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

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Program: Masters of International Affairs/These schools' respective equivalents. Also applying for Pickering/Rangel Fellowships and a Fulbright ETA Germany

Schools Applying To:  Columbia SIPA (go big or go home, guys), Tufts Fletcher School, NYU, Boston University Pardee School

Interests: I love learning languages to be honest. My father speaks 4, so I'm trying to learn at least 5 so I can beat him.

Undergrad Institution: #1 Design School in the U.S.A.

Undergraduate GPA: 3.445

Undergraduate Major: Industrial Design

GRE: 160V/154Q/AWA???? (Took it this past Wednesday)

Quantitative Courses: I went to art school y'all.

Age: 25

Languages: English (native), French (fluent), German (B Level for about a year.) Note my language courses in undergrad were taken at an Ivy League school, and I'm currently paying out of pocket for German classes at Goethe center.

Work Experience: 2.5 years out of undergrad and it's spotty. I hosted a PBS show that had me driving around the U.S. on an RV doing interviews for a summer, did a few short term jobs while I searched for a good full time fit, and have been doing data management at a corporate travel consulting firm for the past year and a half. My parents have a medical nonprofit for Haiti so I've had my hands in that since I was a kid. Over the past couple years the team has grown to about 30 members, so I've had more official managerial duties/creative direction and branding/logistics and inventory.

LORs: One from an MIT department head I've taken a couple of courses at my school with (in collaboration with MIT), one from my employer, deciding on the third. My German instructor at Goethe can be counted on but I'm not sure he's the right fit.

SOPs: Bruh. I'm working on the fellowship applications now, but I will emphasize the collaborative problem solving skills from my undergrad degree, the fact that my undergrad program forced me to go waaaay out of my way and put forth money and effort to satiate my International Relations interests. Also the fact that I didn't have to go out of my way for public service work, as it was being fully operated out of my house. (I open with a story about folding donation clothes on the living room floor as an elementary schooler).

Publications and Honors: A functional and interactive public mini-greenhouse that I designed with two other people was featured as the opener for a city-wide exhibition in Switzerland when I studied abroad there. That's the designer equivalent of a publication, right?

Concerns: Everything??? My unrelated undergrad major. My GRE scores not being good enough to make up for my unrelated undergrad major. My work experience not related to the program, OR my undergrad major. My GPA is average if even that. I'm afraid of not being seen as a serious applicant or being seen as having an interest that's just a phase. My profile is a bricolage of a million zillion things, and while my undergrad institution will undoubtedly be recognized and respected, I'm afraid I will be seen as too big of a risk and be perpetually passed up for a more "textbook candidate." You always want to stand out in applications, but perhaps not this much.

Also, a note on the Pickering and Rangel Fellowships: I am only going to graduate school if I get one of these fellowships. My end goal is 100% to join the Foreign Service, and to use a Master's to prepare for this. These two things will have to happen in tandem, as l cannot pay out of pocket for school (my undergrad was $$$$$.) I will find out about the Rangel fellowship by Thanksgiving, and should the stars align and I succeed, I will absolutely take the GRE again to try to get more competitive scores for these programs. I do not feel comfortable applying to Columbia with a 316, and that's just the bottom line of it.

Edited by ayasofaya

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11 hours ago, ayasofaya said:

Concerns: Everything??? My unrelated undergrad major. My GRE scores not being good enough to make up for my unrelated undergrad major. My work experience not related to the program, OR my undergrad major. My GPA is average if even that. I'm afraid of not being seen as a serious applicant or being seen as having an interest that's just a phase. My profile is a bricolage of a million zillion things, and while my undergrad institution will undoubtedly be recognized and respected, I'm afraid I will be seen as too big of a risk and be perpetually passed up for a more "textbook candidate." You always want to stand out in applications, but perhaps not this much.

Tbh you don't come off as a serious applicant imo. Did you misunderstand what the "interests" section is for (it's for your career interests), or do you seriously think that you're getting an MPA to learn languages? I also have trouble deciphering all the "bruhs" and similar.

The QGRE is too low. You need to get it above 160. The verbal is lowish compared to the averages that people at top MPA programs will have, and since you have an untraditional undergrad background, I'd pull that up as well. But the QGRE is very, very important - especially if you have no math. (which I recommend you take at a CC - I don't remember about SIPA, but most programs require at least one of microeconomics/statistics for admission). 

The work experience is also a problem. If you can swing the NGO thing as something other than "helping dad out at the office", that could be worthwhile. Just as a warning, folding clothes in your living room as a child can be a nice segue, but it will not carry your application - your parents being aid workers does not substitute for work experience in the field. 

I actually wouldn't depend too much on the name of your undergrad school or the name of the school at which you took electives (more on that later). Not a lot of people with a design background switch over into this career, and not many people who haven't been to design school understand how rigorous and how much work it is. That's not to say it will be a negative (you'll be surprised at how much adcoms enjoy novelty applicants), but you do need to show that you can read, write, and count, basically - which is why I recommend knocking out a really good GRE. Seriously, getting a good enough GRE score is vital in your case.

You're also suffering from a strong case of iviness imo. SIPA isn't better because it's Columbia. Fletcher (Tufts) and the Georgetown schools are a bit better for Foreign Service, actually. Some Ivy MPAs (well, all of them outside WWS, HKS, and SIPA) are not prestigious at all. When it comes to the graduate level, Ivy doesn't mean better. Likewise, it's not significant that you took language courses at an Ivy. What matters is how good you are at the language. Taking them at an Ivy doesn't necessarily make you more proficient than taking them somewhere else, and adcoms do recognize that. I wouldn't get a letter from your MIT prof just because he's from MIT and a department head. Get letters from people who know you well and can speak to your abilities on a deep level. Only get a letter from that guy if he fits this bill. Your Goethe instructor isn't the right fit, no.

