Archive for FAQ

Next Steps for Admitted Students, Fall 2018

First off, a big congratulations on being accepted to Columbia SIPA! I hope you celebrated this achievement – it was a competitive applicant pool! – and are now ready to go over a few things that every newly-admitted student should know. In this post I’ll cover:

  • The Welcome Portal
  • Your Status Page (and how to avoid delays in starting off your school year)
  • Official Documents (this probably applies to you)
  • Conditional Admission
  • Money, Deposits, and Financial Aid

The Welcome Portal

The Welcome Portal has everything you need regarding next steps. Even if you aren’t sure where you’ll end up yet, the Welcome Portal provides information to help you make that decision: Upcoming deadlines, student housing information, and special events and webinars, including Faculty Q&As and Financial Aid advice.

The Welcome Portal is also where you’ll go to accept your admissions offer – your offer deadline is in your admissions letter, along with login details for the Welcome Portal.

You should also follow us on Instagram @Columbia.SIPA to share your admissions story and connect with future classmates with #SIPAClassof2020!

Your Status Page

The last thing you want is a delay to starting off your school year, but that is easily avoided by checking in with the Status Page. This is where you’ll go to review your Application Checklist. Even though you’ve been accepted, there are a few items on the checklist that we need to finalize your academic record before August 2018. And if your record isn’t finalized, you won’t be able to register for classes during Fall 2018 orientation. Don’t be that person!

Official Documents

When you review the Welcome Portal, you’ll notice a section that outlines upcoming deadlines for the Application Checklist materials, also known as official documents. These are hard deadlines for the Admissions Office to receive your official documents, mainly transcripts and test scores.

“But I thought I submitted my application and this whole thing was over!” Not quite, but almost!

In the past few years, at least 90% of our accepted students did not submit all of their official documents to our office. Safe to say, this may be familiar to you:

  • You applied to SIPA. You submitted a scanned copy of your college transcript(s).
  • You were admitted to SIPA with that scanned transcript(s). But, that is still a scan of a transcript, which means it is an unofficial copy.
  • Even if your college registrar’s office handed you an official transcript, since you opened it and scanned it, we must consider it an unofficial copy because it’s technically been altered.

“But my Status Page has a green checkmark next to my transcript, and I’m still seeing a notification that my official transcript has not been submitted. What gives?”

The green checkmark is referring to your unofficial copy tied to your application – just cross-check the upload date and hover over the checkmark (see below) to see if the pop-up text reads “Received Copy” or “Received.” Check out our “Dissecting the Application Checklist” post if you’re still confused.

“How do I send in my official transcripts and test scores?”

All of this information is in the Welcome Portal (seriously, check it out if you haven’t already), but: Official test scores must be on file by June 1, 2018; and official transcripts must be on file by July 13, 2018, (unless instructed otherwise). International students who won’t have conferred degrees until after the deadline should email us and we’ll make a note on their account.

Official test scores must be sent to us by the testing company (ex: ETS, GMAC).

– GRE / TOEFL ibt school code: 2161 (no department code)
– GMAT school code: MIA is QF8-64-56; MPA is QF8-64-99

Mail your official transcripts to us at:
Columbia University | SIPA
Office of Admissions & Financial Aid
514 West 113th Street
New York, New York 10025
(Reminder: Official transcripts must be in an envelope that is sealed and signed. )

While you can email them to sipa_admission@sipa.columbia.edu, note that the transcripts must be sent from the registrar’s office through a service like eSCRIP-SAFE in order to be considered official.

Official Test Scores

The same rules outlined above apply to your official test scores. But if you truly know you sent us your official scores, there may be a workaround from re-ordering your test scores.

Chances are your application name and email address are not recorded the same as the name and email address you registered to take the GRE/GMAT or TOEFL/IELTS/PTE with a few months ago. (You may recall us warning against this in the application instructions.) Thus, we couldn’t match the exam to your account because of the mismatch.

If that’s the case, contact the testing center and confirm your full name, date of birth and email address associated with your account. You’ll need to send us that information, along with the batch number/cycle number for GRE and TOEFL scores; the appointment number and identification number for GMAT scores; or send us the official score report for IELTS/PTE scores.

