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

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On 1/8/2019 at 3:53 AM, ExponentialDecay said:

The obvious question in my mind is, do you know what you're getting into? What is it that you think we do here, hold hands and sing kumbayah? Banks and big corps are the biggest players in this arena, second only to governments (and that's only in certain areas). If you have a disdain for corporations, don't go to public policy school, quit your job, go work at a small-time NGO or get a humanities PhD, and you will find yourself in excellent company. If you're ready to join us in the real world, your banking experience will be extremely valuable. But think carefully about whether you can see yourself advancing the same interests for half the money.

Actually, I have a question on this to make sure I know what I'm getting myself into here. What types of roles at banks / big corporates do folks typically go into after these degrees (specifically, after degrees in International Relations, International Affairs or similar--I'm applying to schools like JHU SAIS, Elliott School, etc.)? I'm a consultant to banks now and want to make sure this will actually allow me to shift careers in a positive way (and that I shouldn't just go get an MBA instead).

Thanks in advance.

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On 1/10/2019 at 2:46 PM, JustOneQuickQ said:

Actually, I have a question on this to make sure I know what I'm getting myself into here. What types of roles at banks / big corporates do folks typically go into after these degrees (specifically, after degrees in International Relations, International Affairs or similar--I'm applying to schools like JHU SAIS, Elliott School, etc.)? I'm a consultant to banks now and want to make sure this will actually allow me to shift careers in a positive way (and that I shouldn't just go get an MBA instead).

Thanks in advance.

Those with previous finance experience can use it as a stepping stone to careers in social finance and impact investing or finance-related careers in the public sector or multinationals. A lot of people use prestigious public policy schools as a backdoor to analyst/associate roles at the usual suspects (although usually in their consulting arms). If you're looking to stay in finance, as you know, prestige matters, so I would be careful about picking schools (i.e. I wouldn't go to GWU). Big corporates are pretty broad as entities, so people do a broad range of things, from more obvious fits like CSR or innovation/entrepreneurship to standard middle management stuff. If you're looking to stay in the private sector, an MBA is also an excellent and arguably more prudent choice. The coursework is similar and most programs these days offer concentrations in sustainable business. The main distinguishing feature of MBAs imo is that the on-campus recruiting efforts are a lot stronger, whereas at MPAs you have to hustle.

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I'm feeling a lot of anxiety about apps -- I think I have a story to tell, but I'm nervous about some of my stats. Any thoughts on my chances?

Applying to: HKS, Harris, SIPA, Georgetown, Ford 

Undergrad Institution: Top 5 undergraduate business school

 Undergrad GPA: 3.5

 Undergrad Major: Finance

 GRE: 160Q / 154V / 5.0 (tests have never been my strong point -- this makes me nervous!)

 Work Experience: Total: 5 years (plus significant side projects outside of my day job). 2 years on wall street a top global bank and then transitioned to a notable tech company with a strong international focus for my role; I also started a company during college (it's success and failures are a huge part of my story and reason for going back to school). Somewhat related to this venture, over the past two years I started a non-profit with a global presence and international team (the mission ties to my mpp goals in some ways). This has led to some exciting speaking opportunities and recogonition, particularly in the past year.

LORs: Solid. 

SOP: Pretty decent. I usually consider myself a solid writer and I try to take an edgy approach with my writing when it seems relevant and suitable. 

Thoughts: I'm mainly worried about my stats. My GPA isn't that strong, though in a competitive major. But my GRE is a big issue. I think I can slide by with my quant score, but my verbal is totally not representative of my skills. 

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Hi All! I'm hoping to do a master's in international relations. I'd love to hear what you think of my profile in general. Good luck to everyone.

Applying to: Several UK universities (I am an American applicant, if that changes things). Would prefer not to name as I don't want to jinx anything--hope I'm not the only one! Haha.

Undergrad: Dual BA in Interdisciplinary Studies (IR focus) and Russian at a top 20 U.S. university. Also transferred credit from an intensive study program in Russia. Received a grant from my university for research in Ukraine. Several misc. awards/honors (not sure if those really matter).

GPA: 3.91/4.0. Highest honors for my thesis. I graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa.

GRE: N/A for the schools to which I am applying.