Overall, I get a lot of enthusiasm from you, but not a lot of direction or maturity (not of you as a person, but of your knowledge/experience with this career path). Why do you want to work in Foreign Service? Why SIPA? (this is an application question, and if you don't have a good answer beside it being Columbia, you've just killed your application). You like learning languages, you want to help people, you've seen your parents doing it - these are all good reasons to try a career in IR, but you lack a vision for how you will contribute as a seasoned professional. This can be a problem, because these aren't entry-level programs. Most successful applicants will already have some idea of where they stand in the field. I do think you'll get in somewhere, maybe even SIPA if you get the GRE up; as for money - eh, I'm not so sure.

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3 hours ago, ExponentialDecay said:

Tbh you don't come off as a serious applicant imo. Did you misunderstand what the "interests" section is for (it's for your career interests), or do you seriously think that you're getting an MPA to learn languages? I also have trouble deciphering all the "bruhs" and similar.

The QGRE is too low. You need to get it above 160. The verbal is lowish compared to the averages that people at top MPA programs will have, and since you have an untraditional undergrad background, I'd pull that up as well. But the QGRE is very, very important - especially if you have no math. (which I recommend you take at a CC - I don't remember about SIPA, but most programs require at least one of microeconomics/statistics for admission). 

The work experience is also a problem. If you can swing the NGO thing as something other than "helping dad out at the office", that could be worthwhile. Just as a warning, folding clothes in your living room as a child can be a nice segue, but it will not carry your application - your parents being aid workers does not substitute for work experience in the field. 

I actually wouldn't depend too much on the name of your undergrad school or the name of the school at which you took electives (more on that later). Not a lot of people with a design background switch over into this career, and not many people who haven't been to design school understand how rigorous and how much work it is. That's not to say it will be a negative (you'll be surprised at how much adcoms enjoy novelty applicants), but you do need to show that you can read, write, and count, basically - which is why I recommend knocking out a really good GRE. Seriously, getting a good enough GRE score is vital in your case.

You're also suffering from a strong case of iviness imo. SIPA isn't better because it's Columbia. Fletcher (Tufts) and the Georgetown schools are a bit better for Foreign Service, actually. Some Ivy MPAs (well, all of them outside WWS, HKS, and SIPA) are not prestigious at all. When it comes to the graduate level, Ivy doesn't mean better. Likewise, it's not significant that you took language courses at an Ivy. What matters is how good you are at the language. Taking them at an Ivy doesn't necessarily make you more proficient than taking them somewhere else, and adcoms do recognize that. I wouldn't get a letter from your MIT prof just because he's from MIT and a department head. Get letters from people who know you well and can speak to your abilities on a deep level. Only get a letter from that guy if he fits this bill. Your Goethe instructor isn't the right fit, no.

Overall, I get a lot of enthusiasm from you, but not a lot of direction or maturity (not of you as a person, but of your knowledge/experience with this career path). Why do you want to work in Foreign Service? Why SIPA? (this is an application question, and if you don't have a good answer beside it being Columbia, you've just killed your application). You like learning languages, you want to help people, you've seen your parents doing it - these are all good reasons to try a career in IR, but you lack a vision for how you will contribute as a seasoned professional. This can be a problem, because these aren't entry-level programs. Most successful applicants will already have some idea of where they stand in the field. I do think you'll get in somewhere, maybe even SIPA if you get the GRE up; as for money - eh, I'm not so sure.

This is a lot of really great feedback and it's a lot more helpful for determining the way I'm perceived on paper than all the people who know me personally and just keep saying "You'll do great!" This is why you have to talk to strangers on the internet sometimes.


Did you misunderstand what the "interests" section is for: Yes. Yes I did. I am aware I will not be learning languages for two years. I actually would like to get any requirements out of the way as soon as possible so I can use my courses for anything and everything else. Unless I learn Mandarin or another CNL, learning languages ahead of time barely helps my case, if at all, and anything the FS would want me to know (hypothetically of course, for now) they would teach me, so it would just be a waste to start something new.

Everything you say about my GRE scores sums up all of my concerns regarding the exam. Everyone I know keeps telling me it's a perfectly good score and I'm running out of ways to tell them it's really not, and the score matters more for me than it does for everyone else. I keep hearing people say not to retake it "just for a couple points" but those couple points could be crucial for me.

I was folding clothes on the floor when I was six, but it's 27 doctors and nurses from all over the country now, tens of thousands of dollars of budget to manage, tons of inventory to move, sometimes across borders, not to mention the block flights for the 27 doctors and nurses (I work in travel so I'm in charge of moving everyone since I happen to know the intricate rules.) It's benefit dinners, speeches, event planning, plus the planning of the actual trips themselves. Plus I have a design background so the web design, branding, and video documentary and presentations are all me. You can't officially have any family member on the paperwork but I've learned so much about how much work it takes simply from having to be the one to do it. It's my mom, my dad, and me managing all of this for all of these people, and from the level of interest we're already getting, the team of volunteers (and the budget) is going to about double for next year, which means this is so much bigger than anyone thought it was ever going to be. Stressful, but super exciting!


