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4 hours ago, jgiara said:

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!

I for one cannot give you an honest assessment because although urban planning is connected with public policy, the curriculum is still decently different (i.e. design aspects in there) and attracts other populations that I am not familiar with.

I think it might just be too niche of a program for anyone to fairly assess you. Maybe someone could, but it would be difficult to. 

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Applying to: Georgetown McCourt, UChicago Harris, UMichigan Ford, Duke Sanford, Berkeley Goldman, Cornell CIPA

Undergrad Institution: Top-25 ranked university in the US

Undergrad Major: Political Science and Social Work double major

Years out of undergrad: 1

GPA: 3.8 (3.9 GPA in each major)

GRE: Have not taken (worried this will be a major weakness) 

Quant Background: Calc I, Statistics, and Microeconomics (no macro sadly); one year as a research assistant at my university's policy lab where I collected and coded data, in part using various programming languages, and contributed to a published manuscript

Relevant Work Experience: During undergrad: several jobs and internships with nonprofits related to my career goals, as well as an internship with a city government. Post-undergrad: one year at a fairly large nonprofit

International experience: None

Strength of LOR: Pretty strong, I believe. Two professors I have taken multiple courses with (all As) and one from the head of my department at a nonprofit

I'm interested in management and leadership roles within a nonprofit, particularly policy think tanks (think Council on Foreign Relations) or international organizations (think UN) - or work with a state/city government agency. I will be emphasizing the former due to my nonprofit experience, but am hoping to possibly pivot if accepted.

I realize I'm applying to pretty competitive policy programs, especially given the nature of this cycle, and am worried about (1) only one year of WE; (2) no GRE; (3) minimal quant courses (although I believe my research lab/programming experience will compensate)

Thanks in advance for any advice or feedback! I'm also hoping for a realistic assessment of my chances at these competitive programs, and whether some might be more accepting of students with less WE and time out of undergrad such as myself. 

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Hey folks... love this thread and the specificity of the answers I see on here. Definitely looking for feedback and thoughts on how I can increase my competitiveness given that my top program has just decided to wait on accepting new Phd candidates until the fall 2022 term due to COVID. This gives me some time to consider if I need to do anything to up my chances, what I can do to get there, etc. So here goes:

 

I'm applying to a narrow list of schools as there really are only a few that are doing research in my interest area (especially within the top 20 which everyone continues to advise is the only way to go). Generally speaking, I'm interested in environmental security and peacebuilding and am looking at Phds in relevant fields (international relations, public policy, political science, etc.) I think my background is... perhaps a bit confusing? But is generally all relevant.

 

Undergraduate institution: A pretty much no-name liberal arts college. A real pro is that students graduating from this school have to pass written and oral comprehensive exams, plus conduct some kind of senior project, in order to get their degree. I earned Distinction on my comps. But again... the school itself is not well known or notable outside of its own small network.
Undergraduate GPA: 3.382
Undergraduate Major: BA in International Political Economy

Graduate Institution: A much more competitive and well-known professional masters program. Routinely ends up in Foreign Policy's top 20 (although at the lower end). Not an academic sort of place, but not NOT that as well. Mostly trains people for work in government or with NGOs/IGOs. Strong reputation for service and distinguished alumni in various fields around the world. All students have to take languages AND economics to graduate.
Graduate GPA(s): Cumulative - 3.83 (MPA - 3.85 / MA - 3.79)
Graduate Degrees: Master of Public Administration with concentrations in Sustainable Development and Conflict Resolution and a Master of Arts in International Environmental Policy Studies with a concentration in Natural Resource Management and Environmental Economics.

GRE scores are... not great but not terrible (I hope):
GRE Quantitative Score: 154
GRE Verbal Score: 163
GRE Analytical Writing Score: 6

Quant/Research Background: Lots of sort of ad hoc work in analysis and some basic applied statistical stuff. Mostly program evaluations with non-profits/NGOs and stuff in indicator design and assessment. Worked at an on-campus analysis initiative while in grad school. I think of myself as a "numbers guy" but have a loooot to learn (GRE probably reflects that)

Schools applying to:  American University School of International Service PhD in International Relations, UT Austin LBJ School PhD in Public Policy, Duke PhD in Environmental Policy.

Other possible applications: May also apply to UC Irvine in their Social Ecology program... they have an environmental security guy there and maaaayyy apply to Josef Korbel at U Denver for the PhD in International Affairs. Have to learn more about how competitive I am and where I could go at those schools.


Years Out of Undergrad: 6

Years of Work Experience: 3 full time post-graduate school, but also worked part-time doing relevant stuff throughout graduate school for 2.5 years and a year before that post undergrad. Combined I'd say that counts for essentially 5 or so years of professional experience.


Describe Relevant Work Experience: This is where things might get confusing mostly because it jumps around a lot. But again...all relevant.
In reverse chronological order

- Currently waiting on clearance to begin a Program Analyst position in the policy division of an environmental bureau of a federal government department.
- Peace Corps Volunteer (Community and Economic Development)
- Regional Organizer with a major environmental advocacy organization
- Full-time Assistant Professor of International Relations at my undergraduate program (immediately post-graduate school, served as a visiting scholar and helped take the program through a period of transition as the only POLS/IR faculty member on campus that year. Taught 12 courses across the breadth of the program.)
-Environmental Education Program Facilitator with a land trust
- Instructor of International Politics and Economics at a summer college program in my home state
-Various analytical and consulting jobs I did with NGOs in grad school and for a little while after (again, mostly in program eval but also organizational assessment and policy analysis)
- TA for Development Economics for 2 years of grad school (worked with 2 faculty and actually taught a parallel course for students taking Dev Econ)
-Data Analysis Coordinator with an on-campus analysis initiative
-Program Facilitator/Trainer leading workshops in Excel and RQDA for grad students / local nonprofits/NGOs
-Community Development Research Specialist with a small nonprofit in my home state after college

Other qualifications: Certificate in Project Management for International Development, three foreign languages (Spanish - Intermediate, Albanian - Intermediate, Macedonian - Intermediate)


Strength of LORs: I think they'll be pretty strong, but no one can fully speak to my research ability because of my liberal arts/professional masters background.

 

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10 hours ago, AdAstra2020 said:

Applying to: Georgetown McCourt, UChicago Harris, UMichigan Ford, Duke Sanford, Berkeley Goldman, Cornell CIPA

Undergrad Institution: Top-25 ranked university in the US

Undergrad Major: Political Science and Social Work double major

Years out of undergrad: 1

GPA: 3.8 (3.9 GPA in each major)

GRE: Have not taken (worried this will be a major weakness) 

Quant Background: Calc I, Statistics, and Microeconomics (no macro sadly); one year as a research assistant at my university's policy lab where I collected and coded data, in part using various programming languages, and contributed to a published manuscript

Relevant Work Experience: During undergrad: several jobs and internships with nonprofits related to my career goals, as well as an internship with a city government. Post-undergrad: one year at a fairly large nonprofit

International experience: None

Strength of LOR: Pretty strong, I believe. Two professors I have taken multiple courses with (all As) and one from the head of my department at a nonprofit

I'm interested in management and leadership roles within a nonprofit, particularly policy think tanks (think Council on Foreign Relations) or international organizations (think UN) - or work with a state/city government agency. I will be emphasizing the former due to my nonprofit experience, but am hoping to possibly pivot if accepted.