Languages: French, Russian, Portuguese, Ukrainian 

Work Experience: 5 years total at international and U.S. law firms, two of which are classed as "Big Law," including experience in legal translation in French and Portuguese. 2 years teaching English and Russian grammar and writing skills at my university. Significant volunteer and fundraising experience. 

LORs: 4 profs from undergrad (3 of whom served as faculty members on my thesis committee). According to one of them, "very VERY strong." Lol.

SOP:  Did my best to offer a succinct, balanced picture of myself and my work/research experience while highlighting my intended research. I am confident I have a unique idea but my research does privilege qualitative methods, which might turn off some IR classicists who prefer a more quantitative approach.

Thoughts: I feel like I gave these applications my everything, and I took the necessary time to revise until they were as strong as possible. That being said, I also believe it comes down to the strength of my competitors in the applicant pool. It sort of feels like a game of chance at the end of the day--everyone I've spoken to so far seems like an incredibly strong candidate in different ways. Anything you think I should do to make myself a more competitive applicant in future cycles (if it comes to that) is very welcome. TIA for your thoughts :)

 

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On 1/17/2019 at 4:56 AM, velvetcactus said:

 

Applying to: Several UK universities (I am an American applicant, if that changes things). Would prefer not to name as I don't want to jinx anything--hope I'm not the only one! Haha.

 

"Chance me for programs I won't name".

solid logic bro

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12 hours ago, ExponentialDecay said:

"Chance me for programs I won't name".

solid logic bro

Wasn't asking about specific programs, thanks. Didn't think it was that unheard of to ask whether you were a competitive applicant in general.

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Applying to: Emory MDP, American Sustainable Development, Fordham IPED, Notre Dame Keough MGA

Undergrad: BA in International Relations and Affairs from state university 

GPA: 2.97

GRE: 162 V, 150 Q, 4.5 AW

Languages: Spanish, Chichewa, Chinyanja, Chichewa, Chitumbuka, Western Nyasa

Work Experience: 2 years in US Peace Corps, 1 and half years as study abroad advisor in study abroad office at a university, volunteer experience at local NGO

LORs: 2 from Peace Corps supervisors, 1 from Political Science department head from university 

SOP:  Explained my experience, mostly from Peace Corps, and career goals in the field.  Worried that I may not have been specific enough.  

Thoughts: The thing is that I'm pretty sure I'm qualified for the programs I have applied for, I'm just worried that due to the number of other people who apply, that I may get lost in the shuffle due to nothing being a super stand out.  I am also worried about my undergrad GPA, though I received all A's and B's in relevant coursework, and my lost Quant GRE score, though hopefully my high verbal score counters this.  

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8 hours ago, CoolRadOh said:

Applying to: Emory MDP, American Sustainable Development, Fordham IPED, Notre Dame Keough MGA

Undergrad: BA in International Relations and Affairs from state university 

GPA: 2.97

GRE: 162 V, 150 Q, 4.5 AW

Languages: Spanish, Chichewa, Chinyanja, Chichewa, Chitumbuka, Western Nyasa

Work Experience: 2 years in US Peace Corps, 1 and half years as study abroad advisor in study abroad office at a university, volunteer experience at local NGO

LORs: 2 from Peace Corps supervisors, 1 from Political Science department head from university 

SOP:  Explained my experience, mostly from Peace Corps, and career goals in the field.  Worried that I may not have been specific enough.  

Thoughts: The thing is that I'm pretty sure I'm qualified for the programs I have applied for, I'm just worried that due to the number of other people who apply, that I may get lost in the shuffle due to nothing being a super stand out.  I am also worried about my undergrad GPA, though I received all A's and B's in relevant coursework, and my lost Quant GRE score, though hopefully my high verbal score counters this.  

Hey! Looks relatively similar to programs that I'm shooting for. I've done way too much research into the academic profiles/statistics so maybe I can help with your assessment. How is your quantitative background/experience-- anything to combat the Q score? Is your relevant coursework GPA closer to 3.5/higher? Is your undergrad institution top-tier or well-known for its rigor?

Your verbal GRE will make up for the Q score in some of these programs (but not sure if Fordham will be more strict since their program is relatively Q-heavy). You do have a higher verbal than Fordham's average verbal though, so that's a plus. Because of this, I assume also that your SOP must be well-written, which will give you some points.