Columbia is the only Ivy on my list because it's the only program that I like, and I'm not just picking it because it's an Ivy. Tufts has attractive courses of course, and Boston in particular has an interesting track that has a visual Marketing and PR angle to IR that could provide a smoother transition from my design background to Public Diplomacy, so it would be a good fit for me as an individual. Stating above that I took my language courses at an Ivy was more to iterate that I had to take those classes at a whole other university different from my degree-granting school, where I had to sit in a classroom, take exams, and be held accountable for my grades. The partnership between the schools was there so I had the opportunity to take advantage of it, but it required a little more initiative and focus than signing up for some online tutoring thing or buying a Rosetta Stone box set.

I took the equivalent of 4 classes (it was two doubles) with that professor before he 100% moved to MIT, half of which were 100% at my home institution, the other half physically at MIT with MIT students, although the credits came from that professor/the home school. No one knows me academically better than this guy, and I wouldn't dream of asking anyone else for a recommendation without coming to him for one first. 

Also, we'll take funding out of this equation for now, since in my case, consideration for the majority of funding won't come from my grad school applications themselves. That's on a different thread on this forum haha.

Edited by ayasofaya

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Program:  Master or PHD in chemistry in Canada 

Schools Applying To:  UBC, Alberta, Mcmaster and waterloo

 

Undergrad Institution: Bachelor of pharmaceutical science, Ain shams university, egypt , class 2016

Undergraduate GPA: 3.6

Undergraduate Major: Chemistry

GRE: 156 V / 164 Q / 2.5 W

GRE Chemistry : to be taken next october

Age: 24

Languages: Arabic (native), english (fluent) (ielts score : 7 ) 

Work Experience: 2 years of undergraduate work as community pharmacist, summer training in R&D of pharmaceutical companies 

                                1 year chemistry teaching assistant 

                                1 year research experience in material science, analysis and drug design 

 

Concerns : about which is more suitable and have high chances of acceptance the master of science in canada or PHD and if i should apply in american university also ?

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30 minutes ago, ahmed.samy said:

Program:  Master or PHD in chemistry in Canada 

Schools Applying To:  UBC, Alberta, Mcmaster and waterloo

 

Undergrad Institution: Bachelor of pharmaceutical science, Ain shams university, egypt , class 2016

Undergraduate GPA: 3.6

Undergraduate Major: Chemistry

GRE: 156 V / 164 Q / 2.5 W

GRE Chemistry : to be taken next october

Age: 24

Languages: Arabic (native), english (fluent) (ielts score : 7 ) 

Work Experience: 2 years of undergraduate work as community pharmacist, summer training in R&D of pharmaceutical companies 

                                1 year chemistry teaching assistant 

                                1 year research experience in material science, analysis and drug design 

 

Concerns : about which is more suitable and have high chances of acceptance the master of science in canada or PHD and if i should apply in american university also ?

I think you're unlikely to be admitted to a government affairs program if your application states that you want to get a PhD or MS. Also, because your applications will most likely be sent to PhD and MS programs.

EDIT: I see that you already posted this information in the Chemistry thread. It's not going to help you to spam every thread asking about your admission chances.

Edited by Ben414

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On 9/6/2017 at 9:41 PM, culturalpolicy_COL said:

Program: MPP - MPAff with cultural policy focus

Schools Applying To:  Chicago Harris, UMich Ford, LBJ School, UCLA Luskin, Columbia SIPA, GWU Elliot, Georgetown McCourt

Interests: Cultural development policy during post-conflict transtition

Undergrad Institution: Best public university of Colombia

Undergraduate GPA: 3.04

Undergraduate Major: Architecture

Quant coursework: Took microeconomics (score of 4.0 out of 5.0) - I have three MOOCs with verified certificates on data analysis, etc.

GRE: 150V - 140Q - 4.0 AW (retaking test in ten days).

TOEFL: 101

Age: 29

Work Experience: 5 years of working experience by fall 2018. I have worked in the public sector as advisor of General Directors of the Ministry of Culture of Colombia, Medellín City planning Dept and now I am leading the culture programatic sector in a presidential campaing.  I have different accomplishments, I was part of Global Shapers of the World Economic Forum, Activist with over 5 years of experience, and so on.

LORs: one from undergrad professor, another from boss at Ministry of Culture, last one from director of programmatic team at the presidential campaign.

SOPs: not written yet.

Concerns: Of course my main concern is the GRE. As I am an architect, the last time I took math was during high school... I have been practicing but I feel it will take a lot of time to be "fluent". I am not a good test taker, neither. I believe that I have the story, the experience and a compelling topic to focus my studies and to be accepted at a top university but I am afraid my GRE + GPA weakens my chances. Please give me your recommendations!

JUANHERRERA_RESUME_2017UP.pdf

Anybody??? 

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31 minutes ago, culturalpolicy_COL said:

Anybody??? 

Very strong profile. Go to the Kennedy School and don't look back. I suggest you tap into their network in Colombia before applying. They have a lot of very well placed grads in key public sector positions.

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@ayasofaya

It will probably be more helpful for you to read through this topic and through this forum in general and see the profiles of accepted students to your program.

Why are you reporting your application concerns to people who, apparently, don't have a lot of experience with these programs? It's not their fault they're telling you you'll do great - if you ask me if your ignition is working correctly, I'll probably also say that it's working great, because I'm not a mechanic and I have no idea. Like, this is your grad school application, and your time and your money and your life - you listen to other people's opinions at your own risk. If those opinions aren't coming from a place of education and experience, they are probably irrelevant.
 
Lastly, I hope this doesn't come off as harsh, but
 
Stating above that I took my language courses at an Ivy was more to iterate that I had to take those classes at a whole other university different from my degree-granting school, where I had to sit in a classroom, take exams, and be held accountable for my grades. The partnership between the schools was there so I had the opportunity to take advantage of it, but it required a little more initiative and focus than signing up for some online tutoring thing or buying a Rosetta Stone box set.
 
