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5 hours ago, van_96 said:

Hi everyone, long time lurker, all that nonsense. Any advice is welcome!

Applying to: Chicago Harris MPP, Georgetown McCourt MPP, Duke Sanford MPP, Harvard Kennedy MPP, NYU Wagner MSPP (and American as a backup if I don't get accepted w/ a decent aid offer from Georgetown or Harris, since they're the ones that release results before American's deadline)

Undergrad institution: Non-HYP Ivy

Undergrad Major: Government, Minor in Public Policy

Undergrad GPA: 3.81 (haven't calculated major GPA separately, but it's probably pretty close) 

Years out of undergrad: 1, will be 2 by the time classes start next fall.

Quant Background: College credit for AP Calc,  intro micro (B)/macro (A) econ, intro stats with R (A-), Mathematics in Politics (logic and slightly game theory-focused course, A), plus some light Stata training in an internship.

Relevant Work Experience: Research internship with a high profile think tank in DC, interned with a local campaign, the NY state assembly, and an NYC DA, been a constituent liaison in NYC ever since I graduated undergrad last year.

GRE: 165/167/5.5 (Verbal/Quant/AWA)

Strength of LOR: I think all three should be decently strong. Two are from college professors who taught research methods courses that I did well in, the other is from my current supervisor.

Strength of SOP: Should be good, I talk about how important voting rights and reform (my current focus area) have been to me from a very young age, how it influenced my extracurriculars in college, and customize them by discussing how I plan to use the tools/unique policy centers/connections from each school to further my career. 

Extracurriculars/Leadership: I was elected to the executive board of one of my school's largest political clubs, and I helped to train volunteers on a campaign I interned for. 

My plan could change, but for now I picture myself working in a think tank in DC and/or the federal government, so I ruled out every school west of the Mississippi. I admire Harris's strong quant/econ focus and career development reputation (and they've already waived my application fee completely unsolicited, so they've already earned some brownie points with me), Georgetown's location, analytical strengths, and networking opportunities with local nonprofits/think tanks, and Duke's strength with social policy, relative proximity to DC, smaller cohort size, and great reputation. I have family I could live with in NYC while I go to school, but only for 2021-2022, hence the choice of the one-year MSPP over MPA at NYU. Plus, I feel like that program would be a better fit anyway, as the MPA seems relatively public management-focused, and I prefer more behind-the-scenes analytical roles, though the recent formation of the program and resulting small alumni network gives me some pause. Lastly, I know Harvard is a stretch, but I've already decided that Princeton would be too much of a pipe dream, and I'd like to include a not-completely-insane reach. HKS's Institute of Politics really interests me, and the value of the brand and alumni network goes without saying. 

Also, I'm hoping the high GRE quant score makes up for the B in intro micro (took it over winter break, very dumb decision), the lack of advanced quant coursework, and the almost complete absence of any quant exposure in my work experience. I know applications will probably be very competitive this year, and just generally unpredictable, but any sort of correction or reassurance would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Here are my thoughts:

1. About schools: I think you are way stronger of a candidate than you think you actually are. No one cares about 1 grade as long as your overall GPA is great. I think you shown enough math/programming skills to show you are dangerous even if you haven't done full blown econometrics. 

I actually think you are within striking distance of HKS Pre-Covid. Again - not sure how competitive this application cycle is. If you don't get into Harris, I would be surprised. I think the best options for you would be HKS, Harris, and Sanford in that order.

McCourt is interesting because you are right about its quant advantage + network... HOWEVER, granted many professors have networks to Think Tanks, only about 1 person (if any) go to a Think Tank a year (pure think tank like Urban or Brookings, not just a research institute or org that has a research arm). I think its interesting that the 1 Think Tank alumni who comes back is essentially worshipped on career day, but few have been able to ride that. The reason is because Think Tanks are so competitive among PhDs and Post-Docs already, let alone the Master's crew. I bet McCourt will probably give you the most scholarship because they like people from brand name schools. However, if your Think Tank plans fall off the wayside, the school doesn't have a good culture or structure to help you with other career options --> AKA: unless you go to one of the few historic recruiting paths - Deloitte or Mathamatica, you are on your own.

2. Careers:

Think Tank - you might want to think twice about doing the Think Tank role. Obviously there are some cool points, but:
a. Not really a great place to work in terms of career development and mentoring (especially as Master's person where you'll forever be 2nd class to PhDs)

b. Very very very rarely have I seen a person last past their early 30s in a think tank (without a PhD and some even with a PhD). At a certain point you are just stove piped unless you manage to go to the managerial track. 

Federal Government:

The three easiest ways to get in the Federal Government are:

a. Presidential Management Fellowship (what I recommend). It used to be super competitive, but not as much anymore. 

b. Pathways internship --> good luck finding those anymore... hence the advantage of being in DC is diminished

c. Competitive Application --> Depending on demand this ranges greatly... and honestly you can backdoor this if you make targeted connections (which if you have strong Professors with connections, they can help you). 

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On 9/16/2020 at 8:50 AM, GradSchoolGrad said:

Here are my thoughts:

1. About schools: I think you are way stronger of a candidate than you think you actually are. No one cares about 1 grade as long as your overall GPA is great. I think you shown enough math/programming skills to show you are dangerous even if you haven't done full blown econometrics. 

I actually think you are within striking distance of HKS Pre-Covid. Again - not sure how competitive this application cycle is. If you don't get into Harris, I would be surprised. I think the best options for you would be HKS, Harris, and Sanford in that order.

McCourt is interesting because you are right about its quant advantage + network... HOWEVER, granted many professors have networks to Think Tanks, only about 1 person (if any) go to a Think Tank a year (pure think tank like Urban or Brookings, not just a research institute or org that has a research arm). I think its interesting that the 1 Think Tank alumni who comes back is essentially worshipped on career day, but few have been able to ride that. The reason is because Think Tanks are so competitive among PhDs and Post-Docs already, let alone the Master's crew. I bet McCourt will probably give you the most scholarship because they like people from brand name schools. However, if your Think Tank plans fall off the wayside, the school doesn't have a good culture or structure to help you with other career options --> AKA: unless you go to one of the few historic recruiting paths - Deloitte or Mathamatica, you are on your own.

