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1 hour ago, le_printemps_arrive said:

Hi all, I’m new to this forum, and please let me know if this post is not in line with the rules or I’m posting under a wrong topic. Would be happy to chat with anyone!

Long story short. I’m majoring in journalism as an undergrad now, but aiming to study MPP in the States. I have two NGO internship experiences. However, the biggest problem is that my quant background is very very weak. Have only taken Principle of Economics and Statistics for Economics during undergrad. Both aren’t very typical economics/math courses. Other relevant econ/math courses (eg. micro/macro/stat) will have time clashes with my core major courses next year (my senior year). Now, my friends are suggesting me to apply as a visiting student at some prestigious US universities for spring semester & take these quant courses. 

My concerns are:

1. It will cost around 30,000USD to take three/four quant courses online. I’m lucky that my family is very supportive of my master’s education, but blowing that extra 30k will probably be another financial burden. I don’t think if it’s worth it.
2. I will be a full-time intern (Mon-Fri, 9-6) and a full-time student at the same time. Maybe I can resign, but is it worth it?
3. How important is quant background in admission? I scored 167 in GRE, but all my friends got 170, and they keep telling me 167 isn’t enough / I haven’t taken enough quant courses.
4. Are there any other ways for me to make up my lack of quant background? I see that North Arizona University also opens winter/spring courses, but my friends say they are not “prestigious/good” enough to prove my quant ability.
5. Most importantly, what schools should I target during my application?

Here’s some of my basic info:

Applying to (considering):  Columbia SIPA MPA, Chicago Harris MPP, Georgetown McCourt MPP, Berkeley Goldman MPP, Michigan Ford MPP; Johns Hopkins SAIS; Cornell MPA; UPenn MPA

Undergraduate Institution: a local Asian university

Current status: taking a gap year as a full-year intern at a UN agency, rising senior 

GPA: 3.85/4.0 Journalism

GRE: 161V 167Q 4.5AW

Quant Background: Principle of Economics and Statistics for Economics

Relevant Work Experience: the UN internship now, intern at a local NGO before, intern at a big US newspaper (probably not that relevant)

International experience:  An exchange year in Europe. An internship in Australia. 
 

Recommendation --> don't go to grad school. Get a job... build your career and go to grad school once you have at least 2 years experience and can apply in a less competitive application cycle.

Here is the deal:

1. The only two schools I think you might have a moderate chance of getting into are Cornell MPA and UPenn MPA. Although the Universities have a great reputation, I recommend all people to avoid their MPA programs (even if they get scholarships) because the programming, resources, and structure simply isn't there. Basically, there are much better things you can do with your life and career in most cases the go to those schools - especially in your situation. Keep in mind that this year is going to be more competitive than previous years with a massive surge of Americans applying to grad school during a bad economy. If Joe Biden wins the election, you'll probably have an uptick of international student applications too.

2. Being a full time student + full time job/internship (whatever you want to call it) is INSANE and a terrible idea. First, I doubt you can pull it off in this economic environment where it is next to impossible for an international student to get an off campus job. With University budgets being slashed, its probably harder to get an on campus job as well. Second, its drastically diminishes the quality of your graduate school experience. I know two people who did it (Americans) and hated their lives.

3. Your true weakness isn't your lack of quant or 3 points lower GRE score. It is your lack of professional work experience. Schools are willing to take more risk on someone with a lower quant background if they have quality professional work experience. If you want to go to a good MPP program straight from undergrad with full time work experience, you need to be a crazy rock star. The people I know who did it had at least 3.7 GPA, publication credentials under their belt, top notch quant (like math Econ or engineering classes), higher brand University, and prestigious internships + 90 percentile GREs. You got some of those, but missing some. 

Additionally, your degree isn't seen as academically difficult. If you had professional experience that went with it (I knew someone who worked at a major US newspaper with a journalism degree), you degree can work to your favor and make you diverse. However, journalism as a degree without quant classes makes a admissions committee question your ability to graduate. Policy schools are very sensitive to international students struggling to graduate because it looks bad on the school and they have recent scar tissue of admitting large number of Chinese students and many of them struggled to graduate due to a combination of language issues, struggling culturally with class participation, and academic backgrounds that were less relevant for the MPP class material. 

4. You need to make new friends. You don't need to go to a prestigious school to take quant classes to prove your quant capabilities. All you need to do is to take classes online from a respected accredited US institution. I did it through Colorado State and Michigan State (one tick up above Northern Arizona). I'm sure there are many other ways to do it. Please understand what really matters is how difficult your classes are and the grades you get. A school would look more favorably with you getting an A in advanced calculus based econometrics or mechanical engineering than a B+ from Cornell doing Calculus Level 2. 

Also, keep in mind, different policy schools may be looking for different things. Schools that have a robust summer school (like U. Chicago Harris) probably are looking for general quant competency (which you can get with professional experience). Schools like Princeton SPIA or HKS are looking for proof of econometrics and calculus. Schools like McCourt are simply looking for some math based Econ with some basic calculus art a minimum (obviously if you have econometrics, that only helps you). EVERY SCHOOL is different. HOWEVER even if you take these classes and get As, you might not be able to get accepted due to your lack of work experience. 

