As an international dual degree student between Sciences Po Paris and SIPA, I can attest that these programs present a unique opportunity to gain exposure to two distinct academic environments, cultures, and policy landscapes. But with so many options, how to decide?
An overview of the international dual degree programs offered in partnership with SIPA
International dual degree programs allow students to pursue two master’s degrees with schools within the Global Public Policy Network (GPPN). In addition to Columbia, member schools include Sciences Po, the London School of Economics and Political Sciences (LSE), the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, FGV EAESP at the Fundação Getulio Vargas in São Paulo, the HertieSchool in Berlin, and the Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Tokyo.
With the exception of Sciences Po, for which you will have to begin your studies in Paris and spend your second year studying at SIPA, students can choose to complete their first year at their partner school or at Columbia.
Questions to consider when choosing an international dual degree program
- What are the unique strengths of the schools in your chosen program? What are the similarities? How do the programs of study complement each other?
You may want to consider, for example, how theoretical or practical the programs that you have chosen are. Some master’s programs may emphasize research and the completion of a thesis to obtain your degree. Others, such as my chosen program between Sciences Po and SIPA, may require the completion of an internship and emphasize interactions with current practitioners in international affairs. In my case, I valued the practical approach of Sciences Po and SIPA, with their emphasis on skill building and the range of practitioners that they engage as professors and partners.
- What are your professional goals more broadly and how do the strengths of the schools you have chosen align with them?
While you should not worry about the specific positions that you will be seeking upon graduation, you should consider your professional objectives and think critically about how your chosen institutions will help you achieve them. For example, you may seek to build specific skills, such as in data or financial management, or work with a specific professor who is doing research on a topic of interest to you. You may also consider the academic curriculum and how broad or specialized it is. Moreover, you may consider the institutional culture of your chosen schools and how they complement each other. For example, some institutions produce more in-country government officials, or international civil servants, or individuals working in finance and the private sector, or those in non-profits. All of these options, or the mix of them at your specific institutions, will enrich your academic experience in different ways and set a different tone for your education. It is worth considering which environments better align with your professional objectives.
- Is there a particular language that you would like to build skills in or a culture that you would like to immerse yourself in? Is there a particular location in which you would like to establish professional connections?
In my case, it was important to me to build connections in France and in my home city, New York. In addition to my excitement around courses at Sciences Po, I sought to build on my French skills, understanding of French culture, knowledge of European institutions and multilaterals based in Paris, and engagement with diaspora communities in France. Before applying, I made contact with French students from Sciences Po, who gave me a sense of the culture in Paris as well as the institutional culture of Sciences Po. These informal ambassadors will can be of great help to you once you arrive at your chosen institution, as mine were to me. In addition to my professional and personal objectives in France, I sought to build on my professional network at home in New York. Specifically, I was attracted to SIPA’s strong connections with the United Nations and multilateral organizations based in the US. Moreover, I looked to benefit from the many opportunities in New York to engage with Latin American issues in international affairs. In addition, I was excited by practical opportunities at SIPA, such as the capstone project, in which students have the opportunity to work directly with a client in New York or abroad over the course of a semester or more.
- What are the costs of your chosen program? What will the cost of living be like in the cities that you will live in? What scholarships are available for those in your specific situation?Certainly, considerations of cost are central to this decision, and often become a determining factor in the choice of attendance. For example, you may consider choosing a program that allows you to live abroad for a year and in your home city for a year, as I did, if that will decrease your yearly costs. In addition, you may consider the cost of living in the cities in which you hope to study, including housing and day-to-day spending on groceries and household items. Finally, there are a range of scholarships that may be available to you given your country of origin and your specific academic plans. Researching these options early will help you to be better prepared.
In making your decision, you may find it helpful to make a personal list of the reasonswhy you are attracted to the institutions that you have chosen– feel free to be as specific and as broad as you would like!