Archive for economics – Page 2

Myth Busters! 5 Common Misconceptions that Should NOT keep you from Applying

After my last post on who shouldn’t  apply to SIPA, I started to feel a little bit like a negative Nancy (get it?) so I thought I would share some misconceptions that people bring up during the application process that should absolutely not keep otherwise qualified students from applying.  Some of the misconceptions are about SIPA, but most are about the students themselves.  I hope this gives you a little more confidence as we near our application deadline.

Myth 1: I need a background in Econ to apply to SIPA.  SIPA is a quantitative heavy school and it’s a good idea to have some sort of math, statistics or economics background.  However, you don’t need to have economics courses on your transcript in order to apply.  If you are worried about your quantitative background you can show through professional experience or test scores that you are good with numbers and address the gap elsewhere in your application.  Once you are at SIPA we offer math camp and tutorials to help bring you up to speed.  If you have any sort of quantitative background and are willing to work hard once you get here, don’t let a lack of econ stop you.

Myth 2: SIPA is not for students focused on United States domestic policy and administration.  Because of SIPA’s stellar reputation as an international affairs school (it was built a year after the United Nations to serve as a feeder school to the UN), I was intimidated when I first considered SIPA for domestic policy.  The truth is that SIPA boasts some of the preeminent faculty and alumni in all fields of domestic policy as well as a close relationship with Columbia Law School, Business School, Journalism, Public Health, Social Work and Teachers College, all of which offer domestic based programs at the top of their fields.  Our New York City location means that thousands of domestic policy experts are within reach.  Last year I took a class in race statistics with Professor Ken Prewitt, the former director of the United States’ Census Bureau and our most popular urban policy class is taught by David Dinkins, the former mayor of New York.   SIPA alums run Habitat for Humanity New York City, Newsweek, and SIPA alum Bill DeBlasio is New York City Public Advocate and a leading 2013 mayoral candidate.

Myth 3: My test scores are too low to apply to SIPA.  GRE or GMAT scores are but one facet of your application.  SIPA does not have a “minimum” score to apply because we employ a holistic application process.  While our applicant pool is very competitive and we encourage you to do the best you can, if you have stellar work experience, solid undergraduate GPA, taken some quant courses, and supportive recommendations, you should not let less than perfect test scores hold you back.  If you are concerned about your test scores or any other aspect of your application, this is a great issue to address in your second personal essay.

Myth 4: I can’t afford it.  Graduate school is an investment.  If I told you I didn’t have to make sacrifices to be here, I would be low on funds and a liar.  At the same time, I’ve never doubted that it was worth it.  I’ve learned skills and had experiences during my time at Columbia that I simply would not have gotten any other way—or from any other school.  For example, next semester for my capstone project I will be part of a consultancy for UN Women focusing on political participation. (That means when I graduate and apply to jobs I will be able to list “consultant to the United Nations” on my resume!)  In addition, a SIPA education carries a stellar reputation and connects you to thousands of alumni and employers who will be eager to hire you upon graduation.

During their time at SIPA, most students take out loans, apply for external funding or work on campus (which is how I get to connect with you fine folks through the admissions office) to help defray costs. For United States citizens the government offers a student loan forgiveness program for graduates who make a career in the public or non-profit sector, as many SIPA graduates ultimately do.

Myth 5:  SIPA is too big! I’ll get lost!  While it’s true that SIPA is the biggest public policy/international affairs school in the world, this is a blessing, not a curse!  A bigger school means more resources.  SIPA’s size enables us to offer courses in every policy area from international security policy to United States arts education.  If you’re worried about finding your niche consider the fact that SIPA offers over 40 student driven clubs to choose from, a student newspaper, the country’s oldest Journal of International Affairs and policy and concentration based retreats.  Despite our overall size, our class size is small (two of my classes this semester have only 8 students) and our professors are incredibly accessible-and due to the school’s size there is more likely to be one you’ll want to connect with.  Although we are big for a public policy school, we are smaller than most undergraduate institutions and our campus really feels more like a community.


Who Should Not Apply to SIPA

A lot of my blog posts focus on the myriad of wonderful opportunities SIPA has to offer and how no matter your policy interest, the SIPA experience can make all your professional dreams come true! While this is certainly the case for a wide variety of people, SIPA is not the right fit for everyone. Below are examples of 5 types of people who should NOT be applying to SIPA.