Conditional Admission

Supplemental Quant

If you were required additional quantitative preparation prior to enrolling at SIPA, this means your overall application and achievements are admirable, and we believe you’ll be better equipped for success at SIPA by completing economics coursework prior to your enrollment.

You can complete this requirement by taking both Principles of Microeconomics and Principles of Macroeconomics with a B or better. (The single Principles of Economics course is no longer an option, except for Fall 2018 Early Action admitted students.)

These courses may be physical or virtual (online) but must be from an accredited academic institution. This course can be completed abroad as long as the institution is accredited in its home country. If you’re unsure, check the university’s website for their accreditation notice or consult with World Education Services for assistance. Free courses through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) or certificate programs through Coursera and other online services do not fulfill this requirement. Successful completion is defined as a letter grade of B or higher or its numerical equivalent. We can’t recommend any institution over another, so, unfortunately, we can’t offer further guidance on where to complete this requirement.

Please submit final transcripts verifying your successful completion of these courses to the Admissions Office by August 20, 2018. If you are completing the economics courses during the summer, you must also send proof of course registration to the Admissions Office by July 1, 2018. By completing this requirement, your admission to SIPA will become final.

SIPA Summer and/or Fall ALP

Some international students are required to enroll in summer and/or fall ALP as a condition of their admission. Your admission letter states if you are required to complete this coursework. We cannot waive this requirement because this is a policy set by the university. The only way to waive out of it (as described in the admission letter/Welcome Portal), is to provide new TOEFL/IELTS/PTE scores that show at least a score of 110 on the TOEFL, 7.5 on the IELTS, or 76 on the PTE. Improved scores must be submitted to the Admissions Office no later than June 1, 2018.

Money, Deposits, and Financial Aid

Your Admissions Deposit

You have until the date on your admission letter to accept your enrollment offer AND pay the $2,000.00 USD admission deposit. This deposit ultimately goes towards your tuition bill.

You do not have to accept and pay the deposit at the same time. So you can submit your response form and select “yes,” and then access your Status Page in a couple weeks to make the deposit payment. However, your deposit payment must be paid in full at once (no partial payments). This should be paid through the online portal. Just click on the corresponding hyperlink to submit your payment. You’ll continue to see a reminder on your Status Page until your deposit is paid, and only after you’ve submitted your response form.

Financial Aid and Fellowships

If you received a scholarship or fellowship, you will have received a separate notification letter about your funding along with your letter of admission. (Early-action candidates had to wait until now to learn about their funding status.)

To see your funding letters, go to your Status Page, scroll down to where it says Status Update and click on the View Update link. From there, you’ll be directed to your admission letter. Then you’ll need to scroll down to the bottom of your letter. This is where you’ll see if you have one (or several) letters available to read. If there’s an additional linked date under “The Following letters are available for this account,” you should click on it!

All students, whether funded their first year or not, will be able to apply for second-year funding. Most of this funding is in the form of assistantships for second-year students who succeeded in their first year of studies. (You’ll learn more about these opportunities during the spring semester of your first year.)

We also encourage you to visit the Financial Aid page for more information about funding your education, which includes a database of external funding opportunities.

Tuition, Fees, and Billing

Columbia University releases an annual estimated cost of attendance, which you can view for the 2018-2019 year here.

Your tuition bill will be generated closer to the start of the academic term. You also have the option to set up a payment plan or coordinate your payments with a third-party sponsor. For more information on that process, browse the Student Financial Services website. (Note: The Office of Admissions & Financial Aid is not involved in this process.) You can also browse this site to get a historical look at the tuition and fees SIPA (Columbia University) has charged each year.

Contact Us

If you need anything give us a call or send an email. If you’re an admitted student with specific financial aid or fellowship inquiries, please email them with a descriptive and informative subject line to sipa_finaid@columbia.edu. Admissions questions can continue to go to sipa_admission@columbia.edu or sipa_new@columbia.edu.

And once again, congratulations to our admitted students!

