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Now that all decisions are back and this was a helpful tool for me

 

Program Applied To: (MPA, MPP, IR, etc.)  MPA and MSPPM (Heinz)
Schools Applied To:  Princeton WWS, Washington Evans, CMU Heinz (Pittsburgh), Cornell CIPA, UT LBJ, A&M Bush, Brown Watson, UNC (Online), Penn State (Online), Northwestern (Online)
Schools Admitted To: Evans ($$$), Heinz ($$$), CIPA ($$), LBJ (In-state), Watson ($) , UNC ($), Penn State, Northwestern
Schools Rejected From:  WWS, A&M (I declined an interview)
Still Waiting:  
Undergraduate institution:  Middle of the road state flagship
Undergraduate GPA:  3.4ish
Last 60 hours of Undergraduate GPA (if applicable):  3.8 (Almost entirely in major classes because of a sophomore year switch)
Undergraduate Major:  Public Administration
GRE Quantitative Score:  159 (Thank you Magoosh)
GRE Verbal Score:  164
GRE AW Score:  5.0 (It is all about laying out a skeleton of your essay in your intro and sticking to it, even if you feel like you're hitting the grader over the head with such obvious transitions)
Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable): 4+  
Years of Work Experience:  3.5
Describe Relevant Work Experience: Went from entry level local government job to head of a department with about a $4 million budget in 2ish years  
Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc):  Really strong in describing my motivations to go into local government, probably not as strong in describing what the school can do for me, but I did a good job sprinkling in little things the school wanted to hear. I put some research into schools and finding buzzwords scattered through the main web page and the program's web page, then incorporating those into my essay.
Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc):  I picked writers who were going to put some real thought and work into the essay over just the biggest title I could find. I was too far out of school to get professors, which was detrimental but a fact of life. I got my City Manager (CEO of a city), a department head in my City, and the VP with a local economic development group. I didn't give them much direction (I applied to too many schools to say, "Tell X school Y") but it certainly took a little prodding at the end.
Other: Start with a list of schools/programs that interest you, then narrow it and narrow it. When you get your final list of places you'll apply really ask yourself, "If I get into this school, will I really go here?"

Also note, you're probably going to get into to most of the schools you apply to, it's a lot less competitive than undergrad, especially for MPA's and MPP's. I had this huge list because I had so many safety schools (two online safety schools???). It's wasted money, but more importantly time, time for that could be spent on schools you care about and your LOR writer's time.

Edited by SketchesOfSpain
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I agree with your sentiment about underestimating yourself for top tier programs! I wish I had found this site before I began the application process, because I would have digested how differently the

Got funding decision from GWU Trachtenberg! Selected as a Trachtenberg scholar, 2 year partial tuition (22k and 18k) .

Totally! It wasn't until after I posted that I realized submission dates would've been helpful. I applied prior to 11/30. It's my understanding (based on prior McCourt threads) that this November 30th

Program Applied To: (MPA, MPP, IR, etc.) and Schools Applied To:  MPA/ID (HKS), MPA-DP (SIPA), MPA (WWS), MIDP (McCourt), SAIS (MA in IDEV)
Schools Admitted To:  HKS (0), SIPA (40K), McCourt (55K), SAIS (50k)
Schools Wait listed From: WWS
Schools Rejected From: None
Undergraduate institution: Top school in my country
Undergraduate GPA: 4.23/5
Undergraduate Major: Economics and Political Science
GRE Quantitative Score: 160 (74%)
GRE Verbal Score: 162(92%)
GRE AW Score: 5.0 (92%)
Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable): 3.5
Years of Work Experience: 3.75 (Full-time) 
Describe Relevant Work Experience: 3.75 years working in International Development consultancy
Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc):Ironically I felt like I had sent my strongest essays to WWS, I started working on them in September, I think they were good. I felt like I had a credible story and experience to back up my interest in ID. 
Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc): I asked my two supervisors and a university professor (who oversaw my undergraduate thesis). I didn't see my professor's letter, but my supervisors’ letters were really good, one was an HKS alumnus. 
Other: I thought I wouldn't get into HKS because of my quant GRE score, but I did. I was surprised to get funding from all of my other options and none from HKS, but I guess they know they are a lot of people’s top choice so that’s why they can get away with it. If I could do it again, I would have taken the GRE sooner so I could get my quant score to match my verbal score, I believe this would have given me more funding and would have probably gotten me into WWS.   

 
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Program Applied To: (MPA, MPP, IR, etc.)  MPP and MPA
Schools Applied To:  Harvard Kennedy, Berkeley Goldman, Columbia SIPA, Georgetown McCourt, George Washington Trachtenberg
Schools Admitted To:  Goldman, SIPA, McCourt, Trachtenberg
Schools Rejected From:  Kennedy
Still Waiting:  none
Undergraduate institution:  Quality public school in Virginia
Undergraduate GPA:  3.58
Last 60 hours of Undergraduate GPA (if applicable):  uhhh too much effort but definitely lower than the cumulative
Undergraduate Major:  Public Policy
GRE Quantitative Score:  164
GRE Verbal Score:  168
GRE AW Score:  5
Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable):  ~1.5 years upon matriculation in the programs I'm applying to (I graduated January 2018)
Years of Work Experience:  ~1.5 years; I've been working since graduation but have done internships before then 
Describe Relevant Work Experience:  Government internship, think tank internship, research position at college, another think tank internship, and program assistant at a civil rights nonprofit
Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc):  Depending on the program, good to great (but none were excellent)
Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc):  Probably good, but I did not have a close relationship with any of my recommenders (two kind professors, one former supervisor)
Other: I think I got into my programs because of high test scores and really relevant experience, despite being so recently out of undergrad.