5. I'm curious what you mean by local Asian University. The deal is that policy grad programs as recently as 3 years ago was flooded with Chinese international students, and then a lot of schools realized they are over-reliant on Chinese international students and it wasn't good for their diversity. How Chinese international students are viewed these days in terms of diversity probably varies by school. HOWEVER, I have talked to non-Chinese international students who are very sought after in bringing in diversity. This might be one of your key advantages if you are non-Chinese. HOWEVER... it doesn't not overcome the doubts any admissions person would have about your ability to graduate given your lack of quant classes. 

 

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Hey everyone,

Thanks for read! Quite value your feedback. Cheers!

Undergraduate institution: Top three American university
Undergraduate GPA: 3.85
GRE Quantitative Score: 166
GRE Verbal Score: 170

Quant Background: Minimal, though I'm hoping my decent GRE quant score shows that I'm competent enough. (Thoughts?)

Schools applying to:  HKS MPP, Oxford MPP, Princeton/SPIA MPA, Columbia/SIPA MPP, Stanford/Ford Dorsey MA in International Policy
Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable): 6
Years of Work Experience: 6
Describe Relevant Work Experience: A unique position in a government office.
Strength of LORs: I believe strong. Though not sure if it would be considered problematic if all three of my LORs come from the same job.

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Just now, Jessie923 said:

Hey everyone,

Thanks for read! Quite value your feedback. Cheers!

Undergraduate institution: Top three American university
Undergraduate GPA: 3.85
GRE Quantitative Score: 166
GRE Verbal Score: 170

Quant Background: Minimal, though I'm hoping my decent GRE quant score shows that I'm competent enough. (Thoughts?)

Schools applying to:  HKS MPP, Oxford MPP, Princeton/SPIA MPA, Columbia/SIPA MPP, Stanford/Ford Dorsey MA in International Policy
Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable): 6
Years of Work Experience: 6
Describe Relevant Work Experience: A unique position in a government office.
Strength of LORs: I believe strong. Though not sure if it would be considered problematic if all three of my LORs come from the same job.

You are truly highly competitive. HOWEVER... Harvard MPP may not accept you due to your lack of quant. Princeton SPIA is interesting. In the past they have taken chances on those who have a lower quant background but great professional experience. HOWEVER... I wouldn't recommend you taking that risk. I known people who struggled to graduate (as in taken an extra semester due to difficulty to meet the quant requirements.

I don't know enough about Stanford Ford Dorsey.

I think there are two ways for you to think about it.

1. If you are interested in foreign policy or IR, I recommend you consider Georgetown MSFS or Columbia SIPA. They got quant but less quant. Some people might say Fletcher, but I personally think Fletcher has major issues going into the future (many would say that is controversial - which I admit it is). 

2. If you are interested in domestic policy (or a broad range of random things), I recommend you think about Duke Terry Sanford MPP (you probably could get some good scholarship there), Carnegie Melon Heinz - MSPP (they have a good  DC campus option) as a safety. 

3. Oxford MPP is interesting. If you just need a grad degree to check the box, go for it. Its 1 year vs. 2 in the US. I really admire the British higher education experience. The issue with Oxford MPP is that you won't be picking up much technical skills. It is relatively quant low among the MPP university. 

Please keep in mind that even though you are highly competitive, this is a much harder application cycle than most due to the rise of application numbers. 

4. I do recommend you get one academic LOR (yes it can be awkward hitting up old professors, but I did it). At least someone who knows you from a more academic light. 

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14 hours ago, GradSchoolGrad said:

You are truly highly competitive. HOWEVER... Harvard MPP may not accept you due to your lack of quant. Princeton SPIA is interesting. In the past they have taken chances on those who have a lower quant background but great professional experience. HOWEVER... I wouldn't recommend you taking that risk. I known people who struggled to graduate (as in taken an extra semester due to difficulty to meet the quant requirements.

I don't know enough about Stanford Ford Dorsey.

I think there are two ways for you to think about it.

1. If you are interested in foreign policy or IR, I recommend you consider Georgetown MSFS or Columbia SIPA. They got quant but less quant. Some people might say Fletcher, but I personally think Fletcher has major issues going into the future (many would say that is controversial - which I admit it is). 

2. If you are interested in domestic policy (or a broad range of random things), I recommend you think about Duke Terry Sanford MPP (you probably could get some good scholarship there), Carnegie Melon Heinz - MSPP (they have a good  DC campus option) as a safety. 

3. Oxford MPP is interesting. If you just need a grad degree to check the box, go for it. Its 1 year vs. 2 in the US. I really admire the British higher education experience. The issue with Oxford MPP is that you won't be picking up much technical skills. It is relatively quant low among the MPP university. 

Please keep in mind that even though you are highly competitive, this is a much harder application cycle than most due to the rise of application numbers. 