  1. You have little or no professional experience. While it’s true that SIPA admits a small percentage (roughly 10%) of applicants directly from undergrad, these are people with significant work or internship experience.  Not only does a lack of experience diminish your chances of acceptance, but it’s not a good idea for you. One of the most important pieces of SIPA is gaining the skills and experience you need to propel you forward in your career, and if you haven’t even began a career, it’s hard to know what those are.  Additionally, a lot of the practical strategies as well as the more theoretical work we do in classes asks us to draw on previous work experience and apply case studies to our own work and life.  You won’t get as much out of your SIPA education if you don’t have these experiences to draw on.
  2. You have no idea what you want to do when you graduate.  Similar to the above, it’s difficult to use a SIPA education to move your career forward if you don’t know where you want to go. That’s not to say you need to know exactly what you want to do after SIPA but you should have a good idea of what you’re passionate about and the kinds of careers that might interest you.  If you are having trouble articulating this in your personal statement, perhaps you should think about gaining another year or two of professional experience before you apply.  A graduate degree is a big investment both in terms of time and money, so you want to make sure it’s something that you need, either personally or professionally, before you make that commitment.  Although many students get their second masters at SIPA, or do a dual degree program these moves are best planned strategically.  Think how frustrating it would be to spend two years at SIPA only to realize that what you really needed was a law degree.
  3. You have trouble interacting with people with different perspectives.  Even as public policy schools go, SIPA is remarkably diverse.  Not only does half of our student body come from non-US countries, we are economically and racially diverse even within our US population (and always striving to be more so).  Just as importantly we attract students with all different experiences and points of view.  If you cannot discuss hot button public or foreign policy issues, such as the Israel-Palestine conflict, domestic health policy and poverty alleviation with people who have drastically different opinions than your own without losing your cool, these are skills you need to hone before entering our program.
  4. You are interested in gaining a purely academic or theoretical background.  Our MIA and MPA differ distinctly from a Masters in Political Science.  There is plenty of opportunity to study theory at SIPA whether it be in international relations, education or just about any topic you can think of, but the programs at SIPA are primarily professional degrees.  Like an MBA or law degree, they are meant to prepare practitioners to work in their chosen field.  Although a limited number of SIPA students do go on to pursue PhDs, that is not what our programs are geared toward.  If you know right now you want to go into theory or academia, you might want to consider a Master degree in political science, economics or another field of interest.
  5. You are unwilling or unable to do the work.  If this seems to you like it should be obvious, it does to me too.  Yet we’ve gotten dozens of emails from applicants asking if we can waive graduation or admissions requirements, if they have to do a capstone workshop or if they can graduate early before they’ve even been admitted.  Although SIPA does offer advanced standing for students who already hold graduate degrees, we want students who want to be here.   I want classmates who want to be here. Even in classes that I dreaded taking and that didn’t apply directly to my job (hello econ!) I still learned something.  There’s a reason these courses are required.  Most SIPA students have significant professional experience so although your experience might be valid or great, it does not exempt you from jumping through the same hoops as your classmates.  If this work doesn’t appeal to you now or you don’t think you can make the time to complete the application requirements, what makes you think the work will be appealing or that you’ll have more time in the future?  There is no shame in researching a school’s curriculum and realizing it’s not for you.

These things all said, I do hope you apply.  SIPA can mean a lot of things to a lot of different students with a variety of goals and if it sounds like our school might be the place for you I invite you to explore this blog, our admissions website or to attend an information session and talk with us further!


Post contributed by Nancy Leeds.  Nancy is a MPA 2nd Year studying Urban and Social Policy/Management with a Certificate in Gender Policy


The SIPA Advantage

When you’re looking at schools as an undergraduate, there are books websites, and guidance counselors to help you choose the right “fit” for you. Large or small, urban or rural, there are a bevy of resources to help you navigate what these features will mean in terms of your education and extracurricular activities. As a grad student, you’re left mostly on your own to discern the differences between the most competitive foreign and public policy schools, so I wanted to share five things that I feel make SIPA stand out among its competitors.


