One question we get asked a lot as students and as program assistants in admissions is “What is the PERFECT SIPA student?” This is normally levied by applicants who are ready to mold themselves into whatever they need to go to guarantee admission.

Although we appreciate the passion, it is a hard question to answer! SIPA’s students come with such a wide variety of experiences — from theatre to investment banking — that there is no one way to characterize what the perfect Seeple is. Below are student stories that give some contact as to how wide the gamut spreads in backgrounds, career goals, and approach. 

George-Ann:

What skills did you come to SIPA with/aim to improve here?

I came to SIPA with some experience and knowledge in Economics and Economic research but not much of a policy background. In a lot of ways I was a jack of multiple small trades but truly a Master of none.  So, SIPA is where I came to add skill sets like policy expertise and formalized,non-academic writing to my repertoire and truly become a well-rounded individual. 

How do you think you signaled your unique worth as a potential Seeple?

Was it the fact that I, being extremely international, spelled colour with a “u” and said “learnt” rather than “learned”? Was it my quantitative experience? Who really knows. For me, a large part of my application was communicating both my worth as a student, a potential member of the student and student leader community, and a valuable alumna. 

What would you tell yourself if you were applying now?

The application reviewers are people too. Explain anything you think may be a weakness in your application and they’d be more than willing to take that into account. There’s no such thing as the “perfect” SIPA student but there is such a thing as a student for whom SIPA is the perfect school for. Communicate why you think SIPA is the one for you. 

Steven:

What skills did you come to SIPA with/aim to improve here?

I came to SIPA with the aim of improving my economic analysis and quantitative skills. During my undergraduate years, I took a couple of economics classes and liked them but was always scared to do more difficult economic courses. I came to SIPA to stop dodging economics and dive head-first into it. I also came to SIPA to learn about urban/housing policy a bit.

How do you think you signaled your unique worth as a potential Seeple?

Truth be told, I’m not sure. I just told SIPA who I was and the experiences I have had. Of course, I thought they were unique because I’m the person that is living them, but I wasn’t sure since SIPA gets loads of applications and there could have been someone with a similar background/story. I also spoke on how SIPA fit into my long-term plans.

What would you tell yourself if you were applying now?

Probably the same thing I told myself back then: Just be yourself. There were times I felt that I was unsure of myself, that I didn’t fit the SIPA profile. I ignored that idea and just applied. The backgrounds of people at SIPA vary so much that you will stand out and not even realize it.

Stuart:

What skills did you come to SIPA with/aim to improve here?

I came to SIPA to build some subject matter expertise in cyber policy as well as to generally improve my quantitative analysis skills. My undergraduate and professional experiences provided a strong background in international relations and national security, as well as strong writing skills. I didn’t, however, have a strong grounding in economics and quantitative analysis, nor did I have much experience in how technology and cybersecurity impacts the private sector.

How do you think you signaled your unique worth as a potential Seeple?

As everyone else has noted, you just never know. The community is so diverse here that there can be so many ways to stand out. The key thing I focused on was ensuring that my personal statement clearly explained my professional goals and how SIPA fit into that, as well as how I could contribute not only to academic life but to the community as well. I also carefully selected recommenders that could speak to different strengths (academic and professional) to provide the admissions committee with a holistic view.

What would you tell yourself if you were applying now?

I would tell myself to find mentors and friends to review my materials and point out my strengths and weaknesses. I did this when I applied, and it was so helpful to have a sounding board. You may be inclined to be too humble, or you may forget to mention an impressive part of your background, and a friend or mentor can point that out and help you articulate the things that may not be apparent on your resume or transcript.

Nabila:

What skills did you come to SIPA with/aim to improve here?

Like Steven, I came to SIPA to build my quantitative and economic analysis skills. I came to SIPA with stronger skills in writing and communications and wanted to complement that by building out my quant skills (even though it terrifies me!), as I felt that it put me at a disadvantage in the workplace. I also wanted to learn more about policy analysis and the intersection between technology and policy. 

How do you think you signaled your unique worth as a potential Seeple?

I have no idea! Maybe it was my work experience? Maybe my letters of recommendation? Maybe what I hope to accomplish post SIPA? In reality, it’s probably a combination of those things but to be honest, I have no idea but I’m grateful to be here! I hope it was the passion that they could sense from my personal essay but again, no clue…

What would you tell yourself if you were applying now?

Be you, be yourself and be honest about what you hope to accomplish. Those were the things I told myself when I was doing the application and that hasn’t changed because graduate school is an investment of both time and money so you want to be you! I’m not sure I have the “right” SIPA profile, but looking around at my classmates, we have such diverse backgrounds and experiences that I don’t think there is such as thing as the “right” or “ideal” SIPA student.