I realize I'm applying to pretty competitive policy programs, especially given the nature of this cycle, and am worried about (1) only one year of WE; (2) no GRE; (3) minimal quant courses (although I believe my research lab/programming experience will compensate)

Thanks in advance for any advice or feedback! I'm also hoping for a realistic assessment of my chances at these competitive programs, and whether some might be more accepting of students with less WE and time out of undergrad such as myself. 

1. So here is the thing, the two schools I think you have the highest chance (make that really good chance) of getting into and maybe give you the most scholarship, I recommend you DO NOT GO TO (even with scholarship, because it won't get you to where you want to go + maximize your career opportunities).

A. Georgetown McCourt --> doesn't really have a good track record of Non-Profit / Policy Think Tank career track record (other than International Development via it is MIDP program). Also, in the MPP, people are pretty much allergic to "management" career tracks. Most people end up in analytical/advisory roles and there is a general program aversion for development management skills (outside of the military folks). 

B. CIPA --> small program the has limited connections. Cornell is trying to build it up, but it is programmatically and resource challenged

2. I think the best school options for you that you have a good chance of going to are:

a. Duke - Terry Sanford

b. Michigan - Ford (if you don't mind the calculus)

c. Carnegie Mellon - Heinz (they have a 1 year Pittsburgh and 1 year DC campus option)

d. University of Oxford - MPP program (unique option, but I think it is a great holistic learning experience and you really meet a lot of interesting people who come from all sorts of different industries). 

3. I think you could have a shot at these schools, but it would be reach.

a. Chicago - Harris

4. I don't know enough of this program, but it has very strong regional bent so unless you want to stay in California, I recommend against it. 

a. Berkeley - Goldman

Edited by GradSchoolGrad
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17 minutes ago, FlynnMAK24 said:

Hey folks... love this thread and the specificity of the answers I see on here. Definitely looking for feedback and thoughts on how I can increase my competitiveness given that my top program has just decided to wait on accepting new Phd candidates until the fall 2022 term due to COVID. This gives me some time to consider if I need to do anything to up my chances, what I can do to get there, etc. So here goes:

 

I'm applying to a narrow list of schools as there really are only a few that are doing research in my interest area (especially within the top 20 which everyone continues to advise is the only way to go). Generally speaking, I'm interested in environmental security and peacebuilding and am looking at Phds in relevant fields (international relations, public policy, political science, etc.) I think my background is... perhaps a bit confusing? But is generally all relevant.

 

Undergraduate institution: A pretty much no-name liberal arts college. A real pro is that students graduating from this school have to pass written and oral comprehensive exams, plus conduct some kind of senior project, in order to get their degree. I earned Distinction on my comps. But again... the school itself is not well known or notable outside of its own small network.
Undergraduate GPA: 3.382
Undergraduate Major: BA in International Political Economy

Graduate Institution: A much more competitive and well-known professional masters program. Routinely ends up in Foreign Policy's top 20 (although at the lower end). Not an academic sort of place, but not NOT that as well. Mostly trains people for work in government or with NGOs/IGOs. Strong reputation for service and distinguished alumni in various fields around the world. All students have to take languages AND economics to graduate.
Graduate GPA(s): Cumulative - 3.83 (MPA - 3.85 / MA - 3.79)
Graduate Degrees: Master of Public Administration with concentrations in Sustainable Development and Conflict Resolution and a Master of Arts in International Environmental Policy Studies with a concentration in Natural Resource Management and Environmental Economics.

GRE scores are... not great but not terrible (I hope):
GRE Quantitative Score: 154
GRE Verbal Score: 163
GRE Analytical Writing Score: 6

Quant/Research Background: Lots of sort of ad hoc work in analysis and some basic applied statistical stuff. Mostly program evaluations with non-profits/NGOs and stuff in indicator design and assessment. Worked at an on-campus analysis initiative while in grad school. I think of myself as a "numbers guy" but have a loooot to learn (GRE probably reflects that)

Schools applying to:  American University School of International Service PhD in International Relations, UT Austin LBJ School PhD in Public Policy, Duke PhD in Environmental Policy.

Other possible applications: May also apply to UC Irvine in their Social Ecology program... they have an environmental security guy there and maaaayyy apply to Josef Korbel at U Denver for the PhD in International Affairs. Have to learn more about how competitive I am and where I could go at those schools.


Years Out of Undergrad: 6

Years of Work Experience: 3 full time post-graduate school, but also worked part-time doing relevant stuff throughout graduate school for 2.5 years and a year before that post undergrad. Combined I'd say that counts for essentially 5 or so years of professional experience.


Describe Relevant Work Experience: This is where things might get confusing mostly because it jumps around a lot. But again...all relevant.
In reverse chronological order

- Currently waiting on clearance to begin a Program Analyst position in the policy division of an environmental bureau of a federal government department.
- Peace Corps Volunteer (Community and Economic Development)
- Regional Organizer with a major environmental advocacy organization
- Full-time Assistant Professor of International Relations at my undergraduate program (immediately post-graduate school, served as a visiting scholar and helped take the program through a period of transition as the only POLS/IR faculty member on campus that year. Taught 12 courses across the breadth of the program.)
-Environmental Education Program Facilitator with a land trust
- Instructor of International Politics and Economics at a summer college program in my home state
-Various analytical and consulting jobs I did with NGOs in grad school and for a little while after (again, mostly in program eval but also organizational assessment and policy analysis)
- TA for Development Economics for 2 years of grad school (worked with 2 faculty and actually taught a parallel course for students taking Dev Econ)
-Data Analysis Coordinator with an on-campus analysis initiative
-Program Facilitator/Trainer leading workshops in Excel and RQDA for grad students / local nonprofits/NGOs
-Community Development Research Specialist with a small nonprofit in my home state after college

Other qualifications: Certificate in Project Management for International Development, three foreign languages (Spanish - Intermediate, Albanian - Intermediate, Macedonian - Intermediate)


Strength of LORs: I think they'll be pretty strong, but no one can fully speak to my research ability because of my liberal arts/professional masters background.

 

This is a Master's focused thread. I don't think we would be that helpful for PhD guidance

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Long time lurker but here we go.