I also wonder about the programs you chose (I applied to a couple of those, but a different one at American). I wonder because you applied for Development Practice at Emory, but at American did you consider their Development Management program (which is very similar to MDP)? Also, I don't know a lot about Notre Dame's MGA, but is that more related to international affairs than development- or is it that there is a development option? What are your career goals/what did you explain were your career goals in your SOPs?

Peace Corps service is definitely a big plus, so that will give you some bonus points. What sector did you serve in?

Your language profile makes me presume you were in Malawi, or maybe Zambia? PC service in Africa is very well regarded amongst grad programs in the development field (I know that Fordham, for example, very much appreciates PCVs of Africa)

 

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12 hours ago, onestensemble said:

Hey! Looks relatively similar to programs that I'm shooting for. I've done way too much research into the academic profiles/statistics so maybe I can help with your assessment. How is your quantitative background/experience-- anything to combat the Q score? Is your relevant coursework GPA closer to 3.5/higher? Is your undergrad institution top-tier or well-known for its rigor?

Your verbal GRE will make up for the Q score in some of these programs (but not sure if Fordham will be more strict since their program is relatively Q-heavy). You do have a higher verbal than Fordham's average verbal though, so that's a plus. Because of this, I assume also that your SOP must be well-written, which will give you some points.

I also wonder about the programs you chose (I applied to a couple of those, but a different one at American). I wonder because you applied for Development Practice at Emory, but at American did you consider their Development Management program (which is very similar to MDP)? Also, I don't know a lot about Notre Dame's MGA, but is that more related to international affairs than development- or is it that there is a development option? What are your career goals/what did you explain were your career goals in your SOPs?

Peace Corps service is definitely a big plus, so that will give you some bonus points. What sector did you serve in?

Your language profile makes me presume you were in Malawi, or maybe Zambia? PC service in Africa is very well regarded amongst grad programs in the development field (I know that Fordham, for example, very much appreciates PCVs of Africa)

 

Thank you for the kind response!  It's super reassuring to hear from other applying to the same/similar programs.  I took a couple economics courses in undergrad (A's and B's, but one D) and did some income generating activity and microfinance stuff during PC.  

 

My undergrad institution is a great school, but its not top-tier or highly ranked by any means.  

 

Notre Dame's MGA has a couple concentrations.  I applied for the Sustainable Development one.  The program as a whole, save for maybe the Peace Studies concentration, seems to be pretty development heavy.  

 

I hope to eventually work for an IGO or NGO, ideally a large organization or the UN.  I want to focus on food security and how climate change affects rural populations in developing countries, specifically sub-saharan africa.  

 

My PC service was in Zambia in eastern province on the border with Malawi.  It's great to know that PCVs work is so appreciated and valued by grad programs! 

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9 hours ago, CoolRadOh said:

Thank you for the kind response!  It's super reassuring to hear from other applying to the same/similar programs.  I took a couple economics courses in undergrad (A's and B's, but one D) and did some income generating activity and microfinance stuff during PC.  

 

My undergrad institution is a great school, but its not top-tier or highly ranked by any means.  

 

Notre Dame's MGA has a couple concentrations.  I applied for the Sustainable Development one.  The program as a whole, save for maybe the Peace Studies concentration, seems to be pretty development heavy.  

 

I hope to eventually work for an IGO or NGO, ideally a large organization or the UN.  I want to focus on food security and how climate change affects rural populations in developing countries, specifically sub-saharan africa.  

 

My PC service was in Zambia in eastern province on the border with Malawi.  It's great to know that PCVs work is so appreciated and valued by grad programs! 

Awesome! I also plan on focusing on sub-saharan Africa (have been living in the region for a few years).

Your microfinance/income-generating activities will look good for these programs too; it can offset potential quant concerns. 

Can I ask, which of these programs is your top choice?

Did you apply for fellowships? If I remember correctly, Notre Dame offers excellent financial support to RPCVs; Emory about 50%, and Fordham has some good funding options too. Also, do you feel like your LORs will be very strong (because these could also make up for potential concerns)?

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12 hours ago, onestensemble said:

Awesome! I also plan on focusing on sub-saharan Africa (have been living in the region for a few years).

Your microfinance/income-generating activities will look good for these programs too; it can offset potential quant concerns. 

Can I ask, which of these programs is your top choice?

