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

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On 4/6/2017 at 2:04 PM, yoh_rrg said:

Program: public policy + analysis

Schools Applying To:  Chicago Harris (MSCAPP) and Carnegie Mellon Heinz (MSPPM, data analytics track)

Interests: education policy & issues in economic development, particularly in rural areas

Undergrad Institution: top public state university (also completed an MS in ed at a top program)

Undergraduate GPA: 3.76 (master's GPA was 3.94)

Undergraduate Major: History

GRE: 163V (92%), 168Q (95%)

Quantitative Courses: Microeconomics my freshman year of college (B-) -- this is a big worry of mine since the only quant course I took was also the lowest grade I earned in college....

Years of Work Experience: 4

Age: 26

Languages: English, French (intermediate)

Work Experience: AmeriCorps, Teach For America, and Fulbright ETA; taught math and computer science (so, even though I was totally unqualified to teach any of this, I now have a LOT of quant experience)

LORs:  one from my former manager at TFA, one from my thesis advisor from my master's degree

SOPs: Wanting to discuss how I got interested in CS and how I want to actually study it so I can use it to study/influence policy changes; I've always been interested in public policy, but after self-studying and teaching CS I really want to incorporate it into a policy program

Concerns: I'm definitely worried about not having a lot of undergrad quant experience but I feel like having taught math/CS since then kind of makes up for it; I also recognize that education is not the most valued or respected field, but I'm really ready to move out of the classroom. I don't want these schools to see me as "just a teacher" since I don't have any real policy experience I have a number of concerns about my competitiveness. 

I'd really appreciate feedback about whether a former teacher has the right qualifications for these two particular programs (as well as any others you'd recommend)!! If I ought to go back and take a stats or another economics course, I'd definitely do that too!

I had very similar concerns as you- I'm actually a 2012 TFA corpsmember who has spent the last five years in the classroom with only one summer of work in education policy. This year, I was accepted to HKS, Harris (with pretty good funding), and GSPP.

I don't think you need to worry about quant. They aren't really interested in how much math you already know. They just need to feel confident that you will be able to learn the skills and do the coursework. Your GRE score shows that you'll be able to handle it. 

I have the impression that policy schools are interested in building a portfolio of new admits- they want some people with experience in every policy realm, including education. I really don't think that your experience in education will hurt you- it didn't hurt me!

Certainly, I'm no expert, but I have to think that you are an attractive application to pretty much any public policy program :)

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Hi all! ^_^ I have posted to this thread before, but I am reposting with some updated information in hopes of some (updated) advice.

Age: 25

Program: MPA/MPP - focusing on education and social policy

School Applying to: UCLA (dream school), Evans School at Washington U (interested in social policy concentration), others

Undergrad Institution: a popular CSU campus 

Undergrad GPA: Magna cum Laude (~3.8); member of Phi Beta Kappa upon graduation

Degree: BA in Human Development, French & Francophone Studies minor 

GRE: not yet taken! (still!)

Languages: English & 8 years of French education; took 1 semester of Spanish this past semester - trying to use it more at work 

Quant Experience: retook Stats for an A (undergrad received a C); A in intro accounting (if that counts); will take micro and calculus this year

Work Experience: 

about 4 years now at my afterschool program/social service nonprofit:

-1 year as afterschool program staff - part time 

-1 year auditing documents - part time 

-1 year auditing documents/doing database administration/compiling reports - part time 

-1 year administrative work (office management and catch-all administrative assistance) - full time

elsewhere:

-1 year research assistance doing lit reviews for projects involving child welfare and education system; used French language skills

-1 year one-on-one French tutoring
-1 year volunteering at afterschool program 

-other minor volunteering (work assistance nonprofit, Special Olympics) and sporadic tutoring during my time at main nonprofit (assisting our tutoring department) 

other:

-I have just started doing social work (healthcare) visits and waiting to see how I like it! Not 100% applicable to field but I have an in with a family friend.


LORs:

-Professor I did research with has expressed she will write me a strong letter and has said I have been one of her strongest students.
-Considering one other professor

-Considering former bosses and current boss at current job - awkward to think about as I will have to quit !


Personal Statement: I've been thinking a lot lately about my personal narrative as it can apply to my applications. Education has been a big theme in my family background, as my family did not have access to free public secondary education in their youth in fascist Portugal and were economically disadvantaged. My mother was fortunate enough to receive scholarship from her aunt who lived in the United States and so was able to attend high school. This greatly affected her life in a positive way by way of personal development and economic opportunity. Subsequently she has greatly pushed the importance of education with my sister and I. I have been very passionate about social services, education, social inequity and honestly would not be satisfied with my life if I did not pursue a career that in some way would have a positive impact on society. I believe it would benefit me to further develop these thoughts and weave them into my personal statement.

 

Notes:

1) Once I take Calc, should I go for broke and take regular Calc or will Calc for Bio/Business/Social Science work?  - these two are offered at my community college.

2) Any weaknesses in my list? Aside from no GRE and no Econ/Calc.

3) Do you think a GRE class is a waste of time/money? I'm mostly concerned with the types of math.

 

Thank you in advance to anyone willing to comment! ^_^

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Hey everyone! Long time lurker here and I tremendously appreciate everything I have learned from so many of you! 

If anyone is willing to provide some feedback on my profile for the upcoming fall applications cycle I would be most grateful!