Applying to: Yale MEM, UPenn MES, UC Davis Enviro Policy & Management, UCSB Bren ES & Management 

Undergrad Institution: California State University

Undergrad Major: Political Science 

Years out of undergrad: 6

GPA: THIS IS MY BIG INSECURITY. I went to a city college before transferring for my upper division courses and did terribly. My GPA at the CSU/where only upper division courses were taken =3.46

However, the city college GPA did follow me so I am at cumulative 2.98 

I have been taking science and math classes at my city college for the last 2 years with a 4.0. The courses: environmental biology, geology- global climate change, contemporary biology, biology - environmental regulations and intro into stats. Unclear if these classes will help any reviewers but I hope it displays a commitment to environmental science and an upward trajectory from my previous city college days 10 years ago.

GRE: Did not take

Quant Background: mentioned above - my best attempt to show I am taking the science/quant aspect seriously. I took microeconomics in undergrad + research methods. 

Relevant Work Experience: During undergrad: 2 years of internships at CA State Capitol, data analyst at our Institute for Social Research, selected to represent my college as a CSU Panetta Congressional Intern Fellow in Washington, D.C. my senior year. 

Post-undergrad: 3 years as a legislative aide, focused on environmental policy for State Assemblymembers; 1 year at CA Environmental Protection Agency, CalRecycle as a legislative analyst; 6 months as Field Director for a Congressmembers successful re-election campaign; currently work for Union of Concerned Scientists as a legislative and regulatory lobbyist (2 years now). Around 6 years of experience in total

I was also a New Leaders Council fellow in 2018 in my area. 

International experience: None

Strength of LOR: Fine I think. Current employer, Assemblymember I worked for, and the biology professor who I have had a few times over the last year. 

I want to stay in my field but really want to add a more analytical and scientific approach to the policies/bills I frequently advocate for/or against. Working with scientists over the years really sparked my curiosity and I am convinced that that the interdisciplinary approach some of these programs provide will make me a better advocate as I advance in my career. 

I am applying to pretty competitive programs with a pretty crap GPA. At this point I can't change that GPA from when I was 18 so I have made peace with it and tried to supplement in other ways. 

Thanks in advance for any advice or feedback! I appreciate the assessment. 

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On 11/19/2020 at 6:26 PM, jgiara said:

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.

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).

Just trying to clarify something -- so you specifically want an Urban Planning program and not an Environmental Policy program? Because there are focused Environmental Policy programs. Not trying to deter you from one or the other, it's just that your background/interests seem very Environmental Policy, not specifically Urban Planning. Of course there is substantial overlap between the two disciplines, but many schools (including the one I started in this semester) offer them as two separate degrees within the policy school.

I started grad school this year (MS in Environmental Policy) with 6 years of work experience out of undergrad, some in field biology but mostly in environmental planning/consulting, also in CA (prepping CEQA docs for state/local jurisdictions, because as you probably know, they don't actually write those documents themselves). My experience in planning led me to feel that pursuing environmental policy was more beneficial to my career path, because frankly a lot of planning restrictions or needs come down to environmental policy strengths/weaknesses. Also I didn't want to be tied to urban planning when many planning needs are not necessarily urban (for example, rural energy infrastructure). One thing I've also observed -- and this is entirely anecdotal and I'm sure is not true in all or potentially even most programs -- is that a lot of the urban planning students that I share classes with have a very idealistic and actually legally infeasible perception of what can and cannot be done, I believe because many of them lack experience working within existing environmental law/policy parameters. I doubt you'd personally have issues with those concepts due to your extensive background, but it is something I personally observed that really surprised me. Not trying to deter you from pursuing urban planning, just trying to better understand why you're going into urban planning when it seems like your interests may align better with environmental policy as a whole.

I didn't actually apply to any LA area programs. Actually I left CA entirely which may or may not have been advisable from a "where I'll get future jobs" standpoint lol, but I'm really satisfied with my program. I almost went to UCSD, though.

Edited by EnvPolicyHopeful
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Hey all! Been lurking for a bit and would appreciate some guidance. I'm early in the process (won't apply until next cycle, most likely) and I am mostly looking for advice on how to think about a) which schools I should target and b) how to assess how competitive my app would be.

Background: I live in DC currently working at a small national advocacy/research nonprofit. My interest is in domestic policy, and specifically economic policy, land use policy, tax policy (kind of eclectic; hopefully still useful lol). I'm working in nonprofit world now and while i wouldn't be opposed to a policy analyst job with some prospect for advancement back in the 501c3/c4 space, I think my preference is for government work. I think I would like to end up back in DC but I'm definitely not opposed to school elsewhere (and open to being pulled elsewhere, geographically, post-grad). I've worked hard since undergrad to get my career off the ground - and get out from under some undergrad debt - and i'm pleased with the results(!) lol but i think it's time for a new phase, and it feels based on my resume and the market like an MPP makes the most sense.

applying to: TBD but at this stage primarily considering programs w/good quant reputation and national brand e.g. Harris, Ford, Goldman (see below)

undergrad institution: flagship east coast state school

undergrad major: poli sci

years out of undergrad: 

undergrad gpa: 3.47 

GRE: will take this winter - I'm a strong test taker and have a plan to prep so I expect to be able to score above 75 percentile

quant background: outside of undergrad where I took basic stats courses for social science majors, i've taken more basic stats for inference and R courses on the job, though my R skills never really developed. otherwise my work experience has required basic quant skills but nothing beyond. lots of experience in basic data viz (we're a small shop and a lot of the visualizations we publish are done in-house), but definitely room to grow there too.

relevant work experience: i think this is one of the stronger parts of my app: 6 years and counting at a national advocacy/research nonprofit based in DC working in a pretty niche field where i started in grantwriting, moved into research, and advanced from assistant to director in 4 years. my byline is on almost all our public-facing stuff (sector media articles/op-eds, reports, etc) and i've been leading advocacy research project teams since before i was promoted to director. i've gotten some direct policy analysis experience specific to tax policy, but not much.

strength of LOR: tbd, BUT I am concerned about this because i've been out of undergrad 7 years and have lost connection with professors so all my LOR will come from professional contacts (but which I have every reason to expect will write great LOR!)

strength of SOP: tbd; i'm a strong writer

Big questions rn for me, again: a) which schools I should target/how to differentiate between the top tier programs and b) how should i assess how competitive my app would be? Thank you!!!! 

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Hi Everyone! A first time poster here

I would like to pursue a career as a policy analyst in the public sector in order to work on reducing the burden of road traffic injuries. It has been a goal of mine since like forever, but I did not know how to achieve that goal. Now I know I would like to complete a master of public policy/administration program, and I am certain I can get a full scholarship from our ministry of Education, but I am sure my application will be among the worst seeing everybody's achievements here. Please take a look and tell me if I have the slightest chance of getting accepted. Thanks!

 

Applying to: EVANS MPA, LBJ MPAFF, BATTEN MPP, HARRIS MPP, G.FORD MPP, GLEN MPA

Undergraduate Institution: A less than average university in the midwest of the US as an international student.