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Program Applied To: (MPA, MPP, IR, etc.) MPP, MPA, MALD

Schools Applied To: Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MPA), Tufts Fletcher (MPP), Chicago Harris (MPP), Georgetown Mccourt (MPP), NYU Wagner (MSPP), Princeton WWS (MPA), Duke Sanford (MPP), GWU Trachtenberg (MPP), LSE (MPA)

Schools Admitted To:  MIIS (15k), Fletcher (10k), Harris (20k), Mccourt (15k), Wagner (0), Sanford (24k), Trachtenberg (0)

Schools Rejected From:  WWS, not a surprise, I knew they were a long shot

Still Waiting:  LSE

Undergraduate institution:  Private school ranked in the bottom half of the top-100

Undergraduate GPA:  3.67

Last 60 hours of Undergraduate GPA (if applicable):  

Undergraduate Major:  International Relations, French 2nd major

GRE Quantitative Score:  170

GRE Verbal Score:  162

GRE AW Score:  5.5

Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable):  0

Years of Work Experience:  2-ish depending on what you consider to be “work experience”

Describe Relevant Work Experience:  I took two years off of undergrad to work as a full-time volunteer in Russia. While I was there, I worked a lot with African immigrants who had usually let their visas expire by helping them to stay safe, get food, and get back to their home countries. Not sure if this really counted as work experience to most schools because it wasn’t after graduation. I have also worked as both a teaching assistant and a research assistant while pursuing my undergrad. Two years as a French and Russian TA for online, high school level courses, two years as a TA in the Economics Department, with half a year in an introductory course and a year and a half in one of the upper-division electives, and one year as an RA in the Political Science department.

Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc):  I’m not very good at writing about myself, but I had a few people look over it and they seemed to like it. I’m honestly not really sure how good it was and so it probably wasn’t great.

Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc):  Two of my recommendations were extremely strong and one of them was good, but not as strong. Both professors I work for wrote letters for me. I have worked for one of them for a year and a half and took a class from him, I took four classes from the other and I now work as one of his RAs. The third letter was from a French professor I have taken classes from and chatted with after class, so she knows me decently well, but not as well as the other two.

Other: I ended up applying to a lot more schools than I probably should have (If I could do it again, I would NOT apply to MIIS or Wagner) because I wasn’t sure how schools would consider my work experience, which made me worry that I couldn’t get into one of the top schools I applied to. As far as my strength as an applicant, my GRE scores were better than I hoped for, especially my Quant score. My GPA could have been better, but it would be closer to a 3.75 if it weren’t for the fact that I got a 3.0 my first semester. I think that my lack of a solid third recommender hurt my application a bit, but the strength of the other two probably made up for that. In addition to all of that, the International Relations major at my university is very quantitatively heavy, so I have taken almost as many econ classes as an economics major.

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Hi all, hope folks browsing through find this helpful:

_____________________________________

Programs Applied to: MPP/MPA

Schools Applied to: Harvard Kennedy (MPP), Princeton WWS (MPA), Cornell CIPA (MPA), Syracuse Maxwell (MPA), Brandeis Heller (MPP), American (MPA), Northeastern (MPA)

Schools Admitted to: Brandeis Heller (75% tuition), Cornell (bit over 50% tuition), Syracuse Maxwell (waiting on funding), Northeastern (20% tuition), American (no $$)

Schools rejected from: HKS and WWS - applied thinking of them as "reaches", so rejections were disappointing but not surprising

Undergrad Institution: Decent (top-40) but not top-tier liberal arts college

Undergrad Major: Political Science and Spanish

Undergrad GPA: 3.36

GRE: V-163 / Q-163 / 5.5 Writing

Years out of undergrad: 4.5 at time of application, 5+ at time of enrollment

Years of work experience: 4 at time of application, ~4.5 at time of enrollment

Relevant Work Experience: Lots of nonprofit; 1 year in postgrad volunteer corps (direct social services), 1 year at a health policy and advocacy org, close to 2 years in philanthropy. 

LOR: Generally good I think, most emphasizing my critical thinking, research, writing, and commitment to public service. One from professor, one from former boss in health policy, and a 3rd from personal contact who works in social policy, who I haven't worked but who knows me very well on a personal level. 

SOP: Not amazing, but relatively strong I think. I'm a good writer, and focused on genuine and demonstrable commitment to public service, with a clear case as to how these programs would help me achieve my goals. Customization was limited. 

Other: Took an undergrad-level stats course before applying, to help shore up lack of quant background. I am currently Boston-based, generally see myself in the Northeast (probably New England specifically) long-term, which was reflected in my school choices. Thinking back, Brown's MPA program may have been one that I might add to the list if I were to do it again. 

Edited by BK297
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Program Applied To: MA in IR, Security Policy Studies, International Affairs
Schools Applied To: American University, George Washington University, New York University, American University of Paris, The New School, Penn State
Schools Admitted To: All!
Schools Rejected From: None! 
Undergraduate institution: University of North Florida
Undergraduate GPA: 3.4
Last 60 hours of Undergraduate GPA (if applicable): 3.75
Undergraduate Major: Political Science, Minor in International Studies 
GRE Quantitative Score: 151 
GRE Verbal Score: 160 
GRE AW Score: 4.5
Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable): One 
Years of Work Experience: 2 
Describe Relevant Work Experience: Internship with local chapter of Red Cross. Thought I wanted to go to law school for the longest time so I have two years of experience working in law (non-profit legal aid and corporate defense law). Not technically work experience but in undergrad, I took a course that entailed writing a comprehensive foreign policy memo with my class & we traveled to DC and presented to DoD, DoS, Embassies, CIA, and congressional offices so this probably made my applications look pretty good.
Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc): I think it's the best thing I've ever written honestly. I wrote it in bits over probably like five months but that really gave me the opportunity to perfect it. I talked about lengthy papers I've written, research I've done for those papers, and how I've always had a focused subject area within IR which ties into what my long-term career goals are.
Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc): Probably also really good. I asked professors that know me and my work very well and have given me great feedback in the past. One of my recommendations was from the professor who took us to DC. She is a former high-ranking Clinton administration official and is well-known in the field so this likely didn't hurt.
 