Did you apply for fellowships? If I remember correctly, Notre Dame offers excellent financial support to RPCVs; Emory about 50%, and Fordham has some good funding options too. Also, do you feel like your LORs will be very strong (because these could also make up for potential concerns)?

I forgot to mention that I was in the education sector while in the Peace Corps.  

Notre Dame is my top choice.  Good funding and a solid practical program that would allow me to work abroad during grad school.  There are also several RPCVs in the program right now so they seem to be pretty RPCV friendly, which is good.  

RPCVs are eligible for the Coverdell Fellowship, which depending on the institution can be anywhere from full tuition plus benefits to a living stipend for each semester of school.  

I feel like my LORs are a strong point, especially from my department head from undergrad which may help dispel any fears about my GPA.  The other two are from my PC Country Director and Program Manager.  

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The obvious question in my mind is, do you know what you're getting into? What is it that you think we do here, hold hands and sing kumbayah? Banks and big corps are the biggest players in this arena, second only to governments (and that's only in certain areas). If you have a disdain for corporations, don't go to public policy school, quit your job, go work at a small-time NGO or get a humanities PhD, and you will find yourself in excellent company. If you're ready to join us in the real world, your banking experience will be extremely valuable. But think carefully about whether you can see yourself advancing the same interests for half the money.

 

Actually this is kind of a relief, a number of admission booklets were pretty explicit about strong preference for public sector experience over private sector experience. As for the alliance between public and private sectors I am well aware they can play together, and they can work in unison to do some meaningful things. My disdain isn't for corporations; it is for corporate malfeasance. I'm unhappy with the trajectory my employer has taken, but that is not due to them being a corporation or a bank. It is the methodology they seem to adopt when doing business that can omit important information and manipulate data. There's certainly useful information, practices, lessons, to be mined from my time in the private sector. In fact a large part of my application will hinge on that very fact, but those practices can be applied more proactively, and with broader awareness of the world and to serve the interests of a much larger group. If I can advance interests that serve that broader population; doing so in an honest way, than yes, I'm more than happy to advance those for half the pay.

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Going to take a shot even though the first two rejections (Berkeley and Fulbright) came out. UCSD's PhD PoliSci program is my dream school (slightly ahead of Columbia) so hope for the best! 

 

Institute Applying: UCSD, Harvard, Columbia, UofWashington Seattle, National Chengchi University, Beijing Language and Culture University

 

Undergraduate Institute- relatively unknown but one of few with a dedicated National Security major program in my state and affordable study abroad opportunities (spent a year in Osaka, Japan for language training). I don't know if it helps but one of our graduates last year landed UChicago's PhD straight from a very similar BA. 

 

Undergraduate Major- BA in History and Intelligence/National Security (minors in Economics, Asian Studies, and Religious Studies) 

 

Undergraduate GPA: 3.8 

 

Quantative Courses: AP Stats (5), Microeconomics (B), Macroeconomics (B+), Intro to Logic (A), Intermediate Microeconomic Theory (current) 

 

GRE- 153 (61), 157 (65), 4.5 (85)

 

Age- 20 

 

Work- Writing center tutor, but otherwise assorted service jobs to pay bills (Catering, etc)

 

Languages- My Japanese is high intermediate but my Korean is only beginner advanced (novice low per OPI) and Mandarin is beginner (self study). 

 

Activities- I founded and ran a Korean Club for a year. Additionally, I was the first analyst to present on Japanese affairs in the school's Intelligence Analysis club. I am part of honor societies in History and National Security. I have presented at several history honor society conferences and will present on Japanese Intellgience Services at AsiaNetwork this April. Otherwise, I have been a volunteer and recruitment officer for the university's international experience community. 

 

International Experience- I received a NSLI-Y grant in high school to study in Korea for six weeks. I also spent the last year in Japan. 

 

'LORs- Hopefully this is a strong part of my application? I asked many faculty I had been taking classes with since I enrolled as a dual enrollment high school student (Professors and Associate Professors). One was the entire motivation for me trying to apply to Harvard.

 

Personal/Statement of Purpose- I am a first generation student hoping to become a successful analyst or political scientist in Asian politics and security (emphasis on Japan and Article 9). I have self studied Japanese for years to facilitate postdoctoral research. To be quite honest, it wasn't easy to motivate myself past a traumatic incident that occurred when I started high school yet I dedicated myself to overcome this barrier. I hope I can, in addition to expanding the literature on Japanese security and politics, motivate young men and women from my position to never give up. 

