Archive for international students

financial aid is always on top of mind

Each year we receive a few questions about financial aid  — and that’s understandable.  Graduate school is expensive.  Here are five of the most frequently asked questions regarding financial aid…  We’ll follow back with a few more next week.

Q: How do I apply for aid?

A: You apply for aid simply by submitting your application for admission.  All applicants for first-year admission to SIPA are automatically considered for institutional aid (fellowships and scholarships) regardless of nationality.  For more details, click here.

Q: How much does it cost to attend SIPA?

A: You will be able to find information on SIPA’s current cost of attendance here.  Costs are established on an annual basis, and the tuition rates for fall 2014 and spring 2015 are yet to be determined.  Estimates will be available in the spring.

Q: What types of financial aid are available at SIPA?

A: SIPA offers a range of fellowships, scholarships, assistantships, student loans and Work Study to qualified students.  Merit-based Fellowships and scholarships are offered to first and second year students, and second year students can also apply for a number of assistantships, which include both a scholarship and a salary.  Some SIPA students also borrow student loans or are employed on campus in Work Study positions.  Click here for more information.

Q: Can financial aid cover my living expenses?

A: Yes, educational loans may be used to cover living expenses as well as tuition.  Students can borrow up to their full cost of attendance.  Aid first goes toward covering direct costs (tuition and fees) and any excess funds are refunded to students to use for their living expenses.

Q: Is funding available for international students?

A: Yes.  SIPA scholarships, fellowships and assistantships, although competitive, are available to both domestic and international students.  Columbia University also maintains a list of private student loan lenders who will lend to international students; click here for more information.  There are also many international students at SIPA who receive funding from agencies in their home country.

Funding your SIPA education (as an international student) – part 8

If you are an international student (or will be), you may be faced with some challenges in identifying funding sources available for studying in the US.  But each year, approximately half of SIPA’s students are international, and each of them has found their own way to meet the costs associated with furthering their education overseas.

As you are probably aware, SIPA offers a number of scholarships for first year students, and scholarships and assistantships for students in their second year of study.  All of these awards are available to international students.  All applicants for admission are automatically considered for funding during their first year, and all interested students should apply for second year funding during the application period (typically early in the spring semester).  Some international students borrow students loans from private lenders while studying here (loans from the US Government are not available to international students).  For more information and a list of lenders that international students at Columbia University have had success with, click here.   Please note lenders require international students to have a US citizen or permanent resident as a co-signer.

We certainly recommend that students thoroughly investigate all forms of assistance from government or private sources in their own countries.  Many international students at SIPA have been supported by their governments, employers or other agencies while studying here.  There are also resources available from entities in the United States and elsewhere that may be helpful, and we have compiled a list of websites that contain information that may be of use to international students seeking funding:

SIPA’s Financial Aid Office also has a database of external funding opportunities; although it is not specifically for international students (and admittedly has some dead links that we will soon be in the process of cleaning up as SIPA transitions to a new website), we encourage you to visit that site as well.  Click here for details.

International Students – Adjusting to NYC

I remember the first time I visited New York City – it was a little intimidating.  I grew up in a suburb of Portland, Oregon and even though I was an American, New York City seemed like a foreign country to me.  My first visit came in high school as part of an exchange program way back in 1989.  I found myself surrounded by sound, people, and tall buildings the likes I had never seen before.  We know that international students can be a bit overwhelmed by the transition to life in NYC and we are fortunate to have a caring group of professionals to help.

The International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) at Columbia University helps to make the transition to life in New York City a smooth one.  They have a diverse orientation schedule that lasts five weeks and allows international students to take advantage of shows, parks, pubs, neighborhood visits, music events, and professional sporting events.

If you are an incoming international student you are likely aware of the activities that are listed on the Essential Information for New International Students and Scholars page.  If you are a prospective student be sure to take a look to see what opportunities await those making the transition to NYC.


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.

"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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