It's great that you have the drive and courage to sell yourself (seriously - many people don't), but if you do it recklessly, you risk coming off as arrogant or out of touch. Like, I'm not clear on how this is different from just taking a class, you know? Joint campuses are very common now. Lots if not most US undergrads take classes away from their home institution. I did it a few times in my undergrad, and I would never think to highlight it in my application to anywhere, because it's not particularly impressive. Being able to sit in a classroom, take exam, and be held accountable for your grades is usually considered a given for applicants to most decent undergraduate programs - not grad school. And whether it takes more initiative to take a class in college than to complete a self-learning course like Rosetta Stone is a matter of opinion. I'd say it's more impressive that you're continuing your language learning when you're out in the work world - but that also isn't particularly impressive.
 
When you're doing these applications, try to look at your materials from the point of view of the admissions committee. We all have the right to be proud of whatever we want, but it's not necessarily something that an admissions committee will be receptive to, and ultimately they're the ones calling the shots.

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1 hour ago, ExponentialDecay said:

@ayasofaya

Why are you reporting your application concerns to people who, apparently, don't have a lot of experience with these programs?

Oh, well that's just the people in my life wanting to know what I'm up to and providing general words of encouragement because they care about me. I'm not necessarily going straight to them for specific advice, nor am I by any means ungrateful for their encouraging words. I was just pointing out that you've given me some great feedback and how valuable it is to come to forums like this and other resources to get some fresh unbiased eyes on it. Thanks again. You've given me a lot of good things o think about when pulling everything together.

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21 hours ago, Ben414 said:

I think you're unlikely to be admitted to a government affairs program if your application states that you want to get a PhD or MS. Also, because your applications will most likely be sent to PhD and MS programs.

EDIT: I see that you already posted this information in the Chemistry thread. It's not going to help you to spam every thread asking about your admission chances.

i won't state the " or " thing in my application i want to ask wether my chances will be high for MSc or PHD to be able to decide before applying and i posted here because the chemistry thread has small followers to reply effectively 

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2 hours ago, ahmed.samy said:

i won't state the " or " thing in my application i want to ask wether my chances will be high for MSc or PHD to be able to decide before applying and i posted here because the chemistry thread has small followers to reply effectively 

Why do you think that a forum dedicated to international affairs will be able to give you any information about applying to chemistry programs?

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On 9/6/2017 at 7:41 PM, culturalpolicy_COL said:

Concerns: Of course my main concern is the GRE. As I am an architect, the last time I took math was during high school... I have been practicing but I feel it will take a lot of time to be "fluent". I am not a good test taker, neither. I believe that I have the story, the experience and a compelling topic to focus my studies and to be accepted at a top university but I am afraid my GRE + GPA weakens my chances. Please give me your recommendations!

I think you can definitely aim to increase your quant score to 160+. It can be intimidating, but the GRE is a fairly simple test that relies a lot more on trying to trick you with its specific format rather than the actual difficulties of the problems. Even if you haven't done math for years, if you spend two months practicing with an online test prep course (I had a good experience with Magoosh) raising your quant score by 15-20 points is a reasonable, achievable goal.

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On 9/8/2017 at 11:22 PM, ExponentialDecay said:

I mean, you know best, but if you made it through an econ MA in Singapore, your math is probably not too weak for a mid-ranked econ program, which is still a better value proposition than even the top PhD in public policy. Unless, of course, you don't want to sit comps - which I totally understand (and anyone understands, really). In terms of the work you will be doing, you can do general empirical work in either public policy or a mid-ranked econ PhD.

Of course a better-ranked policy PhD will place you better. That said, how you place will depend heavily on your research agenda and the reputation of your supervisor (and, if you plan to go into industry afterwards - which you should, because academia is a no-go with this degree - work experience in your specialization). If you are planning to basically do economics research, apply to econ programs and save yourself a lot of sweat and tears come job time.

Comps is a problem for me. The Econ MA is really an applied programme, catered to professionals, and I know how painful Econ comps are from interacting with PhD Econ yr1 grads in my grad school. And if they have it bad in Asia, god knows how tough comps will be in US, even for a mid-tier programme.

Personally, am inclined to use Econ analysis in research, but am attracted by the interdisciplinary aspect of PPolicy as I do find that political concerns are an understudied issue in Econ, but studied in greater detail in PPolicy.

It is very likely that I will still stay around in industry/think tank work myself.

Appreciate your comments. Keep them coming. :)

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First post, hello humans of the Internet!

Program: MPP, MPA, International Relations or Development

Schools Applying To:  HKS, Princeton WW, Columbia SIPA, Yale Jackson, Georgetown McCourt, John Hopkins SAIS (hoping to narrow down these 6 in the US, could use some advice) but also Oxford, LSE and Sciences Po

Interests: International Development

Undergrad Institution: McGill University (semester aborad in Buenos Aires)

Undergraduate GPA: 3.65 (Honours, Distinction)

Undergraduate Major: International Development

GRE: Q158, V162 (don´t know my AWA scores yet, but does it really make a difference?)

Quantitative Courses: Micro and macro, Developmental Economics, and Empirical Research methods for Political Science (all undergraduate level)

Years of Work Experience: 1-1.5 

Age: 22

Languages: English, French and Spanish, fluent.