2. Careers:

Think Tank - you might want to think twice about doing the Think Tank role. Obviously there are some cool points, but:
a. Not really a great place to work in terms of career development and mentoring (especially as Master's person where you'll forever be 2nd class to PhDs)

b. Very very very rarely have I seen a person last past their early 30s in a think tank (without a PhD and some even with a PhD). At a certain point you are just stove piped unless you manage to go to the managerial track. 

Federal Government:

The three easiest ways to get in the Federal Government are:

a. Presidential Management Fellowship (what I recommend). It used to be super competitive, but not as much anymore. 

b. Pathways internship --> good luck finding those anymore... hence the advantage of being in DC is diminished

c. Competitive Application --> Depending on demand this ranges greatly... and honestly you can backdoor this if you make targeted connections (which if you have strong Professors with connections, they can help you). 

Thank you @GradSchoolGrad! Don't think I've ever been called dangerous before, haha. And yes, HKS>Harris>Duke in terms of their fit for me was my thinking as well. Also agree about think tanks, when I interned there it was made pretty clear that non-PhDs usually only stay there for a couple of years and then move on to the public sector/other nonprofit work, but I'd be fine doing that. Thanks for the tips on federal government inroads as well. I'll be sure to take a look at those. 

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49 minutes ago, van_96 said:

Thank you @GradSchoolGrad! Don't think I've ever been called dangerous before, haha. And yes, HKS>Harris>Duke in terms of their fit for me was my thinking as well. Also agree about think tanks, when I interned there it was made pretty clear that non-PhDs usually only stay there for a couple of years and then move on to the public sector/other nonprofit work, but I'd be fine doing that. Thanks for the tips on federal government inroads as well. I'll be sure to take a look at those. 

So anecdotal, but everyone I know who went to think tank straight from undergrad or master's ended up leaving to go to another grad program (J.D., MBA, or something random) to move to a 2nd career after being so frustrated with Think Tank world. Maybe I just. run with a bunch action oriented people who have no patience. However,  I wanted to give a sample of what I have seen. 

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Hi everyone, any help would be greatly appreciated.

--

Applying to: Columbia SIPA, NYU Wagner, Georgetown McCourt, Duke Sanford, UChicago Harris, UVA Batten

Undergrad institution: NYU

Undergrad Major: Major: Theoretical Economics ; Minor: Mathematics 

Undergrad GPA: 3.1 (this is mostly due to a terrible freshmen year, with classes that are not part of my major or minor)

Years out of undergrad: 5 years

Quant Background: Given my major and minor, I took a significant amount of quant classes (linear algebra (A-), calc II (B) and III (C),  econometrics (B+) , statistics (A-), macro (B+)/micro (B+) theory). I know the grades aren't stellar but I am hoping that the depth of my quant classes shows competency.  For the last 4 years, I've been working at a relatively quant heavy job at a large global banking institution. 

Relevant Work Experience: No relevant work experience

GRE: 165/167/5.0 (Verbal/Quant/AWA)

Strength of LOR: I think all three should be decently strong. One is from my current work manager whom I am very close with. He can attest to my quant, analysis, and leadership skills. The other is from an undergrad professor who taught a literature course focusing on immigration. We were very close and I'm hoping he can speak to my writing and articulation. My last recommender is a program coordinator at a volunteer organization that I have been a part of for the last few years. 

Strength of SOP: I talk about my past raised by a single mother and how moving around a lot left me feeling untethered and without a support system. This influenced my volunteer work where I found organizations that supported underserved communities by drawing support from local volunteers. Focusing on communities has led me to question how I can, through policy, create stronger communities generally, which I tie into my pursuit for an MPA, specifically in social policy. 

Extracurriculars/Leadership

Here is where I hope I can stand out and connect my interest as to why an MPA.  

I've worked with an organization that provides community resources to local Asian underprivileged communities (I'm an Asian male). Every week we work with children teaching not only academic but also developmental skills. Separately, within the same program, I've also been a mentor to a child for the past 2 years (sort of like big brother big sister). 

I've volunteered at a city funded service by the Parks & Recreation department that I successfully applied for. Volunteered for one cycle (one year) by writing programs and leading free physical exercise classes in local high schools and rec centers for communities that lack these resources.

Lastly, I applied and was selected to join a competitive organization that prepares incarcerated individuals for their parole interview. Over the next year, I will be part of a small team that will aid in the parole process of an incarcerated individual. We will be reviewing their case and working with them leading up to their parole hearing (i.e., prepping them and discussing their case in various ways to present to the parole panel). 

--

My main concern is that I'm simply not quite sure where I stand/how competitive I am, which is also giving me some difficulty narrowing down the schools I should be targeting. It seems to me that my GPA is the most glaring concern in my application even though I have taken the necessary quant courses. As of now, I want my career to be focused on social policy, working in spaces that affects poverty, inequality, upward mobility, etc. I don't see myself working at the municipal level,  more so in consulting or possibly at a federal capacity. 

 

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much!!

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2 hours ago, aw_ca said:

Hi everyone, any help would be greatly appreciated.

--

Applying to: Columbia SIPA, NYU Wagner, Georgetown McCourt, Duke Sanford, UChicago Harris, UVA Batten

Undergrad institution: NYU

Undergrad Major: Major: Theoretical Economics ; Minor: Mathematics 

Undergrad GPA: 3.1 (this is mostly due to a terrible freshmen year, with classes that are not part of my major or minor)

Years out of undergrad: 5 years

Quant Background: Given my major and minor, I took a significant amount of quant classes (linear algebra (A-), calc II (B) and III (C),  econometrics (B+) , statistics (A-), macro (B+)/micro (B+) theory). I know the grades aren't stellar but I am hoping that the depth of my quant classes shows competency.  For the last 4 years, I've been working at a relatively quant heavy job at a large global banking institution. 

