Archive for Pickering

Jumping from NYC to DC; My advice to students who want to work outside of NYC

Note from Admissions: Congratulations to the eight SIPA students selected to join the Presidential Management Fellows Class of 2019! Only ~8.7 percent of applicants were selected to become finalists in this prestigious U.S. government development program for 2019. We thought this would be a good opportunity to check in with other SIPA students who are heading to Washington D.C.

When I first considered applying to the State Department’s Pickering Fellowship, I was unsure whether it was worth my time. I assumed that students from D.C. studying International Affairs would have a considerable advantage, since I attended a small liberal arts college in Los Angeles where I studied History and Government. However, when speaking with alumni of the fellowship, I was told that my non-D.C. background could help my application for the State Department and other employers throughout my career. After receiving the fellowship, and having worked in D.C., I would agree with this sentiment.

Ultimately, I believe that employers look for talent and people with new and interesting ideas, regardless of where an applicant is from. Therefore, I would urge anyone considering SIPA to apply, even if they want to pursue a career in D.C. afterwards; here at SIPA, you’ll learn and grow in ways that will make you competitive for any job in any city.

SIPA’s greatest resource is New York City. As a student of policy, you will have endless opportunities to engage with experts and leading organizations in your field who are working in arguably the world’s most dynamic city. Because of SIPA’s location, you will also have access to world class faculty and students who are pursuing careers in everything from finance to humanitarian work.

SIPA also offers a very holistic curriculum and attracts students from the around the world who want to study in a global city. I can honestly say that I have learned as much from my peers as I have from my classes.

In turn, you may actually have an advantage over students who are in D.C. or any other city, partly because of everything that SIPA students are exposed to in New York.

Personally, I know of many students who are fully committed to working in D.C. after graduating, myself included. Many of these students use their summer in between their first and second year to pursue an internship in DC, as an opportunity to build a relationship with a potential employer and to get an idea of what they would ideally like to do full-time.

SIPA has relationships with almost every major organization in D.C. and therefore students are made aware of internship and full-time job opportunities available in D.C. all the time. Almost any employer in D.C. will recognize Columbia University and SIPA, and you will not be at a disadvantage during the recruiting process.

In terms of community in D.C., SIPA students end up all over; some work for the State Department, some work for think tanks like The Brookings Institution, and others end up at NGOs like Human Rights Campaign. Since SIPA’s Office of Career Services has strong relationships with alumni and organizations with heavy SIPA representation, it is easy to get in contact with alumni, who are always happy to offer advice or maybe even an opportunity at an interview.

I always tell people, living and studying in New York is never a bad choice. If you are interested in SIPA’s program offerings and think it is a good fit academically and socially, then consider applying/enrolling, even if you don’t plan to be here long-term!

Funding your education at SIPA – part 1

The students who plan ahead for the costs of a SIPA education are the ones who are best prepared.  A SIPA education is not inexpensive, but there are fellowship or scholarship opportunities, as well as financing strategies, that can make it affordable and manageable.

Once you have been admitted, SIPA will provide you with an estimate of what you will spend on tuition, fees, textbooks and typical living expenses to help you get started in your financial planning, along with information about the aid for which you qualify.  Budgeting your resources is the first step in planning how to manage the costs of your SIPA program.  Remember that New York is an expensive city to live in, but there are on-campus residence options, and Columbia is located in a thriving and bustling residential neighborhood.  Many students live within walking distance of the campus.

In preparing your financing strategy, look at all options, including resources you currently have available.  Examine financial resources you have on hand in salary, savings or assistance from your family in addition to the types of fellowships, scholarships and loans available from SIPA, government sources or private external agencies.  Many SIPA students create a strategy employing three or four of these components.

First Year Fellowship and Scholarship Awards

SIPA scholarship and fellowship awards are competitive and offered to approximately 10 to 15 percent of first year students.  All admitted students are automatically considered, no additional application is required.  These merit-based awards are based entirely on your academic achievement and professional credentials; financial need is not a factor.  SIPA scholarships range in value from $3000 per year up to full tuition; most fall approximately midway in between.  If you are a US citizen/permanent resident, you may submit a FAFSA for student loans, but the FAFSA is not reviewed nor required for fellowship/scholarship determination.

SIPA scholarship and fellowship awards are available to both domestic and international students.

SIPA has arrangements with some external agencies, such as the Rangel, Pickering, Fulbright and other foundations, where we will match part of the award a student receives from that entity.  Please advise us if you have such funding (from these or similar sources) as soon as you are aware of the award so we can consider you for matching funds.

External Awards

While searching for funding from outside foundations and organizations comes with no guarantees, such funding is only a possibility if you take the time to search for it.  The SIPA Financial Aid Office maintains a database of external scholarships and fellowships that we recommend students visit often.  These funding opportunities may be available to all students, first or second year, domestic or international, and may be based on any combination of academic achievement, professional credentials, areas of interest and experience, financial need, or demographic criteria.  SIPA students receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding through outside sources of their own finding every year, and it is not too early to begin your search for these resources.

You may also want to visit the following sites:


Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs & Graduate Foreign Affairs Fellowships

The 2013 Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs & Graduate Foreign Affairs Fellowships competition, provided by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation is now open.

They are seeking highly motivated and academically excellent college juniors and graduating seniors or college graduates who have an interest in pursuing a Foreign Service career in the U.S. Department of State.  The goal of the programs is to attract outstanding students from all ethnic and social backgrounds who are dedicated to representing America’s interests abroad. Women, members of minority groups historically underrepresented in the Foreign Service, and students with financial need are encouraged to apply to one of the two Programs.

The Programs provide:  

  • Up to $40,000 annually for academic expenses, covering the last year of undergraduate study and first year of graduate study (Undergraduate Fellowship); or the first and second year of graduate study (Graduate Fellowship)
  • Two paid State Department summer internships (domestic and abroad)
  • Access to the Pickering Fellows network

Eligibility requirements at the time of application:

  • Undergraduate applicants: college junior or equivalent
  • Graduate applicants: entering a two-year terminal master’s degree program in the fall of the Fellowship year
  • Have a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.2 (4.0 scale)
  • Be a United States citizen

Application Deadlines:

Graduate Fellowship: January 21, 2013

Undergraduate Fellowship:  February 7, 2013

To apply visit:



"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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