Undergraduate GPA: 4.0/4.0

GRE Quantitative Score: Not submitting
GRE Verbal Score: Not submitting 

Undergraduate Major: Respiratory Therapy 

Years out of college: 2

Languages Skills: English is not my first language, but my undergraduate degree was completed in the US. 

Relevant Work Experience: 2019-2020: Respiratory Therapist (not really relevant) 2020-2021: Respiratory Manager: I have had the chance to improve my leadership skills and my disaster management skills. I have also had the chance to review, revise and create policies related to our scope of practice. I volunteered in 2019 for three months as a research assistant in a reputable medical research center in my country. I coauthored two research articles related to road traffic injuries. 

 

Quant Background: I took Microeconomics and Statistics courses in Coursera. I had a research course in college which focused mainly on inferential statistics and I passed it with an A. I got an A in my college Algebra course. I learned a lot of statistics from the research articles I worked on. 

Strength of SOP: I am confident they will be strong.

Strength of LOR: 1 recommendation from a current boss, 1 recommendation from the head of the department in the research center I volunteered in, 1 recommendation from an undergrad professor. 

 

 

Edited by Gifty_79
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6 hours ago, rjs1635 said:

Hey all! Been lurking for a bit and would appreciate some guidance. I'm early in the process (won't apply until next cycle, most likely) and I am mostly looking for advice on how to think about a) which schools I should target and b) how to assess how competitive my app would be.

Background: I live in DC currently working at a small national advocacy/research nonprofit. My interest is in domestic policy, and specifically economic policy, land use policy, tax policy (kind of eclectic; hopefully still useful lol). I'm working in nonprofit world now and while i wouldn't be opposed to a policy analyst job with some prospect for advancement back in the 501c3/c4 space, I think my preference is for government work. I think I would like to end up back in DC but I'm definitely not opposed to school elsewhere (and open to being pulled elsewhere, geographically, post-grad). I've worked hard since undergrad to get my career off the ground - and get out from under some undergrad debt - and i'm pleased with the results(!) lol but i think it's time for a new phase, and it feels based on my resume and the market like an MPP makes the most sense.

applying to: TBD but at this stage primarily considering programs w/good quant reputation and national brand e.g. Harris, Ford, Goldman (see below)

undergrad institution: flagship east coast state school

undergrad major: poli sci

years out of undergrad: 

undergrad gpa: 3.47 

GRE: will take this winter - I'm a strong test taker and have a plan to prep so I expect to be able to score above 75 percentile

quant background: outside of undergrad where I took basic stats courses for social science majors, i've taken more basic stats for inference and R courses on the job, though my R skills never really developed. otherwise my work experience has required basic quant skills but nothing beyond. lots of experience in basic data viz (we're a small shop and a lot of the visualizations we publish are done in-house), but definitely room to grow there too.

relevant work experience: i think this is one of the stronger parts of my app: 6 years and counting at a national advocacy/research nonprofit based in DC working in a pretty niche field where i started in grantwriting, moved into research, and advanced from assistant to director in 4 years. my byline is on almost all our public-facing stuff (sector media articles/op-eds, reports, etc) and i've been leading advocacy research project teams since before i was promoted to director. i've gotten some direct policy analysis experience specific to tax policy, but not much.

strength of LOR: tbd, BUT I am concerned about this because i've been out of undergrad 7 years and have lost connection with professors so all my LOR will come from professional contacts (but which I have every reason to expect will write great LOR!)

strength of SOP: tbd; i'm a strong writer

Big questions rn for me, again: a) which schools I should target/how to differentiate between the top tier programs and b) how should i assess how competitive my app would be? Thank you!!!! 

I'm going to give some thoughts with two major assumptions:

1. Next year will be a much more relaxed application cycle

2. You intend to take the GRE and will get 85 percentiles and will share it.

So thoughts:

1. Harris and Ford are both solid options, but please understand that though plenty alums do go to DC from there, it still leans towards more Midwest in terms of overall alumni network. 

2. Unless you have a specific interest in anything related to California, I recommend you don't go to Goldman. I love the programs and I love some of their star professors. HOWEVER, California non-profit and policy perspective is a decently different beast / out look from the rest of the country. Also, more realistically, you wouldn't be taking advantage of its VERY STRONG regional strengths in West Coast.

3. The schools you should give more thought to from most promising to least:

a. Duke Terry Sanford - this is probably the best MPP program in terms of Local, State, Non-Profit focus. The core  curriculum isn't as quantitative as Harris or Ford... but you can easily fix that by taking more quant heavy electives.

b. Carnegie Melon - Heinz - (there is a general option and a more quant option). I really love this program and everyone I met from there have been innovative go getters. (note there is a DC campus 2nd year option)

c. Columbia SIPA - so normally, I wouldn't really recommend Columbia SIPA for domestic public policy... however NYC does have a rich environment for non-profit engagement + journalistic opportunities. Again, not as quant focused as Harris, but you can take care of that via electives. Please note that SIPA has historically struggled with have a strong community

d. NYU Wagner - pretty much same deal as SIPA + same problems with community bonding. 

4. Also, I challenge you think of a wider range of career opportunities. I see one of two people in public policy schools.

a. Those that realize the range of opportunities and explore options rather than settle with something --> where I recommend you be

b. Those that die hard about a limited range of career goals and ignore the actual career opportunity realities + what they might actually make them happy 

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Applying to: HKS, Columbia Sipa, Princeton Spia, Oxford (Blavatnik), LSE (MPP), and Cambridge (Mphil Public Policy)

Undergrad Institution: Top Brazilian University

Undergrad Major: Business Administration (Finishing in 2021) Human resources management (2013), Geography (2004, not finished)

Years out of undergrad: Planning to apply next year right after finishing business school. The previous undergraduate was finished in 2013.

GPA: 3.5 (Business School) 4.0 (Previous one)

GRE: Not taken yet. 

Quant Background: Calc I, Statistics, Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, Corporate Finance, and Financial Reports Analysis, Corporate Economics; 

Relevant Work Experience: 12 years working  full-time on Federal Government (Got into at age 22, before undergraduate), 6 of which on Central Banking, 18 months as a Minister advisor;

International experience: None

Strength of LOR: Good I guess. One from a high-level policymaker and the second from a renowned Professor who is advising my undergraduate thesis. 

 

Folks, my main concern is my age. I will be 35 next year, really have no idea whether those schools would be interested in my profile. I'm not optimistic at all about being accepted to tell you the truth.

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1 hour ago, marigallagher said:

Applying to: HKS, Columbia Sipa, Princeton Spia, Oxford (Blavatnik), LSE (MPP), and Cambridge (Mphil Public Policy)

Undergrad Institution: Top Brazilian University

Undergrad Major: Business Administration (Finishing in 2021) Human resources management (2013), Geography (2004, not finished)

Years out of undergrad: Planning to apply next year right after finishing business school. The previous undergraduate was finished in 2013.

