Eloy’s Top 12 Application Questions

It is natural to have some questions about the application process. Prospective students want to make their application as complete as possible and it is always better to ask if you are not 100% sure of something. So here are the Top 12 application questions we’ve received thus far this year.

1. What does SIPA stands for? How do I pronounce it?
SIPA stands for School of International and Public Affairs. You pronounce it like the 7th musical note (Si) + the first syllabi of the country Paraguay (Pa).

2. Would you take a look in my material and tell me if I’m a good candidate?
We cannot comment on individual applications/provide comments on chances of admission. Once you submit your application, our admissions office will evaluate it and provide a decision. There are a variety of resources and information regarding what we look for in our candidates, both on our website (especially the Evaluation Criteria), and this blog.

3. I don’t have much working experience. Would I still be considered?
Most successful applicants have significant experience prior to applying, and on average, incoming students have three to five years of full-time professional experience. We do admit a small number of students who have recently received or will receive their undergraduate degree immediately prior to enrolling to SIPA. Those who join SIPA straight from undergrad make up about 7% of the incoming class. However, these applicants have significant internship, study abroad and/or fieldwork experience. We strongly recommend interested candidates seek this experience prior to applying, even if it means delaying graduate study for a year or more.

4. If I’m not accepted, can I try again the next year?
SIPA welcomes applications from candidates who have previously applied for admission, regardless of the outcome. However, for application processing, you are considered a re-applicant if you submitted your application a year ago. If it has been longer than one year, please apply as a “new applicant.” All reapplications are subject to the same deadlines, fees and regulations as first-time applicants. Besides this, applicants are limited to three applications overall — one initial application and two subsequent applications. In order to increase your chances of being accepted, always try to improve your application by adding extra information and/or showing us how you improved your skills since you first applied.

5. Does SIPA offer any fellowships?
SIPA does offer fellowships! You apply for aid simply by submitting your application for admission by the appropriate deadline. All applicants for first-year admission to SIPA are automatically considered for institutional aid (fellowships and scholarships) regardless of nationality when you apply and select ‘Yes’ where the application asks if you’d like to be considered for fellowship.

We also offer a curated list of external funding opportunities, whi you may learn more about by clicking here.

6. What should I say in my essay?
You can think of your personal statement as a type of interview. As such, the personal statement is probably the most important part of an application because it helps us to learn about your passion, goals, and the impact you wish to make. If you could only spend 5 minutes in front of the Admissions Committee, what would you say to ensure us that you would be a contributing student in our program? Your personal statement is your opportunity to “speak” to the Admissions Committee. Take advantage of your word limits to explain to the Admissions Committee in a succinct and specific manner why your acceptance to SIPA would further your career aspirations and goals. In general, make sure that your personal statement is clear and direct about your goals.

Recently, our admission staff have written How NOT to write your personal statement,  How to answer the Fall 2016 short essay, and 6 Quick-And-Dirty Tips To An Outstanding Admission EssayWe encourage you to search our archives and keep reading the blog for more helpful information.

7. Who should I ask to write reference letters?
We typically recommend that applicants provide a mix of professional and academic letters of reference, but no more than three. If you’ve been working for more than five years, than three strong professional references are absolutely acceptable.

8. What is the minimum GRE score to apply to SIPA?
Due to the diversity of the applicant pool, SIPA does not have a “minimum” score to apply. We employ a holistic application process and will consider applicants regardless of their test scores. If you have stellar work experience, a solid undergraduate GPA, have taken some additional quant courses, and have good recommendations, you should not let test scores hold you back. In general, SIPA is a competitive program so you are encouraged to put your best foot forward in your application. If you are concerned about your test scores, you are encouraged to retake the exam and/or address your scores in the optional essay. GRE or GMAT scores are but one facet of your application.

For information on the GRE, visit www.ets.org. Our ETS school code, 2161 (there is no department code).

For information on the GMAT, visit www.mba.com/mba/TheGMAT. Our GMAT codes are:
Master of International Affairs: QF8-64-56
Master of Public Administration: QF8-64-99

9. Do I have to submit TOEFL scores?
International students who did not earn a bachelor’s degree from an institution in which English was the primary language of instruction, must submit proof of competency in English by submitting TOEFL or IELTS scores in order for the application to be reviewed.

In order for the application to be considered for admission, applicants must successfully achieve a minimum score of 100 on the TOEFL ibt. Applicants who choose to submit IELTS scores must meet a minimum of 7.0. Starting for Spring 2016 applicants, a copy of the TOEFL/IELTS score report must be uploaded as part of your completed application.

10. How late can I report my test scores?
We need your self-reported scores (including TOEFL/IELTS score reports) by the application deadline. (The testing center sends us your writing scores directly.) The official scores can reach us after the application deadline, all the way until after you’ve been admitted, paid your enrollment deposit and confirmed your enrollment. The Admissions Committee recommends students take their exams no later than 3-4 weeks prior to the application deadline to ensure your scores are reported on time.

For more information, review What’s with the GRE/GMAT and TOEFL/IELTS?

11. Where do people work after SIPA?
It is true that SIPA students come from various backgrounds. It is also true that they follow a different paths afterward. Our graduates work for foreign governments, multilateral organizations, banks, tech companies, etc. Our friends from SIPA’s Office of Career Services have provided us a couple of links with recent career statistics. You will find a list of the sectors, the specific employers per sector, and the median salary. At the bottom of the page there is also a list of employers per concentration. Unfortunately, graduates are only surveyed six months after graduation so we don’t have information on the salary growth beyond the point of hire.

12. What are the differences between the MIA and the MPA degree programs?
In keeping with our mission of empowering people to serve the global public interest, SIPA offers an array of degree programs that is unmatched by other graduate public policy schools and uniquely prepares our graduates to address the world’s increasingly complex policy challenges.

The first thing you should have in mind is that both degrees carry the same essential preparation. Both MIA or and MPA curricula ensures that:

  • All students receive the same rigorous preparation in politics, policy and quantitative analysis, economics, and management required for success across the public, private and nonprofit sectors;
  • All students enroll in a required, credited course in professional development;
  • All students also concentrate in a critical arena of public policy: development, energy and the environment, finance and economic policy, human rights, security, or urban policy;
  • All students complete their studies through client-based workshops;
  • All students complete an internship component
  • All students study for four consecutive semesters, totaling 54 credit hours.

Students interested in the politics among nations and who aim for careers that require global context for policymaking tend to choose programs that award the MIA. Recent MIA graduates are working in the private sector, at the United Nations, at NGOs, and at government bodies such as ministries of foreign affairs and security agencies.

On the other hand, students interested in the politics within a state and who aim for careers involving the practice of policymaking tend to choose programs that award the MPA. Our recent MPA graduates are working in federal and state governments, at nonprofits, and in the private sector in roughly equal numbers.

The main differences between the MIA and MPA curricula are:

  • The MIA includes a foreign language requirement; the MPA does not.
  • MIA students take a course called Conceptual Foundations, in which they learn the major theoretical frameworks and analytical tools of international affairs and apply them to the most pressing issues of our times. MPAs take a course called Politics of Policymaking, in which they study data-driven political analysis, political processes and institutions, and strategies that shape policymaking arenas.
  • MIAs take an additional course on Interstate Relations, which allows students to study relations among states in a particular geographic area or policy arena that is of special significance to their career plans.