Other: I've officially accepted my offer from NYU! It was a hard decision between GW and NYU but ultimately, I don't see myself working in DC, so New York it is. NYU's program is also the better fit for my academic and career interests, so overall I think I'm making the right decision.

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Programs Applied To: MPP, JD (only listing dual degree programs I applied to)

Schools Applied To: University of Michigan, University of Chicago, University of Virginia, Georgetown

Schools Admitted To: All for MPP! UChicago Off Waitlist, currently waiting for JD decisions from UVA, UChicago, and Georgetown.

Schools Rejected From: University of Michigan JD

Undergraduate Institution: High-ranked LAC

Undergraduate GPA: 3.5

Undergraduate Major: Political Economy / Public Policy

GRE Quantitative Score: 158

GRE Verbal Score: 167

GRE AW Score: 5.0

Years Out: 1.

Years of Work Experience: 1

Describe Relevant Work Experience: Internships at Senator's Office, Department of Justice, and Research Assistant based out of Boston College. Currently working at international development contractor (work for USAID, NIH, and some NGOs) focusing on African medical development projects.

Strength of SOP: Wrote it over the course of a couple months, feel very strongly that it's the best way I've ever described my personal interest in public policy.

Strength of LOR: Two professors from my university who knew me well (one high-up in state party politics), one former boss from the DOJ (Assistant Director level). I only saw the DOJ letter of rec but that was quite a strong one (said I was in the top 5% of interns he had had, including law students).

Received $10k/year scholarship from UChicago, $20k/year from Georgetown, and $15k/year from University of Virginia. Any advice for making my decision? Even if I don't end up getting into the law school associated with the MPP program, I intend to apply again once I'm there in the fall.

Edited by FreshPrinceofBel-Air
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Program Applied To: (MPA, MPP, IR, etc.)  MA in Forensic Psychology
Schools Applied To:  Marymount University, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, American International College
Schools Admitted To:  Marymount University, American International College
Schools Rejected From:  
Still Waiting:  John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Undergraduate institution:  Louisiana State University (Geaux tigers!)
Undergraduate GPA:  3.3
Last 60 hours of Undergraduate GPA (if applicable):  3.8
Undergraduate Major:  Psychology, minor in sociology
GRE Quantitative Score:  155
GRE Verbal Score:  155
GRE AW Score:  4
Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable):  n/a
Years of Work Experience:  6
Describe Relevant Work Experience:  have worked in a schizophrenia based research lab, 6 years work in a restaurant kitchen with "questionable" employees
Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc):  I think this was truly my strongest application piece. I spent months working on it to make it as reflective of who I am as I could make it while still keeping it relevant to what the school wanted. I included something quirky about me to grab attention, went through my research experience, then my work experience, and then why I was a good fit for the school - NOT why the school was a good fit for me - and then wrapped it all up with personal goals. I consider it a masterpiece lol.
Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc):  I never saw the actual letters, but I made sure I had one more than asked for. I asked my lab supervisor and 2 professors that I am really close with. I gave them a folder with my college transcript, my resume, and any work I did for them in it so they could write a more informed letter than just going off of memory. 
Other: American International auto-admitted me within 5 days of submitting my application. Wasn't waitlisted for Marymount at any point

Edited by sherdim411
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Program Applied To: MPA
Schools Applied To:  Columbia SIPA (by the funding deadline) this is my dream school 
Schools Admitted To:  Columbia SIPA with funding 
Schools Rejected From:  None
Still Waiting:  None
Undergraduate institution:  large private university in Boston 
Undergraduate GPA:  2.66
Last 60 hours of Undergraduate GPA (if applicable):  Idk
Undergraduate Major:  Health Science and premed 
GRE Quantitative Score:  155
GRE Verbal Score:  153
GRE AW Score:  4
Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable):  4
Years of Work Experience:  3.5

Describe Relevant Work Experience:  Mostly non profits, and a lot of experience in extra curricular activities that had a public health or public service agenda in undergrad 

Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc):  This was a strong point in my application. I stuck to the word limit exactly. Eliminating a lot a transition words and jargon that we're taught to use. I spoke about the experiences in the jobs and extra curriculars that made me feel that more needed to be done. Then I connected that to why I needed an MPA and why I needed to go to SIPA specifically. I spent about a week actually writing it and a month stressing about what to write. I had a few friends read over my essays and help me cut out words or rephrase ideas to be less wordy and more to the point. I think these were very strong and to the point. Respect the word limit. I also read the admissions blog very thoroughly. It helped answer some questions. 

Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc):  I asked my recommenders atleast 2 months in advance. I asked a previous college professor/mentor, previous manager/mentor, current manager. They know me pretty well. I just asked them to be honest about my work and who I am. I think they were very strong. 

Other: I used the optional essay to discuss the reasons my GPA was low and how I won't let it deter me from my goals of grad school and beyond. Also practice for the video essay question. It's not difficult, but you should practice your video presence before actually sitting down to record it.

I was also very detailed in the Quant resume portion. I followed their example but also added individual test scores if I had them. For the grades I didn't have, I emailed undergrad professors for them. My CV was also very detailed. I wanted to ensure I highlighted my Quant abilities and dedication to public service. I tried very hard to overshadow my low GPA. 

 Good luck! 

Edited by Greatness27
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On 3/14/2019 at 2:07 PM, hbgurley said:

Where if your best financial offer?

My best financial offer and my 2 current most-likely options are Tufts or George Washington. American also gave me a good financial offer, but I prefer Tufts or GW. I did not like Columbia's financial package, and it doesn't seem worth it to me. 

