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

competitiveness gpa gre requirements experience profile application

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570 replies to this topic

#561 pavlik



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  • Application Season:2014 Fall
  • Program:MPP/MPA

Posted 16 November 2014 - 05:11 PM

Hi Pavlik


Thanks for your brutally honest feedback. I am in the process of retaking the GRE. Is there anything else that I can do? I've been told by several schools that the fact that I have 13 years of work experience by the age of 30, and half of it working overseas in international development in managerial positions is a huge plus. Do you think that may offset my GPA and quant problems?


Thanks for your help.

That work experience definitely does help, but just keep in mind you're going against people with your exact work background (or similar), plus 4.0 GPAs and 160s on the GRE. I would just broaden your search a bit and work on boosting the parts of your application you can--GREs.

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Applied: Georgetown McCourt (MPP), Texas LBJ (MPAff), Michigan Ford (MPP), GWU Trachtenberg (MPP), AU SPA (MPP), Princeton WWS (MPP), Penn Fels (MPA)

Accepted: GWU Trachtenberg ($0), Georgetown McCourt ($$$), Texas LBJ ($0), AU SPA ($0), Michigan Ford ($$)

Rejected: Princeton WWS, Penn Fels

Attending: Georgetown McCourt

#562 aronofsky



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Posted 21 November 2014 - 03:39 AM

Hi all, 


I want to get a feel for what you think my chances are of getting into some of the "top" IR programs. Candid feedback/comments are encouraged and greatly appreciated. Thank you! 


Schools: Georgetown SFS, Johns Hopkins SAIS, Princeton WWS, HKS, Tufts Fletcher, Yale Jackson, GW Elliott 


Career goals: State Department in foreign policy related role. 


Institution: Large public university. 


Major: Major in Spanish (Interpretation, Translation), minors in Portuguese, Italian 

GPA: 3.45 (major upward trajectory, was below 2.0 after sophomore year)

GRE score: 168 Verbal 160 Quant, 5.0 writing. 

Work experience: Fulbright ETA/policy internships in EU country, two years for northeastern consultancy, one year working with energy tech ngo in Eurasian country. 


Coursework: Micro Economics, Macro Economics, Intro to Stats (all A)


Language skills: Near-native Spanish and Portuguese, fluent in Russian, proficient in Persian (Dari) and Italian. 


OTHER: Miscellaneous internships during undergraduate, including with (D) rep from my state. A few undergraduate awards for top senior in my area of studies. 


Overseas experience (work, study and teaching): One year in Chile, one summer in Honduras at US embassy, another in Mexico. Year working in Central Asia. 

Statement of Purpose: My background has been unusual, so I believe this area will be strong once tied all together and explained. 


Extra Essays: Policy memos for Harvard and Princeton that I'm not thrilled to write, and I believe one for Columbia as well. 


Letters of Recommendation: These will be very strong. 


Concerns: Undergraduate GPA + multiple geographic areas of focus on one hand, potential lack of "service" requirements for WWS, which is my number one choice. 


Thanks again!

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#563 all_ofthe_things



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Posted 22 November 2014 - 06:39 AM

Any critical feedback is appreciated. Thanks!

Program: MPP


Schools being considered: Harvard Kennedy School, University of Michigan, UCal Berkeley, Minnesota, Texas A&M


Career goals: Interested mostly in economic policy issues. For the sake of being arbitrary and specific, let's go with policy analyst at the CBO.


Undergrad Institution: Urban public university. So obscure, it's not ranked by US News.


Major: Economics/Mathematics minor

GPA: 3.72

GRE score: 168 verbal, 167 quantitative, 4.5 analytical writing


Years since undergrad: 1

Work experience:  Managed the $14.5 million budget process for the student fee as a student leader at undergrad. Student Body Vice President. Briefly worked as a fund accountant before I realized I hated it.


Coursework: (among others) Econometrics, Statistics, Calculus, Advanced Calculus, DiffEq, Advanced Microeconomics, Advanced Macroeconomics


Language skills: English, Basic Spanish


Statement of Purpose: Working on it. 


Letters of Recommendation:


1) Undergrad Econ Teacher

2) Econ Professor for grad courses

3) Dean of Student Life - advisor for my budget work


Concerns: Twofold. 1) my undergrad is super meh - think generic state school. 2) Work experience. I did cool stuff as a student leader, but not sure I can compete with relevant professional experience.

Thanks kindly for any feedback!