 

Concerns- Besides being a relatively young applicant with grandiose goals to land a PhD acceptance (straight out of BA), my GRE scores aren't that good for competitive programs. If I attend an MA overseas I will take the GRE again to at least get my quant into the 160s. I also lack experience but am seeking opportunities through UN initiatives at my university this summer to get my name out there. 

 

Thank you for giving me your time and advice. 

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Applying to: HKS MC/MPA, USC Sol MPA, UC - Berkeley MPP, UCLA MPP, McGill MPP

Undergrad: BA in Journalism from a top public university

GPA: 3.3

GRE: 160 V, 150 Q, 4.5 AW

Languages: English

Work Experience: 10 years working in media/television 

LORs: 1 network executive, my current boss, and a former boss

SOP:  Explained how crafting narratives for unscripted television has inspired me to bring my skills into the world of public policy communications, strategy, and implementation.   

Thoughts: I come from a non-traditional work background and I am looking to make a career move and segway into the world of policy. I do not have a high degree of quantitative coursework but I have completed micro and macroeconomics as well of some quantitative coursework in media planning and advertising coursework. 

 

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Hello! I have always been determined to get a PhD in economics. I am in a position where I get 2-years of research experience at a Federal Reserve Bank with the option of staying for a third. While there are benefits to staying a third year, there is the con of delaying a PhD program back a year. I wanted to get insight if I am a competitive candidate to apply this Fall 2019 (semester start Fall 2020). 

Applying to: Top 30, but ideally aiming top 15.!Dream! schools would be Stanford, MIT, Northwestern and UCSD but know that may not be realistic. 

Undergrad: B.S. in Economics, minor in Mathematics at state-university (I was three classes away from the major but I decided to focus on writing my thesis instead). Did a graded year abroad at prestigious university (Russel Group) in the UK taking mathematics and upper-level economics.  Math background: Calculus, Multi-variable Calculus, Linear Algebra, Mathematical Statistical, Differential Equations (only ODEs),  Real Analysis. 

GPA: 3.85/4.2 cumulative, 4.0 Econ, 3.85 Math

GRE: 152V, 159Q, 4.0W (retaking GRE in April, feeling way more prepared in the quant section. Will focus on improve other scores as well) 

Languages: English, (elementary) French

Work Experience: Intern at Federal Reserve Bank, Research Associate at another Federal Reserve Bank, Research Assistant to 2 associate professors in undergrad, Investment Group Analyst in undergrad

LORs: Assistant VP in research at a Federal Reserve, Editor of Economic Journal/Professor (mid-ranked), Director of Economic Forum, Research assistance professors (associate level)

SOP:  TBD

Thoughts: Ideally I would like to apply this upcoming Fall 2019 to enter the following year. However, if it is in my best interest to gain another year of research and improve my candidacy I would. I know coming from a state-school counts against me and that my GRE needs to improve. Let me know any thoughts :) 

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Hey all, I'm really not sure how to gauge my competitiveness so I've just signed up. I've applied for several programs, but really only care about one, so I'm just gauging what others think about my chances there. 

Program Applied To: Georgetown SSP

Undergraduate institution: State school: nothing special to speak of, but not terrible either.

Undergraduate GPA: 3.6 institutional; 3.2 with transfer courses from several years prior (not really sure how they will look at this) 

Undergraduate Majors: Political Science, Economics, minor in Russian

Study Abroad: Summer program abroad at LSE, another term abroad in UK at another university, full year abroad at LSE, summer term abroad at US embassy internship, summer abroad studying Russian. Total of 3 summers abroad, one regular term, and one full academic year. 

GRE: 159 V, 148 Q, 5.0W

Years of Work Experience: 4

Describe Relevant Work Experience: 4 years military service; nothing relative to security or international relations/politics etc. Internship experience at US Embassy abroad; learned a lot of useful skills/knowledge.

Languages: Intermediate Russian, will be around advanced level when graduating this year. 

Quant: I'll be getting a degree in economics, though most courses were not quant heavy - lots of econ history and theory (tied in with politics). I do have a background in science (minor in Bio), so I am not sure if that will be sufficient to make up for my GRE quant score. 