Institution/Program applying to: HKS -MC/MPA, WWS- MPA, Columbia –MEPM/MPA, Georgetown-MPM

Interests: Economic Policy, Behavioral Economics, State Government fiscal and budgetary policy/efficiency, and International capital markets regulation/central banking

Undergrad Institution:  State school not particularly well known for anything  
Undergraduate Major: B.S. in General Management - graduated in 2003

Undergraduate GPA: 2.98 

Undergrad Quantitative CoursesQuantitative Methods, Statistics, Principles of Macroeconomics, Principles of Microeconomics, Managerial Economics

Graduate Institution: University of London

Graduate Degree: MSc in Finance and Economic Policy - graduated in 2015

Graduate GPA: 3.75

Graduate Courses: Banking Regulation and Resolution of Banking Crises, Public Financial Management: Revenue, Macroeconomic Policy and Financial Markets, Microeconomic Principles and Policy, Bank Financial Management, Banking and Capital Markets, Corporate Finance, The International Monetary Fund and Economic Policy

 GRE:  167V (98%), 151Q (43%). 5.5 AWA (98%) Age: 36

Years of Work Experience:  14 with the last 9 as a VP and Principal in a boutique Investment banking firm. Our typical deal size ranges between $5 and $25 million. I have profit and loss responsibility and typically handle the interaction with the buyers (Usually lower middle market PE Funds/Family Offices/ and sometimes Corporate strategics).

Elected official public service – Ran a bid for State Senate in 2016, but did not win. Captured 23% of the vote in a four way primary. Carried two of the three counties in my district.

Board of Directors Experience: Gubernatorial appointee to a state wide board of directors (10 are appointed and 5 are ex-oficio members) dealing with Higher education assistance – We administer proprietary student loans and scholarships as well as service other state and federal student loans. I serve on the Finance and audit committee as well. Total loan/scholarship portfolio is around $4 billion.

Advisory Member for a Health Policy foundation. Foundation lobbies for responsive health policy and equity for underserved populations in my state. We write grants and sponsor research to the tune of about $2million per year. I serve on the Finance and Investment committee for the foundation’s ~$55 million endowment.

Professional Licenses/Certifications:

FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority)

 

·       Series 7 General Securities Representative

·       Series 66 Uniform Combined State Law/Investment Advisor

·       Series 79 Investment Banking Representative

·       Series 82 Private Securities Offerings Representative

CM&AA designation (Certified Merger and Acquisition Advisor)

State Real Estate License

Undergraduate Activities: Division 1 Scholarship athlete- Football,  Deans List 1 semester, Habitat for Humanity construction volunteer

Languages: English is native, can speak/read/write conversational German and extremely basic Spanish.  

International Travel/Missions:  Canada, England, India, Israel, Palestine, Poland, Malaysia, Mexico

Non profit volunteer service:

I serve twice a month as a bag backer for Project 58:10. We pack and deliver around 750 bags per week to local elementary school children that are food isnecure and would not have anything to eat over the weekends.

Local Humane Society: On call Foster dog parent. They can be tough to give up to a forever home!

LORs: 3 very strong letters. One from a currently elected state wide official in the executive branch – I’ve known this person 6 years and we serve together on one of the boards. Second letter will come from the Health foundations current CEO who was also a former US Congressman and elected state Attorney General. We have developed a good solid relationship over the last couple years. Third letter will come from a colleague I do business with. He is a Managing Partner in a global real estate firm, graduate of West Point and retired Army officer.

Concerns: My low quant score and undergraduate GPA. Not a lot of official public sector experience in a paid position. Furthermore, It seems like the profiles of people I will be competing with for spots are current or eventual heads of state, ambassadors, and are currently very very high level officials.

 

Edited by MKPolicy

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9 minutes ago, MKPolicy said:

 

Undergraduate GPA: 2.98 

Graduate Degree: MSc in Finance and Economic Policy - graduated in 2015

Graduate GPA: 3.75

Graduate Courses: Banking Regulation and Resolution of Banking Crises, Public Financial Management: Revenue, Macroeconomic Policy and Financial Markets, Microeconomic Principles and Policy, Bank Financial Management, Banking and Capital Markets, Corporate Finance, The International Monetary Fund and Economic Policy

 GRE:  167V (98%), 151Q (43%). 5.5 AWA (98%) Age: 36

 

can't really comment on the experience part but I do think that the fact that you are far removed from your undegrad and that you already completed a grad degree with a good GPA should attenuate the weight placed on your undergrad grades. That said you have a strong econ background and a really low quant score... You have plenty of time, I think it would definetly be worth it to study up on quant, do a bunch of timed practice problems/full length tests and get that score over 160. 

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20 minutes ago, Ella16 said:

can't really comment on the experience part but I do think that the fact that you are far removed from your undegrad and that you already completed a grad degree with a good GPA should attenuate the weight placed on your undergrad grades. That said you have a strong econ background and a really low quant score... You have plenty of time, I think it would definetly be worth it to study up on quant, do a bunch of timed practice problems/full length tests and get that score over 160. 

Thank you Ella16! You are right about the quant score. I'm SO far removed from the topics the GRE tests that I had to relearn a lot of it just to get to 151. The math involved in the econ work, especially the policy aspect where I focused, isn't even touched on in the GRE.  Thank you for the encoruagement to push it up though!

Anyone care to comment on the experience aspect of my potential?

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@MKPolicy, you have an extremely interesting profile. To be honest, most people here are probably much younger than you, and have much less varied career experiences. In general, you should be a pretty strong candidate given how you're representing yourself, and of course, if you do more work to get your quant score up. Don't worry about your undergrad GPA. Your undergrad was approximately fifteen years ago. I'm pretty sure that at this point, admissions committees just want to make sure you graduated from an accredited institution, and that you haven't been spending your life since then under a rock. 

What I'm curious about (and what admissions committees will want to know) is why you're going for another degree. The WWS MPA and (I think) HKS MC/MPA are quant heavy, but you already have a graduate degree in finance and economics that you just graduated from not long ago. Why are you going after this one? Where will it bring you that the former degree and your very quant-y sort of job experience won't? It'd be compelling to hear that you're contemplating a career change or looking to transition into another role at your organization or taking another similar step. Otherwise, it could sound like you're just preoccupied with the prestige that comes with the kind of school you're applying to.

