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Hi all,

I was recently accepted to Columbia SIPA's MPA program for the fall, and would love some input. It was the school I was most excited about in my application process (wanted to stay in NYC and find a good MPA program). I am interested primarily in domestic social policy. I know that SIPA has more of an international affairs rep and half the students are international, but figured this was not reason to avoid it given I thought it was a prestigious and highly regarded school. Any thoughts on whether concentrating on social/urban policy is a good idea at SIPA and/or on its quality in general? I am very lucky to be able to afford the school without going into debt. 

I recently spoke to someone who surprised me by saying SIPA could be a poor choice and is a cash cow, with a large acceptance rate and students who are not cared for. It seemed like a limited perspective that was learned mostly from one person's input. I would love to hear peoples' thoughts on this. Thank you to everyone who can share. 

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Following the topic, as I face a very similar dilemma wrt to MPA in Social & Urban Policy concentration from SIPA. I had a chat with a recent alum and in her words, "Some of the faculty is just fantastic". I am waiting for a few more results to pan out favorably, but right now SIPA is probably at the top of the list.

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On 3/15/2019 at 4:33 PM, AnnaLB said:

Hi all,

I was recently accepted to Columbia SIPA's MPA program for the fall, and would love some input. It was the school I was most excited about in my application process (wanted to stay in NYC and find a good MPA program). I am interested primarily in domestic social policy. I know that SIPA has more of an international affairs rep and half the students are international, but figured this was not reason to avoid it given I thought it was a prestigious and highly regarded school. Any thoughts on whether concentrating on social/urban policy is a good idea at SIPA and/or on its quality in general? I am very lucky to be able to afford the school without going into debt. 

I recently spoke to someone who surprised me by saying SIPA could be a poor choice and is a cash cow, with a large acceptance rate and students who are not cared for. It seemed like a limited perspective that was learned mostly from one person's input. I would love to hear peoples' thoughts on this. Thank you to everyone who can share. 

I too was recently accepted to SIPA. I have heard similar things unfortunately. My greatest reservation with SIPA is that we end up paying for simply the name and not a stellar education. My experience with them over the phone has been pretty negative so far but I'm hoping to gain some more insight on the campus visit next month. 

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Thanks for the replies and shared interest. I agree @Sabrina246, I have recently heard from an alum that she did not enjoy the majority of her classes. She said there are tons of opportunities for connections and networking, though, which partially comes with NYC. She said that the branding of Columbia is very valuable (this we know), so that is a lot of what you're paying for, which is important but frustrating because I want the program to match the reputation, but I'm not sure the educational experience does. Then again, another alum said that he really loved the professors and felt respected by all and had an overall good experience. 

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Hi Anna, 

First of all congratulations on being accepted to SIPA. I am currently a first year MPA student at SIPA finishing up my second semester. I will try my best to give you a well rounded answer to your questions based upon a consensus of those that I have talked to in my class and my own personal opinion. 

"I know that SIPA has more of an international affairs rep and half the students are international, but figured this was not reason to avoid it given I thought it was a prestigious and highly regarded school."

SIPA is a prestigious and highly regarded school. Their alumni network is unmatched and their everywhere. Now, that is a reason in itself to go, although its a gamble if you do not have full funding because if you go to SIPA for that reason, there is the chance you may be disappointed. But there is an equal chance that you will love it. 

I chose to go to SIPA for the customizability of my degree and for the student body. The one thing I can say about SIPA is that the classes are very interesting and can be very specific. With that said, one of my biggest qualms about the program are its core courses. While they look great on paper, they tend to be a hassle. To be honest, the only class that I have found to be of significant interest was my statistics course. Thats not to say that you wont enjoy them; this is my person opinion. 

Secondly, the student body is amazing. I love the fact that there are so many people from all over the world studying together under one roof. The people who go to SIPA are come from a variety of backgrounds and have so many experiences. These people become your best friends and peers for life. I would argue that this is reason alone to go to SIPA.

"Any thoughts on whether concentrating on social/urban policy is a good idea at SIPA and/or on its quality in general?"

I cannot comment on this. I am not concentrating in social and urban policy. However, there are a lot of great events that social and urban policy concentrators can attend. They tend to be popular. I have organized a few myself.