Strength of SOP: Looking back, I think it is well written, but I am not quite sure whether I hit the mark for this program application. I did my best to discuss my personal skills/traits and academic/professional interests, as well as what I believe I can do for the university and vice versa. 

Strength of LOR (be honest, describe the process, etc): Should be solid LORs. I cannot guarantee this as I have not personally seen them, but I have no reason to suspect otherwise. One is from a boss from my recent internship abroad, another from an academic adviser/professor I have known for a few years now (and worked with consistently discussing my academic and professional pathway). The third is from another professor; this is the only one I am uncertain of, as I do not know them extremely well. However, their recommendation should carry some weight as they are from LSE; they seemed happy to provide one. 

Other: Nothing else really stands out. I have a good number of scholarships that I have received, however I did not think to list these on my resume so that will go unseen unfortunately. My biggest fears are too low of scores on the GRE and my personal statement. I'm hoping my international experience may help me stand out, otherwise I feel I am just another needle in the haystack.  

Edited by donuts

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Greetings and best of luck to all on this forum.  Just looking for some feedback, primarily on the Georgetown SSP.  I made the early application deadline for JHU SAIS MIPP and was accepted in early December.  I'm fully funded through my parent organization (I am very grateful for this and ensured I clearly indicated I did not wish to be considered for aid or scholarships- don't want to tie up any funds for those who need them). 

Applied To: Georgetown SSP (awaiting results), JHU SAIS MIPP (accepted)

Undergraduate institution: B.A. Middle Eastern Studies, top 10 International Affairs university, A.A. Modern Standard Arabic, defense language school

Undergraduate GPA: B.A.: 3.5 in courses towards degree; 3.35 with Calculus and Physics, A.A.: 3.8 

Experience Abroad: Multiple deployments to Middle East and Far East

GRE: 170 V, 159 Q, 4.5 W

Years of Work Experience: 17

Relevant Work Experience: 17 years military experience, enlisted linguist, commissioned officer in intelligence-related field.  Worked closely with multiple civilian and military agencies in analyst, tactical operator and staff capacities.

Languages: Modern Standard Arabic (fluent), some Levantine, some French

Quant: Single-variable Calculus, Physics I/II, Macro/Microeconomics

SOP: Tried to strike a balance between personal narrative, professional experiences and academic objectives.  Although I shared my application materials with my recommenders, I didn't expect or receive much in the way of feedback.  I imagine reviewers have seen the general outline of my statement many times before, which I actually acknowledged within the statement (along with weaving in acknowledgement of my poor academic record prior to my military service- hoping my subsequent professional/academic record runs out the statute of limitations on that).  

Strength of LOR: 2 LORs from military leaders, one a former executive officer and the other a former CO with major command tours.  Also have an LOR from a Ph.D at a federally funded research and development center I worked with on a long-term training analysis project.  My former XO shared his LOR with me and I thought it very strong and enthusiastic.  My old CO and researcher didn't share theirs, but I was comfortable asking them for their recommendations.   

Other: I'm not too concerned about my test scores, although I would have preferred a higher AW GRE score.  I think I'm more concerned about being in the upper age-experience bracket for consideration for the Georgetown SSP, which is my preferred program.  I welcome your feedback, and again, best of luck to everyone!  

Edited by MTC1978
grammatical edit

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Schools Applying To: USC (MPA), UCLA Luskin (MPP), Washington Evans (MPA), maybe Columbia SIPA (MPA) --  I want to work on the West Coast

Undergraduate institution: Top 5 University of California 

Undergraduate GPA: 3.81

Undergraduate Majors: Political Science

GRE Quantitative Score: 153 (Worried about this!) 

GRE Verbal Score: 161

GRE AW Score: 4.5

Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable): 4

Years of Relevant Work Experience: 3

Describe Relevant Work Experience: Research in local economic development, 3 at philanthropic foundation doing sustainable agriculture funding

Quant: Calculus 1 (B+), Microeconomics 1 (B+), Macroeconomics 1 (B),  Statistics for Political Science (A)

Strength of SOP: weaved together story of my time volunteering and working in sustainable agriculture (including starting programs) and how I want to work at universities/schools to start more sustainability programs, with a focus on agriculture 

Strength of LOR : Very strong, one from a professor who wrote me a LOR for the dean of undergraduate education award I won, 1 from supervisor who really values me who I worked with for 2 years, and 1 from supervisor from the Brookings Institution 

Concerns: Weak GRE scores, especially quant. 

