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Long time lurker, I am greatly indebted to this forum. Here's my journey:

 

Program Applied To: (MPA, MPP, IR, etc.)  MPP & Data Science 
Schools Applied To:  U Chicago (Harris MSCAPP), Carnegie Mellon (Heinz MSPPM DA Track), Georgetown McCourt (DSPP), Harvard (Kennedy MPP), LSE (1st choice: Applied Social Data Science, 2nd choice: MPA)
Schools Admitted To:  Harris($$ out of $$$$$), Heinz ($$$), McCourt ($), LSE (2nd choice- $?) 
Schools Rejected From:  Kennedy, LSE (1st choice)
Still Waiting:  -
Undergraduate institution:  
Large state school
Undergraduate GPA:  3.70 / 4.0
Last 60 hours of Undergraduate GPA (if applicable):  
Undergraduate Majors:  International Development & French
GRE Quantitative Score:  161
GRE Verbal Score:  163
GRE AW Score:  4.5
Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable):  almost 4
Years of Work Experience:  2.5 + 1 year volunteering
Describe Relevant Work Experience:  
2.5 years working at an International Organization in DC in project management. 1 year studying & volunteering in Middle Eastern country


Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc):  I took a lot of time to sit down, write, and edit my SOPs. My goal was to get into a Data Science MPP so I connected any experiences or classes I had from my quantitatively lacking background to a potential career in Data Science applied to Public Policy. I also wrote about my experiences volunteering as a teacher in this Middle Eastern country to emphasize how well-equipped I might be to properly approach and understand educational policy issues in that region. I wrote about a statistics class I took in undergrad in which we used R as well as a Computer Science class where we focused on formula writing in Excel and Access. I completed the Data Scientist with Python certificate with DataCamp Online to prove my seriousness about a programming-heavy master program.

I got started on the SOPs early and spent something around 3 or 4 months on them, which is way more than necessary - I felt I had to write to perfect essays to compensate for my lack of quantitative courses /experience as well as a GRE quant that wouldn't necessarily blow the socks off the admissions committee. I had about 3 friends who are in a similar line of work or had been admitted to some of these programs to review my SOPs and got useful feedback. In the end mostly, I just needed their confirmation that what I was writing was sound and not out of left field, which was the case. 


Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc):  Reached out to two professors, and my supervisor and a colleague from my job. One professor is well-known in the political science field and could write to my analytical thinking/writing abilities (more for the policy side of the program), my other professor was my international development and statistics professor who I knew well on a personal level (I had him write to the Data Science side of things as I had learned R in his class). My supervisor had served as a Minister in her home country and I believe made a strong case for me, and I was able to see the final letter from my colleague who is a mid-career economist, in which she made a strong case for my character and professional competency. I had been discussing these letter with my professors since my last year of undergrad and had planned the professional letters before I quit my job to go abroad and volunteer, and I believe they were all solid letters based on my admission results. 


Other: In the end I picked Harris over Heinz despite getting a better offer from the latter. The decision came down to my preference for the city of Chicago, the overall prestige of U Chicago as an institution, and my perception of Harris as a better fit. Heinz really gave me a run for my money with their scholarship offer and their reputation for analytics, but I still went for the (arguably) more multidisciplinary Harris. These Data Science/Public Policy programs are newer and aren't as talked about on this forum, so I feel I owe it to the community to post my results for posterity. For me, I wanted to undertake a program such as the CAPP for I saw more abundant job prospects, higher salaries, and as a way to distinguish myself as a young professional and have desired skills which would allow me to put up with less of the grunt work dumped on young professionals and those with more generalist degrees. Definitely do negotiate your aid as well - Heinz increased my aid offer 10% and Harris increased their offer by $5k - but also keep your expectations in check about a scholarship increase. I did not negotiate with Georgetown for after some conversations with students and faculty, I felt McCourt wasn't right for me, and DC is quite expensive. 