I think this sounds like your weakest point so far, so definitely put some effort into writing a stellar SOP and getting multiple reads on it. Your GRE score doesn't even seem as important in comparison, because you have a job that demands a good understanding of quantitative concepts, so they'll understand that 151 obviously doesn't reflect everything. Besides, after a certain point, higher GRE scores don't increase your likelihood of acceptance - they just increase your likelihood of getting financial aid. If you're most concerned with being accepted in the first place, focus on your SOP. Good luck!
 

Edited by chocolatecheesecake

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55 minutes ago, chocolatecheesecake said:

@MKPolicy, you have an extremely interesting profile. To be honest, most people here are probably much younger than you, and have much less varied career experiences. In general, you should be a pretty strong candidate given how you're representing yourself, and of course, if you do more work to get your quant score up. Don't worry about your undergrad GPA. Your undergrad was approximately fifteen years ago. I'm pretty sure that at this point, admissions committees just want to make sure you graduated from an accredited institution, and that you haven't been spending your life since then under a rock. 

What I'm curious about (and what admissions committees will want to know) is why you're going for another degree. The WWS MPA and (I think) HKS MC/MPA are quant heavy, but you already have a graduate degree in finance and economics that you just graduated from not long ago. Why are you going after this one? Where will it bring you that the former degree and your very quant-y sort of job experience won't? It'd be compelling to hear that you're contemplating a career change or looking to transition into another role at your organization or taking another similar step. Otherwise, it could sound like you're just preoccupied with the prestige that comes with the kind of school you're applying to.

I think this sounds like your weakest point so far, so definitely put some effort into writing a stellar SOP and getting multiple reads on it. Your GRE score doesn't even seem as important in comparison, because you have a job that demands a good understanding of quantitative concepts, so they'll understand that 151 obviously doesn't reflect everything. Besides, after a certain point, higher GRE scores don't increase your likelihood of acceptance - they just increase your likelihood of getting financial aid. If you're most concerned with being accepted in the first place, focus on your SOP. Good luck!
 

@Chocolatecheesecake, thank you kindly for an in depth and thoughtful evaluation! Also,I must say that your screen name is absolutely fantastic :)

I'm glad to know that my low quant score shouldn't immediately preclude my file from consideration. My biggest fear is that they would see it and not give the rest of my file a thorough reading . I do hope the admissions committee's will see my undergrad as you have....I was plainly uninterested in performing well during undergrad and intentionally did as little as possible to get by. Thankfully I have matured tremendously since then.

You ask a very germane question and its certainly a good one! Why another degree?

My previous MSc was very policy oriented, which I enjoyed! It didn't, however, get into any econometric type data analysis, nor into the behavioral aspects of "nudging" for policy prescriptions. And here is the driving answer: My true desire is not in the corporate world, my heart lies in affecting and promoting positive economic outcomes for all people in my state. When people have solid employment opportunities a whole host of social ills can be mitigated and improved. They absolutely have a symbiotic relationship in my opinion. I want to serve as a State Senator and who knows beyond that. Outside of elected office, I would absolutely be thrilled to work in an organization like the IMF/World Bank/Bank of International Settlements. I believe a degree from HKS/WWS/McCourt/SIPA would help open those doors. (I like Duke, but you all only have two year options from what I can gather and I just can't float that at this point). We have no graduates of any of the schools mentioned currently working in our state legislature, as elected representatives, nor in the executive branch. One of my favorite economists said that peoples and cultures develop best when they have access to other people and cultures....the sharing of ideas promotes growth and development. I believe it's time for some folks from my state to be educated with the best and come back home to serve.

Knowing that now, what do you think? Do I have a decent shot?

 

 

Edited by MKPolicy

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@MKPolicy

I'll just be straightforward: I don't think you should do an MPA.

First,  I don't sit on any committees (and neither does anyone else commenting here), but that qGRE will preclude admissions to HKS and WWS, and potentially a few others, because it's a spectacularly low qGRE for those programs and also because your profile isn't exactly what they're looking to admit. On paper, you don't look like the academic type - low GPA from mediocre undergrad, and yeah you have a 3.75 in your master's, but it is generally expected that you will have close to a 4.0 in a master's program, plus, as anyone in finance will tell you, finance programs vary drastically in quality. The qGRE is kinda the nail in that coffin. Policy schools aren't as anal about prestige and other gold dust as law and business schools, but they still care a great deal about how glitzy you are, on an ordinal scale. 

Second, I'm not sure that an MPA is going to help you. You're already older than 99% of the people who already have their MPA and are applying for typical post-MPA jobs. You're actually older than a lot of the people who are a step above that. I don't pretend to know everything about all the employers that hire MPAs, but I'm trying to say that it's moreso an early-career degree than a mid- or late-career one, and the portions of the policy field that I am familiar with are very attentive to that. My organization gets a lot of CVs from people whom we perceive to be overqualified precisely in the way you would be overqualified for graduate entry-level positions, and I've only seen people prefer to hire the typical candidate over someone with too much experience.

Third, I don't think you need this degree. An MPA isn't going to help you get elected into any kind of office. It's not going to teach you in-depth estimation techniques (HKS ID people, yes, this is the hill I die on). An MPA isn't going to make you any more qualified to work for the IMF or WBG - if you want to work with economics or finance, you are already qualified enough to do that (plus, people prefer to hire degrees that speak to someone's concrete skills, not generalists with MPAs who can code Stata but don't know how to estimate a regression with an interaction term - I am not kidding, people, this is why you don't get an MPA to learn statistics), and if you want to work with something that isn't economics or finance, you don't have enough field experience, period, and a 2 year master's isn't going to make up for it like at all. An MPA is what you get when you want to be a mid-level bureaucrat in a salaried position (seriously, the height of anyone's ambitions here). If you want to transition into this field, you need to network and transition in your career. It takes knowing someone more often than not, but it's feasible to transition from what you're doing now in the private sector to doing something similar in the public sector. I doubt that will scratch your itch of helping others, though (it scratches mine, but my itch is extremely particular and gets me thrown out of more liberal bars). If you want to get elected into office, I can't even begin to imagine what that takes, but an MPA isn't it.