Some minor updates to SIPA’s programs

SIPA’s undergoing some small changes this summer that you should know about; especially if you’re planning to apply to one of our degree programs this year. While this blog focuses on the two-year programs, it never hurts to learn more about our part-time and one-year master’s degree programs as well. So here’s a look at what’s going on with each program.

MPA-EPM (formerly PEPM) Updates

The MPA in Economic Policy Management (MPA-EPM), formerly known as Program in Economic Policy Management (PEPM), provides highly accomplished policymakers and professionals with the skills required for the design and implementation of economic policy in market economies, with a strong emphasis on the economic problems of developing and transition economies in a global context. MPA-EPM is highly specialized to accommodate the demands of mid-career professionals and policymakers in both the public and private sectors. The course of study applies the theoretical rigor of the social sciences to the practical lessons of economics and management science through the intensive study of actual economic policy successes and failures. The demanding curriculum presupposes that students possess some measure of intellectual maturity and professional exposure to the problems of economic decision making.

Our 12-month program has three different curricular focuses: the traditional Economic Policy Management focus (EPM), the Global Energy Management and Policy focus (GEMP) and the Central Banking and Financial Markets focus (CBFM).  The EPM focus builds students’ technical competence with the tools of economic management and policymaking, the GEMP focus teaches the fundamentals of the energy industry, including international energy systems and business organizations involved in the production, transportation, and marketing of energy products and the CBFM focus teaches the latest techniques in capital market development and macroprudential policy.

MPA-EPM was formed in cooperation with the World Bank and still maintains its connection to the Bank, through our Joint Japan/World Bank Graduate Scholarship program, providing full scholarships each year for up to 12 students from emerging economies; https://sipa.columbia.edu/the-joint-japanworld-bank-graduate-scholarship-program

The MPA-EPM is best suited for professionals with 4-10 years of working experience from institutions such as central banks, finance ministries, national and international development agencies and international financial institutions. Professionals from financial, consulting and energy backgrounds are also encouraged to apply. Applicants should also hold an undergraduate degree with a record of superior academic accomplishment, and preferably with strong economics or mathematics content.

For more information about MPA-EPM please click here or email mpa-epm@sipa.columbia.edu.

—David Caughlin, Associate Director, MPA-EPM & Center on Global Economic Governance

MPA-ESP Updates

The MPA in Environmental Science and Policy is a one year, full time immersive program specifically designed to prepare you to take a leadership role as a sustainability professional in the public or private sectors.  Our program is the only program in the US that includes a unique environmental science curricula designed to inform policy and management decisions, in addition to sustainability management and environmental policy courses. Our Workshop in Applied Earth Systems Management course offers students an opportunity to serve as a sustainability consultant to a real client, so we have an internship-like experience built into the curricula. Our practical training will teach students how to develop effective proposals; analyze, design and implement policy and programs; create efficient master calendars and budgets; communicate with and manage stakeholders;  measure organizational capacity and impact; and present effective briefings and other presentations.

For more information about MPA-ESP please click here or email Associate Director Laura Piraino at lpiraino@ei.columbia.edu.

— Laura Piraino, Associate Director, MPA-ESP

Executive MPA Updates

Having just passed the July 1 application deadline, the Executive Master of Public Administration (EMPA) program is gearing up for the Fall 2017 orientation on August 19. Once more, we will have a strong cohort of mid-career professionals representing the public, nonprofit and private sectors and several countries. Due to increased demand, the EMPA program will once more have a spring class, and the Spring 2018 application will be available in mid-August. Our commitment to high quality digital education is evident in our innovative digital video case studies, created by the video production team at the Picker Center for Executive Education.

This year several new cases were added to the collection, filmed on location in Ghana, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These cases explored issues of development and Aid, as well as technology in government. Examples of cases from the collection can be seen below:

Digital India
Password: sipa2017

eDoctors
Password: sipa2017

For more information about EMPA please click here or email empa@columbia.edu.