GPA: 3.5 (Business School) 4.0 (Previous one)

GRE: Not taken yet. 

Quant Background: Calc I, Statistics, Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, Corporate Finance, and Financial Reports Analysis, Corporate Economics; 

Relevant Work Experience: 12 years working  full-time on Federal Government (Got into at age 22, before undergraduate), 6 of which on Central Banking, 18 months as a Minister advisor;

International experience: None

Strength of LOR: Good I guess. One from a high-level policymaker and the second from a renowned Professor who is advising my undergraduate thesis. 

 

Folks, my main concern is my age. I will be 35 next year, really have no idea whether those schools would be interested in my profile. I'm not optimistic at all about being accepted to tell you the truth.

Age works in your favor. It makes you diverse. On top of that you are Brazilian, that makes you extra diverse (since you are coming from a less common country). Although that boasts your chances significantly, I don't know how much it boasts your chances especially since I don't know your GRE (which I recommend for international students, even if it is test optional) and TOFL. Assuming you are 85 percentile for each... I think you have a strong chance of getting to all those schools you identified except for Princeton (that is a challenge for any candidate because they have such a small program, they can be hyper selective). 

Also, I don't know how Oxford or Cambridge would count you because they require at least a 3.7 GPA to be eligible to apply (British schools are more annoying about GPA minimum standards than American schools).

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On 11/22/2020 at 3:25 PM, Gifty_79 said:

Hi Everyone! A first time poster here

I would like to pursue a career as a policy analyst in the public sector in order to work on reducing the burden of road traffic injuries. It has been a goal of mine since like forever, but I did not know how to achieve that goal. Now I know I would like to complete a master of public policy/administration program, and I am certain I can get a full scholarship from our ministry of Education, but I am sure my application will be among the worst seeing everybody's achievements here. Please take a look and tell me if I have the slightest chance of getting accepted. Thanks!

 

Applying to: EVANS MPA, LBJ MPAFF, BATTEN MPP, HARRIS MPP, G.FORD MPP, GLEN MPA

Undergraduate Institution: A less than average university in the midwest of the US as an international student.

Undergraduate GPA: 4.0/4.0

GRE Quantitative Score: Not submitting
GRE Verbal Score: Not submitting 

Undergraduate Major: Respiratory Therapy 

Years out of college: 2

Languages Skills: English is not my first language, but my undergraduate degree was completed in the US. 

Relevant Work Experience: 2019-2020: Respiratory Therapist (not really relevant) 2020-2021: Respiratory Manager: I have had the chance to improve my leadership skills and my disaster management skills. I have also had the chance to review, revise and create policies related to our scope of practice. I volunteered in 2019 for three months as a research assistant in a reputable medical research center in my country. I coauthored two research articles related to road traffic injuries. 

 

Quant Background: I took Microeconomics and Statistics courses in Coursera. I had a research course in college which focused mainly on inferential statistics and I passed it with an A. I got an A in my college Algebra course. I learned a lot of statistics from the research articles I worked on. 

Strength of SOP: I am confident they will be strong.

Strength of LOR: 1 recommendation from a current boss, 1 recommendation from the head of the department in the research center I volunteered in, 1 recommendation from an undergrad professor. 

 

 

So I think you might be misunderstanding your strengths and weaknesses.

So your strengths may very well be that you come from a non-policy background + you are an international student (as long as you don't come from an excessively over-represented country). Both factors make you diverse

University brand matters, but given how you got a 4.0, you have done your best to mitigate any brand factors. What is more concerning is how you haven't taken hard quantitative classes. Coursera isn't viewed as equitable as a accredited institution. I made up for my quantitative gaps by taking online classes at Colorado State and getting As. 

Especially as an international student + concerned about university brand + potentially less difficult college curriculum, I strongly recommend you take the GRE. Doing really well on the GRE (85+ percentile gives the schools you are considering strong signals about your ability to graduate.

Right now, I think you might have the most trouble getting into Ford --> they are a math heavy MPP program. The same is also true for Harris --> but they will take risks on people by having them go to math camp (I really hope you don't mind learning a lot of math). 

I am not that familiar with Evans, LBJ, or Glenn's curriculum and admissions. I really love the Batten MPP program, and it might be the best balance for you (mid-Quant, but they do a good job of teaching people to get up to speed). 

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Hi everyone, first of all, i sincerely apologize for my grammar. I’m just typing all my thoughts down so i know there’s mistakes.

I had a follow up question too. What are the public policy schools with the best sense of community and which ones do not? I felt like that was missing in my undergrad experience; I was in a commuter school and we would all just book it and leave. I want to build friendships and meaningful connections. 

I think I have a shot, but I’m just concerned with how I’m going to justify to more selective schools how my grades were terrible in my first undergrad. I hardly count it because I started so young (15 years old). I seriously wish I could omit this. 

This is for the next application round (2021). I’d love to hear your input on my chances for these particular schools. Thanks everyone!

Applying to: Columbia SIPA MPA, HKS MPP, Harris MPP, Georgetown McCourt MPP, GWU Trachtenberg MPP, NYU Wagner MSPP, American SPA MPP. I want to stay in the northeast.

Undergrad institution: 

  • current bachelors (2018-21)- A decent state university in the DC-MD-VA area;
  • First bachelors (2008-12) - a top 10 university in southeast asia
  • defense language institute (DLI) associates from 2013-14 during my time in the army

Undergrad Major: 

  • current bachelors - Government and intl. relations with concentration in public policy;
  • first bachelors - BS information technology;
  • DLI (associate)- a very relevant language in intl. relations

Undergrad GPA: 

  • current undergrad - 4.0
  • first bachelors - 2.25. This is my biggest booboo. I need to figure out how to convey that the American transcript evaluation poorly translates my transcript and the grading system in my institution was very different. For example, an 89 is a stellar grade (good enough for cum laude), 90+ are not as common. but transcript translates it as a B. The educational system used to be weird in that I started college at a young 15 years old (doesn’t happen anymore). 27 credit hours was considered a normal semester. I wasn’t as driven back then. Failed 4 courses, two of them just plain hated me for reasons. 
  • DLI (associate) - 3.9

Years out of undergrad: 6 years (in between my first and second bachelors degree)

Quant Background: 

  • currently taking microecon, research + statistics course, economic policy course (if that counts). All 4.0 gpa. 
  • In my first undergrad, I took a lot of math courses like algebra, analytic geometry, trigonometry, discrete math, probability + statistics, accounting,  programming etc. However, the grades are mostly C’s.

Relevant Work Experience: 8 years full time experience so far, as i am earning my second degree. Spent 5 years in the army as an enlisted intel + language analyst overseas, given a wide variety of assignments and missions. 3 years as an intel analyst in DC. Had a couple internships as a programmer during my first undergrad. 

