Archive for waitlist – Page 2

Waitlist Information

The Admissions Committee spent several hours in meetings on Wednesday making decisions but very few decisions were sent out yesterday.  Once a decision is made, a series of steps must be completed to finalize things in our system.  We are in the “rolling” process where as we make decisions we will publish them.  As a reminder, we send an email notifying an applicant that the decision has been posted so there is no reason to log in to the system prior to receiving an email.

Those that have been admitted should still follow this blog for information, but you also have the Welcome Page and Admitted Student Message board as well.  For this entry I thought I would tackle the difficult situation some applicants find themselves in: on the waitlist.  I will do my best to shed some light upon how the waitlist process is handled by the Admissions Committee at SIPA.  I will start off by saying that the process of considering applicants placed on the waitlist can possibly best be described as “organic.”

What I mean by this is that the process of making waitlist offers does not follow a strict format or specific timeline.  Rather, it is a process that has a life of its own due to the fact that the availability of seats in the fall class once initial admission offers are sent out is dependent upon factors over which the Committee largely has no control.

To shed some light on the timeline, this year we have given admitted applicants until May 2nd to respond to their offer of admission.  Some admitted applicants will pay enrollment deposits right away, however past history shows that the vast majority wait until the very last minute.  Thus we will not have a clear picture of responses for quite a while.  Once the enrollment deposit deadline passes the picture becomes clearer, but the picture is subject to constant change over the summer.

In past years we have made offers of admission to select candidates on the waitlist as early as April and as late as August.  The reason I describe the process as organic is that we never know when a candidate who has paid a deposit will contact us and let us know that circumstances have changed in a way that will not allow them to enroll.

For example, international students sometimes face the unique challenge of trying to complete government paperwork for a visa.  This process does not always go smoothly and late in the summer we may be notified by a candidate that the paperwork will not be completed on time, thus opening a seat in the fall class.  We have no way to predict this, but with such a large number of international applicants it is not uncommon for this to happen.

For other applicants, something unexpected happens and they contact us to let us know they will not be able to enroll and will thus forfeit their seat.  The Admissions Committee obviously has no way of predicting such circumstances.

So part one of the waitlist story deals with uncertain circumstances and part two of the story is process.  When we are able to make an offer to candidates on the waitlist, how does the process work?

If you are on the waitlist you know that we ask you to fill out a form indicating your interest in remaining on the waitlist.  The link to the waitlist form that needs to be filled out can be found in the waitlist letter.  The vast majority return this form indicating that they do wish to remain on the waitlist, but just like circumstances with admitted applicants change, so do circumstances with waitlist candidates change.

After all admission decisions have been published, every few weeks the Admissions Committee will meet to evaluate fall enrollment.  After these meetings I will send out emails to those who have chosen to remain on the waitlist providing them with an update.  My first update email is likely to go out in early April.  I cannot promise a decision can be made by early April, however I will have an update (sent to those on the waitlist for email) as I know many schools require decisions by April 15th.

If spaces are available how are waitlist candidates chosen?  Again it is an organic process.  We do not have number rankings for the waitlist and the size of the waitlist changes over time as candidates notify us that they no longer wish to be considered.

When it comes time to consider candidates from the waitlist, files are read once again.  Although a “full read” might not be necessary, Committee members will review reader comment sheets.  As the reading is done, we get a feel for the overall landscape of those on the waitlist and make decisions.  We only review information submitted by the application deadline, we do not accept additional documents for waitlist consideration.

Candidates offered admission from the waitlist receive an email from our office indicating that the decision is available on the application Web site.  Those not offered admission remain on the waitlist and continue to get email updates.

I realize the process of waiting is not easy.  We will do our best to keep those on the waitlist updated, but as you can see, the process does not give us the ability to provide specific answers at specific times.  In summary, if you have chosen to remain on the waitlist we will contact you intermittently with updates, along with asking if you wish to remain on the waitlist.  The Committee will read files of those on the waitlist “as is” – meaning we will not accept additional documents or information for consideration.  Our first update will likely go out in early April.

Please also note that SIPA is unable to award fellowship funding to those admitted from the waitlist.  U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents can qualify for federal and possibly state based aid, but all SIPA funding is allocated in the first round of admission decisions.  I would advise both domestic and international students to review the financial aid information on our Web site so that if we are able to make an offer, you are prepared to complete the appropriate paperwork.