"I recently spoke to someone who surprised me by saying SIPA could be a poor choice and is a cash cow, with a large acceptance rate and students who are not cared for. It seemed like a limited perspective that was learned mostly from one person's input."

I am not going to lie, this is a common feeling on campus. I would argue that it is not a limited perspective. However, I do not have any evidence to prove it to be true.

Is it a poor choice of a school? That really depends on what you are looking for. For me, I ate the debt because I did not have any former debt going into my first year and I thought the benefits of going to SIPA outweighed the negative. 

Is it a cash cow? People feel like it because SIPA does not seem to give out many scholarships (seem being the key word). Many people who receive scholarships tend to keep it to themselves, even when asked. I would compare it to asking someone what their salary is. 

Are SIPA students not cared for? I would disagree. SIPA does care about their students although you would not know it by looking at the facilities and amenities. (Definitely come look at the school if you are able to before you make a final decision)

I have recently heard from an alum that she did not enjoy the majority of her classes. She said there are tons of opportunities for connections and networking, though, which partially comes with NYC. She said that the branding of Columbia is very valuable (this we know), so that is a lot of what you're paying for, which is important but frustrating because I want the program to match the reputation, but I'm not sure the educational experience does. Then again, another alum said that he really loved the professors and felt respected by all and had an overall good experience. 

Ultimately, you will get out what you put into SIPA. Many people come for different reasons and many people go away happy and disappointed. The networking is great, the friends are great, the core courses are ehh, but the other courses are interesting. Ulitimately, I am happy I chose to go to the school and would do it again. 

I hope this helps. Anyone in this thread can feel free to message me with anymore questions. 

Edited by Trey M
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On 3/19/2019 at 10:21 PM, Trey M said:

Hi Anna, 

First of all congratulations on being accepted to SIPA. I am currently a first year MPA student at SIPA finishing up my second semester. I will try my best to give you a well rounded answer to your questions based upon a consensus of those that I have talked to in my class and my own personal opinion. 

"I know that SIPA has more of an international affairs rep and half the students are international, but figured this was not reason to avoid it given I thought it was a prestigious and highly regarded school."

SIPA is a prestigious and highly regarded school. Their alumni network is unmatched and their everywhere. Now, that is a reason in itself to go, although its a gamble if you do not have full funding because if you go to SIPA for that reason, there is the chance you may be disappointed. But there is an equal chance that you will love it. 

I chose to go to SIPA for the customizability of my degree and for the student body. The one thing I can say about SIPA is that the classes are very interesting and can be very specific. With that said, one of my biggest qualms about the program are its core courses. While they look great on paper, they tend to be a hassle. To be honest, the only class that I have found to be of significant interest was my statistics course. Thats not to say that you wont enjoy them; this is my person opinion. 

Secondly, the student body is amazing. I love the fact that there are so many people from all over the world studying together under one roof. The people who go to SIPA are come from a variety of backgrounds and have so many experiences. These people become your best friends and peers for life. I would argue that this is reason alone to go to SIPA.

"Any thoughts on whether concentrating on social/urban policy is a good idea at SIPA and/or on its quality in general?"

I cannot comment on this. I am not concentrating in social and urban policy. However, there are a lot of great events that social and urban policy concentrators can attend. They tend to be popular. I have organized a few myself.

"I recently spoke to someone who surprised me by saying SIPA could be a poor choice and is a cash cow, with a large acceptance rate and students who are not cared for. It seemed like a limited perspective that was learned mostly from one person's input."

I am not going to lie, this is a common feeling on campus. I would argue that it is not a limited perspective. However, I do not have any evidence to prove it to be true.

Is it a poor choice of a school? That really depends on what you are looking for. For me, I ate the debt because I did not have any former debt going into my first year and I thought the benefits of going to SIPA outweighed the negative. 

Is it a cash cow? People feel like it because SIPA does not seem to give out many scholarships (seem being the key word). Many people who receive scholarships tend to keep it to themselves, even when asked. I would compare it to asking someone what their salary is. 