4. I do recommend you get one academic LOR (yes it can be awkward hitting up old professors, but I did it). At least someone who knows you from a more academic light. 

This is so helpful, thank you! I'm interested in foreign policy/IR, so I'll include Columbia SIPA in the mix.  

I know it's impossible to say for sure, but when you say that HKS "may not accept..." me due to my lack of quant, do you think it's more likely than not that I wouldn't get in because of that? If so, that's brutal!

Good to know that Princeton's quant is *that* much more intensive than everyone else's, even HKS's. Thank you for all this advice. Greatly appreciated!

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33 minutes ago, Jessie923 said:

This is so helpful, thank you! I'm interested in foreign policy/IR, so I'll include Columbia SIPA in the mix.  

I know it's impossible to say for sure, but when you say that HKS "may not accept..." me due to my lack of quant, do you think it's more likely than not that I wouldn't get in because of that? If so, that's brutal!

Good to know that Princeton's quant is *that* much more intensive than everyone else's, even HKS's. Thank you for all this advice. Greatly appreciated!

The deal is this. HKS requires a quant resume. If your quant resume is thin on academic quant, then they would look for professional quant experience. If you got professional quant experience (essentially OJT), you might be good.

HOWEVER, unless you have a Dean's reservation, I highly doubt on your ability to get into HKS if you have a weak quant. It would go figure into your ability to graduate (and people do wash out of HKS too). Also, keep in mind, the this is a way more competitive application cycle than usual. You might big able to barely squeak by with the a weak quote resume with brand + professional experience in the past, but its just gonna be harder to do it this application cycle.

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1 hour ago, GradSchoolGrad said:

The deal is this. HKS requires a quant resume. If your quant resume is thin on academic quant, then they would look for professional quant experience. If you got professional quant experience (essentially OJT), you might be good.

HOWEVER, unless you have a Dean's reservation, I highly doubt on your ability to get into HKS if you have a weak quant. It would go figure into your ability to graduate (and people do wash out of HKS too). Also, keep in mind, the this is a way more competitive application cycle than usual. You might big able to barely squeak by with the a weak quote resume with brand + professional experience in the past, but its just gonna be harder to do it this application cycle.

Thanks for this! Appreciate the insight a lot.

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On 11/5/2020 at 12:15 PM, GradSchoolGrad said:

Recommendation --> don't go to grad school. Get a job... build your career and go to grad school once you have at least 2 years experience and can apply in a less competitive application cycle.

Here is the deal:

1. The only two schools I think you might have a moderate chance of getting into are Cornell MPA and UPenn MPA. Although the Universities have a great reputation, I recommend all people to avoid their MPA programs (even if they get scholarships) because the programming, resources, and structure simply isn't there. Basically, there are much better things you can do with your life and career in most cases the go to those schools - especially in your situation. Keep in mind that this year is going to be more competitive than previous years with a massive surge of Americans applying to grad school during a bad economy. If Joe Biden wins the election, you'll probably have an uptick of international student applications too.

2. Being a full time student + full time job/internship (whatever you want to call it) is INSANE and a terrible idea. First, I doubt you can pull it off in this economic environment where it is next to impossible for an international student to get an off campus job. With University budgets being slashed, its probably harder to get an on campus job as well. Second, its drastically diminishes the quality of your graduate school experience. I know two people who did it (Americans) and hated their lives.

3. Your true weakness isn't your lack of quant or 3 points lower GRE score. It is your lack of professional work experience. Schools are willing to take more risk on someone with a lower quant background if they have quality professional work experience. If you want to go to a good MPP program straight from undergrad with full time work experience, you need to be a crazy rock star. The people I know who did it had at least 3.7 GPA, publication credentials under their belt, top notch quant (like math Econ or engineering classes), higher brand University, and prestigious internships + 90 percentile GREs. You got some of those, but missing some. 

Additionally, your degree isn't seen as academically difficult. If you had professional experience that went with it (I knew someone who worked at a major US newspaper with a journalism degree), you degree can work to your favor and make you diverse. However, journalism as a degree without quant classes makes a admissions committee question your ability to graduate. Policy schools are very sensitive to international students struggling to graduate because it looks bad on the school and they have recent scar tissue of admitting large number of Chinese students and many of them struggled to graduate due to a combination of language issues, struggling culturally with class participation, and academic backgrounds that were less relevant for the MPP class material. 

4. You need to make new friends. You don't need to go to a prestigious school to take quant classes to prove your quant capabilities. All you need to do is to take classes online from a respected accredited US institution. I did it through Colorado State and Michigan State (one tick up above Northern Arizona). I'm sure there are many other ways to do it. Please understand what really matters is how difficult your classes are and the grades you get. A school would look more favorably with you getting an A in advanced calculus based econometrics or mechanical engineering than a B+ from Cornell doing Calculus Level 2. 