If you still want to get a degree, I'd recommend the 1-year executive MPA at Harvard.

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25 minutes ago, ExponentialDecay said:

@MKPolicy

I'll just be straightforward: I don't think you should do an MPA.

First,  I don't sit on any committees (and neither does anyone else commenting here), but that qGRE will preclude admissions to HKS and WWS, and potentially a few others, because it's a spectacularly low qGRE for those programs and also because your profile isn't exactly what they're looking to admit. On paper, you don't look like the academic type - low GPA from mediocre undergrad, and yeah you have a 3.75 in your master's, but it is generally expected that you will have close to a 4.0 in a master's program, plus, as anyone in finance will tell you, finance programs vary drastically in quality. The qGRE is kinda the nail in that coffin. Policy schools aren't as anal about prestige and other gold dust as law and business schools, but they still care a great deal about how glitzy you are, on an ordinal scale. 

Second, I'm not sure that an MPA is going to help you. You're already older than 99% of the people who already have their MPA and are applying for typical post-MPA jobs. You're actually older than a lot of the people who are a step above that. I don't pretend to know everything about all the employers that hire MPAs, but I'm trying to say that it's moreso an early-career degree than a mid- or late-career one, and the portions of the policy field that I am familiar with are very attentive to that. My organization gets a lot of CVs from people whom we perceive to be overqualified precisely in the way you would be overqualified for graduate entry-level positions, and I've only seen people prefer to hire the typical candidate over someone with too much experience.

Third, I don't think you need this degree. An MPA isn't going to help you get elected into any kind of office. It's not going to teach you in-depth estimation techniques (HKS ID people, yes, this is the hill I die on). An MPA isn't going to make you any more qualified to work for the IMF or WBG - if you want to work with economics or finance, you are already qualified enough to do that (plus, people prefer to hire degrees that speak to someone's concrete skills, not generalists with MPAs who can code Stata but don't know how to estimate a regression with an interaction term - I am not kidding, people, this is why you don't get an MPA to learn statistics), and if you want to work with something that isn't economics or finance, you don't have enough field experience, period, and a 2 year master's isn't going to make up for it like at all. An MPA is what you get when you want to be a mid-level bureaucrat in a salaried position (seriously, the height of anyone's ambitions here). If you want to transition into this field, you need to network and transition in your career. It takes knowing someone more often than not, but it's feasible to transition from what you're doing now in the private sector to doing something similar in the public sector. I doubt that will scratch your itch of helping others, though (it scratches mine, but my itch is extremely particular and gets me thrown out of more liberal bars). If you want to get elected into office, I can't even begin to imagine what that takes, but an MPA isn't it.

If you still want to get a degree, I'd recommend the 1-year executive MPA at Harvard.

@ExponentialDecay thank you for the candor! This is the type of discussion I had hoped for by posting so thank you to adding in a thoughtful reply!

All the programs I am looking at are for us "older"  mid-career folks, and they are all one year degress :)

You are right about Harvard's one year MPA and it is my ultimate goal https://www.hks.harvard.edu/degrees/masters/mc-mpa

Columbia's PEPM (Program in Economic Policy Management) https://sipa.columbia.edu/academics/programs/program-in-economic-policy-management

Princeton's WWS -MPP http://wws.princeton.edu/admissions/mpp

McCourt's MPM https://mccourt.georgetown.edu/master-in-policy-managment

From what I have gathered they are a bit less concerned about GRE scores and more concerned with experience. From what I have read, you are exactly right about a low quant like mine being a death knell for the traditional MPA/MPP for younger folks. 

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1 hour ago, MKPolicy said:

@ExponentialDecay thank you for the candor! This is the type of discussion I had hoped for by posting so thank you to adding in a thoughtful reply!

All the programs I am looking at are for us "older"  mid-career folks, and they are all one year degress :)

You are right about Harvard's one year MPA and it is my ultimate goal https://www.hks.harvard.edu/degrees/masters/mc-mpa

Columbia's PEPM (Program in Economic Policy Management) https://sipa.columbia.edu/academics/programs/program-in-economic-policy-management

Princeton's WWS -MPP http://wws.princeton.edu/admissions/mpp

McCourt's MPM https://mccourt.georgetown.edu/master-in-policy-managment

From what I have gathered they are a bit less concerned about GRE scores and more concerned with experience. From what I have read, you are exactly right about a low quant like mine being a death knell for the traditional MPA/MPP for younger folks. 

I could see a 1-year program at a top institution doing you quite a lot of good as you sound like the sort of person who knows how to extract the maximum value possible out of an experience. If you're currently pulling down in the mid six to seven figures in income, the type of person you'll be able to network with at a good grad school will be quite high level and probably able to help you advance in your goals. You'll just have to be extremely focused and know what you want to get out of the experience. 

I had someone similar to you in my cohort and he's since used the experience to great effect (recruited a high-level connection to serve on his board of directors and leveraged another personal connection to get a CEO position and other resume enhancers).

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Hello. Thanks in advance, this forum has been very helpful in the recent months. My main question here is what schools are within reach, Its hard for me to gauge because of my GPA / Transfer GPA from AA degree.

I am Currently a Junior but will be applying for schools towards the end of august. 

Program/Institution: This is what I need help with, which schools are within reach? AU SIS? GWU elliot? JHU SAIS? NYU Global affairs? Georgetown Security Studies, sipa, tufts? maxwell? 

I really don't know where I should be "aiming". I prefer school in D.C area > NYC > Southern California. 

Interests: Security Studies, Foreign policy, International Relations, MPP

Undergrad Institution: University Wisconsin, River Falls.

Undergraduate Major: International Studies

****Undergraduate GPA: Major GPA 4.0, Institution GPA 3.93 -- I got an A.A degree from community college and GPA was 3.0. 

GRE: Practice GRE - 160v 150q. Enrolled in GRE prep course through McNair Program, taking in two months, expecting a good bump.

