To Be or Not to Be Afraid of Quantitative Classes at SIPA

The following entry was contributed by Lacey Ramirez, a second year student at SIPA.  Lacey is working in our office this year and she, along with several other students, are contributing posts throughout the year.

To supplement Lacey’s entry below, let me note that SIPA encourages all applicants admitted for the fall term to participate in a web based math tutorial that takes place in the summer.  Because the tutorial is web based students can participate from any place in the world as long as there is access to a computer with an Internet connection.  Information on the tutorial is made available each May after the deposit deadline passes.


Admittedly, I did not do too great on the quantitative section of the GRE when I was applying to graduate school, despite hours and hours of studying.  But really, I hadn’t taken a serious math course since high school.  I took Introduction to Micro-and Macro- Economics in college, but the professor taught them conceptually and did not use a serious amount of math.  I also took Introduction to Probability and Statistics, and the professor was a visitor and not very good.

However, as a professional in development I realized the importance of understanding quantitative methods and its application.  Thus, when I was applying to graduate school I specifically chose programs that emphasized courses in quantitative skill development.  I explained in my application that I recognized I had a weak background in mathematics and economics, but that I strove to learn these subjects.

I was very excited when I was accepted to SIPA and wanted to prepare the summer before I started my courses.  I looked into calculus programs and other quantitative courses at my local community colleges, not only had I missed a lot of the application deadlines, but they were also quite expensive.  So I went to the local library, and I checked out the summer recommended books suggested by SIPA in the Admission’s preparation documents sent to me.   I also used the math camp materials they sent me to practice.  I probably put in about 10 hours a week, and I got even a little more serious right before school started.

The quantitative based courses at SIPA are quite rigorous, but I was excited by the challenge.  I utilized the tutors and the teaching assistants (T.A.s) for guidance and help solving the problems sets.  I also met with the professors, who are very approachable and accessible, in their office hours.  Also, we work in teams on all the problem sets in both Economics and Quantitative Analysis, and I learned so much working with my very talented, intelligent peers to solve the problems.

In the end, I refused to believe that a person is a “math person” or not and I have excelled in both Economics and Quantitative Analysis.  Sure, I was a little rusty at first, but the more courses I take in the field of economics the more I understand.  That is also to say, the professors at SIPA are very good, and it is the reason why I have been able to finally learn these very important, useful fields.

I am now specializing my degree in Advanced Policy and Economic Analysis and I’m taking statistics courses in the Ph.D. Statistics Department of Columbia in conjunction with my SIPA courses.  During my time at SIPA, I’ve developed a passion for economics that is influencing my career ambitions and direction.  I now fully recognize that my understanding of economics is central to my professional success, and it will help me to be leader in my field.  I am applying to jobs in economic development, and I hope to one day pursue my Ph.D. in Economics.  So in the end, I think if you have the will and the way this powerful brain is capable of learning new and useful information.