Are SIPA students not cared for? I would disagree. SIPA does care about their students although you would not know it by looking at the facilities and amenities. (Definitely come look at the school if you are able to before you make a final decision)

I have recently heard from an alum that she did not enjoy the majority of her classes. She said there are tons of opportunities for connections and networking, though, which partially comes with NYC. She said that the branding of Columbia is very valuable (this we know), so that is a lot of what you're paying for, which is important but frustrating because I want the program to match the reputation, but I'm not sure the educational experience does. Then again, another alum said that he really loved the professors and felt respected by all and had an overall good experience. 

Ultimately, you will get out what you put into SIPA. Many people come for different reasons and many people go away happy and disappointed. The networking is great, the friends are great, the core courses are ehh, but the other courses are interesting. Ulitimately, I am happy I chose to go to the school and would do it again. 

I hope this helps. Anyone in this thread can feel free to message me with anymore questions. 

Hi Trey,

Thank you so much for all that valuable input. It's so great to hear from someone there and experiencing it right now. Your response fit with what I am expecting and thinking: what I put into it, I will get out of it. I am thrilled to hear that you have met a lot of great, interesting people, which is important to me, that the alumni network is big, and that the school is highly regarded. 

My fear with the cash cow issue is not so much that it is expensive/does not offer enough scholarships (I know that, and it's a bummer) but that they are charging a fortune and not giving a quality education in return. While the classes may not all be a joy, it seems like most people think you are receiving a quality education (and its up to you to make the most of it). I am likely going to attend accepted students day in April too, which will help, but I am very likely going to be attending in the fall! Thanks so much and I may take you up on your offer to message you with more questions. 

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On 3/21/2019 at 7:12 PM, AnnaLB said:

Hi Trey,

Thank you so much for all that valuable input. It's so great to hear from someone there and experiencing it right now. Your response fit with what I am expecting and thinking: what I put into it, I will get out of it. I am thrilled to hear that you have met a lot of great, interesting people, which is important to me, that the alumni network is big, and that the school is highly regarded. 

My fear with the cash cow issue is not so much that it is expensive/does not offer enough scholarships (I know that, and it's a bummer) but that they are charging a fortune and not giving a quality education in return. While the classes may not all be a joy, it seems like most people think you are receiving a quality education (and its up to you to make the most of it). I am likely going to attend accepted students day in April too, which will help, but I am very likely going to be attending in the fall! Thanks so much and I may take you up on your offer to message you with more questions. 

Hi Anna

It would be great if you could share some concentration specific insight from the Accepted Students' Day. It is fair to say, so far the efforts to reach out to the faculty have been rather futile.

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I’m also considering SIPA and I would be concentrating in Urban and Social Policy as well! I have similar concerns about the international focus since I’m mostly interested in domestic policy,  but that fear has been kind of relieved since the concentration classes seem interesting enough. I find the curriculum appealing because you can take so many electives along with both the concentration and specialization, which seems to maximize the “fun” part of the degree. But what Trey said above about the core classes is a little unfortunate.

I’m choosing between SIPA and Berkeley’s Goldman school, which has a lot of great social policy-focused faculty so I had been leaning toward it for a while. But at times I feel like I might prefer working in NYC to the Bay Area.

Also, I have similar concerns about SIPA’s size. Berkeley has a smaller cohort and I’m under the impression that they might “care about” their students more than SIPA. Columbia’s reputation is definitely attractive though.

It’s such a hard decision!! 

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I've heard similar complaints about Columbia's MFA program: namely, that it's an expensive program that's easy to get into and rarely awards funding. That said, an MFA is near-useless in the job market, and I don't know how the MPA compares in that regard.

I would recommend looking at the FAFSA student loan repayment calculator (or this calculator if you prefer). $100k+ in debt is hard to conceptualize, which is why this tool is so valuable. It allows you to estimate your average monthly payments and how much you'll pay in interest. Compare that to what you expect to make post-graduation. Do those numbers add up? Does the cost seem fair for the benefits you get?

Frankly, I wouldn't pay a mortgage just to have the name "Columbia" on my resume, but of course, I'm in a very different field.