—Valerie Zimmer, Associate Director of Recruitment and Marketing, EMPA

MIA/MPA/MPA-DP Updates

Starting this term, you’ll notice a shift in MIA/MPA concentration directors. Travis Bradford stepped down as director of the Energy and Environment Concentration. Bradford, who is widely recognized for his expertise in clean energy markets and finance, will continue to hold the position of Professor of Professional Practice in International and Public Affairs and will teach the Concentration’s required course on energy fundamentals.

Wolfram Schlenker, Professor of International and Public Affairs, and David Sandalow, Inaugural Fellow at the Center on Global Energy Policy, have been appointed as Co-Directors of E&E. Professor Schlenker, who is an internationally recognized expert in environmental economics teaches, “Economic Analysis of Environmental Policies”, one of the core courses in the environmental policy and management focus area. He currently serves on the Steering Committee of the Environmental and Energy Economics Program at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) and the Board of Reviewing Editors at Science. Sandalow, who leads the Center’s China research, writes widely on energy policy, including most recently on energy geopolitics and renewable energy finance. He has served in senior positions at the White House, State Department and U.S. Department of Energy.

Speaking of courses, we’ve also expanded our curriculum offerings. To date there are 14 new courses being offered in Fall 2017: they include “Climate Change: Israel and the Middle East,” “State Formation, Deformation and Failure,” and “Crime, Journalism, and Public Policy,” among others. (Spring 2018 additions will be announced in mid-July.)

The Professional Development Career Conference is also experiencing some changes. The course now meets three times over three weeks. Previously, the course was completed in either two or five class meetings, but the Office of Career Services adjusted the program based on feedback from students and professionals in the field. It is a requirement for all students in the MIA, MPA and MPA-DP programs, and should be completed during the first year of study. The PD Conference is designed to help students clarify career goals, shape viable strategies for pursuing internship and job opportunities, and develop skills to compete effectively in the international and public affairs job markets.

If anything else develops we’ll announce them on the SIPA Admissions Blog. As always, browse this Blog or visit the SIPA website to learn more about the two-year programs. You may also email us at sipa_admission@columbia.edu.

—Kaitlyn Wells, Assistant Director of Admissions, SIPA

 

Interested in applying to our programs? The applications for MPA-ESP and MPA-EPM are live today! (The two-year MIA/MPA and EMPA programs will open in mid-August 2017.) Visit https://apply.sipa.columbia.edu/apply/ to start your application.

What admitted students want to know about paying for SIPA

Have questions about billing and payments, work study, or student loans? Our financial aid staff compiled a list of commonly-asked questions and answers to help alleviate some of these concerns.

Student Loan Questions:

I was only awarded the Direct Unsubsidized Loan for $20,500 but I need more funding. What are my options?
When you submit the FAFSA, we can package you with the Direct Unsubsidized Loan because it does not require a credit check or additional application. For graduate students, the annual cap for the Unsubsidized Loan is $20,500,  however, you can also apply for a Graduate PLUS loan.  If you have already received your award notification, please see the Messages tab of NetPartner (https://studentviewer.finaid.columbia.edu).  Beneath the section labeled “Unmet Financial Need,” you will find the application and you will see your remaining amount of need which is the maximum you can borrow in a Graduate PLUS or similar private loan.

When do I need to apply for loans/complete entrance counseling/sign the promissory notes?
We recommend you have your aid in place no later than early August. Please log in to NetPartner and be sure to accept your awards on the Accept Awards tab and review the Messages and Documents tabs for any outstanding materials.

When and how will the loan be disbursed?
Loans are divided evenly between the terms you are enrolled and disbursed to your Columbia student account at the beginning of each semester.

If I borrowed loans to cover living expenses, how and when will that money be refunded to me?
We strongly encourage you to set up direct deposit (see http://sfs.columbia.edu/billing/payments-to-students#how_to_enroll for instructions).  Any amount you borrowed in excess of the tuition and fees for the semester will be issued as a refund to you by the second week of classes after the loan has disbursed to your student bill and after you have registered for classes (assuming you have also completed all the necessary steps on NetPartner).