Relevant Work Experience: No relevant work experience

GRE: 165/167/5.0 (Verbal/Quant/AWA)

Strength of LOR: I think all three should be decently strong. One is from my current work manager whom I am very close with. He can attest to my quant, analysis, and leadership skills. The other is from an undergrad professor who taught a literature course focusing on immigration. We were very close and I'm hoping he can speak to my writing and articulation. My last recommender is a program coordinator at a volunteer organization that I have been a part of for the last few years. 

Strength of SOP: I talk about my past raised by a single mother and how moving around a lot left me feeling untethered and without a support system. This influenced my volunteer work where I found organizations that supported underserved communities by drawing support from local volunteers. Focusing on communities has led me to question how I can, through policy, create stronger communities generally, which I tie into my pursuit for an MPA, specifically in social policy. 

Extracurriculars/Leadership

Here is where I hope I can stand out and connect my interest as to why an MPA.  

I've worked with an organization that provides community resources to local Asian underprivileged communities (I'm an Asian male). Every week we work with children teaching not only academic but also developmental skills. Separately, within the same program, I've also been a mentor to a child for the past 2 years (sort of like big brother big sister). 

I've volunteered at a city funded service by the Parks & Recreation department that I successfully applied for. Volunteered for one cycle (one year) by writing programs and leading free physical exercise classes in local high schools and rec centers for communities that lack these resources.

Lastly, I applied and was selected to join a competitive organization that prepares incarcerated individuals for their parole interview. Over the next year, I will be part of a small team that will aid in the parole process of an incarcerated individual. We will be reviewing their case and working with them leading up to their parole hearing (i.e., prepping them and discussing their case in various ways to present to the parole panel). 

--

My main concern is that I'm simply not quite sure where I stand/how competitive I am, which is also giving me some difficulty narrowing down the schools I should be targeting. It seems to me that my GPA is the most glaring concern in my application even though I have taken the necessary quant courses. As of now, I want my career to be focused on social policy, working in spaces that affects poverty, inequality, upward mobility, etc. I don't see myself working at the municipal level,  more so in consulting or possibly at a federal capacity. 

 

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much!!

So here are my thoughts:

Strengths:

1. Academics: I think you can mitigate your freshman year issues with an addendum explaining your Freshman year woos (assuming you have a good story there). Your grades in key class items are generally good. Your GRE is amazing. NYU is a pretty good school from a brand/difficulty perspective. + you check of the major boxes of showing quant proficiency. 

Weaknesses --> Everything Else

1. Work Experience --> Maybe there is a messaging gap, but although your work is showing great intentions, you are not really highlighting that you did anything of significant intensity / extreme difficulty. Don't get me wrong, I totally applaud what you are doing in being a good human and etc. However, based off of how you are currently describing it, it shows good intentions, but isn't identifying your ability to overcome hardship/challenges in any capacity. You have to realize schools are impressed by work experience that highlight that you can make a meaningful impact by doing the hard stuff and going for big things. 

Another issue with your work experience is that it doesn't make you unique in anyway. If anything, Policy schools are disproportionately overpopulated with teachers, social workers, community resource type folks (I'm bucketing them in one group because schools generally think of them in one group). 

2. Academic Interest --> The easiest way to make yourself less competitive is to highlight that you are interested in social policy broadly (this can vary decently by school) and want to go to the social policy cohort (for those schools that have cohorts). Again, in terms of resources set aside to social policy, there is disproportionate demand, both from those who come from the social policy sphere and those who want to switch into it. You don't want to be disingenuous and lie and say something else, because people can sniff that out in essays and god forbid you have to do a soft interview (some schools present the opportunity to do so). 

3. The Asian thing and  Policy Schools --> So this is interesting. The bottom line is that most policy programs are trying to be more diverse. It used to be being more diverse meant having loads of Chinese International students and identifying them + US asians bucketed as minorities with all the other minority groups. However, with the draw down of Chinese international students, this has generally disappeared as a practice. 

That being said, being Asian doesn't really help you as schools are trying to boost historically disadvantaged minorities. Also, I am fully aware about the issues of Asian poverty and etc., but not to sound mean, but that is not something that really flies well in public policy schools beyond brand spectrum impacts (like oh Obama care impacts XYZ Hispanics and XYZ Asians). Asians are simply not as severely disadvantaged in the US as a minority group in comparison to others (African American, Hispanic, and Native American) as a whole, so there isn't a real public policy targeting impoverished Asians other than some language programs. I honestly can't think of a single policy school professor I ever encountered who could mentor you in this area appropriately. Asian studies professors, sure, but not policy. I say this because you are really indexing the Asian community thing, but perception rightly or wrongly could work against you.

4. Career interests

Right now you haven't coherently identified why consulting (or what type of consulting) or being a Federal employee. You need go in to an application with a story and right now you don't s sound like you have one. You also mention you want an MPA, but you do realize some of the schools you mention only provide an MPP???

My Take:

I think you'll be able to get into NYU Wagner, McCourt, and Batten Pre Covid. Of these schools, NYU Wagner is probably your best fit. If you want to go to McCourt, I really hope you are able to be a solo operator because the culture won't really help you work on your career opportunities. If you want to go to UVA Batten, I hope you really like team dynamics and values based education, because UVA Batten has the most intense team building and values based emphasis. Harris, Sanford, and SIPA might work for you Pre-COVID, but given how COVID is currently suggesting higher application rates, I think those look really rough for you. 