Also, keep in mind, different policy schools may be looking for different things. Schools that have a robust summer school (like U. Chicago Harris) probably are looking for general quant competency (which you can get with professional experience). Schools like Princeton SPIA or HKS are looking for proof of econometrics and calculus. Schools like McCourt are simply looking for some math based Econ with some basic calculus art a minimum (obviously if you have econometrics, that only helps you). EVERY SCHOOL is different. HOWEVER even if you take these classes and get As, you might not be able to get accepted due to your lack of work experience. 

5. I'm curious what you mean by local Asian University. The deal is that policy grad programs as recently as 3 years ago was flooded with Chinese international students, and then a lot of schools realized they are over-reliant on Chinese international students and it wasn't good for their diversity. How Chinese international students are viewed these days in terms of diversity probably varies by school. HOWEVER, I have talked to non-Chinese international students who are very sought after in bringing in diversity. This might be one of your key advantages if you are non-Chinese. HOWEVER... it doesn't not overcome the doubts any admissions person would have about your ability to graduate given your lack of quant classes. 

 

Hi thank you so much for your detailed response! Yes I think I should consider postponing my grad school plan and get more working experience instead. I think my journalism degree could potentially be an asset since I worked for a major US newspaper, like your friend did. Also took several political science classes. The major issue is my lack of quant classes & professional working experience related to policy. I'll try to work on that! Again, thank you very much for your advice!

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hi everyone! long time lurker, first time poster. 

i'd love to hear any advice or my chances :) long story short, i'm a canadian student of getting two undergraduate degrees (BA in polisci, Bachelors of Business), and while I wanted to do grad school a few years down the line after acquiring some work experience, 2020 has really thrown a wrench in my plans and significantly reduced the amount of available jobs, especially those aligned with my goals, and i was thinking of going straight to grad school right after my undergrad. 

i'm interested in working on the international level (think igos and or international ngos), rather than domestically. 

some background info: 

schools and programs: yale jackson, princeton spia, columbia sipa, uchicago harris mpp, duke sanford, john hopkins sais

undergrad institution: top canadian school 

undergrad gpa: 3.78/4.00 (3.84 for the polisci degree, 3.73 for the business degree). 

gre: 160Q/165V (unofficial, still waiting to get results back) 

quant experience: macro/micro, stats, analytics, finance, operations, and machine learning/data viz in R courses 

international experience: worked in a european country for a year, interned in an african country for a few months, had a course in asian country/my exchange cancelled due to COVID; born outside of canada, lived outside of canada till i was five (which barely counts i know) 

languages: english, french, two local languages (from my ethnic groups), a some of the local european/african languages of the places i've worked at

years out of undergrad: 0 (yikes) 

years of relevant work experience: 1ish

work experience: took a gap year to work internationally, interned with the federal/provincial governments in economic strategy heavy roles, and interned with an education non-profit. did pro-bono consulting for local and national non-profits, impact investment funds, and social enterprises. 

SOP/LORs: fairly strong for both

other: i'm mostly worried about my lack of work experience and whether or not that'll be the death sentence for my application. no one has the answers, but even if i get in, i'm also worried about funding, which i know is a lot less generous if you don't have experience. finally, i'm concerned about being able to take advantage of the internship/job opportunities these schools tout considering i'd be an international student. 

also i'm a woman, immigrant, and ethnic minority 

 

 

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2 hours ago, hahah2020 said:

hi everyone! long time lurker, first time poster. 

i'd love to hear any advice or my chances :) long story short, i'm a canadian student of getting two undergraduate degrees (BA in polisci, Bachelors of Business), and while I wanted to do grad school a few years down the line after acquiring some work experience, 2020 has really thrown a wrench in my plans and significantly reduced the amount of available jobs, especially those aligned with my goals, and i was thinking of going straight to grad school right after my undergrad. 

i'm interested in working on the international level (think igos and or international ngos), rather than domestically. 

some background info: 

schools and programs: yale jackson, princeton spia, columbia sipa, uchicago harris mpp, duke sanford, john hopkins sais

undergrad institution: top canadian school 

undergrad gpa: 3.78/4.00 (3.84 for the polisci degree, 3.73 for the business degree). 

gre: 160Q/165V (unofficial, still waiting to get results back) 

quant experience: macro/micro, stats, analytics, finance, operations, and machine learning/data viz in R courses 

international experience: worked in a european country for a year, interned in an african country for a few months, had a course in asian country/my exchange cancelled due to COVID; born outside of canada, lived outside of canada till i was five (which barely counts i know) 

languages: english, french, two local languages (from my ethnic groups), a some of the local european/african languages of the places i've worked at

years out of undergrad: 0 (yikes) 

years of relevant work experience: 1ish

work experience: took a gap year to work internationally, interned with the federal/provincial governments in economic strategy heavy roles, and interned with an education non-profit. did pro-bono consulting for local and national non-profits, impact investment funds, and social enterprises. 