Can international students borrow student loans?
There are private lenders who make loans available to international students, but most require a US citizen to co-sign. Go to http://sfs.columbia.edu/financial-aid/private-loans#suggested_lenders for more information. We have learned of two lenders who will make loans to international students without a co-signer requirement:  mpowerfinancing.com and www.prodigyfinance.com.

Work Study Questions:

Do I have to accept Federal Work Study? How does it work? Will it be paid towards the bill? How do I find a job?  Should I wait until I know my class schedule to look for a job?
If you were eligible for work study, it was included in your financial aid notification. You are not required to accept it. You will need to find an eligible position and then the money will be paid out to you like a regular salary subject to taxes (it is not applied to your bill). We recommend you start searching for positions and then you can work out the specific schedule after you are hired. More info including how to search for positions is at: http://sfs.columbia.edu/content/work-study-overview.

Billing & Payment Questions:

Please note the SIPA Financial Aid Office does not charge tuition or collect payment. The office responsible for these procedures is the Student Financial Services Office. More info is: http://sfs.columbia.edu/billing-basics.  

When will I receive my first bill?
The fall statement will be issued August 14 and due September 15. The full schedule is here.

What happens with the admission deposit I paid?
It will be applied towards the charges for the first semester you are enrolled and you will see the credit on SSOL when you review your student account.

Is there a payment plan?
Yes, for the fall and spring terms (it is not available for the summer).

Can I wire money from a foreign bank to pay my bill?
Yes, please see http://sfs.columbia.edu/content/pay-wire.

Can I waive the health insurance and health services fee?
Domestic full-time students can waive the insurance if they have alternate coverage that meets the criteria. The waiver for the fall term will not be available until July 15 and will be due September 30.  Students cannot waive the health services fee.

If I’m living in Columbia housing, will my rent be on the bill?
Most students in University housing will need to pay their rent separately.

My employer/sponsor is going to pay my bill and needs to receive an invoice from Columbia.  What do I do?   
You will need to set up third party billing.  Please also email our office with a copy of your sponsorship letter.

I’m receiving an external scholarship.  Do I notify you?  Where can they send the payment?
Please email our office the details. They can mail the check to:

Student Financial Services
210 Kent Hall
Attn: Cashiers office
1140 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY 10027

Other Helpful Resources at Columbia University:

Info for International Students: https://isso.columbia.edu/

Office of Military and Veterans Affairs: http://sfs.columbia.edu/departments/veterans-service

5 pieces of advice for incoming students

Planning out your first steps at SIPA can seem daunting, and it’s likely you’ll forget a step or two. As you finalize your plans to join the ranks of Seeples in August, there are some things I recommend you add to your to-do list when you get here.

Business Cards. When you arrive at SIPA, you may want to get a head start on your networking by heading over to the School of Journalism to order a set of business cards. They sure come in handy during conferences, alumni events, and interviews.

Be Open to New Classes. As you prepare to register for courses, be open-minded and consider a class out of your comfort zone. You can even take a class with a grading option of Pass/Fail or register to Audit a class; these are invaluable ways to learn a new topic without the pressure of a grade. Check out Vergil during Orientation Week, the University’s course listings database, and look out for special registration periods with the Business School, Law School, School of Journalism, Teachers College, Mailman School of Public Health, or the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. (As for your first semester, your OSA advisor will register you for your classes!)

Meet Your Professors. Don’t be shy to meet outside of the classroom with your professors. Take the time to go to office hours for both your professors and your teaching assistants. Better yet, get a few students together for a meal with your professor and apply to SIPA for up to $150 in TimeOut Funding for it.

Learn a Language.  If you have the time, learn a new language. Many of our classmates took a language course every semester at SIPA and it helps make your resume more attractive to know more than one language. Apply for funding for the academic year or for a summer program through the highly coveted Foreign Language Area Studies Fellowship, which offers generous tuition and stipends; the deadline is usually in February. If you don’t have the time to fit in an entire class, consider brushing up on your language skills or become a language tutor through the Language Maintenance Tutorial Program at the Language Resource Center with 10, 90-minute meetings through the semester. For students who want to maintain Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew or Turkish, apply for a $300 grant to be a part of the program.

