Archive for test scores

Applying Students: A Refresher On Some Common Questions

At this time of the year, we have been getting emails from prospective students on all things related to their applications. We thought we would take a moment to address some of the most frequently asked questions and direct you to older blog posts where some of them have been addressed:

Obviously, prospective students always want information about how they can fund their SIPA education. Here is the blog post on relevant financial aid information. It is important to note that first-year applicants are considered for fellowships and scholarships through the university regardless of nationality.

Here is the blog post about things that you should avoid doing when applying to SIPA.

Tps that may touch on some of the specific application areas:

Applying to multiple programs: 

The system allow applicants to easily apply to multiple programs under the same log-in. As per SIPA’s Admissions policy, you may apply to more than one program but you must submit full applications (with all required materials, application fee, etc.) to each program to be considered.

What restrictions are there?

Applicants may apply to any combination of programs EXCEPT you may NOT apply to the (two year full time) Master of International Affairs (MIA) and the (two year full time) Master of Public Administration (MPA) simultaneously (in the same term).

How do I create a new application?

Many people have written or called asking how to create a new application. You may do so by logging in to the application system and in the “application management” page you will see “start new application” below the list of open applications. Select and add the program and term.  You may see a screenshot of my test application below:

Résumés:  Check out guidelines for the résumés: Ready to Talk about Résumés?

Personal Statement:  Each program has specific question prompts that are required to be answered for review by the Committee. Some of these questions may be the same as the prompts for other programs but don’t think that you can submit the same responses if you are applying to more than one program, it will be obvious. You can get a refresher on the personal statements here.

Recommendation letters:  We have received a LOT of calls and emails about recommendation letters so a few refresher posts, such as Can’t Say it Enough, Recommendation requests, with a little time and the Ins and Outs of Recommendation Letters may be useful for you to review.

However, the sheer number of emails and phone calls from panicked applicants indicates that there are some outstanding issues.

  1. Recommenders have not received the recommendation request submission notification and are confused as to how to proceed. The most common reason for this issue is that the email message was delivered to the referee’s spam inbox and so we advise that recommenders check their email folders first.  If the notification has not been received, it may be due to security protocol, particularly if the email addresses has an “irregular” domain name or uses abbreviations (typically addresses from various countries, organizations or even universities/institutions), that prevents the message from being received.

  2. As an alternative, applicants may use a different email address for the recommender but this requires the recommender entry to be deleted and then re-entered to include the updated email address.

  3. As a last resort, recommenders can send the letter (as an attachment) to directly and then our staff can upload the letter to the application manually.  Due to high volume of activity, we request your patience as we process received materials.

GRE/GMAT:  The GRE/GMAT is an important component of the application, and all of your questions about these tests can be found here.

Another item on test scores, WE DO NOT REQUIRE AN OFFICIAL TEST SCORE REPORT TO BE RECEIVED BY THE DEADLINE. The Committee ONLY requires applicants to self-report your scores on the application. I have thought quite a bit about why this is confusing so I have provided a screenshot of “add test” below:

This example is of a GRE score but you only need to type the SCORES and the PERCENTILES in the boxes to report the GRE (or GMAT) and/or TOEFL or IELTS scores in order for your application to be reviewed. It is true that the self-reported scores are considered “unofficial” or a “copy” as you may have seen on your application status page, but this is EXACTLY what the Admissions Committee is looking for.  Once you have submitted your application, you will see something similar to the screenshot below on your application status page:

If your official test score has been received and matched with your application, it will show as “verified” or “original” on the application status page.


Another area of confusion has been the deadlines for each program so you may find the dates below helpful.  If you click the link to each program, you will be taken to the appropriate program checklist page.


With fellowship

Admission only


January 6, 2014

February 5, 2014 (11:59pm EST)


January 15, 2014

February 5, 2014 (11:59pm EST)


January 6, 2014

February 5, 2014 (11:59pm EST)


March 1, 2014

June 1, 2014 (11:59pm EST)


January 15, 2014

February 15, 2014 (11:59pm EST)

Official Document Receipt

As all admitted applicants that will be joining us in the fall are aware, we need official transcripts and test scores to complete admission files so that we may forward all of the files to the Office of Student Affairs.  Your file will become part of your permanent academic record.