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#564 policysecond



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Posted 22 November 2014 - 08:05 PM

Program: MPP


Schools being considered: U of M Ford (dual degree REES applicant), Carnegie Mellon Heinz, Berkeley Goldman, Chicago Harris


Undergrad Institution: top 10 school in California


Major: Art History

Graduate School: got a Master's in Art History (2012)

GPA: 3.5

GRE score: 155V, 158Q, projecting 6.0 AW


Years since undergrad: 6 (graduated 2009)

Work experience:  2 years spent on first MA degree, followed by 1.5 years as administrator at a university, 1 year AmeriCorps VISTA in Detroit, followed by 6 months of working with same non-profit in Detroit


Coursework: Calc 1 & 2 in college (retook calc 1 a year ago to refresh memory), micro econ in college, statistics


Language skills: fluent in Russian, fluent in Arabic (immigrated to US at 15; lived in Russia & Middle East before that), intermediate French (took French all through high school and 2 years in college; studied in France for a semester), intermediate German (Middlebury Language School, 2011)


Statement of Purpose: Not worried about it


Letters of Recommendation: former graduate school advisor, current supervisor, former boss


Concerns: GREs (standardized testing is not my forté), GPA, random-ish career change. Would like to avoid loans (have none right now), so concerned with chances/likelihood of receiving scholarships. Applying for FLAS, obv. Thoughts??

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#565 sunrise2020



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Posted 22 November 2014 - 09:42 PM

Schools being considered: SAIS, SFS, HKS, SIPA, ..?


Undergrad Institution: Top 3-4 public university in the US


Major: Intl. Politics (Distinguished Program; wrote a thesis on IR) and a Minor in a foreign language


GPA: Overall GPA: 3.7; Major GPA is about the same


GRE: 161, 161, 4.5 AW… English is my 3rd language, so I am hoping this will make up for the verbal and AW sections….


Years since undergrad: 1.5


Work experience/Internships before graduation: foreign affairs ministry intern in a foreign country, internship with the UN embassy of the same country; legal assistant; internship with a current affairs show on a major US network

Work experience/Internships after graduation: won a competitive fellowship to work at a EU-member government for several months


Coursework: Micro- and Macroeconomics, Calculus – all in the B-range; a VERY upward trend the last 2 years in college


Language skills: I think this is my strong suit.  I am fluent in 6 languages spoken in Europe (not dialects); Basic to conversational skills in 2 more


SOP: I think I should be fine here - I am specific about my career goals as well as why the program is a great fit and what I want to get out of it


LORs: I think these should be great mostly


Concerns:  definitely lack of work experience after graduation besides the fellowship; not a lot of quantitative classes in college, weak GRE??


I’d be very grateful for any words of advice and thoughts, both positive and negative!

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#566 aj2015



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Posted 23 November 2014 - 05:19 PM

Hi Everyone,



I am very apprehensive regarding my competitiveness, the funding and the program that best suits my requirements/objective.


I would really appreciate if you people can help me out.




 I have graduated from IIT (Indian Institute of Technology)  in 2010 . IITs are considered to be the best engineering institute in India.


I have 4 years of work experience  in 3 different organizations 1st with a renewable energy consulting firm (14 months) the with an leading Insurance company (1 year)  the 3rd one is my current employer which i a political consulting firm dealing with political leaders to strategies their campaign. Here I got a good exposure to manage field surveys and public interaction from various sections of society and  in all the three organizations I have an extensive exposure of data analysis and MS excel tools.



GRE score VA-155, QA-168, AW-3.0



CGPA 6.35/10 (didn't get a reliable scale to convert it from Indian CGPA out of 10 t US GPA)



I feel that my strengths are- IIT degree (a globally recognized brand), Good GRE 323, and  work ex. (3 different kind of roles and the last one in political consulting firms gives a relevant policy exposure..please correct me at this point if I assume something wrong...??)



I feel tat my weaknesses are- a pathetic AW in GRE 3.0, a below average GPA



 My queries?


1. My ultimate objective to earn an MPP is influencing policy design and implementation scenario in India for major public welfare schemes.


Now a very frank question- is MPP a suitable match for moving towards my goal, or there are other better suited degrees?



2. Now keeping in mind all my strengths and weaknesses, and also my strong willingness to get a debt free MPP degree, Please suggest the best possible schools in US or anywhere in the globe...provided they have good reputation, good funding and serves my purpose




3. this query is basically a sub-part of query no. 2, as i already mentioned my aim ultimately entails me to come back to India ultimately, so what should be a right path- to stay in US and try to work with some recognized bodies like UN,WB, IMF and then return to India or there is some better choice I may have?



4. I can get LoR from some really influential people like Member of Parliament (MPs), Member of state Legislative Assembly (MLAs)  but I have heard  that it is better to get a LoR from someone who have worked with more closely and for a long duration while I have not worked with any of  these people for more than 6 months. Also my terms with my former employer and ex employer are very good and I can expect a good LoR from them but obviously their stature is not like the MPs or MPs. SO what is suggested in such a case?