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2 hours ago, GradSchoolGrad said:

So here are my thoughts:

Strengths:

1. Academics: I think you can mitigate your freshman year issues with an addendum explaining your Freshman year woos (assuming you have a good story there). Your grades in key class items are generally good. Your GRE is amazing. NYU is a pretty good school from a brand/difficulty perspective. + you check of the major boxes of showing quant proficiency. 

Weaknesses --> Everything Else

1. Work Experience --> Maybe there is a messaging gap, but although your work is showing great intentions, you are not really highlighting that you did anything of significant intensity / extreme difficulty. Don't get me wrong, I totally applaud what you are doing in being a good human and etc. However, based off of how you are currently describing it, it shows good intentions, but isn't identifying your ability to overcome hardship/challenges in any capacity. You have to realize schools are impressed by work experience that highlight that you can make a meaningful impact by doing the hard stuff and going for big things. 

Another issue with your work experience is that it doesn't make you unique in anyway. If anything, Policy schools are disproportionately overpopulated with teachers, social workers, community resource type folks (I'm bucketing them in one group because schools generally think of them in one group). 

2. Academic Interest --> The easiest way to make yourself less competitive is to highlight that you are interested in social policy broadly (this can vary decently by school) and want to go to the social policy cohort (for those schools that have cohorts). Again, in terms of resources set aside to social policy, there is disproportionate demand, both from those who come from the social policy sphere and those who want to switch into it. You don't want to be disingenuous and lie and say something else, because people can sniff that out in essays and god forbid you have to do a soft interview (some schools present the opportunity to do so). 

3. The Asian thing and  Policy Schools --> So this is interesting. The bottom line is that most policy programs are trying to be more diverse. It used to be being more diverse meant having loads of Chinese International students and identifying them + US asians bucketed as minorities with all the other minority groups. However, with the draw down of Chinese international students, this has generally disappeared as a practice. 

That being said, being Asian doesn't really help you as schools are trying to boost historically disadvantaged minorities. Also, I am fully aware about the issues of Asian poverty and etc., but not to sound mean, but that is not something that really flies well in public policy schools beyond brand spectrum impacts (like oh Obama care impacts XYZ Hispanics and XYZ Asians). Asians are simply not as severely disadvantaged in the US as a minority group in comparison to others (African American, Hispanic, and Native American) as a whole, so there isn't a real public policy targeting impoverished Asians other than some language programs. I honestly can't think of a single policy school professor I ever encountered who could mentor you in this area appropriately. Asian studies professors, sure, but not policy. I say this because you are really indexing the Asian community thing, but perception rightly or wrongly could work against you.

4. Career interests

Right now you haven't coherently identified why consulting (or what type of consulting) or being a Federal employee. You need go in to an application with a story and right now you don't s sound like you have one. You also mention you want an MPA, but you do realize some of the schools you mention only provide an MPP???

My Take:

I think you'll be able to get into NYU Wagner, McCourt, and Batten Pre Covid. Of these schools, NYU Wagner is probably your best fit. If you want to go to McCourt, I really hope you are able to be a solo operator because the culture won't really help you work on your career opportunities. If you want to go to UVA Batten, I hope you really like team dynamics and values based education, because UVA Batten has the most intense team building and values based emphasis. Harris, Sanford, and SIPA might work for you Pre-COVID, but given how COVID is currently suggesting higher application rates, I think those look really rough for you. 

Thanks for your feedback @GradSchoolGrad. Sorry if it was unclear or put in an incorrect section -- what I meant was that I don't have any direct relevant work experience as it relates to policy work. My work experience thus far has been in a heavy quant role at a banking institution. I essentially oversee our current team and have helped lead huge changes with respect to efficiency and cross-function work within the bank. Maybe I am overgeneralizing my volunteer experiences, but it is true that they don't necessarily overcome any hardship/challenges. Is there a way that I can appropriately highlight these experiences?

In terms of academic interest, it seems like you are saying that I need to be much more specific with respect to my interest in social policy? Would it make sense to leverage my quant background given my academic background and current work? 

I see what you mean with the Asian thing. It was not really my intention to hone in on this, so I'll make sure not to over-emphasize this. 

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1 hour ago, aw_ca said:

Thanks for your feedback @GradSchoolGrad. Sorry if it was unclear or put in an incorrect section -- what I meant was that I don't have any direct relevant work experience as it relates to policy work. My work experience thus far has been in a heavy quant role at a banking institution. I essentially oversee our current team and have helped lead huge changes with respect to efficiency and cross-function work within the bank. Maybe I am overgeneralizing my volunteer experiences, but it is true that they don't necessarily overcome any hardship/challenges. Is there a way that I can appropriately highlight these experiences?In terms of academic interest, it seems like you are saying that I need to be much more specific with respect to my interest in social policy? Would it make sense to leverage my quant background given my academic background and current work? 

I see what you mean with the Asian thing. It was not really my intention to hone in on this, so I'll make sure not to over-emphasize this. 

Okay, clearly we have a major gap between what you think schools look for and what they more realistically look for / view what hurts you.

So lets reframe this:

Your strengths:

1. Your work experience. It sounds like you are in a leadership role and you are in a high intensity job. My bet is that you are probably are in are reputable brand name firm too. These are things that public policy schools look for. Another thing is that coming from finance makes you very unique compared to most of our colleagues at policy programs and helps with a school's interest to become more diverse.

Not to be mean, but it sounds like you haven't done your research on policy schools and what they look for in terms of perspective students. If you go on some websites, its pretty much all there. Its 100% fine (even potentially advantageous) if your work experience is completely unrelated. 

2. Your passion for social impact (you just were messaging it poorly). You want to highlight how you care about making social impact and realized by XYZ activities (just don't mention the Asian thing). 

3. Academics. Same deal as before...

Weaknesses:

1. Why policy school. You need to do a better job explaining what your career goals are (broadly speaking) and how policy school can get you there. Just saying Federal consulting or Federal employee with out more of story won't get you far. You also need to better explain why policy school will make a difference for you, both in terms of career and making social impact. Finally, you need to more coherently explain why you want to pivot your career. 