Age: 26

Years of Work Experience:  Lots of work experience, but none really related to IR / International studies. 

Undergraduate Activities: McNair Scholar, 2 undergrad independent research projects, 1 presentation at conference at Berkeley, Honors program member

Languages: 2 years of college level Spanish at time of graduation, plus 1 semester study abroad in Mexico.

LORs: 1 from my Research Mentor / Professor at undergrad, and another professor in Pol. Sci. department. 

Concerns: GPA?? Im not sure how schools will look at my GPA, so I'm not sure what programs are even in reach. I have heard conflicting opinions. Apply to schools assuming they will accept the 4.0/3.93 others have said, expect them to treat it as a cumm gpa, which is closer to 3.3? 

 

THANK YOU IN ADVANCE!

Edited by dazednconfused2

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4 hours ago, dazednconfused2 said:

Hello. Thanks in advance, this forum has been very helpful in the recent months. My main question here is what schools are within reach, Its hard for me to gauge because of my GPA / Transfer GPA from AA degree.

I am Currently a Junior but will be applying for schools towards the end of august. 

Program/Institution: This is what I need help with, which schools are within reach? AU SIS? GWU elliot? JHU SAIS? NYU Global affairs? Georgetown Security Studies, sipa, tufts? maxwell? 

I really don't know where I should be "aiming". I prefer school in D.C area > NYC > Southern California. 

Interests: Security Studies, Foreign policy, International Relations, MPP

Undergrad Institution: University Wisconsin, River Falls.

Undergraduate Major: International Studies

****Undergraduate GPA: Major GPA 4.0, Institution GPA 3.93 -- I got an A.A degree from community college and GPA was 3.0. 

GRE: Practice GRE - 160v 150q. Enrolled in GRE prep course through McNair Program, taking in two months, expecting a good bump.

Age: 26

Years of Work Experience:  Lots of work experience, but none really related to IR / International studies. 

Undergraduate Activities: McNair Scholar, 2 undergrad independent research projects, 1 presentation at conference at Berkeley, Honors program member

Languages: 2 years of college level Spanish at time of graduation, plus 1 semester study abroad in Mexico.

LORs: 1 from my Research Mentor / Professor at undergrad, and another professor in Pol. Sci. department. 

Concerns: GPA?? Im not sure how schools will look at my GPA, so I'm not sure what programs are even in reach. I have heard conflicting opinions. Apply to schools assuming they will accept the 4.0/3.93 others have said, expect them to treat it as a cumm gpa, which is closer to 3.3? 

 

THANK YOU IN ADVANCE!

There is one place and one place only that you belong: Georgetown School of Security Studies. Go there, and things will work out fine, presuming you don't mind paying the outrageous tuition prices. To get in, you'll need to get on the internship/research assistant band wagon ASAP. The more professional writing and analysis you can do before applying, the better. You say your work experience doesn't apply to IR, but it might if you know how to frame it (especially if you can contextualize it with your love for security studies, keeping people safe, our great country's opportunities, blah, blah, blah). You aren't super young, so this is the time to be going to grad school. I am guessing your status as a McNair scholar + strong GPA will be your ticket in.

On the negative side, your undergraduate major is rather unfortunate, as are your language skills. You may need to do a stint in the peace corps or military to be taken more seriously both before and after grad school, but you may be a little beyond that at this point in your life. 

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19 minutes ago, went_away said:

There is one place and one place only that you belong: Georgetown School of Security Studies. Go there, and things will work out fine, presuming you don't mind paying the outrageous tuition prices. To get in, you'll need to get on the internship/research assistant band wagon ASAP. The more professional writing and analysis you can do before applying, the better. You say your work experience doesn't apply to IR, but it might if you know how to frame it (especially if you can contextualize it with your love for security studies, keeping people safe, our great country's opportunities, blah, blah, blah). You aren't super young, so this is the time to be going to grad school. I am guessing your status as a McNair scholar + strong GPA will be your ticket in.

On the negative side, your undergraduate major is rather unfortunate, as are your language skills. You may need to do a stint in the peace corps or military to be taken more seriously both before and after grad school, but you may be a little beyond that at this point in your life. 

Thank you for the feedback!!

Georgetown is my #1 choice, but have heard how competitive it is. You hit the nail on the head with the price, and stint in the military. If accepted into a school of this caliber/price I planned on joining the ROTC program. Also, do you see a political science major in a more positive light than int. studies? I was considering changing majors, as I wouldn't have to stay at the university any longer, just a higher course load. The only reason I had not officially changed is I figured it wouldn't change much for graduate school options. Lastly, did you have any insight on the transfer gpa / institutional gpa conundrum? 

thanks

 

Edited by dazednconfused2

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Hello all,

I have combed through several pages of this thread, and have found all commentary infinitely helpful.  As such, I would be greatly appreciative of any feedback regarding the details of my particular predicament below.  I have come to the conclusion that an advanced degree is required for my career advancement (and I am over the moon at the prospect of going back to school), but have had a difficult time determining the best trajectory for my graduate studies.  

Program/Institution: I have vacillated between an MPA or an MIA (or an MBA ... depending on what day of the week you ask me).  I have a preference to stay in New York City, which narrows my options considerably to Columbia SIPA and NYU.  I am also open to anybody's thoughts concerning other programs it would be worth exploring.

Interests: Foreign Policy, International Relations, Eastern European Studies, Linguistics, Youth Programming / Education and more generally non-profit management. 

Undergrad Institution: Midwestern Liberal Arts College (top 20 liberal arts ranking)

Undergraduate Major: Political Science, Russian Language

Undergraduate GPA: 3.7

Undergraduate Quantitative Courses: Intro to Economics (B), Calculus I (B), Intro to Statistics (A), and a Seminar in American Politics with an emphasis in quantitative research methodologies (A). 