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Hi 🙂 

 

Applying to: SIPA MPA, HKS MPA, WWS MPA

 

Undergrad Institution: Top Italian university (BSc and MSc in international management and business) 

 

Undergrad GPA: 3.86/4.00

 

GRE: 157 V, 157 Q, and 3.5 writing 

 

IELTS: 8/9 (8.5 reading, 8 listening, 8 speaking, 6.5 writing)

 

Work Experience: 5+ in International organizations working on development/social finance in developing countries

 

LORs: 1 from college professor (thesis advisor) and 2 from work supervisors. They know me well and wrote good letters. The 2 work supervisors highlighted my contributions to the organization as well as my personal/professional strengths.

 

SOP: Crafted about my desire to reinforce my policy analysis and leadership skills and work, in future, for my country’s national institutions.

 

In your opinion am I competitive? 

I am a bit worried because of my GRE and IELTS writing scores...

 

Thanks a lot for your help and good luck to all of you! 

 

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On 2/15/2019 at 9:52 AM, tacomaco said:

Schools Applying To: USC (MPA), UCLA Luskin (MPP), Washington Evans (MPA), maybe Columbia SIPA (MPA) --  I want to work on the West Coast

Undergraduate GPA: 3.81

GRE Quantitative Score: 153 (Worried about this!) 

GRE Verbal Score: 161

GRE AW Score: 4.5

 

Hola,

I just got an acceptance from USC Price for the MPP program yesterday (with a half-ride), and while I had a higher GPA, I had lower quant and AW GRE scores. If the rest of your application is strong, you'll be as good a shot as anyone.

Good luck!

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Hello everyone, I decided to post on here because I had no clue what I was doing during undergrad (first gen college student) and barely applied to any schools. This time around I want to make sure I don't sell myself short but I would also like to be realistic about my chances and what I can be doing to improve them. 

Institutes Applying: Princeton WWS (MPA), American SIS (MA Int'l Affairs Policy & Analysis), Georgetown McCourt (MPP or MIDP), Georgetown SFS (trying to figure out if this or McCourt is a better fit), Notre Dame Keough (MA Global Affairs), CMU Heinz (MSPPM DC track), George Washington Elliot (MA Int'l Dev Studies or MA Security Policy Studies), George Mason SCAR (MS Conflict Analysis & Resolution), Columbia SIPA (MA Int'l Affairs), Texas LBJ (MA Global Policy Studies DC track), Maryland (MPP), Pittsburgh (MA Public & Int'l Affairs)  

If anyone has advice regarding the differences between Georgetown McCourt and SFS or the differences between George Washington's MA in Int'l Dev Studies or MA in Security Policy Studies please message me. 

Undergrad: BA in International Politics & Conflict Resolution (GPA 3.7) from a small liberal arts college, has a good reputation among people who have heard of it but most haven't 

Quant. Courses: Stats for Social Sciences, Int'l Political Economy, Intro to Int'l Econ, Quantitative Methods (nothing too impressive) 

GRE: I'm taking it in July and feel very confident about the verbal and essay but am worried about the math. 

Age: 25

Languages: Spanish, Native English

Work Experience: Summer internship at a state gov agency (but unrelated to what I want to do), 1 year with AmeriCorps at a nonprofit supporting small business and nonprofit development, student assistant positions in Peace & Conflict Studies dept. and Academic Support office throughout undergrad 

International Experience: 4 month internship with conflict resolution NGO in Belgium, currently a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Youth, Families, & Community Development sector  

LORs: These should be very strong but I'm concerned that most of my experience doesn't align with policy work so it will depend on how they frame things. One will be from an undergrad professor I'm close with, one from my boss during AmeriCorps, and I'm not sure yet about the third - I could get one from my Peace Corps director but I don't think it will be very personal.

SOP: I haven't started writing yet because I'm applying for Fall 2020 but feel that I have a strong direction and rationale for my interest in these programs. I am very interested in US policy in relation to pre-conflict stabilization and post-conflict response and would love to work for the State Dept. in Conflict and Stabilization operations or USAID in the Office of Transition Initiatives. While I studied the theoretical side of conflict analysis during undergrad, it's clear that hard quantitative/analytical skills are important to working in this field so I am seeking out strong quantitative grad programs to further develop those skill sets. 