Right now I'm just hearing speaking in vague thoughts and generalities. You need to weave together a coherent story. The first thing you might want to do is have some meaningful conversations with students and recent alums with significant pre-grad school work experience. 

Schools.

I think you are within striking distance of SIPA and Harris, if you manage to tell a convincing story about your interests in policy school. 

I would say the schools that are the best fit in order are:

1. Harris --> best able to leverage your quant skills. Also, they have a robust consulting pipeline (commercial and public sector)

2. Terry Sanford --> Strong focus on social policy 

3. Wagner --> If you want to focus on an operations and programming perspective, that would be a good opportunity. 

I already explained why I'm not a big fan of McCourt for you. I think very uniquely for you, I would like you to reconsider SIPA. Someone correct me if I'm wrong here, but I don't view them to be a strong school for social policy. They got some flashy stuff going on, but substance wise I view them as their core strengths being all things international relations/international development. They have a social policy focused cohort but social policy folks don't exactly go running towards it. 

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So I actually applied to grad school a couple years back, as I was wrapping up undergrad. I applied to GWU, SIPA, Tufts, and HKS (lol), and got into all but the last one, although I ultimately decided not to go. As you might see below, I have traded around a couple schools from my original list for this go-around, and I was looking for guidance on my application materials. In particular, I am concerned about the strength of my quantitative application for SAIS, and, er, the whole thing for Princeton. If anyone could provide advice, I would greatly appreciate it! 

Applying to: SIPA - reapplicant (MPA), SAIS (MAIR), SFS (MSFS), and the school formerly known as WWS/MPA

Undergrad institution: GWU

Undergrad Major: International Relations (International Politics/Asia), Political Science 

Undergrad GPA: 3.47 - held down by one awful semester that is a result of personal circumstances - explained this in my essays last time and I suppose I can't have been too penalized for it. 

Years out of undergrad: 2 years

Quant Background: Yeah, so this is why I'm here, actually, since the answer is "not much" - I have the two econ courses + Development Economics, and then Game Theory, and then a stats based math course. No calculus above the HS level.  I have done financial analysis work at the programs I work at since college, but I would regard this as the weakest component of my application materials.  

Relevant Work Experience: 2 years full time post undergrad; working for NDI in DC. Additional 3 years via internships in college, fwiw, working on refugee issues, as well as the obligatory GWU Hill internship and some campaign/domestic policy work to round it out.  

GRE: 168V/160Q/5.5W 

Strength of LOR: Quite strong IMO - can get one from my previous two bosses, and scrounge up two strong ones from professors at GWU (including an econ one, who I will absolutely be asking for the quant heavy one). 

Strength of SOP: I think I have a good mix of experiences that I can talk about - the challenge is explaining why I am going from a more human rights background to an International Security program, and my goal is to focus on how the work I want to do requires an understanding (and policy management) of the drivers of conflict, from the local to the great power flavors. I think that the country portfolios I have worked on provide a strong basis for me to convince the admissions department. 


Extracurriculars/Leadership: Little bit of leadership experience in college, worked on a research project for a think tank, and volunteered time on a POTUS candidate's campaign on the policy side. 

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2 hours ago, goromajima24 said:

So I actually applied to grad school a couple years back, as I was wrapping up undergrad. I applied to GWU, SIPA, Tufts, and HKS (lol), and got into all but the last one, although I ultimately decided not to go. As you might see below, I have traded around a couple schools from my original list for this go-around, and I was looking for guidance on my application materials. In particular, I am concerned about the strength of my quantitative application for SAIS, and, er, the whole thing for Princeton. If anyone could provide advice, I would greatly appreciate it! 

Applying to: SIPA - reapplicant (MPA), SAIS (MAIR), SFS (MSFS), and the school formerly known as WWS/MPA

Undergrad institution: GWU

Undergrad Major: International Relations (International Politics/Asia), Political Science 

Undergrad GPA: 3.47 - held down by one awful semester that is a result of personal circumstances - explained this in my essays last time and I suppose I can't have been too penalized for it. 

Years out of undergrad: 2 years

Quant Background: Yeah, so this is why I'm here, actually, since the answer is "not much" - I have the two econ courses + Development Economics, and then Game Theory, and then a stats based math course. No calculus above the HS level.  I have done financial analysis work at the programs I work at since college, but I would regard this as the weakest component of my application materials.  

Relevant Work Experience: 2 years full time post undergrad; working for NDI in DC. Additional 3 years via internships in college, fwiw, working on refugee issues, as well as the obligatory GWU Hill internship and some campaign/domestic policy work to round it out.  

GRE: 168V/160Q/5.5W 

Strength of LOR: Quite strong IMO - can get one from my previous two bosses, and scrounge up two strong ones from professors at GWU (including an econ one, who I will absolutely be asking for the quant heavy one). 

Strength of SOP: I think I have a good mix of experiences that I can talk about - the challenge is explaining why I am going from a more human rights background to an International Security program, and my goal is to focus on how the work I want to do requires an understanding (and policy management) of the drivers of conflict, from the local to the great power flavors. I think that the country portfolios I have worked on provide a strong basis for me to convince the admissions department. 


Extracurriculars/Leadership: Little bit of leadership experience in college, worked on a research project for a think tank, and volunteered time on a POTUS candidate's campaign on the policy side. 

  •  

Kiss Princeton MPA and SAIS goodbye. I honestly don't know why you want to do Princeton MPA if you are going IR unless you are trying to do something super academic. I would say Georgetown MSFS and SIPA are both more robust options (in terms of academic opportunities). 

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2 hours ago, GradSchoolGrad said:

Kiss Princeton MPA and SAIS goodbye. I honestly don't know why you want to do Princeton MPA if you are going IR unless you are trying to do something super academic. I would say Georgetown MSFS and SIPA are both more robust options (in terms of academic opportunities). 