Find a SIPA Career Coach. Through the Office of Career Services, you can sign up to meet with a Career Coach, professionals from a variety of organizations who have agreed to sit down with students or take a call to offer guidance about entering into and working in a particular industry. It’s a sure way to get an informational interview and build your confidence. In addition to resume reviewing and workshops, the Office of Career Services also provides other great resources like mock interviews and the MBTI personality testing.

[Photo by Amir Safa]

Post-SIPA plans and wisdom from an (almost) alumna

I’ll be graduating this month, so I figured I should wrap up my time at SIPA with a blog post about my post-SIPA plans and some lessons I’ve learned from SIPA and NYC in general. After graduation, I’ll be joining the US Foreign Service as an entry level economic officer, representing the United States abroad. My time at SIPA has definitely been challenging, but I’ve been able to meet some of the most amazing things and have access to the most incredible experiences. I don’t miss it all quite yet, but I’m sure I will very soon. Here are the top five takeaways from my SIPA experience.

1. Don’t sweat the small stuff
SIPA is hard and A LOT of work. If you’re a bit of a Type A person like I am (and you probably are if you follow the admissions blog), not getting my money’s worth out of SIPA was a serious point of anxiety. I wanted to make sure I did EVERY reading, took as many classes with as many different professors as I could, have an internship every semester, and be involved in as many student orgs as possible. After about a month of doing the absolute most (and essentially living in Lehman Library), I realized that I can’t maximize my experience if I’m missing the forest for the trees. It’s okay if you don’t do all the reading, or go to every event or happy hour. Sometimes it’s not physically possible to it all, and you’re better off picking what’s important to you and making the most of those experiences rather than trying to spread yourself so thin.

2. Challenge yourself to try new things
Many of us come into SIPA with a strong idea of our expertise and interests, which we, of course, planned to explore at SIPA. While it’s, of course, great to delve deeper into a strength, I would also recommend trying to work on your weaknesses as well as trying out some new things you’ve never considered. In my case, I came to school planning to study international conflict resolution and to become as close to an East Asia regional specialist as SIPA would allow, but while here I found myself gravitating toward the gender classes and focusing more on Southeast Asia—I region I knew very little about before coming here.  Taking those classes were definitely one of the best choices I made at SIPA because it allowed me to expand my horizons and my expertise.

3. Playing hard and having fun is just as important as good grades
This goes hand in hand with my first piece of advice. One of SIPA’s main selling points (for me at least) was its location in New York City and access to all the amazing things the city has to offer. Thus, if you’re constantly stressed about getting the “A+” in every class you’ll be missing out on not only great parts of your SIPA experience but the New York experience as well. Your SIPA classmates are some of the most accomplished and coolest people you’ll ever meet, so you should really take the time to get to know them outside of your macro problem-set group and Conceptual Foundations discussion section. Think of it this way, when you’ve finally graduated what will be more helpful in the long run: the A you got in quant, or the network you’ve made along the way? This is not to say that grades aren’t important (it goes without saying that they are) but again, don’t miss the big picture by focusing too hard on the details.

4. Use all the resources available to you, and ask for help when you need it
There’s nothing wrong with asking for help, and you should never be embarrassed to do so. SIPA’s a tough school, and we each have different areas of expertise. Not everyone is an econ or quant whiz and not everyone can write ‘A’ quality 25-page papers in 24 hours. The key is to know your strengths AND your weaknesses, and how to supplement your weak points. If econ or quant isn’t your thing, make sure you go to your favorite TA’s office hours, tutoring sessions and recitation (you can also go directly to the professor). If your writing is a bit weak, make sure you check out the writing lab and get your papers proofread far in advance so you can make the necessary changes. Being too proud to ask for help hurts no one but yourself.

5. You’re not an imposter
You’ve earned the right to be here! Whether you’re straight from undergrad, a career changer, an older student or somewhere in between, your experiences are no better or worse than any other student’s. That’s what’s so great about SIPA— we get to hear from a broad range of experiences from different countries and sectors. There’s no “perfect” Seeple, because we’re ALL the perfect Seeple.

"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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