Concerns: I think being a Peace Corps volunteer will help but lack of experience with policy is a major detriment. I also don't have a strong quant background and am hoping to get a decent GRE score to demonstrate that I can handle a quantitatively rigorous program. I'm considering taking a course in Microeconomics and maybe another in Macro in the meantime - does this seem like a good idea? Funding is my other major concern. I can't go to any of these schools unless I am able to get a pretty significant aid package. 

Please let me know what you think! I'm also curious if it would be ridiculous to apply to this many schools (I can get fee waivers at all of them so money isn't an issue) - Are there schools that I should take off the list? Or programs that fit well with my interests that I'm missing?

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Posted (edited)

Applying: Chicago Harris (MACRM), UC Berkeley MPP
 
Undergrad GPA: 3.62; UC Berkeley, Honors Law & Economics/Public Policy
Graduate GPA: 3.52 Georgetown, Political Economics
LOR: Thesis advisor, Department Chair, and CA State Senator

2 years of research experience
GRE: 160 Q/ 160V/ 4.0 AWA
Work Experience: Worked for US Senate, House of Representatives, CA State Senate, and a few research positions with academics
Calc (A), Statistics (A), Econometrics (B+),

Edited by marksheppard

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Posted (edited)
On 1/15/2019 at 10:25 AM, bigdreamer2018 said:

I'm feeling a lot of anxiety about apps -- I think I have a story to tell, but I'm nervous about some of my stats. Any thoughts on my chances?

Applying to: HKS, Harris, SIPA, Georgetown, Ford 

Undergrad Institution: Top 5 undergraduate business school

 Undergrad GPA: 3.5

 Undergrad Major: Finance

 GRE: 160Q / 154V / 5.0 (tests have never been my strong point -- this makes me nervous!)

 Work Experience: Total: 5 years (plus significant side projects outside of my day job). 2 years on wall street a top global bank and then transitioned to a notable tech company with a strong international focus for my role; I also started a company during college (it's success and failures are a huge part of my story and reason for going back to school). Somewhat related to this venture, over the past two years I started a non-profit with a global presence and international team (the mission ties to my mpp goals in some ways). This has led to some exciting speaking opportunities and recogonition, particularly in the past year.

LORs: Solid. 

SOP: Pretty decent. I usually consider myself a solid writer and I try to take an edgy approach with my writing when it seems relevant and suitable. 

Thoughts: I'm mainly worried about my stats. My GPA isn't that strong, though in a competitive major. But my GRE is a big issue. I think I can slide by with my quant score, but my verbal is totally not representative of my skills. 

So I had similar stats / "worse" to you: 

Undergrad: Top 25 Business School (#21 now) 

GPA: 3.33 

Major: Marketing, Information Systems 

GRE: 151Q / 156V / 5.5W (I hate standardized tests) 

Work Experience: 5 Years this August - primarily in private sector (healthcare consulting and now a Drug/Pharmacy Retailer)

LORs: Strong - I gave each recommender specific direction on what I wanted them to highlight. For - professor to focus on my commitment to high quality work and studiousness; work supervisor #1 to highlight a time when I led a workstream and demonstrated leadership; colleague #1 - had him focus on who I am as a person and what makes me unique. 

SOP: Strong - I am a killer writer and spent a year refining my story. So advice to all -- start NOW. And when you feel inspired jot your thoughts on paper, doesn't matter how disjointed it sounds. You can fix it later but it's important to note what inspires you, what you are passionate about, and why, and how that ties into your pursuit of graduate study. Invest time in researching the programs that interest you and be able to articulate clearly why THAT program and how you will contribute to the school. 

Results: Admitted into Michigan Ford MPP with full funding (tuition and fees, $10K/semester stipend, healthcare coverage) and Duke Sanford MPP with 50% funding. I didn't apply to other programs (I thought about NYU, USC, and Harris but ruled them out). I'm planning on focusing in health / social policy.

Moral of the Story: don't doubt yourself. Believe in your story, start early, solicit feedback from those who you trust, and go with your gut. You don't have to take in all the feedback or advice you get from folks--the minute you start feeling like your essays are no longer "you" or "authentic", regroup and start again. Good luck! 

 

Edited by TalkPoliticsToMe

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