Ok, so suppose I was dead set on applying to SAIS regardless of the internet's opinion this cycle. How would you suggest that I go about trying to blunt my achilles heel that is the quantitative score? Even if we're talking about going from a 1% to a 2% chance of admission.

 

Also, while its wholly tangential to my question, I'll set a marker here, actually - based on friends with a similar profile who have studied at SAIS, and that I apparently fall fairly comfortably within the median of their class profile, I think I have a much stronger shot than you're giving credit for. An uphill battle, for sure, but I'm not willing to concede it. 

 

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5 hours ago, goromajima24 said:

Ok, so suppose I was dead set on applying to SAIS regardless of the internet's opinion this cycle. How would you suggest that I go about trying to blunt my achilles heel that is the quantitative score? Even if we're talking about going from a 1% to a 2% chance of admission.

 

Also, while its wholly tangential to my question, I'll set a marker here, actually - based on friends with a similar profile who have studied at SAIS, and that I apparently fall fairly comfortably within the median of their class profile, I think I have a much stronger shot than you're giving credit for. An uphill battle, for sure, but I'm not willing to concede it. 

 

In all fairness, Princeton MPA will be much harder than SAIS. SAIS does at times take some risk on a candidate who may not have all the quant in background, however usually they are people with extensive work experience. 
 

However, indications are that this will be an exceptionally difficult application cycle due to COVID-19 by virtue of deferrals wanting their slot back... but that could easily change by many other COVID factors TBD.
 

As to answer your question. 1. Emphasize quant based projects and how you used data to be successful 2. Highlight Math aptitude and curiosity.

Can you please highlight why you are dead set on SAIS? Sounds like there is a story there.
 

 

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16 hours ago, GradSchoolGrad said:

Kiss Princeton MPA and SAIS goodbye. I honestly don't know why you want to do Princeton MPA if you are going IR unless you are trying to do something super academic. I would say Georgetown MSFS and SIPA are both more robust options (in terms of academic opportunities). 

Why would he kiss SAIS goodbye? It's not exactly hard to get in, he's got DC IR experience at a well known institution, and he could probably take a couple of classes of Calc before starting next fall. 

I'm starting to have a little doubt that this application cycle will change much given how likely it's looking that Covid will last for most of 2021 as well. 

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27 minutes ago, 2711383 said:

Why would he kiss SAIS goodbye? It's not exactly hard to get in, he's got DC IR experience at a well known institution, and he could probably take a couple of classes of Calc before starting next fall. 

I'm starting to have a little doubt that this application cycle will change much given how likely it's looking that Covid will last for most of 2021 as well. 

You are right, I might have over-exaggerated his lack of chances at SAIS a bit by focusing on Princeton. That being said, it is only 2 years of work experience and NDI is reputable but not exactly a super brand (rightly or wrongly) to get him out of a quant low-mid situation - slam dunk style. That being said, taking Calc classes before next fall won't exactly help his chances for admission (because they need to see grades)

At the end of the day, it really all comes down to how competitive the applications cycle.

I think you have 4 other unknown variables:

1. US Presidential elections

2. International student appetite (related to #1)

3. Chinese student apathy for US education (related to #2)

4. Vaccine progress - if 1918 pandemic is an indicator, that lasted about 18 months, and that virus had a more deadly mutation.

HOWEVER... the only grad programs that publish their application numbers (MBAs) have highlighted they have had a rise in applications. That isn't exactly a good indicator for other grad schools (applicant perspective) + those deferring from last year are not good starting points to be coming from as an applicant. 

All that aside, I know people who got into SAIS with low-quant background because they had awesome work experience. They hated their lives. As in, were stuck in the library and weren't able to eat dinner with their wives on many days. If you want to go through that, more power to you. However, time spent in the library is time not spent doing projects boosting your resume or networking. 

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21 hours ago, GradSchoolGrad said:

HOWEVER... the only grad programs that publish their application numbers (MBAs) have highlighted they have had a rise in applications. That isn't exactly a good indicator for other grad schools (applicant perspective) + those deferring from last year are not good starting points to be coming from as an applicant. 

I haven't done too much research on this (just a 5 second google search, I'm at work right now lol) but the first I found was Berkeley Hass's numbers. While they did report a rise in applications relative to last year (up ~5%, from 3,450 in 2019 to 3,636 in 2020), the number is still way below what it was in 2017: 4132. 

This actually looks like pretty great news for those of us applying this cycle! Seems like while admissions will be more competitive than last year, they'll still be significantly less competitive than usual.

Edit: actually the more I look into it the less promising this looks. Columbia Business had 6,971 applications this year, a lot more than the 6,188 it had in 2017. 

Forbes is reporting a 25% increase at Darden, 21% at Wharton, 35% at Saïd and a whopping 44% at Imperial College Business School, all relative to last year. Seems like Hass's 5% increase was the exception, not the rule. That's disappointing...

Edited by 2711383
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20 minutes ago, 2711383 said:

I haven't done too much research on this (just a 5 second google search, I'm at work right now lol) but the first I found was Berkeley Hass's numbers. While they did report a rise in applications relative to last year (up ~5%, from 3,450 in 2019 to 3,636 in 2020), the number is still way below what it was in 2017: 4132. 

This actually looks like pretty great news for those of us applying this cycle! Seems like while admissions will be more competitive than last year, they'll still be significantly less competitive than usual.

Edit: actually the more I look into it the less promising this looks. Columbia Business had 6,971 applications this year, a lot more than the 6,188 it had in 2017. 

Forbes is reporting a 25% increase at Darden, 21% at Wharton, 35% at Saïd and a whopping 44% at Imperial College Business School, all relative to last year. Seems like Hass's 5% increase was the exception, not the rule. That's disappointing...