GRE: I haven’t taken it yet, but I’m striving for 160+ quant and verbal

Strength of LOR: I am certain about two very strong ones from my current boss and my old boss in the army. They’ll definitely work with me to make the a quality LOR to show my overall character and will vouch for my leadership experience, motivation, and skills in data analysis. My third one is likely going to be my undergrad research professor who works on educ. policy.

Strength of SOP: Forgive all my grammar so far, I’m just typing my thoughts. I’ll take a lot of time on this one, and many of the essays differ from each other. But, I’m centering my SOP on the intersection of society’s mental wellbeing and public policy. I wanted to shift my efforts and talents from national security to public policy to improve society’s well-being because of how hard it was to justify my efforts in intel while seeing all of the social problems all around me, to include a rising mental health epidemic. I’ve seen one too many suicides in the military. My goal is to become a leader in pushing for policy changes that tackle the root of national mental health crisis rather than treating symptoms. will talk about how time as a volunteer suicide counselor and time in the army with soldiers who didn’t make it shaped my perspective of mental health. 

Extracurriculars/Leadership: I was part of a student government in my first undergrad; president of a school organization. During the army, I had a lot of leadership experience which includes managing soldiers’ language readiness, and being in charge of cleanliness and security of a dorm of 60+ people, on top of managing soldiers in my unit. I have plenty of volunteer experience (150+ hours) during my time in the army organizing, coordinating, and setting up events. I also currently volunteer as a suicide/crisis counselor at night, and support research tasks for a director of a nonprofit on pedestrian safety.

 

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23 hours ago, heinzketchup123 said:

 

Hi everyone, first of all, i sincerely apologize for my grammar. I’m just typing all my thoughts down so i know there’s mistakes.

I had a follow up question too. What are the public policy schools with the best sense of community and which ones do not? I felt like that was missing in my undergrad experience; I was in a commuter school and we would all just book it and leave. I want to build friendships and meaningful connections. 

I think I have a shot, but I’m just concerned with how I’m going to justify to more selective schools how my grades were terrible in my first undergrad. I hardly count it because I started so young (15 years old). I seriously wish I could omit this. 

This is for the next application round (2021). I’d love to hear your input on my chances for these particular schools. Thanks everyone!

Applying to: Columbia SIPA MPA, HKS MPP, Harris MPP, Georgetown McCourt MPP, GWU Trachtenberg MPP, NYU Wagner MSPP, American SPA MPP. I want to stay in the northeast.

Undergrad institution: 

  • current bachelors (2018-21)- A decent state university in the DC-MD-VA area;
  • First bachelors (2008-12) - a top 10 university in southeast asia
  • defense language institute (DLI) associates from 2013-14 during my time in the army

Undergrad Major: 

  • current bachelors - Government and intl. relations with concentration in public policy;
  • first bachelors - BS information technology;
  • DLI (associate)- a very relevant language in intl. relations

Undergrad GPA: 

  • current undergrad - 4.0
  • first bachelors - 2.25. This is my biggest booboo. I need to figure out how to convey that the American transcript evaluation poorly translates my transcript and the grading system in my institution was very different. For example, an 89 is a stellar grade (good enough for cum laude), 90+ are not as common. but transcript translates it as a B. The educational system used to be weird in that I started college at a young 15 years old (doesn’t happen anymore). 27 credit hours was considered a normal semester. I wasn’t as driven back then. Failed 4 courses, two of them just plain hated me for reasons. 
  • DLI (associate) - 3.9

Years out of undergrad: 6 years (in between my first and second bachelors degree)

Quant Background: 

  • currently taking microecon, research + statistics course, economic policy course (if that counts). All 4.0 gpa. 
  • In my first undergrad, I took a lot of math courses like algebra, analytic geometry, trigonometry, discrete math, probability + statistics, accounting,  programming etc. However, the grades are mostly C’s.

Relevant Work Experience: 8 years full time experience so far, as i am earning my second degree. Spent 5 years in the army as an enlisted intel + language analyst overseas, given a wide variety of assignments and missions. 3 years as an intel analyst in DC. Had a couple internships as a programmer during my first undergrad. 

GRE: I haven’t taken it yet, but I’m striving for 160+ quant and verbal

Strength of LOR: I am certain about two very strong ones from my current boss and my old boss in the army. They’ll definitely work with me to make the a quality LOR to show my overall character and will vouch for my leadership experience, motivation, and skills in data analysis. My third one is likely going to be my undergrad research professor who works on educ. policy.

Strength of SOP: Forgive all my grammar so far, I’m just typing my thoughts. I’ll take a lot of time on this one, and many of the essays differ from each other. But, I’m centering my SOP on the intersection of society’s mental wellbeing and public policy. I wanted to shift my efforts and talents from national security to public policy to improve society’s well-being because of how hard it was to justify my efforts in intel while seeing all of the social problems all around me, to include a rising mental health epidemic. I’ve seen one too many suicides in the military. My goal is to become a leader in pushing for policy changes that tackle the root of national mental health crisis rather than treating symptoms. will talk about how time as a volunteer suicide counselor and time in the army with soldiers who didn’t make it shaped my perspective of mental health. 

Extracurriculars/Leadership: I was part of a student government in my first undergrad; president of a school organization. During the army, I had a lot of leadership experience which includes managing soldiers’ language readiness, and being in charge of cleanliness and security of a dorm of 60+ people, on top of managing soldiers in my unit. I have plenty of volunteer experience (150+ hours) during my time in the army organizing, coordinating, and setting up events. I also currently volunteer as a suicide/crisis counselor at night, and support research tasks for a director of a nonprofit on pedestrian safety.

 

Wow! You are in such an advantageous position.

Lets focus on 2 things.

1. Your 1st Undergrad

I view your first undergraduate (and all the things you did with it - extra curricular and classes) as irrelevant. However, I'm not sure as what is the best tactic for doing it so. You could check with each admissions office and get there take. I view them telling you to do one of two things.

1. (What I think might be the smartest thing) Send them your transcript for your both schools - but prioritize the good one up top) + send an academic addendum to explain how you fixed yourself - they usually love a turn around story

2. Basically start your resume + application from enlisting in the Army onwards and work as if you never went your first undergrad 

HOWEVER... you always want to be honest, this is why I would check with admissions. Stay something along the lines that you went to college as a child prodigy, but it didn't work out for you at all so you pivoted your life.

2. Schools with a Good Community (AKA: Avoiding the George Mason undergrad experience)

a. Lets start with what schools are very well known for having terrible community engagement.