I know that my queries are very comprehensive and demand a lot of efforts and great deal of time for some one w to answer completely but I would be really grateful if someone can do that for me.



Thanks a lot in advance.







PS- I would be glad to provide my personal email if someone want to have discussion in greater lengths, please do let me know in such a case.

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#567 Franopan



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Posted 26 November 2014 - 12:33 AM

Hi Everyone.


I'm applying for Public Policy programs in Georgetown, GWU and American but I'm a little worried about my lack of relevant experience in this field. I'm an Irish student so political internships aren't quite as popular as they are in the US.


My GPA equates to about a 3.7 for my degree, and a 3.45 cumulative. I majored in Philosophy and Economics, minored in Political Science in a well esteemed University. 


My GRE is 168 Verbal and 160 Q, AWA pending. 


LoR: 2 strong references from Professors, and possibly one from my current work supervisor if 3 are required. 


I've spend the last 2 years as an English teacher and "cultural ambassador" in Japan (JET program). I do have quite a lot of student political experience but no real life policy experience so i'm just a little worried. Do people think it could be a burden for me? Also, it seems Georgetown's program in particular is quite quantitive, will a 160 Q score be ok?

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#568 triciatedoco



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Posted 10 December 2014 - 11:35 PM

Hi everyone,

I already applied to a couple of schools but I am still unsure if I am aiming too high. Please let me know what you think.


Program: MPPs / MPAs


Schools being considered: Applied to: Princeton Wilson MPA, Harvard Kennedy MPP. Will apply to: Georgetown Mc Court School Masters in International Development, NYU Wagner, Columbia SIPA MPA, Tufts Fletcher MALD.


Undergrad Institution: University in a developing country. Studied abroad in small but well ranked liberal arts college in Michigan. 


Major: International Relations. Minors: Political Science, International Human Rights Law

GPA: 3.75. (4.0 for the last four semesters)

GRE score: 162V, 154Q,  4.0 AW

TOEFL: 116


Years since undergrad: 2 (graduated 2012)

Work experience: World Bank in Washington DC for 2 years (3 years by enrollment) working directly with development issues related to my interests, 4 month internship at the OAS also on the same issues. Volunteering at Model UN organizations for 10+ years with leadership positions, co-founded a Model UN organization in my home country. Teaching assistant positions for 2 years and taught Model UN classes at a high school for 4 years.


Career Goals: Return to the World Bank, or in other development bank or the UN. 


Quant Coursework: Principles of economics (grade. A), Microeconomics (grade:B ), Macroeconomics (grade: C), International Political Economy (grade: A), Accounting (grade: A). Pre-calculus (grade: A), Calculus (grade: C)


Language skills: Fluent in Spanish, very basic German


Statement of Purpose: Oriented to a particular development issue directly related to my experience. Lots of specific stories/examples


Letters of Recommendation: Former program director at my university, my World Bank supervisor, and a World Bank Director. I worked closely with all three, so they will be able to give me strong letters. 

Publications: A few publications on international affairs/development issues for a non-profit. An article in a semi-academic magazine in my home country on Web 2.0 and the Arab Spring. 


Concerns: GRE quant score. Cs in calculus and macroeconomics and no statistics background. Undergraduate institution from a developing country and not recognized internationally. 

Edited by triciatedoco, 10 December 2014 - 11:40 PM.

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#569 cszchung



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Posted 15 December 2014 - 06:52 PM

Program: MSCAPP


Schools being considered: UChicago Harris, Masters of Science in Computational Analysis and Public Policy


Undergrad Institution: Decently Ranked Large State School


Major: Social Thought and Political Economy 

GPA: 3.12 - Was trying to work and deal with family issues at the same time. Grades are mostly A's or Incompletes.

GRE score: 166V, 160Q,  4.0 AW


Years since undergrad: 2

Work experience: Spent 8 months after graduation in China on Fulbright-Hays scholarship, studying Chinese language and culture. Was enrolled in a local Chinese university. Spent last 2 months in China as a business development intern at a Chinese automation start-up. Spent last year working as an international project coordinator for international NGO in education sector (largely funded by USAID). Prior to that, spent 8 months interning at well-known domestic environment NGO campaigning to pass climate change legislation. During college, also worked for 1.5 years at a small international advocacy NGO working on human rights and environment issues. 


Career Goals: Design ICT strategies for international development projects


Quant Coursework: Micro and Macro Econ (during undergrad), Stats I and II (through Harvard Extension School)


Language skills: Intermediate/Upper Intermediate Mandarin Chinese


Statement of Purpose: Hopefully strong. Trying to tie together my different interests (primarily the environment and international development) with my work experience (in international development, but in the education sector). Want to weave in this narrative: In my current position, I've seen the need for skilled data analysts. I see myself filling that gap, given my interest in programming and quantitative aptitude.


