Archive for graduation

Congrats to the Class of 2018, and Looking Ahead

We love this photo of the SIPA Class of 2018 at the university-wide commencement on Wednesday (photo credit to recent grad Yashshri Soman!). Each school has their own graduation ceremony throughout Commencement Week, and on Wednesday all of the schools gathered on Columbia’s South Lawn. For SIPA, 736 students from 68 countries earned degrees across all of our programs.

For those of you who can see yourself in the sea of blue in a few years, the Fall 2019 application will go live in August. The application itself is a whole process, and we know that many of you are preparing for it now. To help you think through it, here’s a roundup of posts to help you as you approach the written portions of the application:

  • What’s in an App: Personal Statement – For some in the Admissions Committee, the personal statement sets the tone for the rest of the application – it’s your SIPA raison d’etre. But, the personal statement has a 400-word limit – how do you get all that important information down in a limited capacity? (We actually advise applicants not to waste words quoting others, but I think French philosopher Blaise Pascal’s quote is pretty apt: “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.”)
  • How to plan for your recommendation letters – This is difficult to tackle last minute, so get some info on who you should ask, how you should ask them, and what should go into a letter.
  • What’s in an App: Optional Essay – Is the optional essay really worth doing? This post covers specific ways in how this essay can further your application.
  • Some advice on the optional essay prompt – I’ve seen some skeptical quizzical expressions when I tell applicants that the optional essay truly is optional. Here’s some more general information on common questions we get about the optional essay.

For those of you thinking about applying for the Fall 2019 cycle (or beyond!), I hope that this gives you a good foundation as you start getting your materials together. We’ll notify y’all when the application goes live in August.

And a few reminders before we sign off:

  • A reminder to our Fall 2018 waitlisted candidates that final decisions will roll out by mid-July. Candidates will receive an email as soon as there is an update.
  • The Yellow Ribbon Program Scholarship application opened on Monday, May 14th. You can learn more about eligibility and requirements here – we encourage you to apply soon, as funding is given on a first-come, first-serve basis.
  • Make sure you stay involved with us before the application cycle opens in August 2018 – our information session calendar will list on-campus and virtual sessions, and we’ll add more off-campus events here throughout the summer and fall.

A SIPA degree leads to a promising future

It’s Graduation Week at Columbia University, and we couldn’t be more excited for SIPA’s Class of 2015! This Thursday, May 21, 2015, our students will graduate from SIPA and will become a part of our 20,000+ outstanding SIPA alumni. And I’m pleased to say that they’ll be in some pretty impressive company. Read More →

A sea of blue

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A little rain did not stop approximately 600 of our SIPA graduates clothed in Columbia University blue regalia from celebrating the completion of their degree programs this morning.

This year’s graduation speaker, Thomas E. Donilon, former National Security Advisor to President Obama provided the new graduates with words of wisdom on policy and insight on how SIPA graduates are poised to make an impact on the world.

His parting words to the class was “never stop learning“.

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We have empowered our graduates to serve the global public interest by educating them to serve and lead and by producing and sharing new knowledge on the critical public policy challenges facing the global community.  Congratulations to the SIPA Class of 2014!

Commencement 2014

Graduation is this week.  You can be part of the festivities by watching this year’s ceremonies live online:

University Commencement
Wednesday, May 21, 9:30 a.m.: Watch live »

SIPA Graduation
Thursday, May 22, 10:45 a.m.: Watch live »

If you are planning to visit us tomorrow or Thursday, avoid the morning hours as it will be difficult to get through campus without a University ID (or a ticket for Commencement).

The Admissions and Financial Aid Office will be open all day tomorrow (if you manage to find your way here) but the office will be closed between 9am and 1pm on Thursday, May 22 as we will be assisting with the SIPA Graduation.



Life After SIPA

For you readers of this blog – prospective applicants and incoming students – life after SIPA probably feels far, far way down the line. And it sure is, but time flies, especially when you are having fun, so it doesn’t hurt to at least imagine how life will be once you are done with grad school. And let me tell you, this is a major milestone in life, or at least it feels like one to me today. It’s a milestone I somehow crossed, leaving me standing on the other side quite excited about my future, but also bewildered with uncertainty;  thinking – a bit obsessively, I must admit – about every possible combination of what life could be saving for me in the near future.

blog life after SIPABefore being a grad student, life had already given me the pleasure of plenty of uncertainty. When I was in primary school, I remember constantly thinking how being part of the middle school cool kids would feel. When I reached my last year of high school, I designed all sort of surreal life plans, which I spent hours trying to seriously decide between – would I be a famous biologist who would finally find the cure for cancer? Or a surprisingly young ambassador to the UN?

The end of college brought with it something similar to how I feel today. On the one hand, I felt the world was really my oyster, as my mom likes to say. I felt free and strong, and deeply trusted that nothing could stop me. On the other, I had no clue of how would I actually make the best out of this massive oyster laying in my hands. Would I enjoy my job? Would my colleagues like me? Would it be easy to make good friends in a new city? Or would I be the one sneaking out to lunch early because I had no one to go to lunch with?

In the end, it all turned out well. It really almost always does, but it is sometimes hard to remember that when we are surrounded by this large cloud called ‘uncertainty’. I am again on route to start a new job, in a new organization, in a country where I’ve been away for so long that seems almost as if it is new. We all are. We are leaving dear friends behind, and the comfort of the classes, coffee shops and bars in Morningside Heights — that had started to feel like home.

We, the graduates, are about to begin ‘Life After SIPA’. I have no doubt it will be awesome, no matter which one of those imaginary stories ends up working out. Most likely, it won’t be any of those, but instead it will be something so unique that we can’t even imagine it now. In a couple of years, when you prospective applicants are also on this side of the boat, I hope we can be an example of how things end up working out well. So for now, no need to think too much about Life After SIPA, although having some surreal imaginary stories never hurts.


Mariana Costa Checa


"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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