  1. Location. You already know that SIPA has a close relationship with the United Nations, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the resources available to public policy students in New York City.  Hundreds of non-profits, private companies, the New York Stock Exchange and the government of the largest city in the United States are all located here, providing limitless consulting and internship opportunities. In addition, everyone who’s anyone in global politics and commerce travels through New York City, and more likely than not they come to speak at our school.  In any given day we might have Japan’s Minister of Finance, the Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity, and the CEO of Bloomberg in our building. The trouble isn’t finding a lecture that you want to attend, the trouble is fitting them all in!
  2. Professors. Due to the school’s prestige and location, we have some of the best Professors in the world. From Nobel Prize winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz to sustainable development expert Jeff Sachs to associate Professors who are leaders in the real world. Last year I look Campaign Management from Jef Pollock, American Association of Political Consultants’ Pollster of the Year and Women and Power from Ernst and Young Executive and Healthcare Business Association’s Woman of the Year, Carolyn Buck-Luce. Whatever your interest, a SIPA education practically guarantees you access to experts in your field.
  3. Columbia University. In addition to all that’s available to students at SIPA itself, a SIPA education means you are part of the Columbia University network.  This means an introduction to literally thousands of alumni all over the world. It also means the opportunity to take classes at any of Columbia’s distinguished graduate schools for credit toward your degree. This year I am taking a class on Elections with Political Science PhD students, a class on Election Law at the prestigious Columbia Law School and a class at Columbia School of Journalism with Washington Post reporter Thomas Edsall. My area of public policy is pretty clear but whether you are passionate about education, defense strategy, health care or development opportunities await you all across our university.
  4. Size. I have to admit, I was a little nervous about finding my place at one of the biggest public policy schools in the world, but it turned out to be one of the things I like best about SIPA.  I get to study alongside and learn from over 1000 professionals from 52 countries. When a practical or policy question arises and I need an answer; I am almost guaranteed to find an expert among my classmates. When a candidate I was working for had an event with Bill Clinton,  I was able to reach out to one of his interns at the Clinton Global Initiative to find an address to send a thank you note. When my blog went viral in the campaign world, my more technologically inclined classmates helped teach me best practices for social media. SIPA’s size allows us to offer the most classes, clubs, and extracurricular opportunities of any of the top public or foreign policy schools as well as the wealth of information that is the SIPA community itself.
  5. Flexibility. Compared to other public policy programs, SIPA’s MPA curriculum is extremely flexible. SIPA students graduate with a solid foundation in economics, statistics, and management practice, but are free to choose the subjects that most interest them within these fields, as well as from one of the country’s largest selections of electives. For students like me who enter SIPA with a very specific interest, for me it was election systems and civic engagement, this means we are always able to take classes in our field. For students who enter with a broader interest, this means they are free to explore no matter where their interests take them.


This post was contributed by Nancy Leeds.  Nancy is a Democratic Campaign Operative and blogger pursuing her MPA in Social Policy and Management at SIPA. 

Summer Reading – Part 6

First let me state what this entry is not.  The links you will find below are not the syllabi for new students entering in the fall of 2011.  The syllabi listed below are samples taken from courses taught in the 2010-11 academic year  for some of our core requirements.  Faculty are working over the summer to determine the exact content of classes for the upcoming semester and syllabi will be distributed during the first week of classes.

What this entry is trying to accomplish is to provide you with samples of content of our core degree courses from the past.  Some incoming students have made requests for examples from past courses and our curricular affairs office passed along the following.

So, please feel free to explore the syllabuses provided below to get an idea of the coursework and reading requirements.  Consider this a taste of a few of our offerings to get familiar with the work load and types of assignments you might expect.  Please do not attempt to contact the individuals listed in the documents as these courses have been completed.

Fall 2010 – U6006:  Strategic Thinking and Planning for General Mangers

Fall 2010 – U6005:  Effective Management in the Public Service

Fall 2010 – U6110:  Politics of Policy Making (MPA only)

Fall 2010 – U6800:  Conceptual Foundations of International Affairs (MIA Only)

Fall 2010 – U6500:  Quantitative Analysis

Fall 2010 – U6400: Economic Analysis for International and Public Affairs I

Spring 2011 – U6401:  Economic Analysis for International and Public Affairs II

Spring 2010:  Economics 4201 – Economics for International and Public Affairs II


New Student Summer Email Series

During the summer the Office of Student Affairs will be sending an email to all incoming students each Thursday.  The series actually kicked off a little earlier this week.  Incoming MIA, MPA, and MPA-DP students that have paid a deposit should have received two email messages on Wednesday.  One email contained a welcome message along with a reminder to access your UNI (instructions for accessing your UNI are in the message if you have yet to do so) and the other announced the start of the online summer math tutorial and provided instructions for logging in.  You will need your UNI to log in to the math tutorial.

The summer math tutorial is not mandatory, but we highly recommend that all incoming students participate.  There are several core classes in the first year that are quantitative in nature and second year fellowship consideration requires a 3.4 GPA at SIPA.  The summer math tutorial will help to ensure that you get off to a strong start in the fall.

Please make sure to check your email for the messages that were sent on Wednesday.  The messages will come from so make sure these messages are not channeled into your spam or junk mail folders.  If you did not receive these messages and believe you should have, please send an email to to let us know.

"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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