of your documents be uploaded to our application site.  If this is not possible and a document does need to be mailed, we highly recommend sending the document via a mail courier that provides a tracking number.

We can receive hundreds of documents around the deadline and it takes a great deal of time to process and track.  If you ask for a tracking number, as soon as we sign for it the courier will provide you with notice that the document has been delivered and you only need to wait for us to track the document in our system.  For a dedicated entry on this topic, click here.

Updating Application Files

Email: My name is Sally Suspense and I just learned that I won a fellowship.  I know it is 5 days after the deadline but can I send you a new résumé to show this?

Advice/Answer: Similar to the text above regarding double checking your documents before uploading them, it is not always possible to update a file once the deadline passes. Once a file is complete and printed, it makes a journey to several Committee members.  Unfortunately we cannot spend our time trying to track down files once they have been sent out for reading so while you are welcome to ask if we can update a file, understand that we might not be able to do so.


My final piece of advice in this entry is this . . .

Each year close to half of our applicants submit an application within 72 hours the deadline.  I understand human nature and that it is often common for people to wait until the last minute, but my advice is to submit your application a few days before the deadline.  Getting your application in early likely will keep you from last minute issues that have caused problems for others in the past.

Deadline Communications

We are rapidly approaching the admission deadline (January 5th, 2010) for our two-year, full-time MIA, MPA, and MPA-DP programs and the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid is a flurry of activity.  As expected our phone is ringing, postal letters are arriving in massive quantities, and our email box is full as soon as we clean it out.  The purpose of this post is to give you a few pointers during this busy time of year for our office.

The first pointer has to do with email.  If you email our office we please ask that you send your message to only one email address.  Some applicants will copy several accounts or personal addresses on a single message and this can lead to confusion and extra work in our office.  We highly recommend that you use our main account for your inquires.  The address is:  Using one account will allow us to answer inquiries much more quickly.

The second pointer has to do with phone calls.  If you call and get voice mail, rest assured that we will get back to you, but it may take us some time.  If you do leave a voice mail and call again, it is helpful to let us know that you left a voice mail so we know that your question has been answered and can cross the voice mail message off of our call back list.  Also, when you do leave a voice mail, please speak slowly and clearly, state you telephone number twice, and also please state your location.  With calls coming from all over the world, knowing what time zone you are in will allow us to call at an appropriate time.

Third, realize that we do need to manually check each and every application.  This means that when an application is submitted, it will be printed and double checked.  So for example, after you have self reported your test scores in Part 2 of the application, we will check to make sure they have printed out and then mark them as received on the application site.  Thus do not expect that your application will show as complete immediately after submitting it.  We will process it as quickly as possible and reach out to applicants if there are any issues with documents.  For more details, please see this past entry.

Fourth, this time of year we receive hundreds of pieces of mail per day.  We try to keep up but each year we will open mail after the deadline passes.  As long as the documents were received prior to the deadline they will be considered on time.  Please understand that we are not able to respond immediately to inquiries about the receipt of individual documents due to the extremely large volume of mail we receive.

We are very excited to begin the review process and appreciate your understanding regarding this issues.  Thank you in advance for your patience and we will update your application on line as quickly as we are able.

Postal Mail Information

Tracking documents sent to our office takes up the bulk of our time surrounding the admission deadline.  We understand this is a concern for applicants but rest assured we make every effort to track your documents in a timely fashion.

Regarding mail sent to us, please note there is always a slight delay in the receipt of postal mail that is not sent to our office directly by an express courier (UPS, FedEx, etc.). This is due to the fact that general mail that is addressed to our office is first sent to a central Columbia post office for sorting.

This process can add three to five additional days to the delivery of documents to our office. We are aware of this delay and we account for this when tracking documents. Documents delayed by the internal sorting process are not negatively impacted.

With this in mind, please understand that it may take up to two weeks following the deadline for documents to be tracked into the system.  We appreciate your patience and please understand if we are unable to respond immediately to questions concerning the receipt of individual documents.

Please check the application Web site for updates and we will do everything we can to ensure that your application is complete and forwarded to the Admissions Committee for processing.

"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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