SOP/LORs: fairly strong for both

other: i'm mostly worried about my lack of work experience and whether or not that'll be the death sentence for my application. no one has the answers, but even if i get in, i'm also worried about funding, which i know is a lot less generous if you don't have experience. finally, i'm concerned about being able to take advantage of the internship/job opportunities these schools tout considering i'd be an international student. 

also i'm a woman, immigrant, and ethnic minority 

 

 

You have great qualifications, for sure. Even with those, the lack of full time work experience is a major problem for you. I know it's really hard to find relevant jobs this year, but this is a major hole in your credentials. Even if this year's pool of applicants is not as competitive as we think it will be (which is unlikely) and you get in to one of those programs, I doubt that you'll get any financial aid. 

 

Regardless, you still might have a chance at some of the programs with larger cohorts, like SIPA and SAIS. That being said, you'd probably be stuck paying full sticker price in tuition. If I were you, I'd tough it out and try to get 2 years of full time work experience. It's probably not what you wanted to hear, but doing this will put you in a better situation two years down the road and will likely lead to less debt. These programs are not worth $100K or more in debt.

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2 hours ago, Ravine55 said:

You have great qualifications, for sure. Even with those, the lack of full time work experience is a major problem for you. I know it's really hard to find relevant jobs this year, but this is a major hole in your credentials. Even if this year's pool of applicants is not as competitive as we think it will be (which is unlikely) and you get in to one of those programs, I doubt that you'll get any financial aid. 

 

Regardless, you still might have a chance at some of the programs with larger cohorts, like SIPA and SAIS. That being said, you'd probably be stuck paying full sticker price in tuition. If I were you, I'd tough it out and try to get 2 years of full time work experience. It's probably not what you wanted to hear, but doing this will put you in a better situation two years down the road and will likely lead to less debt. These programs are not worth $100K or more in debt.

thank you so much! i definitely needed to hear that to know i wasn't going totally crazy stressing about hypotheticals 

definitely a tough situation (especially bc 99% of the government jobs i'm interested in require at least a master's) but i guess i'll have to figure something out :)

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Hi all,

I have read the last pages of this topic with great attention, thank you for your advice ! I would love to have your opinion on my chances :

Background info : student from a French "Grandes Ecoles", which is the name for top engineering schools.

Schools and programs: HKS MPP, MIT TPP, Cambridge & Oxford MPP, Berkeley MPP, Columbia SIPA

GPA: 3.82 in engineering school (3 years), 3.96 in preparatory school (2 years after high school preparing for an exam)

GRE: 162 (verbal), 166 (quant), 3.0 (AW, my biggest weakness, I consider taking the test again).

TOEFL: 110 (score from last year, I have taken the test again last week, results pending)

Quant experience: I believe it is my strength thanks to my engineering path. Advanced mathematics (algebra, probability, dynamic models, optimization etc.), economics (micro, macro, econometrics, international economics, business economics), computer science (from basic algorithmic to deep learning)

Years of work experience: 3 years (6 month internship in a consulting firm (MBB), 1 year working for France government in the team of counselors for a Minister related to the topic I want to study, 1 year in the Army, 6 months in a tech company in Singapour).

SOP/LORs: fairly strong for both

I would love to get your feedback ! Thank you in advance.

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20 hours ago, Julien D said:

Hi all,

I have read the last pages of this topic with great attention, thank you for your advice ! I would love to have your opinion on my chances :

Background info : student from a French "Grandes Ecoles", which is the name for top engineering schools.

Schools and programs: HKS MPP, MIT TPP, Cambridge & Oxford MPP, Berkeley MPP, Columbia SIPA

GPA: 3.82 in engineering school (3 years), 3.96 in preparatory school (2 years after high school preparing for an exam)

GRE: 162 (verbal), 166 (quant), 3.0 (AW, my biggest weakness, I consider taking the test again).

TOEFL: 110 (score from last year, I have taken the test again last week, results pending)

Quant experience: I believe it is my strength thanks to my engineering path. Advanced mathematics (algebra, probability, dynamic models, optimization etc.), economics (micro, macro, econometrics, international economics, business economics), computer science (from basic algorithmic to deep learning)

Years of work experience: 3 years (6 month internship in a consulting firm (MBB), 1 year working for France government in the team of counselors for a Minister related to the topic I want to study, 1 year in the Army, 6 months in a tech company in Singapour).

SOP/LORs: fairly strong for both

I would love to get your feedback ! Thank you in advance.

1. You need to figure out what you want to get out of policy school

a. If you want to have a holistic experience of integrating policy with data analysis, HKS and Berkeley are both good places to go for general range of topics (it might be helpful for you tell us what you are interested in as well in terms of a policy area)

b. If you want to have more academic self-driven research/discovery of policy opportunities --> Oxford and Cambridge MPP is the way to go (keep in mind that these two programs are quant low and do not give you the opportunity to have a summer internship)

c. MIT TPP is basically an extension of engineering with some policy concepts/environment and etc. Its a very very very narrow way to do policy. If you want to focus on policy as it ties specifically to engineering, then you are probably in a good place there. Good luck doing a broader range of policy interests there. 