Josh Dennee is the person in our office responsible for managing this process and I asked him to write a blog entry on the topic to provide direction and put people at ease.  Take it away Josh . . .

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

In our continuing effort to provide complete transparency about the admissions process to avoid causing too many heart-attacks during a period fraught with anxiety and excitement, I am going to provide some insight into Official Documents processing. I understand that many of you newly admitted students are somewhat concerned about the status of your official transcripts and test scores with the impending June 15th deadline. Assuming that your scores and grades are consistent with your application, there is no reason to worry. Let me explain how the process works.

If you requested to have your GRE, GMAT, or TOEFL scores sent to SIPA, they will be entered in the information system within the coming weeks. Every few days I receive an electronic file from the ETS containing either GRE or TOEFL scores. These scores are then compiled and uploaded in a rather time-consuming process. Currently, I am still uploading scores received as early as last year, so even if you had your scores sent in months ago, they may not yet be in the system. And, although it is not our preferred method, we also have the ability to verbally confirm scores with the ETS if for some reason there was a problem with the electronic file. Meanwhile, GMAT scores are downloaded directly from GMAC and uploaded in a similar fashion.

Official transcripts are mailed to our office, recorded in Apply Yourself (the system through which applications were submitted) as official, and then filed alphabetically with other similar documents. This process is obviously subject to a certain degree of human error, thus the transcripts are carefully double-checked before we begin notifying students that they are missing.

I highly suggest that, if you have not yet requested your schools to send us official transcripts, you do so as soon as possible as some schools take a substantial amount of time to accommodate such requests. Over the course of the next month you may receive an email from us requesting an official transcript. If you have already previously requested an official copy to be sent to us, please do not fret, there is a strong chance that it is somewhere in our office. Once we have received everything we need, you will be sent an email exclaiming “Your SIPA File is Complete” and you can rest easy.

Lastly, I would like to note that, although June 15th is our preferred deadline, we are perfectly willing to accommodate late materials if delays are encountered. I hope that this helps assuage any anxieties that you have about the status of your documents. I look forward to seeing you all in the fall.

Official Transcripts and Test Scores

We have started to get some emails about receipt of official transcripts and test scores so let me provide a bit of guidance.  We receive some test reports electronically and others via mail.  The vast majority are sent to us as electronic files and they are downloaded into a centralized Columbia University computer system.  We then have to sync that system with our admission software.  As you know, applicants self report test scores on the admission application and these are the scores we use for the review – not the official reports.

The process of getting official test scores into our system can take some time and we are still busy wrapping up the admission review process, managing the message board, preparing for Admitted Student Day, and responding to a flurry of emails on a variety of topics.  If you choose to enroll at SIPA we will need to confirm receipt of official test scores by June 15 so we have plenty of time.  We really do not actively start to undertake this process until after the date to pay a deposit passes (May 2nd).

I will provide some updates on the process in the near future and for now, if you feel you have submitted your official test scores and/or transcripts, we would just ask for your patience while we work on integrating this information into our system.

The process of submitting official transcripts is straightforward.  If you submitted official transcripts with your admission application rest assured we will be tracking them as official.  If you uploaded unofficial copies of your transcripts to our application Web site, then you will need to send official transcripts to our office by June 15th.  The address to send them to is:

Columbia SIPA – Office of Admissions and Financial Aid
420 West 118th Street
Room 408 – International Affairs Building
New York, NY 10027

Thanks again for your patience and if you asked that your test scores be reported to SIPA they are likely loaded into our campus mainframe, waiting patiently for us to sync them with our system.

Top 10 Application Tips #1 – Test Score Reporting

This is the first entry in our “Top 10″ list to assist you with understanding the process of submitting your admission application to SIPA.

One of the ways we seek to make the application process faster and easier is to accept self reported test scores for admission application review.  To repeat, to be considered for admission to SIPA we do not require that official test score reports be on file.  This includes the GRE, GMAT, TOEFL, and IELTS.

At SIPA, we only require official test scores reports if an admitted applicant chooses to enroll.   Here are a few common questions we receive and reminders of how the process works in our office.

Question:  I sent my scores to SIPA some time ago, can you tell me if they have been received?