Work Experience: summer internships in law firm and two different NGOs (during undergrad) 6 month internship at the United Nations OHCHR in Geneva and 4 months at McKinsey's Social Initiative in Spain (looking to go to the Grammeen Bank in Dhaka this summer, but probably won't be on my résumé by the time of my apps). I have worked in a total of 5 countries and in 3 languages

LORs:  most likely will be 2 professional from the UN and McKinsey, and 1 academic from a prof at McGill I was an RA for

Concerns: too young, lack of work experience, lack of quant background

I graduated my undergrad in December 2016, so it might be too early for me. I am really set on grad school this year though as I am sick of unpaid internships and I am not competitive for a real job without a Masters degree (the eternal catch-22). I do however have some pretty solid names on the CV though so maybe?? What do you think?
Furthermore, I'm concerned about my lack of quant background and GRE score. I am debating whether I should take it again as my scores were just below my targets (160Q/165R). I can spin the project I did as an RA as data analysis but that's pretty much it...

Should also mention I am a French national and will be applying for Fulbright - any other ideas on scholarships?

Many many thanks

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On 9/19/2017 at 11:05 AM, romane said:

I am really set on grad school this year though as I am sick of unpaid internships and I am not competitive for a real job without a Masters degree (the eternal catch-22).

Really? That has not been my experience, nor the experience of most of my colleagues/former classmates. You are not eligible for most staff positions at a UN without a master's (and then probably a PhD and 5+ years of experience), but people get "real jobs" (by which I assume you mean paid and full-time) in this industry with a bachelor's only all the time. They won't necessarily be jobs at the IMF (although that is also possible), but that's not strictly necessary either.

Some of the programs you listed (e.g. the HKS ID or Princeton WWS) have strict requirements for work experience which you don't match, but some also don't, and given your profile is otherwise strong, you'll get in somewhere. The question for you is whether the money/time is worth it at this time in your career.

Also, pull the quant up to 160, which is the unofficial cut-off for some of your programs.

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Hello, internet people! Any guidance, advice, or other encouragement would be much appreciated.

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

Schools Applying To: Columbia SIPA, NYU Wagner, CUNY Baruch, Princeton WWS, and Harvard HKS

Undergraduate institution: Large, private Top-40? research school

Undergraduate GPA: 3.46

Undergraduate Majors: Psychology

Study Abroad: 9 months in London interning at a Hospital School; 6-week education/immersion program in Israel

GRE:  169 V, 159 Q, 5.5 W

Years of Work Experience: 4+ if I count full-time summer internships

Age: 25

Describe Relevant Work Experience: As an undergrad, I did 2 years of part-time research looking for neurological markers for Autism and other disorders in kids. I interned for one summer in a children's psychiatric ward and spent 9 months at a hospital school in London that supported kids with a wide range of disabilities.

Professionally I've had 1.5 years in cancer research management, and now about 2.5 years working in fundraising, communications, and advocacy at a nonprofit that provides services for people with disabilities (mental and developmental).

Languages: French (intermediate), Hebrew (beginner)

Quant: Statistics II - B; a couple of neuroscience classes- also B's; I took a Macroeconomics course at a community college this summer to bolster my application and got an A. I'm hoping that my professional experience in research and financial management will help make up for the lack of coursework.

Strength of SOP:  Hopefully pretty strong! I think I framed my reason for going back to school well- essentially that after working in research, direct care, and nonprofit administration for people with mental illness and intellectual disabilities, I realized that even the most groundbreaking research and effective treatments couldn't curtail the fallout of indifferent, inadequate policymaking. 

My goal is to create policy that better serves people with disabilities, who aside from needing access to affordable and effective healthcare (should be obvious, right?) also need someone pulling for them in talks about transportation, supported employment, and- of great interest to me- political engagement.

I launched an initiative at my nonprofit to train people with disabilities and the staff that support them in civic participation/voting, and I really want to expand it citywide by partnering with local government and nonprofits, wherever I end up for school. 

My experience has been pretty varied, but it has all been in support of the same population, so I hope that counts for something!

Strength of LOR (be honest, describe the process, etc): I know that the letter from my direct supervisor, the Director of my department, will be glowing and assert that she thinks I could be elected President tomorrow.

My CEO is also writing me a letter and I think it will be strong- I work directly with him frequently and recently pulled off a very large tech conference that got him in a room with state officials who could fund our projects. He's been hugely supportive of my career development.

My last letter will be from an old English professor- one of my favorite classes and also the last I took before graduating early. I was most nervous about this one, but luckily, he was enthusiastic when he said he'd write my letter and claimed to remember me and my work well.

Other: My top, top, top, TOP choice is Columbia. The director of my intended track at SIPA is actually working on a program that is aimed at increasing voter turnout for New Yorkers, and I see a huge opportunity there to expand her work to support the needs of people with disabilities. (Don't worry- I made sure to mention that in my SOP!).

Unless I magically get into Princeton (there would have to be sorcery involved), my second choice is NYU, where they just started an Advocacy and Political Action track, lining up pretty exactly with my career goals.

Edited by yellina122

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On 9/19/2017 at 8:05 AM, romane said:

Schools Applying To:  HKS, Princeton WW, Columbia SIPA, Yale Jackson, Georgetown McCourt, John Hopkins SAIS (hoping to narrow down these 6 in the US, could use some advice) but also Oxford, LSE and Sciences Po

I personally can't give you much guidance which to cut, but I agree that it's a good idea to narrow down where you apply. I spent roughly $800 applying to six schools, and it was a waste. Spend a lot of time talking to alum in development (most are happy to chat if you reach out) and pour over the course offerings (make sure classes you're interested in are actually regularly offered) to apply to the schools you feel you're competitive for and that fit your goals.