This is similar to Vanderbilt Peabody's MPP in Education --> in the sense of a very narrow focus

2. Although your AW is lower, I think with the exception HKS, it might not be too much of a problem. You present a lot of diversity being French and being an engineer.

3. Instead of Columbia SIPA (which honestly is stronger for international relations than its policy oriented education), I would consider U. Chicago Harris or Carnegie Melon Heinz instead. 

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Many thanks all for the great thread. I would love to have your opinion:

Background info : last year admitted into SIPA but no fund. Refugee and currently based in the Middle East, received a scholarship to pursue my undergrad. Studied Computer Science but worked in international development. 

Applying to:  HKS MPA-ID, Columbia SIPA MPA-DP, Georgetown McCourt

Undergrad Institution: one of the top schools in the Middle East

Years of experience: 8

GPA: below 3

Quant experience: studied Computer Science and am currently preparing for the GRE. 

Relevant Work Experience: NGOs for 5 years and Government for 3 years.  

International experience: I have been on several panels/trips to speak about refugee education worldwide, mainly the US, Canada, UK, Jordan, Lebanon...etc.  

Strength of LOR: very strong LORs. From an ambassador, Harvard grad, and a university professor. 

SOP: fairly strong, focused on my personal story and achievements in the refugee communities.  

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9 hours ago, Nomad48 said:

Many thanks all for the great thread. I would love to have your opinion:

Background info : last year admitted into SIPA but no fund. Refugee and currently based in the Middle East, received a scholarship to pursue my undergrad. Studied Computer Science but worked in international development. 

Applying to:  HKS MPA-ID, Columbia SIPA MPA-DP, Georgetown McCourt

Undergrad Institution: one of the top schools in the Middle East

Years of experience: 8

GPA: below 3

Quant experience: studied Computer Science and am currently preparing for the GRE. 

Relevant Work Experience: NGOs for 5 years and Government for 3 years.  

International experience: I have been on several panels/trips to speak about refugee education worldwide, mainly the US, Canada, UK, Jordan, Lebanon...etc.  

Strength of LOR: very strong LORs. From an ambassador, Harvard grad, and a university professor. 

SOP: fairly strong, focused on my personal story and achievements in the refugee communities.  

1. You will get into places but won’t get funding (except maybe McCourt - assuming you are MIDP not MPP) because this year is crazy competitive.

2. I don’t think you will get into HKS ID due to how crazy quant that is and you do have a sun 3.0 GPA. Ability to graduate comes into question.

3. NO ONE cares how powerful or mighty your recommender is. More important is what they write and how well they knew you. The only exception is if there is a school affiliation (alumni... which always helps).

 

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1 minute ago, GradSchoolGrad said:

1. You will get into places but won’t get funding (except maybe McCourt - assuming you are MIDP not MPP) because this year is crazy competitive.

2. I don’t think you will get into HKS ID due to how crazy quant that is and you do have a sun 3.0 GPA. Ability to graduate comes into question.

3. NO ONE cares how powerful or mighty your recommender is. More important is what they write and how well they knew you. The only exception is if there is a school affiliation (alumni... which always helps).

 

I'm not trying to challenge you on this because I tend to agree, but how sure are you that this year will be "crazy competitive"? Do you have evidence besides MBA application numbers? Just trying to gauge what my chances are against the field. I have a suspicion that fewer people will apply because of the debt to salary ratio for grads of the typical IR/MPP/MPA program.

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1 minute ago, Ravine55 said:

I'm not trying to challenge you on this because I tend to agree, but how sure are you that this year will be "crazy competitive"? Do you have evidence besides MBA application numbers? Just trying to gauge what my chances are against the field. I have a suspicion that fewer people will apply because of the debt to salary ratio for grads of the typical IR/MPP/MPA program.

You are right in the sense that it is not a perfect estimation, especially with international student interest being unknown (although likely higher now with Biden as President vs. Trump 2nd term).

I think it is great that you are identifying debt to salary ratio now, because although ROI is something people have broadly discussed in IR and policy schools, I found final career outcomes to be rarely discussed during the admissions phase. Most people I encountered in my years of grad school coaching have the apply first and figure out economics of it later attitude. So even if the debt doesn’t make sense, people will apply and see what scholarships they can get. 

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On 11/14/2020 at 4:59 PM, GradSchoolGrad said:

1. You need to figure out what you want to get out of policy school

a. If you want to have a holistic experience of integrating policy with data analysis, HKS and Berkeley are both good places to go for general range of topics (it might be helpful for you tell us what you are interested in as well in terms of a policy area)

b. If you want to have more academic self-driven research/discovery of policy opportunities --> Oxford and Cambridge MPP is the way to go (keep in mind that these two programs are quant low and do not give you the opportunity to have a summer internship)

c. MIT TPP is basically an extension of engineering with some policy concepts/environment and etc. Its a very very very narrow way to do policy. If you want to focus on policy as it ties specifically to engineering, then you are probably in a good place there. Good luck doing a broader range of policy interests there. 