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This forum has been so useful to me throughout my application process, so I hope this is useful to others!

Program Applied To: (MPA, MPP, IR, etc.)  MPA, MPP
Schools Applied To:  Evans, UCLA
Schools Admitted To:  Evans (no $$), UCLA (unsure re: funding just yet)
Schools Rejected From:  
Still Waiting:
 
Undergraduate institution:  Cal State Long Beach
Undergraduate GPA:  3.8, Phi Beta Kappa 
Last 60 hours of Undergraduate GPA (if applicable):  
Undergraduate Major:  Human Development
GRE Quantitative Score:  148 
GRE Verbal Score:  158
GRE AW Score:  4.5
Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable):  2.5
Years of Work Experience:  6 total, 2 full-time
Describe Relevant Work Experience:  6 years in local branch of national after-school program nonprofit, from working as after-school program staff, to administrative assistant auditing program documents, to office manager, to grant-writer and member of staff satisfaction committee analyzing surveys and implementing policies and trainings. 1 year as private French tutor. Random volunteering here and there and 1 year of volunteering at another branch of same national nonprofit. 1 semester as research assistant compiling literature review for a project regarding how schools manage students' mental health and aggressive behavior. 
Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc):  I gave it a lot of thought and wrote notes about my "angle" for about a year before I started writing. I started with an anecdote from work regarding how in demand our free after-school programs are, then transitioned into my involvement in committee policy projects and grant-writing at work, and despite the successes, how threats to 21st Century funding and AmeriCorps threaten our organization. Similarly, I talked about how funding for CA ASES programs has not been increased to match cost of living and rising minimum wage in California. Then I talked about my career goals and why specifically Luskin/Evans would be a good fit for me, and what I would bring to Luskin/Evans.
Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc):  I was only able to read the one my current boss wrote me, which I felt was good. I also had a former professor at CSULB write one - she was the professor I worked on with my research assistant gig. She had told me I was one of her best students, so I felt confident about it. The last was a professor I had at my community college, who I took Microecon with post-bac to meet admission requirements. He had given me great and encouraging feedback in class so I felt good about it as well. I gave all of my recommenders copies of all of my relevant docs and a copy of my best undergrad essay. I had spoken to my boss and my research prof about my goals for grad school.
Other: I was nervous about my GRE quant score, but I really did not want to go through the testing process again so I decided to let it be. I also was nervous about my quant coursework, as I only had Stats (C) and Algebra (C) during undergrad and Accounting (A), Stats (A), and Microecon (A) post-bac. I wanted to throw in a calc class for UCLA but it didn't work out with my schedule. 

Honestly I was not sure about applying to this tier of schools a few years ago, but my research gig professor had really encouraged me. Impostor syndrome is so real! 

Someone had mentioned this book on this forum and it was such a useful tool for writing my SOP, and was useful overall with the app process: https://www.amazon.com/Graduate-Admissions-Essays-Fourth-School/dp/1607743213

Lastly, I had originally picked 6 schools to apply to just to have a wide range, but I honestly was not enthusiastic about all of them. In the end, I scrapped 3 of them, and was going to go through with a local state school app before I had heard back from Luskin. I kind of wish I didn't waste my or my recommenders' time. 

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On 3/12/2019 at 11:03 AM, shiningstar7 said:

Program Applied To: (MPA, MPP, IR, etc.): IR
To: Georgetown MSFS, Columbia SIPA, Tufts MALD, George Washington SPS, American IPCR
Schools Admitted To: Columbia SIPA, Tufts MALD, George Washington SPS, American IPCR 
Schools Rejected From: None yet (But waitlisted to Georgetown MSFS)
Still Waiting: Well waitlisted to Georgetown so that?
Undergraduate institution: A small private Christian college that nobody knows lol 
Undergraduate GPA: 3.86/4.0
Undergraduate Major: International Relations (French minor)
GRE Quantitative Score: 152
GRE Verbal Score: 156
GRE AW Score: 4.5
Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable): Will be 1 year this May (graduated in 2018)
Years of Work Experience: Full-time (0), Part-time (almost 2.5ish)
Describe Relevant Work Experience: Diplomatic intern at a representation in DC, English tutor at my university, writing intern at a nonprofit law firm, volunteer intern with a state senator's chief of staff, went on a humanitarian trip to do social work, did a lot of volunteer work during college (like homeless shelter outreach and tutored refugee students)

Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc): I like writing, so maybe it wasn’t bad, but the only people I had edit my essays were my mom + brother lol. I talked a lot of how I am a Pickering Fellow and how the university will help me in my work for the Foreign Service after graduation, talked about my childhood international experiences + service opportunities I had throughout my life, how I got interested in IR, and I talked about the university and the program there that I wanted to study. 
Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc): I assume all are pretty good? I had a good relationship with all my recommenders (former French professor, former IR professor - also my adviser during undergrad, and my former internship supervisor). But tbh, internally I was kinda freaking out because I sent the requests in quite late (for my liking).  

Other: Think I was waitlisted to Georgetown because of my lack of experience (mostly) + GRE score (not a very good standardized test taker haha), but really the strength for my application was that I'm a Pickering Fellow so I already have the internships set and the job set after graduation. Middle-class family, South Asian. I took macro, micro, stats, an intl bus class during undergrad, but I’m not very good at quant-heavy work, but I want to get better at it (and I did mention that in my essays tbh). I was born in a developing country, I lived in 4 different countries (all in Asia except for the U.S. obiously) from the time I was born till I was 12… so, much of my life was spent abroad. During my entire time abroad, I attended international baccalaureate schools. I only recently (in the past few years) attained my U.S. citizenship. I’m sure all this helped with the diversity/international experiences aspect? I’m sort of bilingual (I say sort of because technically I can’t read or write in my native language), and I studied French during college. I studied Spanish in high school? Took part and did get some recognition at MUN and MAL during college, involved in floor leadership, graduated with my B.A. in 3-years…? I'm very young (21), so really it's a miracle I've gotten this far! 