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First Time poster!

Schools Applying To:  Columbia SIPA, Harvard Kennedy (as part of Dual MPP/MBA applications)

Undergrad Institution: top-2 undergrad business school in Canada (Queens/Ivey)

Undergraduate GPA: 3.8

Undergraduate Major: Business Admin

GRE: Actually didn't take the GRE, but 750 GMAT - equivalent to 165 verbal / 167 quant

Quantitative Courses: Statistics, Macro/Microeconomics

Age: 25

Languages: English (native), Mandarin Chinese (native)

Work Experience: 3 years out of undergrad in Management Consulting - includes 6 months setting up a Thought Leadership Centre at my firm, and 1 year writing a paper on financial services and fintechs at the World Economic Forum

LORs: One from my boss at the WEF, one from the Partner in charge of Public Policy Thought Leadership at my consulting firm, one from my Global Macro Prof (highest grade in my year when I took it)

SOPs: My time in consulting has exposed me to plenty of public policy issues, and my time at the WEF has allowed me to see a: the potential of fintechs, and b: how bad public policy holds technological solutions back, especially in the developing world. I want to get an MPP/MBA to merge these two worlds.

Publications and Honors: Published a white paper at the WEF, and several pieces of thought leadership (white papers) at the consulting firm. 

Concerns: Am I too "business-y" for a school like HKS or SIPA? I think I can make the case for both degrees, but am unsure. 

Edited by reirameso

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First time poster.  Currently serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mongolia.  I have about a year before I apply to grad school

Program: Masters of International Affairs and similar programs

Schools Applying To:  Fletcher at Tufts is my first choice.  It's really my dream school because I think its coursework best fits what I'm looking for.  But I'll also give Georgetown, SAIS (although I'm worried there aren't many funding opportunities at SAIS), Korbel, American, and maybe SIPA a chance.

Interests: I'm interested in the intersection of international security and development.  Basically, I am interested in how community development can offset the influence of militant organizations, especially in the Middle East. Fletcher's flexible coursework is best suited for this line of study.

Undergrad Institution: University of Denver

Undergraduate GPA: 3.62

Undergraduate Major: International Studies (area GPA 3.9) and Journalism Studies, also minors in History and Hebrew

GRE: 165V/150Q/AWA 5.5

Quantitative Courses: I took Calc 1 my first quarter of my freshman year and got a C.  I never took an economics course because I scored a 4 on the AP Macroeconomics test.

Age: 25 (will be almost 27 by the time I finish Peace Corps service)

Languages: English (native), Hebrew (high proficiency), Turkish (basic proficiency), Mongolian (intermediate proficiency, hopefully high by the time I complete service)

Work Experience: I had an internship with a newspaper in Jerusalem, Israel one summer in college.  Most notably, I wrote a feature piece for the magazine section about the Syrian refugees receiving medical treatment in northern Israel.  The piece included visits to two different hospitals and interviews with refugees, hospital staff, and hospital directors.  I was 20 years old at the time.  I studied abroad in Turkey for four months, and then I stayed to teach English at a summer program for Turkish children.  I had a 6-month marketing internship with a Denver nonprofit.  The nonprofit works with the State Department to bring visitors (preferably emerging leaders) from other countries to the US, and they also bring speakers to Denver for monthly programs on global issues.  I also interned for the Aspen Institute last summer.  I had the chance to extend that into a job opportunity, but I accepted a Peace Corps invitation instead.  I've also done some volunteer work tutoring immigrants and refugees in English and for the US citizenship exam.

My experience abroad includes a total of 7 months in Israel, 7 months in Turkey, and (by the end of service) 2 years in Mongolia.

Currently, I'm an English Education Peace Corps volunteer in Mongolia.  I'm in my first year.  I work at a secondary school and I am also working to identify contacts for community development projects.

LORs: One will be from my Hebrew professor.  I studied with her all four years of university.  One will be from my Media Law professor in the Journalism department.  My third recommendation will probably come from someone at the Aspen Institute or from my Peace Corps service.

SOPs: I haven't started it yet.  I'll probably focus on my deep interest in finding longterm solutions to terrorism and militancy.  I'll talk about my experience in the Middle East, and how my interest in these issues go back to being a high school student religiously reading publications like The Atlantic and Foreign Affairs.  I haven't thought it through quite yet.

Publications and Honors:  Publications: a few published articles in the Israeli newspaper during my internship (including the refugee one), and some articles I wrote for college news sources.

Honors: I was an ambassador for the Media, Film, and Journalism Studies department my last year of college.  I also helped to start the Model Arab League at my university (I was also the treasurer).  I also helped start the Spoken Word Poetry club at my university.  I was a member of the Honors Program and I received a very generous scholarship from the University of Denver.  I was also a Cherrington Global Scholar, which basically means that DU helped pay for some of my study abroad expenses.

Concerns: I'm really concerned about my quant GRE score.  Honestly, if it wasn't so low, I wouldn't be concerned.  A 150 just seems like a terrible score considering I don't have much to show for quantitative coursework.  The verbal and AWA are really high, but I'm not sure it's enough to buffer that quant score.  All of my practice GRE work demonstrated I was strong in data analysis, but I fell short in geometry and algebra (I was never strong in geometry, and I should have put some more work into remembering properties of high school algebra).  I'm in a difficult spot right now because finding studying materials is difficult and there aren't many testing dates available in my country's capital.  Plus, I can't take any online economics coursework right now because I'm not allowed to enroll as a Peace Corps volunteer.  If I decide to retake the GRE, I need to start working on it pretty soon so that I'm prepared  for the limited testing dates.