Idioms and Admissions: Apples and Oranges

The earliest memory I can seem to muster of the idiom, “That is like comparing apples to oranges” is from high school. I can not remember if it was my personal finance teacher or my cross country coach, but it was one of the two (and comparing those two certainly is like comparing apples to oranges).

I remember being stumped by the idiom at first. I did not understand the context and asked around until some other examples finally brought the point home to me.

While Wikipedia delves into the validity of the usefulness of the idiom, to me the admission decision season provides a scenario where the idiom makes perfect sense.  Most applicants apply to several different schools and it is only natural not only to compare the characteristics of those schools, but the admission decisions of those schools.

When decisions go out each year applicants will often contact our office to discuss their SIPA admission decision. Statements and questions like the following are not uncommon:

  • I don’t understand why I was put on the waitlist at SIPA when I was admitted to all of the other schools I applied to. Can you explain why?
  • I received a fellowship offer from another school but not from SIPA. Why didn’t I get SIPA fellowship funding?
  • SIPA’s letter said that I should get more experience and apply again at a later time but other schools admitted me? Why?
  • My decision letter from SIPA said I could benefit from more quantitative preparation but I was admitted to other similar schools. Why is this the case?
  • My decision letter from SIPA said I could benefit from additional English language study but I was admitted to other U.S. programs. Why?
  • Why have I heard from other schools but not SIPA?

From an administrators point of view statements and questions like these are, well, like comparing apples to oranges.

If it were an apples to apples comparison, every single applicant would have had to apply to the same exact schools, have been read by the exact same committee, and the committees would need to share the exact same budget. Obviously this is not what happens.

Sure policy schools are similar in many ways. We have similar core classes, faculty that study, teach, and practice common subjects, and we seek to prepare students for similar careers. However, each school is quite different in many ways when it comes to shaping an incoming class.

Each school has its own unique Admissions Committee structure. Each school has its own unique applicant pool. Each school has a different fellowship endowment and can choose to use it in different ways. Each school has different donors who set different criteria for awards. Each school has its own time lines.

I am not going to pretend that by reading this entry all of your questions or concerns about admission decisions will be put at ease, but I hope it does provide insight into “the big picture.” Each policy school is different in its own way and will make decisions based on its history, goals, preferences and yes, limitations.

Thus, comparing a decision from one school to another is often like comparing apples to oranges.  I will attempt to address many of the questions posted in future entries, but for now I just wanted to provide a bit brief insight into the process from the prospective of someone on the other side of the process.



Decision Follow Up Notes

A few questions have come in since we started to release decisions yesterday and I wanted to take an entry to address some of the common inquiries.  Many of the questions have had to do with whether the decisions we sent out in the first batch were limited to a particular category of admission status.  The answer to this question is both yes and no.

The first batch of decisions we sent out included MIA and MPA applicants from all three categories that I commented on in recent posts:  waitlist candidates, admitted candidates, and candidates not admitted to the program.  It is true however that the Admissions Committee is still meeting to discuss scholarship offers and thus the first batch of decisions did not include any candidates offered a first-year scholarship award.

I should also note that no MPA-DP decisions have been posted yet.  The Committee that reviews MPA-DP candidates is still meeting but decisions should go out very soon.

Related to the topic of scholarships, some have asked how we will notify candidates that applied for the International Fellows Program (IFP) if they were selected.  If a candidate has been chosen as an International Fellow this information will be included in the admission letter.  To say it another way, if no information about the IFP program is present in the admission letter this means a candidate has not been chosen for the program.

Some questions asked were also about whether the decisions sent in the first batch were related to country of origin or citizenship.  The answer to that question is no.  The decisions we sent or will send in the future are not divided by country of origin or citizenship.

The question was also posed of whether decisions are released in alphabetical order.  The answer to that is most definitely no.

For those waiting, I know it is hard, but again our process is a bit complex and the availability of Committee members has a direct impact on how fast we can make final decisions.  We appreciate your patience as we work as quickly as we are able to make final decisions.  When decisions are made we will post them to the system and an email will be sent to the email address listed on the application.

Admission Decisions Category #2: Admitted

This is the second of three posts targeting the topic admissions decisions.  Decisions have not started to be released yet – this series is meant to provide an understanding of what you will see when decisions are released.  The first post covered the waitlist category and this post covers the admitted category.  The admitted category does have some different groupings.

The first and largest category in the admitted group is standard admission.  Due to our limited fellowship budget for first-year students, most admission offers to SIPA do not include first-year funding.  Most of our funding is reserved for second-year students.  It is very difficult to select recipients for first-year awards and those that receive an admission offer without funding should not take this as an indication that the Committee was not extremely impressed with your background, experience, and potential.