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Hi all,

I visited a Columbia class last week - Non-profit management and administration - and had a wonderful experience. The professor was engaging, funny, and seemed to know his students well. The class was fairly small, and everyone was engaged and participated in the conversation. The topic of the day - financial leadership and management and accountability - wasn't the most fascinating but he turned it into a great class. I also just got a good vibe on the campus. I'm planning to accept. Just sharing in case this info is useful. 

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  • 1 year later...
On 3/19/2019 at 10:21 PM, Trey M said:

Hi Anna, 

First of all congratulations on being accepted to SIPA. I am currently a first year MPA student at SIPA finishing up my second semester. I will try my best to give you a well rounded answer to your questions based upon a consensus of those that I have talked to in my class and my own personal opinion. 

"I know that SIPA has more of an international affairs rep and half the students are international, but figured this was not reason to avoid it given I thought it was a prestigious and highly regarded school."

SIPA is a prestigious and highly regarded school. Their alumni network is unmatched and their everywhere. Now, that is a reason in itself to go, although its a gamble if you do not have full funding because if you go to SIPA for that reason, there is the chance you may be disappointed. But there is an equal chance that you will love it. 

I chose to go to SIPA for the customizability of my degree and for the student body. The one thing I can say about SIPA is that the classes are very interesting and can be very specific. With that said, one of my biggest qualms about the program are its core courses. While they look great on paper, they tend to be a hassle. To be honest, the only class that I have found to be of significant interest was my statistics course. Thats not to say that you wont enjoy them; this is my person opinion. 

Secondly, the student body is amazing. I love the fact that there are so many people from all over the world studying together under one roof. The people who go to SIPA are come from a variety of backgrounds and have so many experiences. These people become your best friends and peers for life. I would argue that this is reason alone to go to SIPA.

"Any thoughts on whether concentrating on social/urban policy is a good idea at SIPA and/or on its quality in general?"

I cannot comment on this. I am not concentrating in social and urban policy. However, there are a lot of great events that social and urban policy concentrators can attend. They tend to be popular. I have organized a few myself.

"I recently spoke to someone who surprised me by saying SIPA could be a poor choice and is a cash cow, with a large acceptance rate and students who are not cared for. It seemed like a limited perspective that was learned mostly from one person's input."

I am not going to lie, this is a common feeling on campus. I would argue that it is not a limited perspective. However, I do not have any evidence to prove it to be true.

Is it a poor choice of a school? That really depends on what you are looking for. For me, I ate the debt because I did not have any former debt going into my first year and I thought the benefits of going to SIPA outweighed the negative. 

Is it a cash cow? People feel like it because SIPA does not seem to give out many scholarships (seem being the key word). Many people who receive scholarships tend to keep it to themselves, even when asked. I would compare it to asking someone what their salary is. 

Are SIPA students not cared for? I would disagree. SIPA does care about their students although you would not know it by looking at the facilities and amenities. (Definitely come look at the school if you are able to before you make a final decision)

I have recently heard from an alum that she did not enjoy the majority of her classes. She said there are tons of opportunities for connections and networking, though, which partially comes with NYC. She said that the branding of Columbia is very valuable (this we know), so that is a lot of what you're paying for, which is important but frustrating because I want the program to match the reputation, but I'm not sure the educational experience does. Then again, another alum said that he really loved the professors and felt respected by all and had an overall good experience. 

Ultimately, you will get out what you put into SIPA. Many people come for different reasons and many people go away happy and disappointed. The networking is great, the friends are great, the core courses are ehh, but the other courses are interesting. Ulitimately, I am happy I chose to go to the school and would do it again. 

I hope this helps. Anyone in this thread can feel free to message me with anymore questions. 

Hello Trey,

Has you perspective changed a little over a year now? I got into SIPA and I want to build career in UN. But I am also waiting to hear from HKS. Matt from HKS made a very compelling argument on why HKS over any other uni even for someone aspiring to got to UN, and I am utterly confused. (I haven't heard from HKS yet - but actively trying to gather stats to make a sound decision- if it comes to that). 

Appreciate your help in advance.

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  • 1 month later...

Hi Nysha,

Did u decide on which school? I am also interested in pursuing MPA and later work for UN. I would like to know the career perspectives in UN after HKS. I thought SIPA being in NYC would help the UN plans better than HKS.

Thanks in advance.

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