Edited by MeganSaraS

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5 hours ago, MeganSaraS said:

SOPs: I haven't started it yet.  I'll probably focus on my deep interest in finding longterm solutions to terrorism and militancy.  I'll talk about my experience in the Middle East, and how my interest in these issues go back to being a high school student religiously reading publications like The Atlantic and Foreign Affairs.  I haven't thought it through quite yet.

I'd avoid talking about reading foreign affairs magazines in high school. You want to demonstrate an abiding interest in your field, but my sense is that admissions committees get a lot of similar SOPs that talk about how passionate applicants are while not focusing on what makes them a strong candidate. I'd recommend that you focus more on your actual achievements while living and working abroad.

5 hours ago, MeganSaraS said:

Concerns: I'm really concerned about my quant GRE score.  Honestly, if it wasn't so low, I wouldn't be concerned.  A 150 just seems like a terrible score considering I don't have much to show for quantitative coursework.

I would strongly recommend trying to get your quant score up to at least 160. I know your situation is challenging, but the GRE is a test that can be learned, and I was able to raise my quant score significantly studying with the online course Magoosh. Given that 150 really is quite low for the schools you are targeting I think it would be worthwhile to do everything you can to raise this score, including even waiting to apply if you aren't able to retake the test before this application season.

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Here goes; one very confused Brit.

Program: Masters of International Affairs/ Global Affairs and similar programs

Schools Applying To:  Yale Jackson is my first choice. Joint second are Fletcher at Tufts and Johns Hopkins SAIS. Following that Columbia and after that I'm a bit lost. Having said that, I don't mind reapplying next year with more choices and just seeing how I do this year as I'm in a job I love in the sector. 

Interests: Primarily the intersection of conflict and international development; because of my professional experience in remedial/ aid work I am more interested in transitional development and policy work which has geared me towards my course choices. 

Undergrad Institution: University of Oxford

Undergraduate GPA: N/A (UK University) 2:1 (with exhibition for exemplary performance). For those who don't know UK qualifications; 1:0 degree is the best you can get, about 20% get this at Oxford and everyone else gets a 2:1. Less than that is an issue. I was borderline 2:1-1:0 so I was awarded an exhibition. 

Undergraduate Major: Classics (Ancient Greek and Latin- yes, I know, weirdly irrelevant. IR isn't even a course I could do at undergrad in the UK). 

GRE: 156Q/ 166V / AWA unknown but predicted 6. 

Quantitative Courses: Not an option at undergrad level. I plan on taking a macro and micro economics course before application and register for an international development economics course pre-applications.

Age: 25

Languages: English (native), French (professional), German (high proficiency but rusty), Arabic (intermediate but rusty), strong aptitude for languages in situ (Mongolian, Bengali and Hebrew)

Work Experience: 

University internships: 3 months as presenter/ journalist in TV station/newspaper in Mongolia, 3 months in development charity in Dhaka, 2 months in UK House of Commons, 3 months as analyst in political risk consultancies in London, 2 months as campaigns assistant at refugee scholar's NGO. 

Post University: 6 months as refugee caseworker for Amnesty International, Israel and a grassroots, women's development refugee charity, 6 months as a refugee caseworker/ co-ordinator for a UK NGO assisting refugee minors with access to legal asylum in UK, 2 months as a consultant in innovative, humanitarian refugee camp in Greece. Just started a new position with UK NGO working on international infrastructure growth. 

My experience abroad includes 5 countries, 5 languages and almost two years. 

Professional skills thus range from; project management, communications, fundraising, research and analysis, M&E, individual services. Left behind best practices handbook in Greece for the camp and in Israel for immigration services. Commissioned for a political risk profile on Mongolia. 

LORs: Options: definitely one/two from my Oxford tutors (which I know will be glowing as I have exemplars for other positions), I have a banked reference from the Israel director at Amnesty International Israel which I know is strong, but could seek references from my directors at the women's grassroot charity in Israel and the UK NGO for refugee minors.

SOPs: I haven't started it yet and honestly, will require a whole lot more research on how to angle myself because this is all uncharted territory. 

Publications and Honors:  Publications: a few published articles in the Mongolian newspaper, several online I can supply links to for an international conflict website, undergraduate thesis (which no one will want to read because it’s about Ancient Greek mythology and feminism.) 

Honors: Exhibition at Oxford for the borderline 1.0/2.1. Not sure what else qualifies as an honor. Editor of the Oxford University IR magazine Sir for a semester (the appointments last 1 semester) plus a number of other extra-curric activities to a high level.

Concerns: Many and various.

1)     GRE Q score: 156 is sub-par. People have referenced an unofficial cutoff score of 160 so perhaps I should retake. Given I abandoned maths 10 years ago at 15, I was happy with a jump from 30th to 62nd percentile in 3 months but I think I could do exponentially better over the next month- but I don’t know whether its worth the time and grief which could be spent elsewhere. Is it worth retaking?

2)     Economics: as my quant score shows, maths isn’t my strong suit. A lot of courses have a heavy quant emphasis which I’d like to avoid but recognise is necessary. It’s why I’m taking the extra online courses (CC courses aren’t a thing here). How would they look? How important are they?

3)     Yale Jackson is apparently very, very competitive. The other’s aren’t exactly a breeze. I’m not really sure how US schools weight their applications and how important my GRE score will be in the grand scheme of things.

4)     Mostly, just a bit confused about the whole thing and where I should even be aiming.

Thanks- all input appreciated.

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On 20/09/2017 at 5:56 PM, ExponentialDecay said:

Also, pull the quant up to 160, which is the unofficial cut-off for some of your programs.

