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International Students at SIPA

The following was prepared by SIPA student Abibata Shanni Mahama, a second year MIA student concentrating in Economic and Political Development.


Prior to SIPA, my concern was mostly how to get adjusted to a new environment and culture entirely different from Ghana but little did I know that there were resources at Columbia University which could easily make me feel at home. This thought vanished right away after the International Students Orientation organized by The International Students and Scholars Office which is very resourceful in getting international students settled for classes. They touched on every bit of student life in a different environment from academic, expressions, language to social life.  As part of the orientation, they  planned  activities for International students to get accustomed to the City of New York and historical places in the United States. The interactions I got from my fellow students alone boosted my morale and confidence of studying at SIPA which is situated in the heart of New York City with easy access to transport and Broadway shows.

SIPA also has a  rich blend of Student and Faculty of different nationalities from all over the world representing all continents. Each year approximately 50% of the students at SIPA are international. In fact some students from different schools at Columbia University jokingly refer to SIPA as “Mini UN”. The diversity of rich backgrounds and knowledge make learning fascinating as we learn from each others culture aside academic work. I have particularly achieved a lot of understanding of global issues pertaining to policy by interacting with students from regions relevant to my research for deeper analysis of the issues at stake.

For example, before I came to SIPA I had a little knowledge of Africa until I took courses in Economic and Political Development where a wide array of topics are centered on the African Continent where development struggles to address the need of the people that are the targets of the projects. This has given me an insight into the problems and challenges of Africa in terms of development and also paved the direction of the processes to be followed in formulating and implementing policies in the most deprived regions of concern if I ever come across similar issues after graduating from SIPA.

International students at SIPA are treated the same as United States citizens. Every student is equally important and relevant. However, the grading system of SIPA is different from other schools. Therefore it is important to find out from respective professors on their grading pattern.

2010 Application Information Post #3: Transcript Submission Changes

One of the challenges faced each year by the Office of Admissions is processing thousands of application documents submitted by mail.  As you might imagine, opening, categorizing, alphabetizing, tracking, and filing documents is quite time intensive. We are constantly seeking new ways to expedite the admission review process and starting with the 2010 admission cycle we will allow applicants to upload copies of academic transcripts to the application Web site.

In the past we required applicants to submit an official copy of all academic transcripts by mail in order to review an application for admission.  By allowing applicants to upload copies of transcripts to the application site we hope to expedite the process and reduce the burden placed upon applicants to work with their previous institutions to ensure that transcripts are mailed to our office by the admission deadline.

Going forward, the preferred method to submit college/university transcripts for admission consideration will be by upload to our application Web site by the deadline.  If an applicant is offered admission official transcripts will then need to be submitted to confirm enrollment.  Specific dates by which official transcripts will need to be submitted will be communicated after admission offers are made.

We thus recommend that all applicants request copies of all academic transcripts pertaining to college/university level coursework.  If you receive these copies by mail, you will be responsible for scanning and uploading the transcripts to the application Web site.  If your school sends electronic copies you may upload these documents to our application Web site.

There are two very important points to consider.

First, it is extremely important that all transcript information is scanned.  Universities use different coding systems to report grades and most often these codes are listed on the back side of printed transcripts.  The Committee will need this information and if the codes are not part of the upload, the application will not be considered complete.

Second, applicants must submit copies of transcripts from all colleges/universities attended.  For example, if you attended one school for two years and then transferred to another school to complete your degree, we would need separate transcripts from each school – not one single transcript with grades from both schools.  Exceptions are granted for exchange programs.  We understand that exchange programs often utilize the home school’s grading system and thus a second transcript might not be necessary.  If you have doubts we recommend submitting all transcripts.  You can contact our office if you have questions or concerns.

Copies of high school transcripts are not necessary.  Applicants should include transcripts from all college/university coursework completed, even if a degree was not granted.  For example, if you graduated and then later took college level courses that were not part of a degree program, we still will require a transcript documenting the course(s) taken and grade(s) achieved.

"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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