I also want to highlight that MBA schools generally speaking are more competitive than Policy/IR graduate schools. There is also usually a trickle down effect I noticed anecdotally whereby those who don't get into the MBA school of choice trickle down into Policy/IR graduate schools (like good ones too - HKS and etc.).

I have met quite a few Policy/IR graduate students who open note how they are only there because they couldn't get into their target MBA schools. I don't think its a big supply factor stressor, but nonetheless, it adds on to all the challenges of this applications cycle.

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Hey all I'm applying for joint/dual degrees w/ MBA and was pointed here from a more B-School focussed forum. Had no idea this forum existed but there's tons of great info! Y'all are super helpful and I'm hoping to get some opinions on my profile.

Candidate: White Male, U.S. Citizen

Applying to: HKS MPA-ID, SAIS MA, (maybe) Harris MPP. These all have joint/dual degree options with the B-Schools I'm applying to (HBS, GSB, Wharton, Sloan, Booth), and they all accept the GMAT lol. If I end up taking the GRE I'll also add WW. My goal is to end up at either the IFC or at a consulting firm focused on international development.

Undergrad institution: Private religious

Undergrad Major: Economics and Statistics double major; Math minor

Undergrad GPA: 3.99

Years out of undergrad: 3.5

Quant/Econ Background: Calc I, II, and III; Linear Algebra; Differential Equations; Real Analysis; Intro and Advanced Econometrics; Intermediate Micro/Macro; Many other Econ and Stats classes. I also have extensive data analysis experience in STATA, R, and Python in my professional work.

Relevant Work Experience: 4 years at enrollment

- Research assistant for stats prof and internship w/ state policy think tank in undergrad

-1.5 years econ consulting

-1.5 years corp. strategy at "unicorn"-type tech company (Uber/Lyft/Airbnb/etc.)

-(current) .5 year research analyst at international org. (WB/IMF/OECD/etc.)

International experience: Spent a couple years in Sub-Saharan Africa

GRE: Haven't taken the GRE yet, but took the GMAT and have a 730 (Q:49, V:40) which was lower than I was expecting, so I'm considering taking the GRE.

Strength of LOR: Should be strong. Recommenders will be a principal at econ consulting firm (Harvard econ PhD), supervisor at tech company, and the last one will probably be an econ prof I worked for. Will it be a red flag that I'm not using a recommender from my current job? I've had two supervisors so far and don't feel like either knows me well enough (especially since we've been working remotely since I started).

Strength of SOP: Should be pretty good. Will talk about my time in Africa sparking my interest in the region and tie into my desire to help facilitate digitalization and technology innovation in SSA. 

Thanks for your help!

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On 9/22/2020 at 6:14 AM, GradSchoolGrad said:

In all fairness, Princeton MPA will be much harder than SAIS. SAIS does at times take some risk on a candidate who may not have all the quant in background, however usually they are people with extensive work experience. 
 

However, indications are that this will be an exceptionally difficult application cycle due to COVID-19 by virtue of deferrals wanting their slot back... but that could easily change by many other COVID factors TBD.
 

As to answer your question. 1. Emphasize quant based projects and how you used data to be successful 2. Highlight Math aptitude and curiosity.

Can you please highlight why you are dead set on SAIS? Sounds like there is a story there.
 

 

 

On 9/22/2020 at 3:49 PM, GradSchoolGrad said:

You are right, I might have over-exaggerated his lack of chances at SAIS a bit by focusing on Princeton. That being said, it is only 2 years of work experience and NDI is reputable but not exactly a super brand (rightly or wrongly) to get him out of a quant low-mid situation - slam dunk style. That being said, taking Calc classes before next fall won't exactly help his chances for admission (because they need to see grades)

At the end of the day, it really all comes down to how competitive the applications cycle.

I think you have 4 other unknown variables:

1. US Presidential elections

2. International student appetite (related to #1)

3. Chinese student apathy for US education (related to #2)

4. Vaccine progress - if 1918 pandemic is an indicator, that lasted about 18 months, and that virus had a more deadly mutation.

HOWEVER... the only grad programs that publish their application numbers (MBAs) have highlighted they have had a rise in applications. That isn't exactly a good indicator for other grad schools (applicant perspective) + those deferring from last year are not good starting points to be coming from as an applicant. 

All that aside, I know people who got into SAIS with low-quant background because they had awesome work experience. They hated their lives. As in, were stuck in the library and weren't able to eat dinner with their wives on many days. If you want to go through that, more power to you. However, time spent in the library is time not spent doing projects boosting your resume or networking. 

Thanks for this, and thanks @2711383 for your comments as well. Apologies for the lack of response, but to answer a couple of your questions: 

1 - Why SAIS? So I'd generally prefer to remain in DC, and I am eager to focus on South Asia and strategy, and SAIS has a great faculty in both. I'd also like the chance to pick up a new language, and SAIS encourages that more than, say Georgetown (where I could get by the requirement with my French, but, uh, don't really think that's gonna be a lifelong choice for me, given the region I want to work in). 

2 - Princeton the Pipe Dream Just to be clear, I am aware of how low of a shot Princeton is. But still, I like some of the professors (there are a couple democracy/governance scholars who have worked with NDI as a matter of fact). I also have heard from a number of WWS alum working in policy who highly recommended the school to me. All of this is to say that I am fully aware of my odds, and have a legitimate interest in the program. So my view is that, with all that in mind, why not apply? The worst they can (and sure, likely will) say is no, but then I'm out what, $100? On the low low chance I get in, there's massive upside. 

Thank you for the points you have raised on how to blunt my own quant weakness. Now, to ask my own question - 

1. How quant is SAIS...as of now? When I applied in 2018, the quant-heavy nature of SAIS absolutely turned me off the school, since I made the same calculation you did. However, since then, they appear to have redesigned their MAIR program (https://sais.jhu.edu/academics/master-degrees/master-arts-international-relations-mair), which now simply has econ as a core, rather than a concentration, with the opportunity to select a functional and regional concentration, similar to SIPA. I spoke with a current student at SAIS who confirmed this to be the case. 