GRE: 163V, 159Q, 5.0 AW

Age: 26

Years of Work Experience:  Around 6, total.  Four full years as the Assistant Director of Youth Initiatives at a non-profit in Manhattan that specializes in Russian-American cultural cooperation / sports diplomacy (I have been involved with the organization since 2008, however, working summers at the cultural arts exchange program for which I was later promoted to Director).  I recently left the organization on good terms, and after a two month search for a vertical move within the non-profit sector, ended up at a corporate job managing business relations at a publicly traded IT solutions company (I had totally blown through my savings during my search and pretty much jumped at the first decent-paying offer that was extended to me).  The role is primarily operations focused, but I am also charged with some data analysis, specifically creating / interpreting bookings reports for the executive team on a daily basis. 

Undergraduate Activities: Student educational policy committee for the Political Science Department, Research Assistant for the Political Science Department (translated / collated Gallup poll data from Russian-English), mentored advanced project in Russian Language (representations of government / law enforcement in Soviet literature), independent research project (I approached a professor when I was dissatisfied with the breadth of offerings for advanced language study) regarding Russian political identity in Putin's Russia.   

Languages: Very advanced Russian - 3 years in college and a semester of study (and later research) in Russia and briefly in Ukraine.  I returned after graduation to live in Moscow working as an English language teacher, Russian-English translator, and admissions consultant for a private high school for close to an academic year.  I've worked as a Russian-English translator and simultaneous interpreter, and used my Russian pretty much daily in my past job at the non-profit.  Also, two years of college French with relatively advanced comprehension but intermediate speaking abilities. 

LORs: 1 from the VP of the Russian American non-profit, 2 others from my Political Science and Russian department mentors from college.  I suppose I could also ask my current supervisor who has been nothing but pleased with my performance over the last 6 months, but she barely knows me (I work at the corporate headquarters, and she works remotely most of the time and is pretty hands-off in her management style). 

Concerns

1) My less-than-stellar quantitative background and performance on the GRE.  I'm concerned about my grades in Calc and Econ (although at this point that was nearly a decade ago) - would it behoove me to take an online community college economics course this fall (I am applying for Spring 2018)?  I suppose microeconomics is typically next in the progression, but would macro make more sense given my interests and profile?  Similarly, these GRE scores are actually from my second time taking the test - my first scores were 161V, 158Q, and 5.5AW.  I actually made a considerable effort (took a Princeton Review class and can confidently say prepared as much as I could) and only marginally improved.  Frustrating, as I did significantly better on several of the practice tests I took.  Is it worth it to endeavor to bump that quant score up?

2) My corporate career move.  As briefly touched upon above, my move to the private sector was more of a move made out of financial desperation than a conscious career decision.  I suppose I could play up to the transferable skills (office operations management, budget analysis, etc.) that are also applicable to the public sector.  My impression is that as long as I have a cohesive SOP and clearly delineated career objectives / academic interests, any one part of my experience can be massaged into fitting that narrative?  

Your thoughts and insights are invaluable - thank you in advance for your time!

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Hey @av122. You have a pretty competitive profile for both schools, but here are a few of my thoughts:

1. Use your private sector experience to make up for the spotty quant background. Data analysis and operations experience in the private sector are going to be very valuable in your program and career thereafter. Regardless of the reasons you chose the job, it can be a big positive now if you emphasize those skills and integrate them into your broader resume/sop.

2. Spend a lot of time on your sop. Your grades are above the threshold for raising eyebrows and your gre is pretty average (for the schools you're interested in). Your recs are solid but not amazing. Your sop will determine whether you are memorable to the adcomms. If you are having trouble, try to return to your purpose. Why grad school? Why is school x a perfect fit for what I want to accomplish during and after my program?

3. Your GRE quant won't kill you, but if you scored better in practice, it might be worth thinking through exam strategies, doing 2 test-condition practice runs, and going for it again, with the pressure off. You don't have to do better, but a 161-163 would do wonders for your profile. 

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@makingtheleap.back - Thank you so much for your feedback! This was exactly the kind of guidance I was hoping for. 

If you have a moment, I do have a follow up question to your 3rd point: Would retaking the GRE and breaking that 161 threshold strengthen my profile more so than taking an online Econ course this fall?  Are the two even comparable? 

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@av122 My instinct is an Econ course would be more for your own skill-building, development, and would not have a significant impact on your application profile. And yes, getting to that Top 25% on quant would definitely help, particularly with SIPA. 

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Hi everybody,

I would be very grateful if you can give me your insights and your comments about my situation. I really want to work for international organizations or governments about international development. I dream to work for developing country, especially in Africa.

Program: International Development program, Public Affairs or Public Policy

Schools Applying To:  MPA/ID Harvard, MA IPS Stanford, MA International and development economics Yale. It is not the final list as I am still thinking which program is best suited for me.

Interests: International development, I want to learn more about policy making in Africa

Undergrad Institution: Top business school in Europe

Undergraduate GPA: 4,1/5 – Currently enrolled in a Master of Science in Economics with a 4/5 GPA

Undergraduate Major: Bachelor of Science in Economics from the same top business school in Europe & CPGE (Preparatory class for entrance to Grandes Ecoles in France, 2 years after high school).

GRE: 160V, 165Q, 4,5W

Quantitative Courses: Microeconomics (A), Macroeconomics (A), Statistics (A), applied econometrics with Stata (B+), public policy related courses, geopolitics, 6-months program in one of the best engineering school in France in Africa to learn how to do business there and economics / history / geopolitics.

Years of Work Experience: 1,5 Years

Age: 24

Languages: French (mother tongue), Arabic (mother tongue), Spanish (Advanced level), English (Advanced Level), Wolof (Advanced Level, my family is half Moroccan and half Senegalese), learning Italian.

Work Experience: 6 months in a tech consulting firm, I was consultant for fintech clients in London. 1 year as a consultant for a small strategic consulting firm in Paris.

LORs:  No Letter of recommendation yet.