This is similar to Vanderbilt Peabody's MPP in Education --> in the sense of a very narrow focus

2. Although your AW is lower, I think with the exception HKS, it might not be too much of a problem. You present a lot of diversity being French and being an engineer.

3. Instead of Columbia SIPA (which honestly is stronger for international relations than its policy oriented education), I would consider U. Chicago Harris or Carnegie Melon Heinz instead. 

 

Thank you very much for your detailed answer !

1. You are right, I should have explained my plans. I would like to leverage my engineering studies working for technology policy issues in government / state administration / regulator / international organization (OECD, etc.). I am really into topics such as AI uses and regulation, big tech regulation, tacking disinformation, security topics etc.

Thank you for these 3 categories, they are super helpful ! Things are much clearer now. Do you have other examples of masters in the first category (HKS & Berkeley) ?

2. HKS being my dream school, I will definitely take the test again (I need to hurry up !). Assuming my quant and verbal scores stay the same and I manage to reach 5.0 for the AW, do you think I would be competitive ?

3. Thank you for this comment on Columbia. What about John Hopkins, Yale and Princeton, are they more a., b., c. or Columbia like ?

Once again, thank you for your help !

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1 hour ago, Julien D said:

 

Thank you very much for your detailed answer !

1. You are right, I should have explained my plans. I would like to leverage my engineering studies working for technology policy issues in government / state administration / regulator / international organization (OECD, etc.). I am really into topics such as AI uses and regulation, big tech regulation, tacking disinformation, security topics etc.

Thank you for these 3 categories, they are super helpful ! Things are much clearer now. Do you have other examples of masters in the first category (HKS & Berkeley) ?

2. HKS being my dream school, I will definitely take the test again (I need to hurry up !). Assuming my quant and verbal scores stay the same and I manage to reach 5.0 for the AW, do you think I would be competitive ?

3. Thank you for this comment on Columbia. What about John Hopkins, Yale and Princeton, are they more a., b., c. or Columbia like ?

Once again, thank you for your help !

So again, I think those 3 routes are a good way to go about it.

However, to expand on the 1st route (holistic experience), in addition of HKS and Berkeley Goldman, I recommend you think about Carnegie Mellon Heinz school and U. Chicago Harris as I previously mentioned. I picked those because they have both a strong engineering programming on top of policy. That way you have the most flexibility to induce engineering into policy. Schools that don't have a strong engineering/sciences with their policy programming my likely have less opportunities for your specific interests.

 

Johns Hopkins-? what program??? Yale doesn't have a policy program - why are you talking about? Princeton has a really good Policy program but I personally don't like Princeton because it is policy school is its ONLY professional school + you don't exactly have technology stuff around you. 

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Hi all, currently applying to various international affairs-oriented programs, with a specific interest in multilateral economics and international development. Any feedback would be appreciated. 

Applying to: Columbia SIPA, Georgetown MSFS, LSE (Development Studies), Johns Hopkins SAIS, GW MAID, UChicago Harris MPP - with SAIS and LSE as my top choices for the opportunities to blend interdisciplinary developmental studies and quant econ 

Undergrad Institution: Top 40 US university 

Years out of undergrad: 1 (by Fall 2021)

GPA: 3.76/4.00 - Econ major - international affairs and Spanish minors 

GRE: 164V 162Q 4.0 AW (rough day on AW)

Quant Background: Extensive given econ undergrad background and professional econometric experience 

Relevant Work Experience: Internships at foreign policy think tank (international econ), INGO, and developmental advocacy organization. Multiple publications. Additional internship experience in business analytics and strategy prior to directional shift. 

International experience: Studied abroad in Ireland, Spain, and UK (LSE). Fluent in Spanish.

Strength of LOR: Strong across the board - professional and academic 

Main concern is the limited amount of time out of undergrad, but hoping the 1.5-2 years of internship/co-op experience can compensate for that a bit. 

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19 hours ago, Jmilly12 said:

Hi all, currently applying to various international affairs-oriented programs, with a specific interest in multilateral economics and international development. Any feedback would be appreciated. 

Applying to: Columbia SIPA, Georgetown MSFS, LSE (Development Studies), Johns Hopkins SAIS, GW MAID, UChicago Harris MPP - with SAIS and LSE as my top choices for the opportunities to blend interdisciplinary developmental studies and quant econ 

Undergrad Institution: Top 40 US university 

Years out of undergrad: 1 (by Fall 2021)

GPA: 3.76/4.00 - Econ major - international affairs and Spanish minors 

GRE: 164V 162Q 4.0 AW (rough day on AW)

Quant Background: Extensive given econ undergrad background and professional econometric experience 

Relevant Work Experience: Internships at foreign policy think tank (international econ), INGO, and developmental advocacy organization. Multiple publications. Additional internship experience in business analytics and strategy prior to directional shift. 

International experience: Studied abroad in Ireland, Spain, and UK (LSE). Fluent in Spanish.

Strength of LOR: Strong across the board - professional and academic 

Main concern is the limited amount of time out of undergrad, but hoping the 1.5-2 years of internship/co-op experience can compensate for that a bit. 

