Author Archive for Emily Tao

Preparing to Apply for Graduate School – Where to Start

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!

Connecting with SIPA in 2020

It’s been a tumultuous summer but we are still here and carrying on. As we prepare to open the Fall 2021 application (which we will announce widely once that happens), we have been meeting many of you during our virtual information sessions and graduate school fairs.

Over the next few months you can still find us online, so if you’re looking to apply here are a few ways to connect:

  • Upcoming Grad School Fairs and Sessions – Obviously we won’t be traveling the next few months, but come connect with us online! I personally enjoy having a little bit of live interaction and chatting with so many of you from around the world. We most recently did an EducationUSA virtual fair with Indonesian students, which was as fun as it was early for our time zone.
  • Application Q&As – If you’ve started your application and want to connect with an admissions staff to ask questions, this is the place for you. These Q&As are kept to very small groups, and you must have started an application to register. We’re holding them every week so you can attend as often as you need.
  • Campus Tours – In response to COVID-19 and in accordance with state and city guidelines, the Admissions office will not offer campus tours for the Fall 2020 semester. We invite you to watch this curated virtual tour of the International Affairs Building, and we look forward to welcoming you in the near future.

Post Roundup for Admitted Students

We launched our ~virtual~ Admitted Students’ Day last week for admitted students to get to know the SIPA community, including faculty, current students, and alumni. It’s by far the weirdest one I’ve been involved in, and usually every year I really look forward to meeting the many people that I met and got to know (by application!) over the last few months.

So to recreate a bit of what we cover at ASD, I’ve done a roundup of the most popular / useful posts for students around this time:

Hope you find this helpful, and I hope you and your loved ones are staying safe and sane.

Decisions have been released; COVID-19 update

First, the biggest news: admissions decisions are out for the MIA, MPA, and MPA-DP programs. Thanks again to all of you for your patience, and as usual, we are honored to have read your applications.

Second, in providing a safe and healthy campus, SIPA’s Office of Admissions and Financial Aid is working remotely for the time being. This is tough timing for you and us, since meeting everyone is one of the highlights of this whole process. You can find updated information on COVID-19 on Columbia’s website here.

Finally, here are some updates that may be directly relevant to you right now:

  • Class visits for the Spring 2020 semester have been cancelled, since all classes have been moved online.
  • Again, the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid is not open, but our staff is working remotely. The best way to contact us will be by email. There may be a delay in our responses, so please be patient. Here’s a few tips to effectively communicate with our office.
  • Our student program assistants are working remotely as well, helping out with email and the blog. We’ll be publishing blog content as usual.
  • Let us know what you want to know through this feedback form. Our students and staff are happy to write about topics most important to you, especially as you are making your graduate school decisions. Let us know what you want to have a discussion about.

Our office is still responding to emails and calls, and I ask for your patience as we adapt to ever-changing policies.

Stay healthy and continue watch out for each other and our community. And congratulations to the newly admitted students of the Class of 2022 – I hope that it will only go up from here!

On Columbia University SIPA and COVID-19 – The situation is still evolving

Usually during this time in the year, we are busy preparing to release decisions and preparing for Admitted Students’ Day. This year is no different, except we are grappling with COVID-19 at the same time.

Columbia University has been closely monitoring the situation, and we have all been working to continue acting as a resource for all of you while working to take care of each other and our community. Because the situation is changing so quickly:

  • You can find updated information on COVID-19 on Columbia’s website here. As of now, no Columbia student, faculty, or staff has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • While options to Visit SIPA are still open including class visits, this may change quickly depending on the situation. For example, we had to cancel a few weeks of class visits due to the new COVID-19 events policy. We are exploring digital options for faculty webinars for our admitted students and will update the schedule as soon as we have updated information.
  • If you’re looking for alternative online class visit options, I encourage you check out this New Courses at SIPA playlist which highlights, well, new courses at SIPA in a wide range of focus areas. SIPA’s notable professors explain their own words – and in just one minute – how their courses help prepare SIPA students to do practical work once they graduate.

Until then, we hope that everyone continues to stay safe and wash their hands. The Office of Admissions and Financial Aid is still open until further notice, and as usual we will update everyone as the situation evolves.

"The most global public policy school, where an international community of students and faculty address world challenges."

—Merit E. Janow, Dean, SIPA, Professor of Practice, International and Economic Law and International Affairs

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