I keep seeing this, but wondered what kind of regularity/ proof there was of this and, if so, which schools it applied to. (Bit vague, but see above for my schools of choice). Thanks. 

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Hello 

Would be grateful for any help people can offer!

Program: MPP and similar programs

Schools Applying To:  HKS, Chicago Harris, Sanford etc.

Nationality  Indian

Interests: I'm primarily interested in the areas of public finance, sustainable development, green finance, financial inclusion in developing countries, microfinance and social investing. My  work is at the intersection of finance and public policy and my goal is to work with a multilateral development agency such as the World Bank, IFC , ADB etc.

Undergrad Institution: State university in India

Undergraduate GPA: 3.1 (when converted to the 4.0 scale)

Undergraduate Major: Instrumentation and Control Engineering

Graduate diploma - Management with a focus on finance and strategy

Graduate Institution - One of the top management institutions in India

Certifications - CFA (US), FRM

GRE:  Took the GMAT. 750 which converts to 165+ in both Q and V on the GRE exam.

Age: 28  

Languages: English, Hindi and Telugu

Work Experience:  5 years 

I work with the central bank of my country, the Reserve Bank of India. India's central bank is unique in that along with monetary policy, it also works in the spheres of financial inclusion, public policy, investor protection and related areas. I've been involved with working towards curbing illegal financial activities, ponzi schemes and the more nefarious aspects of shadow banking. I was also involved with managing the recent demonetization exercise in India. Also part of my core duties is financial regulation and supervision of banks.

LORs: My current/former supervisors would be happy to write a LOR. Will find it difficult to get academic references.

SOPs: Haven't started yet. My SOP will focus on my experiences while working in public finance and policy in a developing country. Will talk about how there experiences led to an interest in public policy and development. I've made solid contributions to several key policy decisions which I plan to highlight

Concerns: I'm worried about the following aspects:

1. Age  -  Would I be considered too old for the programs I intend to apply to?

2. Lack of international experience - Apart from a couple of personal trips/vacations, my entire life till now has been based in India. How big a problem will that be?

3. Nature of experience - Will my experience being in a niche area become a hindrance? Will my combination of education and experience be considered a good fit for the programs I'm targetting?

I'd appreciate any feedback on this from the people here. Thanks!

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Program: MPP/JD

Schools Applying To:  HKS, Stanford PP, Woodrow Wilson, Georgetown, Chicago

Interests: I'm interested in terrorism, security, money laundering, and things along those lines.

Undergrad Institution: Swarthmore College. Studied abroad at Oxford.

Undergraduate GPA: 3.83

Undergraduate Major: Political Science/IR

GRE: 165+ V     160+ Q          LSAT 173

Quantitative Courses: Intro Econ (A-), Intermediate Macro (B+), Intro GIS (A), Intro Econometrics (B), Urban Econ (A-), Intro CS (Freshman Pass/Fail), and I'm thinking about taking a calculus or statistics courses this spring as a post grad course (which one should I do?)

Age: 23 (will be 24 when I apply)

Languages: English, trying to learn Russian

Work Experience: Will have 2 years working as a paralegal in the most important District Attorney's Office in the country handling organized crime and terrorism cases. Did a 3-month internship writing for a DC think tank, during this time my op-eds were published on multiple fairly large websites. Did a 3-month internship at another DC think tank doing statistical research on the American opioid epidemic with a Harvard econ professor. 

LORs: One from an IR professor that I took 4 classes with during undergrad, got an A in every single one. One from a Constitutional Law professor whose class I aced. One from my supervisor at work.

SOPs: We'll see. Need to do more research.

Publications and Honors: Published a couple op-eds about economic issues, (including international). My job in the DA's office isn't really the best for publications tbh. The nature of the job is that it's pretty covert. 

Concerns: My major concern is my lack of good quantitative experience. I would really appreciate any guidance on how I can best help myself here. Also, any advice on JD/MPPs (which are the best?) would be greatly appreciated. 

Edited by HCLcoasters

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Program: MPP

Schools Applying To:  Georgetown McCourt, George Mason Schar School, American University SPA, UVA Batten

Interests: health policy (global, infectious disease, & rural), social policy

Undergrad Institution: small private liberal arts school in VA

Undergraduate GPA: 2.77 (addressing in SOP and/or supplemental materials)

Undergraduate Major: International Relations

Graduate GPA: 4.0 – currently enrolled in a graduate certificate program in Global Post-Disaster Studies in a top ranked homeland security program

GRE: TBD taking in October/November

Quantitative Courses: Statistics, Microeconomics

Age: 27

Languages: English, sporadic Spanish (reading proficiency is higher than verbal)

Work Experience: 4 ½ years as a paralegal, US Senate internship, paid full time campaign staffer in battleground state during 2012 presidential election, various other paid campaign positions in finance and field in both state and national level races, undergraduate research assistant to a professor focusing on health policy

LORs: One from program director of current graduate program, one from partner/owner of the law firm I’m employed by, and another from a well-connected current elected official

SOPs: Work in progress

Publications and Honors: Working with current program director of graduate program on a manuscript focused on empowering Afghan women to be included in his upcoming book focused on Rebuilding Afghanistan. Also presenting at a conference in January 2018 on my independent research focused on the spread of infectious disease in disaster situations

Concerns: Honestly, my undergrad GPA. I graduated in 2012, have professional work experience and have excelled in my current graduate coursework. I am from the Appalachia region (hence my interest in rural policy), worked my way through undergrad, and have some personal issues that I will address in my SOP/supplemental materials. 

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