1. Columbia SIPA

2. NYU Wagner 

Bottom line, most people have their own NYC life and aside from niche policy specialities (that are really tight with each other), there really isn't much greater community spirit

b. The size problem at HKS

HKS is interesting because they have a very collegial culture. HOWEVER one problem with it is that the program is so big (they have their own mega building in Harvard Square for crying out loud) it can be logistically challenging to build a community, and I have met quite a few people that fell through the cracks (I have family members who went to HKS btw). 

c. The culture problem at Georgetown McCourt MPP

Georgetown McCourt has the benefits of a centralized confined space for people to meet each other regularly (even when they move to the partition in the downtown) and a smaller program (about 120ish per year group --> all degree programs). HOWEVER... McCourt has this really interesting clique culture which the thing to do is to a join a following (usually this built upon clubs). The problem is that by spending time with building social cliques and which powerful person you align yourself to (or the many people you influence), people de-prioritize career, meaningful social impact, and etc.. Hence the more career successful people from McCourt are either the those who avoid the clique system.

What is very interesting for me is that the people that ruled the cliques were people who never really held leadership or glamour roles previously and viewed this as their chance to shine. Most people who were previously Newspaper Editors, Class Presidents, Social Chairs, Sorority/Frat Chairs in college, aged out of that stuff and didn't care.

I have written extensively about McCourt here:

d. GWU Trachtenburg and the intern system

GWU is interesting because they are all about having experiential learning and sending people to internship experiences throughout the year. That naturally means a more diluted community from what I seen.

3. Schools with Amazing Community

So the schools I know with amazing community (and great programming too) are:

a. Duke Terry Sanford

b. Carnegie Melon - Heinz (especially the DC campus option --> they all seemed rather tight for going to the DC campus)

c. UVA Batten (although this skews young)

d. Oxford MPP (rather unique cultural experience --> I really love the British style of no holds bar open conversation education + pub learning

4. What you should know about being prior military

So although you are in advantageous situation, how advantageous your situation is depends on how many other military apply (and the diversity of their background). You can never really predict that. However, being prior-Enlisted generally goes in your favor.

HOWEVER... be warned in that a lot of times schools just want you so they can add up their stats of # of diverse students (which veteran often counts was) + will give your scholarship. I would say just be smart and don't be hood winked by we are pro-military pomp and see if each school serves your true interests. 

I have been in meetings where admissions Officers openly discuss how they needed more veterans and were strategizing how to modify their advertising to appeal more to veterans (marketing, not substance). This is especially true since the Chinese international student market has shrank and they need alternatives to achieve markers of diversity. 

5. If you can help it, don't got to American SPS

The school spent a lot of money investing in infrastructure + new programming, so it will look all shiny and special. HOWEVER, the fact of the matter is that American SPS simply is not that good of Public Policy School in terms setting up their students for success.

I rarely (if ever) see their students in policy challenges, case competitions, symposiums, and research presentations (even one held at American University). Nor have I seen them at ANY of my internships (and I had 4-5 in Policy school). 

One thing that is sad is where I have seen a lot of recent SPS alumni - working as waiters and hosts at restaurants (seen them in Boston and DC, with recent grads overhearing my convos about MPP and they chime in that they went to SPS --> happened a few times now). 

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59 minutes ago, GradSchoolGrad said:

Wow! You are in such an advantageous position.

Lets focus on 2 things.

1. Your 1st Undergrad

I view your first undergraduate (and all the things you did with it - extra curricular and classes) as irrelevant. However, I'm not sure as what is the best tactic for doing it so. You could check with each admissions office and get there take. I view them telling you to do one of two things.

1. (What I think might be the smartest thing) Send them your transcript for your both schools - but prioritize the good one up top) + send an academic addendum to explain how you fixed yourself - they usually love a turn around story

2. Basically start your resume + application from enlisting in the Army onwards and work as if you never went your first undergrad 

HOWEVER... you always want to be honest, this is why I would check with admissions. Stay something along the lines that you went to college as a child prodigy, but it didn't work out for you at all so you pivoted your life.

2. Schools with a Good Community (AKA: Avoiding the George Mason undergrad experience)

a. Lets start with what schools are very well known for having terrible community engagement.

1. Columbia SIPA

2. NYU Wagner 

Bottom line, most people have their own NYC life and aside from niche policy specialities (that are really tight with each other), there really isn't much greater community spirit

b. The size problem at HKS

HKS is interesting because they have a very collegial culture. HOWEVER one problem with it is that the program is so big (they have their own mega building in Harvard Square for crying out loud) it can be logistically challenging to build a community, and I have met quite a few people that fell through the cracks (I have family members who went to HKS btw). 

c. The culture problem at Georgetown McCourt MPP

Georgetown McCourt has the benefits of a centralized confined space for people to meet each other regularly (even when they move to the partition in the downtown) and a smaller program (about 120ish per year group --> all degree programs). HOWEVER... McCourt has this really interesting clique culture which the thing to do is to a join a following (usually this built upon clubs). The problem is that by spending time with building social cliques and which powerful person you align yourself to (or the many people you influence), people de-prioritize career, meaningful social impact, and etc.. Hence the more career successful people from McCourt are either the those who avoid the clique system.

What is very interesting for me is that the people that ruled the cliques were people who never really held leadership or glamour roles previously and viewed this as their chance to shine. Most people who were previously Newspaper Editors, Class Presidents, Social Chairs, Sorority/Frat Chairs in college, aged out of that stuff and didn't care.

I have written extensively about McCourt here:

d. GWU Trachtenburg and the intern system

GWU is interesting because they are all about having experiential learning and sending people to internship experiences throughout the year. That naturally means a more diluted community from what I seen.

3. Schools with Amazing Community

So the schools I know with amazing community (and great programming too) are:

a. Duke Terry Sanford

b. Carnegie Melon - Heinz (especially the DC campus option --> they all seemed rather tight for going to the DC campus)

c. UVA Batten (although this skews young)

d. Oxford MPP (very unique problem --> I really love the British style of no holds bar open conversation education + pub learning

4. What you should know about being prior military

So although you are in advantageous situation, how advantageous your situation is depends on how many other military apply (and the diversity of their background). You can never really predict that. However, being prior-Enlisted generally goes in your favor.

HOWEVER... be warned in that a lot of times schools just want you so they can add up their stats of # of diverse students (which veteran often counts was) + will give your scholarship. I would say just be smart and don't be hood winked by we are pro-military pomp and see if each school serves your true interests. 

I have been in meetings where admissions Officers openly discuss how they needed more veterans and were strategizing how to modify their advertising to appeal more to veterans (marketing, not substance). This is especially true since the Chinese international student market has shrank and they need alternatives to achieve markers of diversity. 

5. If you can help it, don't got to American SPS

The school spent a lot of money investing in infrastructure + new programming, so it will look all shiny and special. HOWEVER, the fact of the matter is that American SPS simply is not that good of Public Policy School in terms setting up their students for success.

I rarely (if ever) see their students in policy challenges, case competitions, symposiums, and research presentations (even one held at American University). Nor have I seen them at ANY of my internships (and I had 4-5 in Policy school). 

One thing that is sad is where I have seen a lot of recent SPS alumni - working as waiters and hosts at restaurants (seen them in Boston and DC, with recent grads overhearing my convos about MPP and they chime in that they went to SPS --> happened a few times now). 