I'm pretty sure Pickering + international experiences helped me thus far. I'm pretty sure I'm the kind of person they look at/think of when they look at candidates "HOLISTICALLY" - I fit in that category pretty well in my opinion.

Hope this helps! 
 
MY QUESTION TO ANYONE WHO CAN HELP: 
- If you had my current accepted options and were me, which would you pick? If I got taken off the waitlist at Georgetown, what would you pick then? I'm curious because I'm kind of confused on what to do. 
- Would you pick NY (But Columbia is still very expensive even with the fellowship) or DC (I like GW over American btw because I like the SPS program a lot) or Boston (Never been there but heard Tufts is a good school and MALD is a good program)? 
 

Are you still on the waitlist for MSFS? I am turning my offer down. Hope you get it! Georgetown is a wonderful school. Good luck!

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7 hours ago, TheSAfiltercoffee said:

Are you still on the waitlist for MSFS? I am turning my offer down. Hope you get it! Georgetown is a wonderful school. Good luck!

I am still waitlisted! Why are you turning it down? How's the financial aid? 

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Program Applied To: MPA, MPAff, MALD, 
Schools Applied To:  Columbia SIPA, Tufts Fletcher, Texas LBJ DC Program, UW Evans, Cornell CIPA are the ones that I am currently considering
Schools Admitted To:  All schools I applied to accepted me.  LBJ DC (100% funding); Evans (60% funding); Cornell CIPA (30% funding); Fletcher (20% funding); Columbia SIPA (0% funding as of now)
Undergraduate institution:  The Ohio State University
Undergraduate GPA:  3.6 cumulative; 3.8/3.9 majors
Last 60 hours of Undergraduate GPA (if applicable):  About as close to 4.0 as you can get
Undergraduate Major:  Political Science and Linguistics dual major
GRE Quantitative Score:  156 (58th percentile)
GRE Verbal Score:  164 (94th percentile)
GRE AW Score:  5.5 (98th percentile)
Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable):  3
Years of Work Experience:  3 post-undergrad
Describe Relevant Work Experience:  Municipal and county government work; primarily in rural settings in Utah, though previously in urban settings in NJ
Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc):  Pretty strong IMO.  Had a lot to draw on from domestic and international experience.  Talked about wanting to be a career public servant and eventually an elected official.  Really emphasized that I wanted to do international policy work focusing on certain issues.  Cited individual professors that I knew about in various programs.  Read their publications prior to writing and read several of their books as well.  Talked about my time abroad in Denmark working for a retired Danish official.
Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc):  One from an OSU professor in regional IR, one from a professor from when I was abroad, one from my current boss (mayor of a municipality).  All claimed that they were going to write very strong letters.  I was skeptical, but obviously it worked out.


Other: I'm still in the middle of figuring out if it's worth going to Columbia and paying premium or if going to LBJ for free would make up for it, so it still isn't over for me, but oh well.

In retrospect, I think my unique profile of working in various places around the country helped.  I originally worked for the Governor's Office in NJ, but then moved and worked in rural municipal ad county policy in Utah.  That's obviously not a very common background directly after undergrad for some of the people I'm competing with.  

I think the single most important aspect of my SOP was the inclusion of specific professors from each program.  Some of the programs had names that I knew and was very familiar with previously (SIPA's Prof. Sestanovich, LBJ's Prof. Ward), but there were others that I had to read up on.  I would look up papers that were relevant to my interests and briefly discuss/mention them in my statement.  I think it really helps show that you've done your research and you care about the program.  

Lastly, I really, really regret not applying to more top tier programs.  I kick myself every night for not applying to WWS simply because of the funding opportunities.  I also wish I had started earlier so I could have been more competitive for funding.  Don't underestimate yourself like I did, kids.  I genuinely thought that applying to Columbia was a pipe dream and I actually applied to Fletcher in like late February on a whim.

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10 hours ago, HoboPresident said:

Program Applied To: MPA, MPAff, MALD, 
Schools Applied To:  Columbia SIPA, Tufts Fletcher, Texas LBJ DC Program, UW Evans, Cornell CIPA are the ones that I am currently considering
Schools Admitted To:  All schools I applied to accepted me.  LBJ DC (100% funding); Evans (60% funding); Cornell CIPA (30% funding); Fletcher (20% funding); Columbia SIPA (0% funding as of now)
Undergraduate institution:  The Ohio State University
Undergraduate GPA:  3.6 cumulative; 3.8/3.9 majors
Last 60 hours of Undergraduate GPA (if applicable):  About as close to 4.0 as you can get
Undergraduate Major:  Political Science and Linguistics dual major
GRE Quantitative Score:  156 (58th percentile)
GRE Verbal Score:  164 (94th percentile)
GRE AW Score:  5.5 (98th percentile)
Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable):  3
Years of Work Experience:  3 post-undergrad
Describe Relevant Work Experience:  Municipal and county government work; primarily in rural settings in Utah, though previously in urban settings in NJ
Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc):  Pretty strong IMO.  Had a lot to draw on from domestic and international experience.  Talked about wanting to be a career public servant and eventually an elected official.  Really emphasized that I wanted to do international policy work focusing on certain issues.  Cited individual professors that I knew about in various programs.  Read their publications prior to writing and read several of their books as well.  Talked about my time abroad in Denmark working for a retired Danish official.
Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc):  One from an OSU professor in regional IR, one from a professor from when I was abroad, one from my current boss (mayor of a municipality).  All claimed that they were going to write very strong letters.  I was skeptical, but obviously it worked out.