Here is the thing, your experience is sooooooo good, I think you should be able to get into all these programs.

HOWEVER... my concern for you is the lack of scholarship you would otherwise normally be afforded. If you can have another year of work experience and try next year (more likely a less competitive application cycle) to get scholarships + admission, I would do that if I were you. 

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24 minutes ago, GradSchoolGrad said:

Here is the thing, your experience is sooooooo good, I think you should be able to get into all these programs.

HOWEVER... my concern for you is the lack of scholarship you would otherwise normally be afforded. If you can have another year of work experience and try next year (more likely a less competitive application cycle) to get scholarships + admission, I would do that if I were you. 

This response is VERY appreciated. I’ve submitted my applications to my top programs for early consideration and will see what kind of scholarship money (pending acceptance) I get before making a decision. 

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On 10/8/2020 at 7:53 AM, GradSchoolGrad said:

Well the indicators were that the main schools you were applying to were on the West Coast. If you are trying to move out of California, I recommend you pick a litany of schools that match where you want to go regionally.

I can't assess your chances with Harris unless I know more about you - as in do you fulfill any other diversity categories? Are you the first in your family to go to college? etc.? Traditionally, especially in a higher application cycle year like this one, the answer is absolutely not. However, you might be unique enough if there is more that you aren't telling, the story could change.

I think if you took the GRE and got amazing scores, your chances might improve decently. I understand the GRE is optional, but that doesn't mean GRE scores no longer have any impact. It just means they are restricted to assess you based upon what you provide. Honestly, there might be significant questions about your ability to graduate, especially since your quant classes are at a basic level vs. they want you to have coming in. Strong GRE scores will offset somewhat. However, not sending GRE scores signals not being able to or unwillingness to rectify a weakness in the application packet.

Not to sound mean, but being a candidate and actually being outstanding graduating senior are two different things. I lost my Student Government election by a few votes once. I don't put that in anything. 

However, strategically, I recommend you pick schools that are more aligned with you future relocation interests. 

One unknown for me is your interest in environmental science. In East Cost and West Coast schools, environmental science interested students are vastly over-represented (not as much as education folks - but not that far behind). I can't speak for Harris and Midwestern schools. One thing to think about is maybe you would be better served seeking an Environment management or related degree rather than an MPP/MPA.

 

Got in :)

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Hi folks,

Just to be clear, I am applying to urban planning programs.

Did not see any threads for planning, but since these programs are offered through the public policy schools of the universities I am applying to, I figured I might be in the right place. Feel free to set me straight. My anxiety is somewhat high, which is why I am sure most of us are here.

Undergraduate institution: Well-regarded private university in Washington DC (studied IR)
Undergraduate GPA: 3.18-3.3 cumulative, depending on how they calculate it. I had one semester of all A's from a summer term at UVA + my 3.8 gpa study abroad semester transcript didn't factor into my cumulative GPA, despite solid grades. With these added in, I'm at a 3.3. Additionally, my father had cancer throughout my undergrad and passed away midway in, and I plan to write a brief academic addendum as to how this affected my mental health and by extension by academic performance, and how I have since overcome it as evidenced by my professional career. Hoping this will help.
GRE Score: N/A; waived at USC/made optional this year at UCLA.

Quant Background: Minimal, but urban planning programs generally aren't as quant oriented as their cousins in the public policy arena..

Schools applying to:  USC Price MUP, UCLA Luskin MURP
Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable): 6
Years of Work Experience: 7
Describe Relevant Work Experience: I'll be concentrating in environmental policy/international planning so my experience is at least adjacent in terms of relevance. Numerous internships throughout undergrad, ranging from environmental organizing with major grassroots non-profits, an internship with a federal agency, one research fellowship, a summer teaching internship in Brazilian favelas, half year internship with a green building nonprofit, and 5 years progressive experience in the renewable energy industry. I did an Americorps fellowship and later worked for the same non-profit solar company, administered a major utility solar incentive program for cleantech non-profit consultancy, and have since been in a managerial position with a promising, well regarded renewables startup. I enrolled in a 2 week long summer urban design workshop in Portugal with the planning dept. of a University there (got to design a hypothetical mixed-use development), and have also installed off-grid solar in rural Nepal. Finally (and most importantly), I am a really nice guy. (I am seriously banking on this work experience).

With the exception of my internships, all of my recent work experience has been in Los Angeles, which explains why I am limiting myself to the top two programs in the city.


Strength of LORs: Likely strong. One from a manager at the non-profit I served under for my AmeriCorps term, one from the planning professor who oversaw the program I attended, and one from an undergrad professor who can speak to my academic abilities (in spite of my gpa). To be honest, my low gpa is the reason I'm on this website at all, as it's a real cause for concern without GRE scores.

SOP should be solid as it'll be structured as an engaging narrative of my work and life experience up until this point, how they culminated in my interest in planning, and what I plan to do with the degree. It's also regarded as by far the most important part of the application for planning programs.

Thank you for reading this!

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