SOPs: I always wanted to be useful to the world, and particularly I really want to work on the subject of poverty in developing countries. I am involved in associations promoting equal opportunities for people from ghettos since I come from a really poor area. I want to empathize how I want to make a difference for a better world. I got that inspiration from my family, that came illegally in France straight from really poor villages in Morocco/Mauritania/Senegal so the children could study. Life was hard but I am proud to be the first generation in my family that got into a top school in Europe. Now I want to use all these skills to become a great policy maker in the future.

Concerns: 

1/ I'm worried about the fact that I don’t have work experience in public affairs, governments or NGOs. I want to do an internship in an international development organization before applying for top public policy programs (such as World Bank, African Development Bank etc.). What should I do about that and what is the best option for me?

2/ I am worried that I might underestimate the difficulty to get to a top program from the best US universities. To be honest, I am worried that my GRE is not that “high” for programs such as MPA/ID or Stanford IPS and that I have to take it again just to have better results. I think I can still improve for the GRE.

3/ Does it change something that I don’t come from the United States? Are my chances lower? I have dual nationality as I am French and Moroccan (unlucky for me, I can’t have a third nationality, I wish I could have a Senegalese ID card )

4/ I dropped from school one year after high school because I had to work for my family (big money problems, we got evicted from our apartment since my family couldn’t pay anymore).

Edited by Tehk Ekus

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Program: MPA/MPP beginning fall 18

Interests: Local Government, Environmental Policy (grid reform, electric vehicles, climate resilience, sustainability)

Schools Applying To:  USC Price (MPA), UW Evans (MPA), UT LBJ (MPAff), Cal Poly SLO (MCRP), UNC (MPA), UCLA (MPP)

Undergrad Institution: Small liberal arts college in CA.

Undergraduate GPA: 3.71

Undergraduate Major: BS Political Science

GRE: 162V, 152Q, 3W (I seriously question the writing score)

Quant:  Macro and Micro Econ (A in both), International Econ (B+), Quantitative Stats (A), Calculus (C), Statistics (C)

Years of Work Experience: 3

Languages: English

Work Experience:  US military officer, interned for city of LA during college 

LORs: Two strong ones from previous bosses in the army, one fairly strong one from professor and honors program advisor.

Other Things: My low quant score and low writing score make me wonder if I should take the GRE again.  I think my SOP and academic record will show I am a strong writer, and my grades in econ courses should help my low quant scores.  I really don't have much time to study but I want to be competitive for admission and merit based aid. I am also worried that my lack of relevant work experience to my interest areas will work against me.

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My Profile:

Program: MPP

Schools Applying To:  Harvard - Kennedy, Duke - Sanford, Georgetown - McCourt, Chicago - Harris, Michigan - Ford, UW – Evans (MPA), UCB – Goldman, Yale – F&ES

Interests: social policy, inequality, environmental policy

Undergrad Institution: top 100 liberal arts college

Undergraduate GPA: 3.8, Phi Beta Kappa, graduated Cum Laude,

Undergraduate Major: Politics, Environmental Science and Communications minors

GRE: Haven’t officially taken, but my practice test scores are 166(V) 152(Q) (Yikes, I know, but I’ve just started reviewing)

Quantitative Courses:   Statistics (B+), Introduction to Geographic Information Science (A)

Years of Work Experience: 2ish

Age: 22

Languages: English

Work Experience: I worked as a wildland firefighter for two summers for the Forest Service. I know this isn’t “traditional” public service, but I was serving my local national forest, and it inspired me to pursue public service as a career. Additionally, I worked as a Productions Process Assistant for a small engineering firm for a summer, which dealt primarily with ensuring that the company processes aligned with state, federal, and international policies, and fixing them if they did not. I am doing Americorps for nine months. I also had a one month internship for a state senator, and worked for my college’s student government for one year.

 LORs: Two from professors, and one from either a supervisor at the Forest Service or Americorps. Should all be pretty strong. I have great relationships with all of them, and they are all excellent writers.

SOPs: Focuses on my experience with the Forest Service, and how that kind of direct public service gave me purpose. I also focus on becoming cognizant of how my small town benefitted from government services, so often without recognizing them as such. I would love to be able to help make rural areas and people a little bit less suspicious of government.

Concerns: I’ve never taken an econ class, but that is something I am hoping to address in the time between applications being due and starting school. My quant background is definitely weak, but I have been successful in jobs that have required me to engage with that side, and honestly, part of the reason I am going to grad school is to boost those skills.

Additionally, I am worried that I don’t have enough work experience that directly relates to policy, or any “fancy” internships to show off. I had to pay for most of my undergrad degree myself, which is why I worked for the Forest Service in the summer. Any thoughts on a way to frame that which makes it sound more like an asset?

Edited by firefightergirl
Wrong tense

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@firefightergirl So, correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems that you're applying straight out of undergrad, correct? (in that case, your years of work experience are 0 - full time work experience, not internships).

The lack of econ courses may or may not be problem, but you definitely need to raise the QGRE to the low 160s at minimum to become competitive at the top tier programs you are targeting.

You don't really need fancy internships or even work that relates directly to policy, but it is advisable to have work experience going in, both for admissions and personal purposes. As it stands, your profile isn't particularly cohesive: your work experience is in the forest service, but you want to focus on social policy and inequality? The forest service is pretty cool experience, dude, and a way to really use that to advantage is to tie your post-MA goals to it. But also, you actually have experience with the forest service, but not so much it seems with inequality etc. How do you know you want to work with that direction? You really don't want to be in the position where you pay out of pocket for an MPA degree and come out just as confused about where you're going and how as you were before. It reflects on your employability. Speaking of employability, it is impossible to get a job in the public service without relevant work experience (certainly at a high level - at the local level, it may be different, but there, I don't imagine an MPA is necessary for entry-level positions). You won't be eligible for the higher-level positions an MPA technically prepares you for for the lack of work experience, either. It's really a mid-career-ish degree rather than something you get out of undergrad.

