I’m trying to recall what I wrote this time last year to kick-off classes starting, but honestly it feels odd. SIPA has started off in the “HyFlex” model (hybrid + flexible), meaning the Fall 2020 semester is a blend of online and face-to-face courses. I miss campus but am glad everyone is trying to stay safe and protect others around them.

ICYMI: The Spring and Fall 2021 applications for the MIA, MPA, and MPA-DP programs are live!

  • If you’re interested in applying and don’t know where to start, I’ll point you to our most viewed post of last year, our past program assistant Nabila’s Application Timeline. (She also applied Early Action, which is non-binding at SIPA, and she explains why here.) Nabila’s timeline doesn’t include the new change for the 2021 application cycle, that the GRE/GMAT test can be waived for applicants. You can read more about this once you start your SIPA application.
  • Nabila’s timeline encourages you to start thinking about your personal statement early. Really, start thinking about it now. It’s a difficult exercise to state your hopes, dreams, aspirations, and career goals in less than 500 words. We anonymously review two actual personal statements we received here, and our past program assistant Dylan broke down his thought process on how to write the essay strategically here.
  • We’ll be posting more application tips over the next few months, and of course please conduct your own search throughout the blog. If you can’t find what you’re interested in, please submit an idea! I encourage you to be specific in your request so that we can cater to you — considering how different this year has been, I imagine you will have some questions that we haven’t answered before. Let us know.

As you go through the application process, remember that the Admissions Office is (virtually) here for you. We have a multitude of virtual events coming up that will walk you through Columbia, SIPA, the application process, student life, and much more. Check it out here. Once you start your application you’ll be notified of more sessions reserved just for those applying. Even though you can’t drop by in person, we’re still here to help you through the process.

Finally, for those of you who feel like you don’t fit the stereotypical profile of a Columbia graduate student, or feel marginalized and underrepresented especially in the world of policy, you may be asking yourself: “Should I apply to Columbia? Do I belong?” Please, please don’t dissuade yourself early.

Don’t talk yourself out of taking a shot at what could be a really great opportunity for you. Representation, diversity, and inclusion is something we’ve all been discussing greatly at SIPA — faculty, students, alumni, and staff — for many years, and especially over this summer. Professionally, every year I talk to prospective students who don’t bother applying at Columbia despite being great candidates, because they decide on their own that they aren’t “worthy.” Don’t worry about that part, that is my job. All you have to do is submit your application.

Karla Henriquez MPA ’19 wrote about being a first-generation Latina here at Columbia SIPA, and I loved her final thought:

Many times in class, experiences that either my family or I have gone through were discussed. As policymakers, our unique perspectives bring a valuable point to the conversations. We have lived through things that many just read in case studies, and who is better than the people who have experienced them to solve the issues faced by our communities? I stopped seeing my experience, being a first-generation student, as a disadvantage and instead saw how my lived experience can create more inclusive policies for all.

Best of luck to all of you thinking of applying this year. I’m looking forward to get to know you all, and I hope you’re excited to keep hearing from us. Here we go!