Approximately 15% of admitted candidates will receive funding to help pay for costs during their first-year of study.  Awards vary in amount and specifics will be included in the admission letter.  All first-year students, whether receiving funding or not, can apply for a second-year award.  Applications for second year funding are submitted in the spring semester.  A first-semester GPA of 3.4 or higher is required to apply for second-year funding.

One common question we get from admitted candidates that do not receive funding is, “If someone is offered an award but decides not to attend SIPA, can I be considered for the money that is ‘freed up’ when they decline their funding offer?”

While I can understand what might lead one to a conclusion like this, the Admissions Committee knows that not everyone we offer funding to will choose to accept our offer.  We thus spend about twice the amount of money we have in our budget, meaning it is not as simple as offering funding to another candidate if one candidate chooses not to attend.  It is thus incredibly rare for us to be able to make a funding offer to a candidate that is not initially chosen to receive an award in the first year of study.

Admitted candidates will have until May 2nd to pay a $1,000 deposit to secure a space in the fall 2011 class.  A variety of resources will be made available to admitted candidates including a Welcome Page, Admitted Student Day (April 12th), an Internet based message board, and a summer math tutorial.

One final note is that we do have one category of “conditional” admission.  Some admitted applicants that do not speak English as a native language will be required to attend an intensive English language class in the summer on the Columbia campus prior to enrolling in the fall.  If this program is required, information will be included in the admission letter.

One more entry on admissions decisions to go . . . and no, admissions decisions have not started to go out yet.

Admission Decisions Category #1: The Waitlist

The hot topic on email, the phone, and information sessions is, “When will decisions start to be released?”  The Admissions Committee is still feverishly reviewing applications and as stated in previous blog posts, hopes to start releasing decisions in early March.  I understand that “early” is not an exact term, and it matches the fact that I do not know the exact date yet.  I can tell you that this blog will be the first place where you can find out when decisions start to be released.

As a reminder, we do not release all decisions at once. The majority of our decisions will be made soon but a decent percentage of applications take additional time to review.  Once we start to release decisions we do move to what you could call “rolling release.”  In other words, after the first large batch of decisions goes out we will start to release the decisions as they are made.

The one question I cannot answer from an individual applicant is, “When will MY decision be released?”  The Committee has a system set up and that system does not accommodate individual requests for a decision.  I understand it is difficult to wait, but you will have to be patient and understand that we work as quickly and accurately as we are able.

I thought I would take a few entries to describe the basic categories of decisions.  The categories are not complex and you could probably guess them, however providing an overview might help with digesting your letter when you view it.  Let me start with the waitlist category.  Do note that we do not release decisions in a specific order, the categories can be mixed.

Admission to SIPA is competitive.  Sometimes the Committee must make tough decisions between applicants that might have similar backgrounds, qualifications, and potential.  While the Committee might agree that a candidate is certainly qualified for the program, the strong number of candidates and limited number of seats means that we cannot make an offer to everyone we feel is admissible.   Therefore, we will place a limited number of qualified candidates on the waitlist.

Just like waiting for a decision requires patience, waiting for waitlist updates requires patience.  We will give admitted candidates until May 2nd to pay their deposit, and we likely will not have a strong feel for the number of accepted offers until after May 2nd passes.  The Admissions Committee does meet frequently to gauge the response to our offers and I will send out email updates to those on the waitlist after each meeting.

There is no specific waitlist window so to speak, we have made offers to candidates on the waitlist as early as late April and as late as early August.  Circumstances in life can change and if candidates that have accepted an offer and pay a deposit inform us that they will not be able to come, it might open up a seat to someone on the waitlist.  We cannot predict if or when this might happen.

If you are placed on the waitlist you will be given the opportunity to tell us whether you wish to remain on the waitlist.  Instructions will be provided in the waitlist letter.  I can say that candidates admitted from the waitlist will not be offered any scholarship funding from SIPA in the first year.  More information on funding will be provided in a future entry on the admit category.

One final note about that waitlist is that we do not have a strict rank order.  The size of the waitlist changes over time as candidates notify us that they no longer wish to be considered.  When it comes time to consider candidates from the waitlist, files are read once again.  Although a “full read” might not be necessary, Committee members will review reader comment sheets and reference particular parts of the file that were highlighted in the comments.  As the reading is done we get a feel for the overall landscape of those on the waitlist and make decisions as appropriate.

I am working on two more entries on admission categories that will be posted soon so stay tuned.

"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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