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The 'Am I competitive' thread - READ ME BEFORE POSTING

902 posts in this topic

On 4/6/2017 at 2:04 PM, yoh_rrg said:

Program: public policy + analysis

Schools Applying To:  Chicago Harris (MSCAPP) and Carnegie Mellon Heinz (MSPPM, data analytics track)

Interests: education policy & issues in economic development, particularly in rural areas

Undergrad Institution: top public state university (also completed an MS in ed at a top program)

Undergraduate GPA: 3.76 (master's GPA was 3.94)

Undergraduate Major: History

GRE: 163V (92%), 168Q (95%)

Quantitative Courses: Microeconomics my freshman year of college (B-) -- this is a big worry of mine since the only quant course I took was also the lowest grade I earned in college....

Years of Work Experience: 4

Age: 26

Languages: English, French (intermediate)

Work Experience: AmeriCorps, Teach For America, and Fulbright ETA; taught math and computer science (so, even though I was totally unqualified to teach any of this, I now have a LOT of quant experience)

LORs:  one from my former manager at TFA, one from my thesis advisor from my master's degree

SOPs: Wanting to discuss how I got interested in CS and how I want to actually study it so I can use it to study/influence policy changes; I've always been interested in public policy, but after self-studying and teaching CS I really want to incorporate it into a policy program

Concerns: I'm definitely worried about not having a lot of undergrad quant experience but I feel like having taught math/CS since then kind of makes up for it; I also recognize that education is not the most valued or respected field, but I'm really ready to move out of the classroom. I don't want these schools to see me as "just a teacher" since I don't have any real policy experience I have a number of concerns about my competitiveness. 

I'd really appreciate feedback about whether a former teacher has the right qualifications for these two particular programs (as well as any others you'd recommend)!! If I ought to go back and take a stats or another economics course, I'd definitely do that too!

I had very similar concerns as you- I'm actually a 2012 TFA corpsmember who has spent the last five years in the classroom with only one summer of work in education policy. This year, I was accepted to HKS, Harris (with pretty good funding), and GSPP.

I don't think you need to worry about quant. They aren't really interested in how much math you already know. They just need to feel confident that you will be able to learn the skills and do the coursework. Your GRE score shows that you'll be able to handle it. 

I have the impression that policy schools are interested in building a portfolio of new admits- they want some people with experience in every policy realm, including education. I really don't think that your experience in education will hurt you- it didn't hurt me!

Certainly, I'm no expert, but I have to think that you are an attractive application to pretty much any public policy program :)

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Hi all! ^_^ I have posted to this thread before, but I am reposting with some updated information in hopes of some (updated) advice.

Age: 25

Program: MPA/MPP - focusing on education and social policy

School Applying to: UCLA (dream school), Evans School at Washington U (interested in social policy concentration), others

Undergrad Institution: a popular CSU campus 

Undergrad GPA: Magna cum Laude (~3.8); member of Phi Beta Kappa upon graduation

Degree: BA in Human Development, French & Francophone Studies minor 

GRE: not yet taken! (still!)

Languages: English & 8 years of French education; took 1 semester of Spanish this past semester - trying to use it more at work 

Quant Experience: retook Stats for an A (undergrad received a C); A in intro accounting (if that counts); will take micro and calculus this year

Work Experience: 

about 4 years now at my afterschool program/social service nonprofit:

-1 year as afterschool program staff - part time 

-1 year auditing documents - part time 

-1 year auditing documents/doing database administration/compiling reports - part time 

-1 year administrative work (office management and catch-all administrative assistance) - full time


-1 year research assistance doing lit reviews for projects involving child welfare and education system; used French language skills

-1 year one-on-one French tutoring
-1 year volunteering at afterschool program 

-other minor volunteering (work assistance nonprofit, Special Olympics) and sporadic tutoring during my time at main nonprofit (assisting our tutoring department) 


-I have just started doing social work (healthcare) visits and waiting to see how I like it! Not 100% applicable to field but I have an in with a family friend.


-Professor I did research with has expressed she will write me a strong letter and has said I have been one of her strongest students.
-Considering one other professor

-Considering former bosses and current boss at current job - awkward to think about as I will have to quit !

Personal Statement: I've been thinking a lot lately about my personal narrative as it can apply to my applications. Education has been a big theme in my family background, as my family did not have access to free public secondary education in their youth in fascist Portugal and were economically disadvantaged. My mother was fortunate enough to receive scholarship from her aunt who lived in the United States and so was able to attend high school. This greatly affected her life in a positive way by way of personal development and economic opportunity. Subsequently she has greatly pushed the importance of education with my sister and I. I have been very passionate about social services, education, social inequity and honestly would not be satisfied with my life if I did not pursue a career that in some way would have a positive impact on society. I believe it would benefit me to further develop these thoughts and weave them into my personal statement.



1) Once I take Calc, should I go for broke and take regular Calc or will Calc for Bio/Business/Social Science work?  - these two are offered at my community college.

2) Any weaknesses in my list? Aside from no GRE and no Econ/Calc.

3) Do you think a GRE class is a waste of time/money? I'm mostly concerned with the types of math.


Thank you in advance to anyone willing to comment! ^_^

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