Other: I'm still in the middle of figuring out if it's worth going to Columbia and paying premium or if going to LBJ for free would make up for it, so it still isn't over for me, but oh well.

In retrospect, I think my unique profile of working in various places around the country helped.  I originally worked for the Governor's Office in NJ, but then moved and worked in rural municipal ad county policy in Utah.  That's obviously not a very common background directly after undergrad for some of the people I'm competing with.  

I think the single most important aspect of my SOP was the inclusion of specific professors from each program.  Some of the programs had names that I knew and was very familiar with previously (SIPA's Prof. Sestanovich, LBJ's Prof. Ward), but there were others that I had to read up on.  I would look up papers that were relevant to my interests and briefly discuss/mention them in my statement.  I think it really helps show that you've done your research and you care about the program.  

Lastly, I really, really regret not applying to more top tier programs.  I kick myself every night for not applying to WWS simply because of the funding opportunities.  I also wish I had started earlier so I could have been more competitive for funding.  Don't underestimate yourself like I did, kids.  I genuinely thought that applying to Columbia was a pipe dream and I actually applied to Fletcher in like late February on a whim.

I agree with your sentiment about underestimating yourself for top tier programs! I wish I had found this site before I began the application process, because I would have digested how differently the grad school process is from undergrad. Though my peers/coworkers with graduate degrees told me it was easier to get into grad school than college, I didn't really believe them until I received some surprising acceptances. I truly thought I was only going to get into my safety school, but ended up getting in everywhere. Though, to be clear, I was not offered as much funding as others on here with stronger packages, the process proved to me that these programs really look at the whole person as opposed to stats and check boxes.

Another factor that stopped me from applying to certain programs (namely, WWS, HKS and Goldman) was becoming overwhelmed by their application questions and admissions sites, which made me feel totally unqualified and like I didn't have enough time to finish the apps. I suspect that -- at least to some extent -- schools strategically exaggerate the process to weed people out. 

Ultimately, I don't regret my application decisions because I am extremely happy with the program I have chosen (Sanford). However, I do wish I hadn't been so self-deprecating about the process: it was simply untrue and unnecessary.

 My suggestions to future applicants are: 

1) Go for the big ones! Why not?? The worst that could happen is you're rejected (and out $80 in app fees...)

2) Do NOT get attached  to the ways in which top tier programs inflate themselves

2) Start your applications early so you feel confident 

3) Knock out the daunting applications first

You can do it! :)

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On 3/22/2019 at 7:00 PM, Greatness27 said:

Program Applied To: MPA
Schools Applied To:  Columbia SIPA (by the funding deadline) this is my dream school 
Schools Admitted To:  Columbia SIPA with funding 
Schools Rejected From:  None
Still Waiting:  None
Undergraduate institution:  large private university in Boston 
Undergraduate GPA:  2.66
Last 60 hours of Undergraduate GPA (if applicable):  Idk
Undergraduate Major:  Health Science and premed 
GRE Quantitative Score:  155
GRE Verbal Score:  153
GRE AW Score:  4
Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable):  4
Years of Work Experience:  3.5

Describe Relevant Work Experience:  Mostly non profits, and a lot of experience in extra curricular activities that had a public health or public service agenda in undergrad 

Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc):  This was a strong point in my application. I stuck to the word limit exactly. Eliminating a lot a transition words and jargon that we're taught to use. I spoke about the experiences in the jobs and extra curriculars that made me feel that more needed to be done. Then I connected that to why I needed an MPA and why I needed to go to SIPA specifically. I spent about a week actually writing it and a month stressing about what to write. I had a few friends read over my essays and help me cut out words or rephrase ideas to be less wordy and more to the point. I think these were very strong and to the point. Respect the word limit. I also read the admissions blog very thoroughly. It helped answer some questions. 

Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc):  I asked my recommenders atleast 2 months in advance. I asked a previous college professor/mentor, previous manager/mentor, current manager. They know me pretty well. I just asked them to be honest about my work and who I am. I think they were very strong. 

Other: I used the optional essay to discuss the reasons my GPA was low and how I won't let it deter me from my goals of grad school and beyond. Also practice for the video essay question. It's not difficult, but you should practice your video presence before actually sitting down to record it.

I was also very detailed in the Quant resume portion. I followed their example but also added individual test scores if I had them. For the grades I didn't have, I emailed undergrad professors for them. My CV was also very detailed. I wanted to ensure I highlighted my Quant abilities and dedication to public service. I tried very hard to overshadow my low GPA. 

 Good luck! 

Wow, incredible get! Congratulations! About what percent of tuition are they covering for you?

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14 hours ago, usernamesmakemeanxious said:

Another factor that stopped me from applying to certain programs (namely, WWS, HKS and Goldman) was becoming overwhelmed by their application questions and admissions sites, which made me feel totally unqualified and like I didn't have enough time to finish the apps. I suspect that -- at least to some extent -- schools strategically exaggerate the process to weed people out. 

Definitely felt this.  Even though I've been looking a lot at what the current undergraduate application process is like and understand that it's way worse for high school students, I was exasperated by how annoyingly long Columbia's application process was.  I guess when you don't have to worry about releasing your acceptance rates, it doesn't matter how many people get turned away from applying.  

By the time I got to the video response I was basically over the whole thing.  Couple this with the fact that I thought I had no chance at SIPA and I was almost considering not applying at all.  Glad I did in the end, hah.