But you'll probably get in somewhere anyway, if that's what you want to hear.

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8 hours ago, ExponentialDecay said:

@firefightergirl So, correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems that you're applying straight out of undergrad, correct? (in that case, your years of work experience are 0 - full time work experience, not internships).

The lack of econ courses may or may not be problem, but you definitely need to raise the QGRE to the low 160s at minimum to become competitive at the top tier programs you are targeting.

You don't really need fancy internships or even work that relates directly to policy, but it is advisable to have work experience going in, both for admissions and personal purposes. As it stands, your profile isn't particularly cohesive: your work experience is in the forest service, but you want to focus on social policy and inequality? The forest service is pretty cool experience, dude, and a way to really use that to advantage is to tie your post-MA goals to it. But also, you actually have experience with the forest service, but not so much it seems with inequality etc. How do you know you want to work with that direction? You really don't want to be in the position where you pay out of pocket for an MPA degree and come out just as confused about where you're going and how as you were before. It reflects on your employability. Speaking of employability, it is impossible to get a job in the public service without relevant work experience (certainly at a high level - at the local level, it may be different, but there, I don't imagine an MPA is necessary for entry-level positions). You won't be eligible for the higher-level positions an MPA technically prepares you for for the lack of work experience, either. It's really a mid-career-ish degree rather than something you get out of undergrad.

But you'll probably get in somewhere anyway, if that's what you want to hear.

Thanks for the response ExponentialDecay!

I graduated this May, so I'm going to have a year of experience prior to actually attending, but yes, technically straight out of school. Also all the jobs I listed were 40 hours a week (minimum), and paid... does it matter that they were only only for three or four months at a time? (Honest question, trying to figure out grad school's definition of "full time")

I've been doing a lot of thinking and at this point I'm just trying to gauge if it is worth it to apply this cycle. It sounds like you are advocating for getting quite a bit of hands on experience before thinking of applying. I guess I've been buying into the whole "if you don't go to grad school now you won't go at all" advice, but maybe that doesn't apply to professional degrees. 

You've given me quite a bit to think about. Thanks!

As for inequality and my interests being disjointed... I guess I didn't articulate it clearly in my post and my SOP is still in draft mode, but there are quite a few connections between environmental policy and inequality, and that is what I am interested in. I want to eventually work for a Federal Agency where I can address those intersections. 

Edited by firefightergirl

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Hi Everyone,

Its my first time posting here. I have three years of work experience working on the data end of international development and hence I'm looking for a masters program that equips me technically to pursue development solutions. My undergrad was from Mount Holyoke with a major in Politics and a few courses in Comp Sci and Communication. C.GPA was 3.74 and GRE 162 verbal 160 quant and 5.5 analytical. My prospective programs are:

CMU - MSPPM Data Analytics Track

UChicago Harris - MSCAPP

MIT - MUP IDG

Fletcher - MALD

SAIS - MAIA

Harvard - MPP or MUP

I'm also considering applying to MIMS at the Berkeley iSchool but not sure if I match the criteria or not. I'm afraid of the program being too techy but then I'm thinking that since I have the option to take electives I could bridge in courses on development and policy as well maybe.

For HKS I know I need to improve quant. I'm wondering if I can send my best verbal and best quant if I retake GRE or will I have to send complete scores from one seating?

It would be great if people could share their experience with the aforementioned programs and also whats the likelihood of me getting what I'm looking for from these programs.

Thanks!

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Hey everyone,

I'd be extremely grateful if you could provide me with some feedback on my profile, also with regard to the schools I'm applying to. Thanks a lot in advance!

Age: 24

Program: MPP/MPA

Schools Applying To:  Berkeley Goldman, Columbia SIPA, Chicago Harris, Georgetown McCourt (in that order, thinking about maybe applying to HKS as well)

Interests: Labor market and education policy, policy implementation

Undergrad Institution: Small, but renowned public university in central Europe + one year abroad at a top 25 U.S. public school

Undergraduate GPA: 3,7, with distinction (although our grades don't translate favourably into GPAs); 4.0 during my year in the U.S.

Undergraduate Major: Political Science and Public Administration

GRE: Haven't taken it yet, I'm planning to do it in October

Quantitative Courses: Introductory Economics (equivalent to Intro to Micro and Macro; B+); Quantitative research methods (B); Statistics (B); Data Analysis using Stata (voluntary course, so it wasn't graded); Money & Banking (A)

Years of Work Experience: 1.5 years full-time (plus roughly a year of internship experience)

Work Experience: At the time I will start grad school I'll have worked 1.5 years as a management consultant for social sector organizations/social service providers in my home country. My job also includes a fair amount of data analysis (nothing too fancy though). Internships include stints at top-tier global consulting firms. As a volunteer, I'm also member of the founding team and responsible for public affairs and strategy at a non-profit focussing on education/equality of opportunity. Also worked as a teaching and research assistant during my time as an undergrad.

LORs:  One letter from the professor I worked for as a research assistant (also my thesis supervisor) and another from my current boss, which should both be strong. Regarding my third LOR, I'm not quite sure which route to go. I could either ask a professor I took a class with in the U.S. (it was only one class, but I was one of if not the strongest student in that class). At the time, she said she was willing to provide me with a LOR, but then again it was 2 1/2 years ago. Do you think a LOR from a professor from the U.S. would bolster my application? The other option would be the founder of the non-profit mentioned above - downside is we're all volunteers and the non-profit is still pretty young (founded a year ago).

Concerns: 

1.) I'm applying to a number of quant-heavy programs, so is my rather mediocre quantiative background going to be a problem? Or is it going to be alright if I score well on the GRE?

2.) When I'll start grad school, I'll only have 1.5 years of full-time work experience, which ranks below average according to the program statistics at the schools I'm applying to. Is my internship, university-level work and voluntary experience going to help me to make up for that?

Thanks in advance for your feedback!

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