6 Quick-and-Dirty Tips For An Outstanding Admissions Essay

October 30th, 2014 by Columbia SIPA


Photo by Kārlis Dambrāns at https://www.flickr.com/photos/janitors / CC BY 2.0

Photo by Kārlis Dambrāns at https://www.flickr.com/photos/janitors / CC BY 2.0

Admissions essays can be one of the most daunting parts of the application process. Applicants often spend hours (or days) staring at a blank computer screen, just hoping for the perfect words to flow from their fingers to the keyboard. They don’t want this opportunity to go up in proverbial flames by writing down the wrong response, and neither do admissions officers. But in reality, we’re not looking for the perfect response. We’re looking for your truth. So don’t be afraid to be honest in the words you choose.

To help you in the writing process, here are some tips that are sure to help your writing shine.

1. Follow directions.
It’s an easy step, but it’s one that applicants often fail to follow. We know you’re applying to multiple schools, so every year we develop essay questions and set word limits that will save you time. The guidelines also help our admissions committee make the best decision about your eligibility. So answer the essay question—and only the essay question—and abide by the word limit. (OK, you can go over by a few words.) And if you want to expand upon another topic, take advantage of the optional essay question.

2. Be concise.
Keep your responses short and to the point. Don’t waste your word limit on Brobdingnagian (really, really big) words and long-winded sentences. There’s a word limit for a reason: we want you to get to the truth of your educational/professional desires as quickly as possible.

3. Show us your hunger.
This is your chance to tell us your truth that we mentioned at the beginning of this post. Show us that you really want to be here and why SIPA is the only place for you. Introduce yourself, your intended program of study and your motivations and experiences. Did something interesting happen that led you on your path to SIPA? Then tell us about it, and what you want to accomplish. Don’t forget to cite specific examples of how SIPA can help you achieve your deepest aspirations.

4. Take advantage of the optional essay.
This is your chance to talk about deficiencies in your application. If you don’t have as much professional experience or your lacking quantitative skills, explain to use why you’re still a stellar candidate. There’s a reason you’re applying even if you don’t “check off all of the boxes,” so elaborate on exactly why. Or, just tell us something unexpected about yourself. What makes you unique compared to other applicants? What’s something specific you can bring to the program?

5. Don’t quote Mahatma Gandhi. Seriously.
It’s nice to read that applicants admire great people throughout history, but admissions officers don’t want to read the same inspirational quotes time and time again. (Besides, you’re quoting them wrong.) We want to read about what you have to say, not what other great people in history have said or done. So keep your essays focused on you, and you alone.

6. Proofread your work. When you’re finished, proofread it again.
Believe it or not, spell check doesn’t catch everything. So make sure you proofread your work carefully. Heck! Ask someone else to read it as well. A great trick is to print out your essay and read every single word backwards. (You’d be surprised at how mistakes you’ll catch!) Also, a good way to catch grammatical and sentence-structure mistakes is to read the essay aloud. For example, if you have trouble catching your breath between sentences, tighten things up.

Are you ready to write an outstanding admissions essay? We thought you might be. You can start (or finish) your MIA/MPA application here: MIA/MPA Admissions Application.


Technology and Policy at SIPA

October 29th, 2014 by Columbia SIPA

You normally don’t correlate cyberspace with policy but contrary to belief, it is closely tied together.   I was reminded in a meeting today about all the great work SIPA is doing and the now many courses on the impact of technology on policy and cyber security issues.

SIPA was granted a $1 Million grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York to help link academics to policymakers.  SIPA will expand its role as a key global hub for research and consultation on policy.  Drawing on Carnegie support, SIPA will promote multi-disciplinary research in the growing area of cyber policy and internet governance, drawing together faculty from across the University and engaging them with senior practitioners in both the public and private sectors around the world.

“Because cyber security has become such a highly visible problem for governments, companies, and individuals, the development of cyber policy and governance is a high priority,” said Dean Merit E. Janow.

“As the hub of global policy studies at Columbia, SIPA is well-positioned to draw upon leading thinkers at Columbia University and around the world and bring scholars and practitioners together across disciplines to generate fresh ideas and policy recommendations,” said Dean Janow.

Among other initial activities, the grant will be used to support two of SIPA’s newest scholars—Herb Lin, a senior fellow in cybersecurity, and Andrew McLaughlin, a senior fellow in technology and public policy.


On this date: November 1

October 27th, 2014 by Columbia SIPA

Columbia University’s School of International Affairs (SIPA) was founded in 1946.  But did you know since that year on November 1, this happened:

1947 UN trusteeship for Nauru granted to Australia, NZ & UK
1948 Mao’s Red army conquerors Mukden, Manchuria
1954 India takes over administration of 4 French Indian settlements
1954 US Senate admonishes Joseph McCarthy because of his slander campaigns
1954 The Front de Libération Nationale fires the first shots of the Algerian War of Independence against France
1956 Nobel for physics awarded to Shockley, Brattain & Bardeen
1960 Benelux treaty goes into effect
1960 John F. Kennedy announces Peace Corps idea while camping
1962 Greece enters European Common Market
1969 The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album goes #1 in US & stays #1 for 11 weeks
1974 UN affirms independence of Cyprus
1977 US President Jimmy Carter raises minimum wages of $2.30 to $3.35
1998 The European Court of Human Rights is instituted
2012 Google’s Gmail becomes the world’s most popular email service
2014 SIPA MIA/MPA (inaugural) EARLY ACTION Deadline

Don’t miss it.  Apply Now.