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Program Applied To: MPP and IR 
Schools Applied To:  UCLA Luskin (MPP), USC Price (MPP), Duke Sanford (MPP), WWS (MPA), Tufts (MAID), Georgetown (MA Asian), GWU (MIA), UCSD GPS (MIA)
Schools Admitted To:  UCLA Luskin (?), USC Price (1/2 tuition), Duke Sanford (32k/year + TA), Tufts (16k/year), Georgetown (None), GWU (6k/year), UCSD GPS (Full ride + stipend)
Schools Rejected From:  WWS (MPA),
Still Waiting:  None
Undergraduate institution:  Midwest private school
Undergraduate GPA:  3.7
Last 60 hours of Undergraduate GPA (if applicable):  3.8
Undergraduate Major:  Political Science, minor in History
GRE Quantitative Score:  153
GRE Verbal Score:  159
GRE AW Score:  4.5
Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable):  2 years
Years of Work Experience:  2 years  
Describe Relevant Work Experience:  Joined the Peace Corps in China directly following graduation. During undergrad I interned with the State Dept. in DC, the State Dept. in an embassy in Europe, and completed an internship with a member of the EU in Brussels while studying abroad. 
Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc):  I was pretty happy with my final product, which only had a few updates from my first draft. Started with a story of my interests, transitioned to why I am applying to this particular school (naming concentrations I plan to study and student groups I wish to join), then moved on to my past experiences. Felt that it was a little review of my resume but in greater detail. 
Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc):  I guess pretty good? I reached out to 2 former professors a year after graduation to update them of what I have been up to since graduation. Followed up again in the fall asking for their LOR. Also went to a former internship boss who I have stayed in contact with over the last few years. 

Other: I was worried about my GRE quant but with everything else it didn't seem to have a huge impact on my admittance. However, I think a higher score would've helped me secure funding at more schools. I'll be attending UCSD as I want to focus on China, I'll be closer to family, and the simple fact that I will graduate debt free.  

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On 3/24/2019 at 1:53 AM, shiningstar7 said:

I am still waitlisted! Why are you turning it down? How's the financial aid? 

I got a full tuition scholarship at another school and Georgetown cannot match the offer. The Director of Admissions got back to me and she said that they can only offer a partial tuition waiver. Money is a major deciding factor for me so for that reason alone, I am turning it down. 

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This has helped me so much over the years, so thought I would contribute!

Program Applied To: MPP/MPPs with quant focus
Schools Applied To:  Carnegie Mellon Heinz (MSPPM-DA), University of Chicago Harris (MSCAPP), Georgetown McCourt (MSDSPP)
Schools Admitted To:  Carnegie Mellon Heinz (85% tuition), U Chicago Harris (~50% tuition), Georgetown McCourt (very small amount of funding)
Undergraduate institution:  East Coast private university, decent policy rep
Undergraduate GPA:  ~3.8
Last 60 hours of Undergraduate GPA (if applicable):  ~ 4.0
Undergraduate Major:  International Affairs and Economics
GRE Quantitative Score:  160 (74th percentile)
GRE Verbal Score:  169 (99th percentile)
GRE AW Score:  5.5 (98th percentile)
Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable):  3
Years of Work Experience:  3, possibly closer to 4 if you count lots of undergrad internships
Describe Relevant Work Experience:  Federal government consulting in analytics, internships in different federal gov. agencies
Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc):  Pretty good- focused on my interest in the field and particular experiences I've had working in data analytics in a federal gov environment. It was way harder than I expected to write these so I spent a lot of time editing.
Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc):  One from a professor I worked on research with in undergrad, two work references from people at different levels who have seen different aspects of my work and growth. One of them sent me their letter so I know it was quite strong, the other two I'm confident were strong as well based on my relationship to them.

Other: Start early-- like so early it's absurd.  Despite thinking about this for over a year, I underestimated how much time I would need to prepare materials (especially tracking down international transcripts from my time studying abroad).  Also if you're thinking of retaking the GRE really evaluate how much a marginal increase is going to help you.  I retook the GRE and actually did marginally worse (the score displayed is my best one) and I regret the things I could have done with that time trying to achieve a marginally better score.  I researched way more programs than I applied to in the end because I applied and got in early to early to Chicago & Georgetown-- I was all prepped for SIPA and that quant resume is a beast.  If you have substantial quant background, definitely start early on that.

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In a sea of MPP, MPA and MIA discussions, I hope this helps future Environmental Policy and Management applications.

Program Applied To: (MPA, MPP, IR, etc.) and Schools Applied To:  MPA-ESP (Columbia SIPA), MEM (Yale FES, Duke Nicholas), MESM (UCSB Bren), MPP (UCSD GPS), MA in Global Environmental Policy (American SIS), MA in Environmental Resource Policy (GWU Trachtenberg), MGP Environmental Policy (Boston Pardee)
Schools Admitted To: Columbia SIPA ($15k), Duke Nicholas ($10k per year), UCSB Bren ($0), UCSD GPS (full-tuition), American SIS ($0), GWU Trachtenberg ($0), Boston Pardee ($22.5k)
Schools Waitlisted From: None
Schools Rejected From: Yale FES


Undergraduate institution: Top 250 school on the West Coast
Undergraduate GPA: 3.18
Undergraduate Major: Environmental Studies
GRE Quantitative Score: 162


GRE Verbal Score: 159
GRE AW Score: 4.0


Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable): 5
Years of Work Experience: 5
Describe Relevant Work Experience: 5 years of irrelevant work in communications, 2 years of relevant volunteer experience in a climate change NGO


Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc): I felt good about my SOPs. I think I crammed everything necessary into mostly 500-600 word essays. I told a story of my passion and interests and how my experience backed those up. I also managed to speak about my irrelevant experiences and created a narrative where they would be helpful in grad school.
Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc): Two of three I feel would have been good -- they came from my current boss at work and supervisor at my NGO, who know me well. The third was from a professor I did well with in undergrad, who I had not spoken to for four years.


Other: I didn't think I would get into Duke, Yale or Columbia. While I was right about Yale, I was surprised by Duke and Columbia -- both providing some form of funding. The programs I was expecting funding from gave me none at all.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

My final update after they all came in! I've ended up going with the LBJ School at UT-Austin.