I stressed my quant GRE score a lot and considered retaking the test many times. However based on my experience and from the results on this thread, if you can tell a good story, it seems 160Q is acceptable and you won't miss out on big money. Of course take my word with a grain of salt. I think I was able to convey a unique story given my professional experience (from a big IO in DC to small NGOs in the Middle East) and I believe that made the difference with the ADCOMs. I'll be taking on some debt with this degree, but I feel fairly confident given Harris' and Heinz's career outcome reports' salaries that I should be able to pay my loans off in a few years or less. Applying for grad school has been a multi-year process with LORs, taking the GRE, taking night classes to fill perceived gaps in my quant background (I recommend checking out Grad School USA for this), and finally actually completing the application, and this has been one of the most difficult undertakings of my life so far. I'm very happy with where everything has led me and I have no regrets. 

 

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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

Hugely indebted to this forum and hope this helps. Anyway here goes:

 

Program Applied To:  MPP
Schools Applied To:  Harvard Kennedy (MPP), WWS (MPA), Yale Jackson (MGA), Duke Sanford (MPP), Lee Kuan Yew (MPP)
Schools Admitted To:  Harvard Kennedy (MPP), Duke Sanford ($$$)
Schools Rejected From:  WWS, Jackson, Lee Kuan Yew
Undergraduate institution:  Engineering institution from India
GPA:  6.38/10 with 3 F grades
Undergraduate Major:  Mechanical Engineering
GRE Quantitative Score:  166
GRE Verbal Score:  157
GRE AW Score:  4.0
Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable): 8  
Years of Work Experience: about 4 
Describe Relevant Work Experience: Worked two years in engineering sector. After that, shifted to public policy research at a think tank for 2.5 years and did a fellowship in a rural area for 1 year.
Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc):  No idea how good it was but I did keep it very focussed. Wrote about one area I found interesting, how I could solve problems in that area and how the courses in the school can help me solve these problems.
Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc):  Don't know, never read any. Did have two supervisors and a senior colleague write them.
Other: 

  • I had a terrible GPA and I knew that it might be a concern for many schools. So I started prepping to mitigate that weakness in my application. I studied really hard for the GRE and can’t recommend Magoosh enough. At the same time, I also took classes through UCLA Extension. I spent a lot of time on Stats (A+) and Micro and Macro economics (both As). They were time consuming and expensive but I believe they paid off. I believe it showed that I could handle the academic rigour of graduate school and that I was dedicated enough to be part of academics again. I never addressed my low GPA or why I took the courses anywhere in my essay. I felt that space was limited and the adcom would maybe know why I did something.
  • I spent a good amount of time on my essays and kept them very focussed. All essays were modelled around my HKS and WWS essays as they were the first due. I followed all advise on the HKS blogpost to the T. I thought it was very useful to write a short, coherent essay and I believe it helped.
  • My advise is do not rush. If you feel that something about your application was weak (maybe work ex, GPA, GRE etc), try to address it even if it ends being slightly expensive or time consuming because in the end, that might be the difference between being accepted or not. Many people urged me to apply after 2 years but I am glad I waited an extra year to serve in a rural area as I feel that too helped bolster my application. Further, I got a lot of advise on this forum regarding online courses— in fact, one person did tell me bluntly that with my GPA, I was not at all competitive for any top school unless I addressed it. I did do that with extension courses and would urge others also to invest a good amount of time to send in a good application. I would rather not send in a haphazard application hoping to get lucky. If I was in anyone else shows, I would wait and send in a strong application the next year.

 

Good luck to all :) 

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*UPDATED*

Program Applied To: MPP, MPAff (LBJ), MIA (UCSD), MSc (LSE)
Schools Applied To: UMichigan (Ford), UChicago (Harris), UT Austin (LBJ), Georgetown (McCourt), USC (Price), UCLA (Luskin), GWU (Trachtenberg), UCSD (GPS)
Schools Admitted To: UChicago Harris (70%), UMichigan Ford (40%), USC Price (100%), Georgetown (18%), UCSD (100% + Health Insurance), UT Austin LBJ (75%), UCLA Luskin (30%), GWU ($0), LSE ($0)
Undergraduate GPA:  3.73 
Last 60 hours of Undergraduate GPA (if applicable):  3.62 
Undergraduate Major:  Public Policy BA 
GRE Quantitative Score:  157
GRE Verbal Score:  161
GRE AW Score: 5.5 
Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable): 0 (graduating in May!)
Years of Work Experience:  0  
Describe Relevant Work Experience:  3.5 years of research experience specializing in how political leaders use Twitter -- I've been a co-author on three publications, and got a first-authorship comparing the tweets of Trump, Modi, Wilders, and Farage in a peer-reviewed journal last year. Two four month internships with the Mayor of a major city, freshman summer and junior summer, in addition to a policy internship at that city's Regional Chamber of Commerce completed sophomore summer. 

Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc):  I sought to talk about what my BA program in Public Policy was missing, primarily as it pertained to quantitative analytical skills. I sought to also discuss my academic curriculum and my research to an extent, and how the interests motivating those two have led me to pursue an MPP, as I seek to expand my skillset. Additionally, in some of my statements, I included information regarding an undergraduate foreign policy think tank that I've led at Michigan, which involved me teaching students how to do policy research, work with the Ford School on partnerships, and bringing in noted speakers.
Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc):  I had four letters of recommendation. The first was from my research advisor, who oversaw the four publications (including the first-authorship) I was part of, and for whom I've worked since October of my freshman year. The second was a professor, with whom I took a class both first semester freshman year, and second semester junior year (this second class was mixed with a lot of Master's/PhD students and focused on urban development in South Asia). The third was an intern advisor from the Mayor's Office (both times), who I worked exclusively for during the second go-around on policy issues. The fourth was a professor whose class I took last year in the PP curriculum. I think the strength of the first three were that they've all seen me grow throughout my undergraduate years, given the timespans that I interacted with them in. 
Other: I have chosen to attend the Harris School at the University of Chicago. Initially, they had offered me around 40% of tuition in terms of funding, but I was able to negotiate it to 70% of tuition using my other offers as leverage. I'm still stunned, frankly, by  the size of the generous funding packages I was offered at some of these institutions, especially since I'm coming straight out of undergrad. Best of luck to all of you! This forum was really helpful to me this past year.

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On 3/18/2019 at 11:00 AM, twenty-seven said:

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) WWS (accepted off the waitlist-166K)
Schools Wait listed From: Princeton, then I was offered admission. 
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. I cannot stress enough how important it is for multiple people to see your essays so that you can continuously add value to them. 
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. 

 

Edited my post given that I got accepted off the waitlist from Princeton

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi all, is there anyone who has been admitted to SIPA's MPA EPM and declined the offer or is planning to do so? I am on wait-list and cant wait to get in. Thanks!

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Program Applied To: MDP, MGA, MA
Schools Applied To: Emory University, Fordham University, University of Notre Dame, American University 
Schools Admitted To: 
Emory ($), American ($$), Notre Dame (waitlist)
Schools Rejected From: Fordham
Still Waiting: none 
Undergraduate institution: medium sized urban state university 
Undergraduate GPA: 2.97 
Last 60 hours of Undergraduate GPA (if applicable):  
Undergraduate Major: 
International Relations and Affairs
GRE Quantitative Score: 150
GRE Verbal Score: 162
GRE AW Score: 4.5
Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable): 3 years 
Years of Work Experience: 
3 years
Describe Relevant Work Experience: Peace Corps Volunteer, Study Abroad Advisor at University
Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc): I think my writing is a strong point and I’d like to think that this was reflected in my SOP.  I mostly described by experiences in Peace Corps and how it’ll hopefully affect the direction I take in grad school.   
Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc): 
Definitely a strong point.  Department Chair of PSC from my undergrad institution, Country Director from Peace Corps and my Program Manager from Peace Corps.  
Other: 
Congrats to everyone who got accepted and don’t hold your head if you didn’t, this was my second time around applying.  

 

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Program Applied To: MPA, MPP, MALD

Schools Applied To:  Princeton (WWS MPA), Harvard (Kennedy MPP), Columbia (SIPA MPA), Tufts (Fletcher MALD), UChicago (Harris MPP)

Schools Admitted To: HKS, SIPA ($$$), Fletcher ($$), Harris ($)

Schools Rejected From: WWS (didn’t get off the waitlist)  

Still Waiting:

Undergraduate institution: Top 5 LAC

Undergraduate GPA: 3.9

Last 60 hours of Undergraduate GPA (if applicable):

Undergraduate Major: International Relations and minor in French

GRE Quantitative Score: 160

GRE Verbal Score: 162

GRE AW Score: 5.5

Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable): 2

Years of Work Experience: 2

Describe Relevant Work Experience: Summer internships during college at an embassy, a UN agency, and international development NGO. Post-grad (in my home country) internship at a human rights INGO and then 1 year at a youth leadership/development organization.

Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc): Struggled with these in the beginning but the statements eventually came together in a cohesive and compelling manner. Generally the following structure: personal background, academic background, professional background, why this university/program/degree, what skills/experiences I am seeking to develop, and future career goals.

Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc): 2 from professors/academic supervisors who know me and my academic/professional goals well and 1 from my manager at the human rights INGO. Didn’t read any but I assume they were very strong.

Other: SIPA was always my first choice due to the program, faculty, location, career prospects, etc and their generous financial aid made my decision easy. Will be pursuing an MPA with a concentration in Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy & specialization in International Conflict Resolution. Excited for this next step in my personal, academic, and professional journey!

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hopefully this posts helps out future applicants! 

Program Applied To: MPA

Schools Applied To:  Princeton (WWS MPA), Harvard (Kennedy MPA/ID), UChicago (Harris MPP), SAIS MA IDEV

Schools Admitted To: WWS (full tuition + partial stipend), HKS (full tuition + outside stipend), Harris (10k), SAIS (38k)

Schools Rejected From: N/A

Undergraduate institution: Ivy

Undergraduate GPA:  3.6 -3.7

Last 60 hours of Undergraduate GPA (if applicable):

Undergraduate Major: Economics

GRE Quantitative Score: 164

GRE Verbal Score: 166

GRE AW Score: 6

Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable): 

Years of Work Experience: 5

Describe Relevant Work Experience: 3 year domestic work experience in consulting, 2 year international grassroots level development work. several internships during college abroad. 

Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc): This is key! My biggest advise to future applicants is to take time to craft a compelling story. Have a story arch, tying together your background, work experience, reason for applying to grad school, and future career aspirations. The HKS blog has some useful tips (e.g. front load your thesis, use clear language). It's better to have a narrower interest than broad. Try to channel the aspirations of the people/sector/region you are passionate about - it makes your essay bigger than your own story. Also, start brainstorming a couple of month before the deadline. If you are applying to multiple schools, compare the prompts of each program and see how many "unique" essays you need to write. For the personal/diversity essay, try to focus on one aspect of who you are because the word limit is pretty harsh. For the memo, there are plenty of resources online. I didn't use any foot notes, and wrote in memo form. It's much better to write on a familiar topic than an impressive one. 

Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc): 1 current supervisor, 1 past supervisor, 1 professor. It's important to start this process several month before the deadline too! I found it very useful to write a "talking points" documents to each of my recommenders. I suggested a key theme for each person (slightly different for each, but complementary), and wrote several personal characteristics and provided supporting examples. This is a good opportunity to cover for your weakness. For example, I didn't take many math courses in college, so I noted to my recommenders to highlight my analytical skills (and provided examples).  Start with an intro email asking if they would write you a compelling letter. then follow up with your information (talking points, your essay, deadlines etc. try to not overwhelm them with too much info). I don't know how the forms compare across schools, but I heard from my recommenders that HKS , Harris, WWS were pretty similar. 

Other: Grad school application process is heart-wrenchingly stressful. My biggest advice: believe in yourself and go for it. I didn't think I would be competitive for the ID program (my scores and GPA are average at best), and I didn't feel that my profile was extraordinary enough to get into WWS. But I believed in my story. I tried my best to share my experiences, the voices of those who I want to support, and why going to school was going to help me help them. So, go for it! Apply to HKS, WWS if those are your dream. These elite institutions are not made for just elite people. You belong there too. 

Decision:  I had a disappointing set of interactions with Harris admissions. SAIS was great in doing outreach, asking 2 profs and 1 student to call me (btw, no funding to attend open house). WWS made me feel very special and at home (they offered to pay for your ticket up to 600 to attend the open house, but only from/to the same destination). HKS ID ultimately was the best fit for me (stingy with funding for open house in many ways vs WWS..). I personally felt the ID program gave me the right level of rigor, environment, and international focus. While I loved the other admitted students at WWS, I felt that HKS provided more growth opportunities. 

In case future applicants are wondering - WWS sent a congrats email 2 days before the official announcement, HKS sent an "there's an update to your application..." email where you could click and see the decision in the portal. For both, the financial aid came a bit later (same day/next). 

Good luck!

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