Letters of Recommendation: One from my current supervisor who is the VP of a well known international NGO in the education sector (strong), one from the director of the Fulbright Hays program who directs the China Institute at a large public university (decent to strong), one from either a stats professor (weak to OK, didn't interact much with her, but did well in the class) OR undergraduate seminar professor (OK-strong, it's been a few years since I've been in contact with her)


Concerns: Low GPA. Kind of an unconventional applicant. Dropped out of highly ranked university once, was on academic probation. Was dealing with personal issues at the time. Took two years off, got an associates degree in Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency. Went back to undergrad at a large state school and graduated at the age of 24. Still ended up with a low GPA as I was juggling working at the same time, but don't have a great excuse for it. There's only one program that I am interested in applying to this year, which is the new Computational Analysis and Public Policy program at UChicago Harris. I'm really looking for a program where I can learn hard technical skills within a policy context. The MSCAPP seems to be it. However, if it doesn't work out, I am wondering what my chances would be at other MPP programs if I were to apply next year?

Edited by cszchung, 15 December 2014 - 06:54 PM.

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#570 ZebraFinch



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Posted 15 December 2014 - 07:10 PM

Program: International Affairs 

Schools being considered: Georgetown, GWU, Penn State, may consider others


Undergrad Institution: US territory school with strong reputation there but people in the US don't know well

Major: Political science and only one class short of econ

GPA: 3.69

GRE score: 159V, 139Q, 4 AW


Years since undergrad: Less than 1

Work experience: Internship at FSI is the most relevant, otherwise I've volunteered locally


Career Goals: Foreign Service as Consular Officer. 


Quant Coursework: intro to macro and micro econ, intermediate macro and micro econ (highest level my school offers at undergrad), year of statistics, course that was called "math for economics" but combines a lot of stats and calculus work. Research methods courses that used stats stuff as well. A's and B's in all of these


Language skills: Fluent Spanish, working professional Russian


Statement of Purpose: Strong, but I have to explain my medical issues that affected me during undergrad. Can't figure out how to write about them without it sounding like an excuse.


Letters of Recommendation: Honors Program director, career FSO who I worked with during my internship at FSI, and from top Econ prof in my undergrad


Concerns: Horrible, embarrassing GRE. I don't know if I should even apply this year. I have tons of experience abroad so I hope that helps. My undergrad is also a bit of a rollercoaster as I had three surgeries one after the other during my undergrad so I go from all A's one semester to A's and B's the next. I'm willing to hear and consider any advice.

Edited by ZebraFinch, 15 December 2014 - 07:11 PM.

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#571 pettecal



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  • Program:MPP or MPH

Posted 16 December 2014 - 09:47 PM

Hi everyone! Hope the holiday season is treating you all well! I was wondering if any of you could give me any feedback/thoughts on my candidacy for the 2 programs to which I have applied. My dream school is Georgetown (went there for undergrad and loved it). I was originally interested in medicine, but after a lot of self-reflection and conversations with mentors and peers, I'm hoping to go the policy route instead. 
Please let me know what you think! :)
Program: MPP or MPH with health policy focus
Schools being considered: Georgetown McCourt (MPP), GWU Milken Institute (MPH)
Career goals: Health/education/immigration policy issues as they relate to minority/immigrant communities. Want to develop a quantitative background that will make me competitive in the private sector as well. 
Undergrad Institution: Georgetown University
Major: Neurobiology & Studio Art double-major
GPA: 3.69
GRE score: 165 V/ 159 Q/5.5 W 
Years since undergrad: 1
Work experience:  Current research fellow at the National Institutes of Health, current policy blogger for national org, internships at health policy think tank & immigration reform orgs during college, co-president of health policy journal in college, HIV/AIDS clinic volunteer  
Coursework: Calculus II, Probability & Statistics
Language skills: English, Spanish, Cantonese
Overseas experience (work, study and teaching): Received grants to conduct independent research abroad in Berlin, Germany; interviewed local curators, museum directors, and artists on the role of gentrification in the art community in Berlin
Statement of Purpose: Strong, connected my discovery that my mother spent two years as an undocumented immigrant to my subsequent explorations and interest in health, immigration, and education policy 
Letters of Recommendation:
1) Undergrad Bio professor & advisor 
2) Diversity staff coordinator @ Georgetown who has mentored me the past few years 
3) Supervisor @ previous health policy internship 
Not sure if my double-major will make me stand out in a good or bad way. Lack of econ experience, but hoping that my Neuro major reflects that I do have the quant/analytical abilities needed. Trying to gauge the competitive-ness of my GPA/GRE. Hoping that my SoP is memorable and strong enough.

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