Program Applied To: (MPA, MPP, IR, etc.) MPP; MPAff.
Schools Applied To:  Harvard (Kennedy, MPP); UC Berkeley (Goldman, MPP); USC (Price, MPP); UT-Austin (LBJ, MPAff); UCLA (Luskin, MPP); George Washington (Trachtenberg, MPP); The New School (Milano, MPP).
Schools Admitted To:  USC (with half-tuition); UT-Austin (negotiated half-tuition); The New School (with 75% tuition); UCLA.
Schools Rejected From:  George Washington (Trachtenberg, MPP); Harvard (Kennedy, MPP); UC Berkeley (Goldman, MPP)
Still Waiting: None.
Undergraduate institution:  The New School.
Undergraduate GPA:  3.96
Undergraduate Major:  Liberal Arts.
GRE Quantitative Score:  148
GRE Verbal Score:  161
GRE AW Score:  4.0
Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable): None, I graduate in May.
Years of Work Experience:  10
Describe Relevant Work Experience:  Worked in state and federal politics and government in Australia from 2006-2013; worked in U.S. union movement 2015-2017.
Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc):  Very strong, I feel this and my LORs really anchored my applications. Good personal narrative regarding my difficult upbringing which I was able to link to the work I've done professionally and my future policy ambitions. I think being able to articulate how the school your applying to is the missing link in the chain between what you've done and what you want to do is the #1 goal of a SOP, and was my top priority.
Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc):  Very strong. Current Australian member of the House of Representatives and former Attorney-General who I worked closely for as an aide for a few years; two professors who I got As with in graduate level classes when I returned to finish my undergrad.
Other: I'm probably not a traditional applicant, which has its advantages and disadvantages. I did poorly when I first went to university back in Australia (Journalism, RMIT) in the mid-2000s, but had a successful career and have crushed my studies since going back to finish my undergrad - mostly doing grad level classes.

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Program Applied To: (MPA, MPP, IR, etc.) MPA and MPP
Schools Applied To:  University of Georgia SPIA, University of Texas LBJ, University of Chicago Harris, Carnegie Mellon Heinz, American University SPA, George Washington Trachtenberg, Georgetown University McCourt
Schools Admitted To: UGA-SPIA (full tuition + stipend), UT-LBJ (2k), UChicago Harris (30k), CMU Heinz (50k), AU SPA (30k), GWU Trachtenberg (40k), Georgetown McCourt (20k)
Schools Rejected From:  none
Still Waiting:  
Undergraduate institution:  University of Mississippi
Undergraduate GPA: 4.0
Last 60 hours of Undergraduate GPA (if applicable): 4.0
Undergraduate Major: Accountancy
GRE Quantitative Score: 160
GRE Verbal Score: 160
GRE AW Score: 4.0
Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable): 0
Years of Work Experience: 2 years cumulative throughout undergrad
Describe Relevant Work Experience: Deloitte Tax Policy Group, Director of Constituent Services for State Senator, Executive Assistant to Executive Director of an Economic Development Office and Chamber of Commerce, Intern at local nonprofit focused on awarding grants to local service organizations
Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc): Strong, Partner at Deloitte Tax Policy Group who is well respected in the policy sphere wrote one, Dean of School of Accountancy who taught me the flagship accounting classes, and the director of the local nonprofit who oversaw me in the professional setting and is also a professor in our public policy department who taught me in the classroom.                                                                                                                                                                                                             Other: Apply to the schools in which you do not think you will get accepted.I applied to so many because I was scared that I would not get in to a single school, and that was a mistake. I did not have success at 
renegotiating scholarships at Harris and McCourt, and I did not try at LBJ, Heinz, SPA, or Trachtenberg. At the point when I could have applied for additional funding from those schools, I already knew that I was not going to attend the majority of them.                                                                                                                                    Final Decision: I will be attending the University of Georgia for the next two years. They gave me the best financial package, have the highest overall ranking (5th), and have the highest public budgeting and finance program (3rd), so I think it will best serve my interests and professional goals. Good luck to everyone!

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On 3/9/2019 at 3:57 AM, madrid said:

Program Applied To: (MPA, MPP, IR, etc.): MPP
Schools Applied 
To: USC Price, UT Austin LBJ, Berkeley Goldman, Georgetown McCourt, GWU Trachtenberg
Schools Admitted To: USC Price (full tuition), Austin LBJ (full tuition + 44k stipend), Georgetown McCourt (25k renewable), GWU Trachtenberg  (22k renewable)
Schools Rejected From:  None 
Still Waiting: 
Undergraduate institution: Swarthmore College
Undergraduate GPA: 3.77/4.0
Undergraduate Major: Sociology/Anthropology & Educational Studies
GRE Quantitative Score: 155
GRE Verbal Score: 169
GRE AW Score: 5.5
Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable): 2.5 years
Years of Work Experience: 2.5 years
Describe Relevant Work Experience: 2 years in child welfare research

Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc): . Writing is a strength of mine so I was fairly confident even though I started about 2 weeks ahead of time. I linked my background (low income Latina) to my work experience (child welfare) to my future goals (ensuring immigrant children, particularly those going through systems, are supported and safe). I had one reviewer, a friend in an MPP program.  I think it turned out great
Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc): I assume at least 2 were very strong and one could be good or very strong as well. Used a prof who I worked with a lot back in the day, my old work supervisor who really believed in me and had just finished a masters in policy, and a higher-ranking colleague at my work who was recently promoted to "director of policy provided each of them my transcripts, resumes, and a "cheat sheet" of schools I was applying to with deadlines.

Other: I was very worried because I've never really taken an econ, stats, or policy/politics course in college, and my quant score was only about 50th something percentile. I also add well to the diversity mix - low income, first gen, immigrant latina

Updating with final stipend info!

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