Answer: Applicants self report test scores as a part of the online application process.  When assembling a file for admission we do not look for official reports.  When you request that official test reports be sent to SIPA, they are downloaded into a centralized computer system.  We will not match application records to this system until after admission decisions have been made.

Therefore, you should self report your scores when applying online.   We print your application, do a manual check to make sure the necessary information has been included and then will update your record accordingly.  We appreciate your patience as we work as quickly as possible to print and manually check each application after it has been submitted.

Question:  I emailed my scores to your office or mailed a paper copy, do I still need to self report the scores when submitting my application?

Answer: Yes.  Every applicant should self report the results of each test taken when filling in the online application.  If the scores are not entered they do not appear when we print the application and this slows down the process.

Question:  I took the (GRE, GMAT, TOEFL, IELTS) several times.  How should I report my scores?  Should I only list my top scores?

Answer: As you can see in the screen shot below you can self report the total results for thee different exams for both the GRE/GMAT section and the English as a Second Language section.  You should therefore report each test individually.

Let us say that you take the GRE three times.  We DO NOT want you to take your top three scores achieved and enter them as one exam.  You should report your scores from all three exams in the three separate sections that are available to you.  If you have taken a test more than three times, report your most recent three scores.

Screen Shot From Application Site Showing Multiple Entry Areas to Report Test Scores


Question:  How late can I report my test scores?

Answer: The application deadline is January 5th at 11:59:59 PM EST.  This means that all of your application and all of the associated information should be submitted by this time.  Therefore, you can report your test scores up until this time.  Because we do not need official test scores to consider an applicant for admission, you do not need to worry about how long it will take the testing agency to report the scores to us.

Question:  If I am admitted, when will my test scores need to be received by SIPA?

Answer: Applicants that are admitted and pay a deposit to enroll are required to have official test scores in our office by June 1st.  We will provide guidance on this process after admission decisions go out.  If you have listed our test code when taking the exam more than likely we will have an electronic record in our mainframe system.

Question:  Is there a time limit on how long scores are acceptable?

Answer: TOEFL and IELTS scores up to two years old are acceptable.  GRE and GMAT scores up to five years old are acceptable.

Question:  When I am taking the exam and it asks for your school code, what number should I enter?

Answer: See below – we highly encourage you to list our code so that if you are admitted, we can work through the process faster.

GRE Code: 2161 (do not list a department code)

GMAT Code for MIA: QF8-64-56

GMAT Code for MPA: QF8-64-99

TOEFL Code:  2161

2011 Application Update

For readers of the blog that are interested in submitting an application for spring or fall of 2011 I want to provide a brief update on where we are in the process.  Each summer the Admissions Committee meets to review the most recent cycle and we discuss changes we would like to make to the application.  Over 6-8 weeks we then review and approve new questions, update fields, and make sure everything is mapped out correctly.

Not to get too detailed, but getting hundreds of fields of information from an online application to print on a form correctly can be a bit painstaking.  Some day we might have a paperless review process, but for now we print several thousand applications and they get passed around the building for review.

We are about 6 weeks into the process right now and have just under 2 weeks to hit our goal of having the application live for input starting on August 15th.  As soon as the application is live I will post a message to this blog.  For now we would ask that interested applicants hold off on starting an application.  If you have started an application that is fine, but we do not recommend continuing until after we post the updates we are working on.

There area a few details that I hope to release here on the blog prior to August 15th.  For example, the Admissions Committee is in the final stage of approving the personal statement questions/topics we will use for the coming year.  We will not be using the same set of questions that we used last year.  There will likely be three topics applicants will be asked to write on and the Committee is close to agreement.  I am hopeful that the personal statement topics will be approved soon and when I have final confirmation I will post details here on the blog.

Overall the changes to the application will not be major.  We will continue to ask for two résumés, three letters of recommendation, transcripts from all coursework completed after high school, GRE or GMAT scores, an English language exam if applicable, and a personal statement broken into three sections.

Also of note is that 100% of the application process can be completed online – we do not need to have a single document mailed to our office to review an application file.  All of the necessary information can be submitted on the application site via data entry or upload.  Further details on our process will be available here in the coming weeks.

I will spend some time over the next month providing advice on completing our requirements so stay tuned.  As a reminder the application deadline for spring 2011 is October 1st and the deadline for fall 2011 is January 5th.

"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

Boiler Image