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The differences between the submitted, complete emails to applicants

The final Fall 2016 application period recently closed, and we’re in the middle of matching application materials and reviewing completed applications for admission. Depending on where you are in the review process, you may have noticed that you received two confirmation emails. One confirms that your application was submitted successfully and the other says your application was reviewed for errors and is complete. Some people are confused by the similar wording, so I wanted to break them down for everyone today.

After you submit your application, you receive an email within 24 hours with the subject line Confirmation: Your Columbia SIPA application was received. This is purely a confirmation email explaining your application form was submitted without any problems. It also reminds you that no changes may be made to your application once it has been submitted.

From there, the Office of Admissions will review the materials you’ve submitted — the essays, resumes, transcripts, etc. If there is an error with your application (i.e. the transcripts are illegible or we never received your TOEFL score report), we will contact you directly. If there are no issues with your application we will send you another email within two to four weeks.* This email will have the subject line Your Application is Complete. Once you receive this email, you can feel confident knowing that we have ALL of your materials; including the application fee you forgot to pay and that final recommendation letter from your traveling professor. This message also states that your application has been officially forwarded to the Admissions Committee for review.

In this email we also encourage you to take a moment to update your Personal Information page (accessible through the Status Page) and update your biographical and contact information. Why? Well, if you are admitted to SIPA the information listed in this part of the application will be used to populate your official Columbia University record.

So there you have it in a nutshell — the differences between the submitted and completed email messages.

In the few days I’ll try to share some insider knowledge about the review process and the applicant pool. In the meantime, good luck to all of our applicants!

*It has come to my attention that a handful of MPA-DP Fall 2016 applicants have not received the complete email. Please check your spam folders for this email, as our messages are sometimes delivered there. I am resending the complete email to this cohort for their records. However, if there were any issues with any applicant’s materials, we would have emailed them directly detailing the problem.

Our email is down this weekend

Our IT department is performing some upgrades this month, so this blog, our voicemail and our email accounts will be unavailable during the following periods:

5:00 p.m. Friday, June 5, to 5:00 p.m. Saturday, June 6
5:00 p.m. Friday, June 19, to 5:00 p.m. Saturday, June 20

While all services may not be unavailable completely, please refrain from sending us an email or leaving a voicemail during these periods, as we may not receive them. Our technology services will be fully restored immediately following these down periods.

Did you receive…?

We have received a number of frantic emails and calls asking if we have received a document or two that was mailed to our office.  I can completely sympathize with the concern especially if it is the last piece of material keeping your application from being reviewed by the Admissions Committee.

But please be patient — We are trying to process and match these documents to your application.  Unfortunately, we receive hundreds of documents each week around the application deadline period; each document must be manually processed.  Apologies for the delay.  For your convenience (and ours), you should upload your documents directly to the online application — official documents are only needed if you are admitted and plan to enroll in the program.  So when you call or email us asking about your “missing” document, we most likely have it (if you emailed us the attachment or mailed it through a reliable carrier) but we are still sorting through the mountain of papers so that’s probably why we have not uploaded or updated your application status yet.


Don’t worry.  We do not leave applications unread (unless you purposely did not complete it).  Happy Friday :).

Top 10 Communication Tips 2011 – Summary

Shortly after the 2012 application for admission went “live” we published 10 tips to assist with communicating with our office and obtaining information.  For ease of reference all 10 tips are summarized here for easy reference.  Each is a hyperlink to the full entry.  We hope this allows you to obtain information quickly and communicate clearly with our office.

1.   Always use the same email address when communicating with our office – this includes the email you use when you start your application. In addition we recommend NOT using an employer email address and always including your email address in the signature of your message (below your name).

2.  Avoid Unnecessarily Creating a Duplicate Online Application.

3.  Avoid copying several parties on the same email and avoid long emails.

4.  Thoroughly review our FAQ Page.

5.  When leaving a voice mail message speak slowly and clearly, state your telephone number twice, and note your city/time zone.

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

7.  Check out our student, alumni, faculty, staff interview page.

8.  Familiarize Yourself with Expenses and Start searching for fellowships/scholarships/grants as soon as possible!

9.  Attend an information session or recruitment event.

10.  Subscribe to this Blog.

Top 10 Communication Tips 2011 – #3

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

Number 3 – Avoid copying several parties on the same email and avoid long emails.

Some tips in our list are straightforward but this one is a bit more ambiguous.   Encouraging applicants to use one email address (Tip #1) is straightforward.  When advising to avoid copying several parties on the same email and avoiding long emails, things are a bit less defined.  First the topic of copying several parties on the same email.

I understand the temptation to copy four or five different parties on the same email, but most often this only leads to delays in getting a response. I know my inclination when I see four or five people copied on an email sent to me is that I am going to let someone else answer the email.  The problem?  Everyone else may think the same thing and you do not get a response.

Or, I may want to check with others before sending my response and the result of one email is four or five more emails just to find out who is going to answer.  Therefore, I highly recommend sending your email to one recipient address.  If the person at the address is unable to assist you, rest assured it will be passed on to someone who can assist you.  When in doubt send one email to

The second piece of advice, avoiding long emails, is a tough one to explain because I know “long” is relative.  I guess the best way I can put it is that some tasks are better done in pieces or in chunks.  Sometimes we get emails that are extremely long and detailed and it takes a lot of time to dig through them.  If you have multiple questions, it might not be a bad idea to try to break them up into separate emails over a short time period.  This will allow us to respond in a more efficient manner.

This series of “top 10 tips” is an example of what I am talking about.  At first I was going to post a single entry with all 10 tips in it.  Then I thought about my own behavior – I tend to only glance at really long emails in my personal Gmail account.

If I would have put all 10 tips in one entry it probably would have taken you 15-20 minutes to read it and visit any associated links.  I came to the conclusion that it would be more effective and easier to digest if it was broken into 2-3 minute chunks.

This is probably the most ambiguous tip so use you own judgment.  I will say that sometimes people will apologize when they send more than email.  No apology necessary!  This approach might just be more effective.  On the other hand, a separate email for each and every question might be overkill.  Again, use your best judgment.

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—Merit E. Janow, Dean, SIPA, Professor of Practice, International and Economic Law and International Affairs

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