 

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Just now, goromajima24 said:

 

Thanks for this, and thanks @2711383 for your comments as well. Apologies for the lack of response, but to answer a couple of your questions: 

1 - Why SAIS? So I'd generally prefer to remain in DC, and I am eager to focus on South Asia and strategy, and SAIS has a great faculty in both. I'd also like the chance to pick up a new language, and SAIS encourages that more than, say Georgetown (where I could get by the requirement with my French, but, uh, don't really think that's gonna be a lifelong choice for me, given the region I want to work in). 

2 - Princeton the Pipe Dream Just to be clear, I am aware of how low of a shot Princeton is. But still, I like some of the professors (there are a couple democracy/governance scholars who have worked with NDI as a matter of fact). I also have heard from a number of WWS alum working in policy who highly recommended the school to me. All of this is to say that I am fully aware of my odds, and have a legitimate interest in the program. So my view is that, with all that in mind, why not apply? The worst they can (and sure, likely will) say is no, but then I'm out what, $100? On the low low chance I get in, there's massive upside. 

Thank you for the points you have raised on how to blunt my own quant weakness. Now, to ask my own question - 

1. How quant is SAIS...as of now? When I applied in 2018, the quant-heavy nature of SAIS absolutely turned me off the school, since I made the same calculation you did. However, since then, they appear to have redesigned their MAIR program (https://sais.jhu.edu/academics/master-degrees/master-arts-international-relations-mair), which now simply has econ as a core, rather than a concentration, with the opportunity to select a functional and regional concentration, similar to SIPA. I spoke with a current student at SAIS who confirmed this to be the case. 

 

So I'll comment on what I have particular detailed knowledge about:

A: New Language 

If you want to pick up a new language, grad school is the worst time to do it period. Every single person I knew in both programs at most expanded upon a language they at least had some rudimentary knowledge of. Between the pressures of Academics, networking, sleep/social life, and additional projects those who have the ambition to pick up a new language from scratch will run out of time. You are correct that SAIS has some more structural benefit to picking up a new language (as in how you can flex language classes as credits). 

However, if you think you can pick up a Asian language in 2 years to be good enough to pass the graduation, you are already truly gifted or asking for not sleeping much. I know people who studied an Asian language for 4 years with 2 immersion experiences and still needed a fair amount of additional learning time to pass the language requireemnt.

B: MSFS vs. SAIS

You are right the SAIS teaches quant in a generally more structured manner than MSFS. You can however easily replicate the quant education at MSFS that you receive in SAIS via core + electives, but there is something said about everyone being in the same pain together. 

However in terms of South Asia and strategy, they both have strong faculty in this space (I mean there might be more niche things you are looking for that I am not aware about). The real strength of MSFS is having the academic resources of all of Georgetown and all its programming. I did projects with MSFS people involving business and healthcare, things you wouldn't get that much fidelity at SAIS. You might not think any of this matters now, but I always believe that having access to things and not needing it is better than not having access to things and needing it. SAIS essentially operates as a stand alone school separate from Johns Hopkins. It can decently get away with it by leveraging its DC network + opportunities.

C. Princeton (they did a name change)

The thing about Princeton is that it is a policy program with divided attention between domestic type policy and international type policy. Yes, there are international policy type people floating around with access to esteemed professors. Additionally, its class size is super small in comparison to other programs. The means:

- a much smaller network

- less resources and access to opportunities for your area of focus.

Ya, there are smart grads floating around who felt like that got a great experience. However, its not exactly fun to be the ONLY professional school in all of Princeton and not having access to resources that MSFS and SAIS have. Anecdotally, I have met way more people from Princeton from the domestic policy space than the foreign policy space. 

 

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Hi everyone, I am a bachelor in psychology from Peru and I'm applying to psychology  Ph.D. programs in the U.S. this fall. Any advice is welcome!

Applying to:

  • University of Michigan: Joint Ph.D. in Social Work and Psychology
  • Georgetown: Psychology Ph.D. - Human Development and Public Policy
  • Northwestern: Social Psychology 
  • USC: Social Psychology 
  • UC Irvine: Social/Developmental Psychology 
  • UVA: Community Psychology 
  • University of Pittsburgh: Developmental Psychology

Undergrad institution: Universidad de Lima, Peru

Undergrad Major: Psychology

Undergrad GPA: 15.2/20 (this converts to 4.0 according to www.scholaro.com)

Relevant Work Experience: 3.5 years working at a non-profit that recruits U.S. university students to teach STEM in Peru and Colombia, 1 year as a psychology intern at a residential care facility for children coming from adverse backgrounds, 3 months working at a consulting firm developing STEM education and entrepreneurship model to be adopted by mining companies

Research Experience: Did a bachelor's thesis and got a grade of 19/20 (A+). Member of the Research in Psychology student group at Universidad de Lima, we wrote a paper that is now under revision for publication at a Peruvian  journal

GRE: 157V/153Q/3.5AW weak score 😕 but luckily because of COVID the only schools asking me to submit GRE scores are Michigan and Georgetown

Languages: Spanish is my native language. Got a 111 score on TOEFL

Strength of LOR: I will have my thesis advisor, a university professor and my boss from the non-profit I work at write my letters. I think they will be good but I'm nervous because  all recommenders are Peruvian and don't have any relations with faculty from U.S. schools, I don't know if this will affect recommendations.

Strenght of SOP: I think this one's pretty good. I will talk about my work and research experiences, also about challenges I faced growing up in a developing country and how my background can positively impact the programs.

Extracurriculars: Member of philosophy, clinical psychology, research in psychology, and social psychology student groups as an undergrad. Also, I volunteered for a semester as a clinical assistant for one of my professors at a mental health ospital. 

 

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