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SIPA Admitted Student’s Day

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Hey there~ I went to ASD yesterday and loved it! I sat in on the talks for USP (Urban Social Policy Concentration), the panel discussing the Management, Women, and Tech Media & Communications specializations, and the one discussing the regional specializations. The USP concentration talk was really great. I got the sense that there's a lot of camaraderie and inclusiveness within the cohort, and there's a ton of flexibility in what classes you can take and not a lot of requirements. The acting director made a point to say that people in this concentration were very likely to find a job they wanted right after graduating.

As for that first specialization panel, I was there mainly to hear about TMaC so when we broke into groups that's what I stuck with. I loved what the specialization director had to say though! She was a huge advocate for the cohort. It's one of the smaller specializations but apparently very tight-knit, the students are very involved in designing new classes and picking future lecturers and professors, and remain in close contact well into their careers. Anya (the specialization director) made a big pitch about how the TMaC network really supports one another in their careers, how she's personally made calls to help students get the jobs they want. There are also a lot of research and funding opportunities in the TMaC cohort. 

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That’s really good to hear. I was accepted into EPD, but have been leaning more and more towards switching to Urban Policy for the flexibility and desire to remain in NYC post-graduation. The more intimidate feel of TMaC also sounds very appealing...thanks for the feedback!

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HI @Tk2356,

I went for ASD as well, and loved it too! My sense of SIPA is that it is a large school, but everyone there is extremely driven, energetic, and involved. I felt that the admitted students were all excited to be there and ready to start building relationships. I sat in on the EPD concentration since I'm interested in International Development. The faculty's interest in supporting their students and connecting them to internship and job opportunities really shone through, particularly with regards to their connections with the UN. I really liked the year-long capstone and the fact that faculty seem very intent to taking students' interests into account before they reach out to organizations who are interested in working with them. It was great to see examples of capstone projects the current students are undertaking--that got me really excited!

I listened to the Management, TMaC and Advanced Economic Analysis specialization. My notes on those:

- Management: leaning towards lots of weekend skills-based courses, short courses (1.5 credits), a number of start-up/social entrepreneurship opportunities. Sarah Holloway, the director, manages the Columbia StartUp Lab and SIPA has seats there.

- TMaC: I second @yellina122's comment about the intimacy of the TMaC students. Although I have an interest in Tech, TMaC seems much more journalism and media focused, so I'm thinking of taking some TMaC courses and just double-counting them for the management specialization.

- Advanced Economic Analysis: many people who do this end up working in the Fed and banking. if I did this, I would focus on program evaluation skills for development. Seems like you could get a pretty strong quant background from this specialization as they have PhD level classes that you could take if you meet the prerequisites. One interesting capstone: using natural language processing to do text analysis on European financial laws.

Other comments:

- There are opportunities to do assistantships, which means TA-ing, research assistants, academic/administrative offices, being a course assistant. These are salaried positions that vary from $3 - $12 K a year. They can be very competitive depending on demand and you probably want to network to get the assistantship you want. Around 65% of those who apply get it. Some get one for 2 semesters, some for 1 semester.

- Travel: SIPA students seem to go on trips A LOT on spring break, winter break, etc. There's a lot of funding to at least partially subsidize these trips. 

- I feel like they trot Stiglitz out whenever they need to impress people, but I enjoyed his talk as well as the questions other admits asked him.

- Definitely a lot of emphasis on being busy, coming in with a plan so you can take advantage of things. I see that as a good thing, but it may or may not be depending on your inclinations. I definitely felt like SIPA students were more energetic but also perhaps more (outwardly?) stressed than SAIS students, whom I met the next day. SIPA felt chaotic and crazy and full of opportunity for me.

Hope this helps!


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Hi @jxw,

I would like to specialize in Advanced Economic Analysis, but have a nearly nonexistent quant background (just intro to micro) to my name and am worried about getting in over my head. Did you get the impression that, with the necessary time and effort input, students like myself could succeed in the specialization? Or is it designed for those who already have a solid quant base? 

Gaining practical quant skills is a major goal of mine while at SIPA, but I don’t want to risk a low GPA/losing my scholarship if no amount of effort in the advanced micro/macro courses can overcome a weak quant background. Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

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Hey @Tk2356,

I think a question like that came about during the talk and the answer was that you can, with careful planning. I believe there's a math course you can take during the summer to brush up on your quant skills and the specialization director specified that Calc II is a prerequisite for a lot of the AEA (whatever the acronym is) courses. I would definitely speak with the specialization director about this--try to contact her over the summer to perhaps start planning early. I bet she gets lots of questions like this--I noticed a lot of similar questions throughout the day around lack of quant experience. If Calc II is a prerequisite for many of these classes, I'd try to take a Calc II class (online or otherwise) over the summer to gauge my level of interest and ability.

Regarding your comment about a weak quant background: I do not consider myself exceptionally quantitative, but I would be someone who has a "strong" quant background. I did well in math, ended up as Econ major, and love programming but I'm also terrible at remembering numbers, doing mental math, and understanding how money flows through the economy. My point is: even within the "quantitative" specialty, you will have strengths and weaknesses that you will discover with more exposure. if you are sure you want to strengthen your quantitative skills, I'm pretty sure you can do it. You might have to make compromises (less going out, less interesting classes). You may not be good at or enjoy certain things, but you may also find that you enjoy other aspects of being quantitative. Just because you don't have that practice in your previous positions or educational background doesn't mean you can't be great at it.

Hope this helps!

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