I. Did. It~ I am officially done with the application period for 2012!
Summary: I initially set off with the idea of applying to about 5-6 schools, but once I realized that application fees were around $100 each, I backed off fast. And then when I found TheGradCafe things just got worse. I saw the pure competitive nature of getting into on of the top 10 MPA schools and just gave up. I had a strong GPA and undergraduate background, but no policy work experience. So with that thinking, I settled onto two schools.
Seton Hall University: SHU has a reputation of being one of the better schools in New Jersey, and after I did some research I became really interested in their Whitehead School of Diplomacy and International Relations. Its local, so I could live at home (and thus save money on rent) and apparently its ranked pretty high up there. It is in a great location (close to NYC and DC) and the school itself is beautiful (though really small in my opinion). I applied for - and was accepted into - both the Masters in Asian Studies program and the Masters in Diplomacy and International Relations program. It was my first grad-school acceptance and I was thrilled! If I do both degrees, I cannot qualify for any scholarships, but I can get TA-ships. The TA-ships pay up to 12 credits worth of tuition, which is good. Each degree itself is about 39 credits, but if I got both degrees I could complete it after 60 credits. Each credit for Seton Hall's grad program is 1000 dollars. So ultimately, it would be a 3 year, 60K program. If I somehow managed to get a TA-ship for every semester it would be completely free (as I would live at home) but that seems unlikely.
University of British Columbia: When I told my professors that I was considering going to grad school for Asian Studies or Political Science, one of them mentioned UBC. He said it was a great school with a fantastic reputation - and I checked it out. It looks beautiful, and apparently its one of the top research universities in the world! And its in a major city (which I love!). When I mentioned it to two other professors I trust, both told me that its a great school that they love and that both have worked there in the past! One professor did a guest professorship there for a year, and the other did something there ( I can't remember if he taught or did research, whoops). With such great recommendations, how could I not apply to the program. I applied for their Masters in Asian Pacific Policy Studies. Essentially it combines Political Science/Policy Studies with Asian Studies. So while it is not a MPA, its pretty damn close. And I love its focus on Asia. It is ALL about North America-Asian relations. For Canadian students it costs (no lie) around $4400 A YEAR. For international students (meaning my American ass) its about $7500 a year. But they give out a scholarship to every international student worth about $3000 to help cover the difference. I think that is extremely generous of them. There are opportunities for other scholarships but they don't tell us much about them. In a perfect world I would get enough money to pay for all my tuition, but even if I'm stuck paying the hole $5000 I'm okay with it.
The program is designed to be finished in 1-year, and about 1/3 of students finish in that time. Another 3rd take an half a year. I think if you are dong a practicum (internship/work experience) or a complex thesis or field work its hard to finish in 1 year. If you're doing a Thesis its probably easier because you just cram it in (and die) with all your other course work. As of right now, I am going to do a practicum because I think its the smart thing for me to do. For one, my degree will be Canadian. I don't think this matters really, especially because UBC is such a great school overall, but I feel like there's going to be at least one loser out there who's going to look down on my resume and reject me because of where my degree is coming from. Second, I don't have any policy work experience. All my work with policy and asian studies has been academic. I've only been out of school for 2 months (undergrad), and when I was living in Tokyo I couldn't afford to do an internship AND work my English teaching job. So a practicum gives me a good working experience background ( I think so anyway ). This gives me the ability to back up my degree with work experience when it comes to snagging a job. Third and finally, I do not want a PhD anytime soon, and that's what a Thesis helps build up to.
One of the issues/strengths with MAAPPS at UBC is that you have to pick a 'stream' to help guide you. They are "Economy and Social Change", "Gender and Development", "Security", "Governance and Human Rights", and "Media". In a perfect world, I would erase "economy" and just do "social change". That's what I love studying - social changes and pop culture. I'm HUGE into Japanese modern society like Yakuza, Enjo Kosai, sex drugs and rock n' roll. You know, the cool stuff But I also love security and human rights. Its going to be a tough choice. I think on my resume I hinted I wanted to do gender, but I'm not sure if I want to spend another year studying feminism.
Ultimately If I haven't made myself clear, I am so excited about getting into UBC. It was my top choice of the two, and I love that it is in a big city in a foreign country (I did spend the last 2 years of undergrad in Tokyo, after all). Even though I only found out 2 days ago, I am already day dreaming about living in Vancouver. I haven't formally accepted yet, but I can't think of any reason why I would turn it down. Even if I get no money what-so-ever, the Graduate Student Stafford loan would cover everything (tuition + housing), so I know I can afford it. I'm trying to find a job now (will not be telling them I'm leaving in six months haha) so I can start saving future-rent money. I had an amazing interview somewhere, and they said they'd get back to me in 2 weeks. Its been 12 days. ANYWAY: I'm just really excited that I got into UBC. I was told that they only accept 20 students a year and get about 80-100 applicants, so I'm feeling pretty strong. But I'm also worried.
Worried beause I have a lot of... bonuses on my resume that might make me look better that I actually am.
1 ) The program prefers people with Asian studies experience and language ability, and I lived in Tokyo for two years. On an application, that gives me a big bonus, and they probably assume I'm much better at Japanese then I actually am (I'm horrible).
2 ) I wrote a thesis on feminism and female agency in Japan and the United States for my last semester as an undergrad, and I wrote about it in my personal statement. One of their 'themes' is "Gender and Development" so any gender professor who read my stuff would have liked me, but I do not plan on doing Gender as my theme.
3 ) I met the Graduate Director for the program at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo. Not only was I the only American in the room, but I was the only one who spoke fluent English so he and I had a nice conversation. I'm sure this didn't hurt my chances.
4 ) One of the Professors who wrote my letter of rec worked at UBC as a visiting scholar for over a year.
Part of me is a little worried I am not cut out for graduate work and they think I'm a better student then I actually am: but the worst that can happen is I fail (oh god!). I have faith in my abilities, but I'm not sure if I have faith in their faith of my abilities.
Thank You for reading my blog entries. I only wrote a few, but they were always helpful for me in getting my thoughts out. Its really been a great experience. And if you take any advice from any of my entries, it should be this: Take everything said on this forum with a grain of salt. Just because someone appears to be Buddah himself or the perfect candidate doesn't mean they're getting in and you're getting rejected. Just because people are touting GRE's like their the end-all of all application killers doesn't mean they always matter or you need to study for 4 years. Just breath. Just relax. And apply.
If anyone has any questions, or has been Waitlisted at Seton Hall, please let me know. I haven't rejected Seton Hall yet just in case something bad happens, but if you're wait listed PM me and we'll see if I can back out for you.