Bahahaha nice catch deducing I’m from Mason. I guess saying im from a commuter school (aside from my mentioning of the program) was a dead giveaway. 

You don’t know how much I really appreciate all the feedback you’re giving us and others. I’ve actually been reading a bunch of your previous posts I also agree with you that I should seriously consider sanford, batten and heinz if I want to get what I’m looking for. 

Thank you so much for all of your insight and support! It seriously means a lot.

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23 minutes ago, heinzketchup123 said:

Bahahaha nice catch deducing I’m from Mason. I guess saying im from a commuter school (aside from my mentioning of the program) was a dead giveaway. 

You don’t know how much I really appreciate all the feedback you’re giving us and others. I’ve actually been reading a bunch of your previous posts I also agree with you that I should seriously consider sanford, batten and heinz if I want to get what I’m looking for. 

Thank you so much for all of your insight and support! It seriously means a lot.

Oh I forgot to mention, since you haven't graduated yet, I recommend you take at least one more quant oriented class to improve your chances. Something with tint of econometrics would be great. I mean your GPA is so high, its not like you can go much lower. A more advanced micro-econ would be great. Anything that involves Calculus would also be helpful. 

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Long time lurker, first time poster :)

Applying to: Columbia SIPA MIA, Georgetown SFS MSFS, Tufts Fletcher MALD, Science Po Masters in International Diplomacy, Hertie School MPP, JHU SAIS MAIR, and maybe HKS MPP 

Undergrad institution: Mid-Sized Private University in the US  (considered a really great school in the Northeast but I think it's top 50 in the rankings now)

Undergrad Major: Political Science with minors in Business Administration and Marketing 

Undergrad GPA: 3.60/4.0 (Major GPA: 4.0) 

Years out of undergrad: 3.5

Quant Background: This is absolutely where I feel I am weakest. 

  • In college, I undertook a business minor at my college which has a very well known business school. I took Intro to Finance and Accounting (which was a joint course) and received a C+ and Intro to Applied Econ and received a B. I also took Stat and got an A.
  • Post-grad, a lot of my work has had analytical components like budget analysis and data analysis. 

Relevant Work Experience:  Outside of internships/a job in undergrad, I have around 3.5 years of experiences. Post-grad, I worked at a large worldwide and very well known healthcare INGO in marketing for around 8 months before leaving to do a Fulbright ETA grant. Post-grant, I worked at a really tiny healthcare INGO for eight months in development. Ultimately, that organization wasn't a good fit so I left pretty quickly. I've been working at a tech company in sales for the past 1.5 years but worked with my former boss to expand into the Singaporean market. 

International experience: I studied abroad in France for a year in college and did a Fulbright ETA grant in Souteast Asia. 

GRE: V: 162 Q: 153 AW: 5.5 

Strength of LOR: Strong. One is from a professor I took three classes with in undergrad and got an A in each of them. He loves me and he's the chair of the graduate school department at my undergrad institution. I have a good feeling his will be great and hopefully speak to my ability to preform at a graduate school level. 

One is from my former supervisor at my tech startup. I think she spoke pretty well to me meeting challenging demands (my tech startup is in an industry that has been really impacted by Covid) and being motivated/handling pressure. I'm not sure how good her letter of rec is since she's never written one for policy school but I feel confident it's decent.

Last one for Sciences Po/SFS is a prof I took my research sem with my senior year in college. I got an A in her course/on the paper which she said she'll write positively about. However, she said she can't speak to my motivation/abilities as a student because she forgets how I did in the class (haha.) Luckily, her letter feels low stakes. 

Strength of SOP: Meh, I think it's fine. I spoke about my Fubright and being in my host country during their election, how that experience cemented my desire to join the Foreign Service/explore the impact of increasing religiosity on attitudes towards democracy, etc. I customized to each school and cited specific courses I wanted to take/relevant clubs. But, we will see. 

Extracurriculars/Leadership: Pretty lackluster to be honest. This is where I feel second weakest. I was a part of a lot of different clubs in college, but nothing to write home about. Because I studied abroad for my entire junior year, I lost a lot of the momentum of being in the clubs I was involved in so by my senior year, I wasn't really doing much outside of being in a sorority. I'm super involved and active now in adulthood at my job (hi sub-committees) and volunteer as a mentor in the city I live in. I volunteered a lot in college. 

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52 minutes ago, francophile_1 said:

Long time lurker, first time poster :)

Applying to: Columbia SIPA MIA, Georgetown SFS MSFS, Tufts Fletcher MALD, Science Po Masters in International Diplomacy, Hertie School MPP, JHU SAIS MAIR, and maybe HKS MPP 

Undergrad institution: Mid-Sized Private University in the US  (considered a really great school in the Northeast but I think it's top 50 in the rankings now)

Undergrad Major: Political Science with minors in Business Administration and Marketing 

Undergrad GPA: 3.60/4.0 (Major GPA: 4.0) 

Years out of undergrad: 3.5

Quant Background: This is absolutely where I feel I am weakest. 

  • In college, I undertook a business minor at my college which has a very well known business school. I took Intro to Finance and Accounting (which was a joint course) and received a C+ and Intro to Applied Econ and received a B. I also took Stat and got an A.
  • Post-grad, a lot of my work has had analytical components like budget analysis and data analysis. 

Relevant Work Experience:  Outside of internships/a job in undergrad, I have around 3.5 years of experiences. Post-grad, I worked at a large worldwide and very well known healthcare INGO in marketing for around 8 months before leaving to do a Fulbright ETA grant. Post-grant, I worked at a really tiny healthcare INGO for eight months in development. Ultimately, that organization wasn't a good fit so I left pretty quickly. I've been working at a tech company in sales for the past 1.5 years but worked with my former boss to expand into the Singaporean market. 

International experience: I studied abroad in France for a year in college and did a Fulbright ETA grant in Malaysia. 

GRE: V: 162 Q: 153 AW: 5.5 

Strength of LOR: Strong. One is from a professor I took three classes with in undergrad and got an A in each of them. He loves me and he's the chair of the graduate school department at my undergrad institution. I have a good feeling his will be great and hopefully speak to my ability to preform at a graduate school level. 

One is from my former supervisor at my tech startup. I think she spoke pretty well to me meeting challenging demands (my tech startup is in an industry that has been really impacted by Covid) and being motivated/handling pressure. I'm not sure how good her letter of rec is since she's never written one for policy school but I feel confident it's decent.

Last one for Sciences Po/SFS is a prof I took my research sem with my senior year in college. I got an A in her course/on the paper which she said she'll write positively about. However, she said she can't speak to my motivation/abilities as a student because she forgets how I did in the class (haha.) Luckily, her letter feels low stakes. 

Strength of SOP: Meh, I think it's fine. I spoke about being in Malaysia during their election and how that experience cemented my desire to join the Foreign Service/explore the impact of increasing religiosity on attitudes towards democracy. I customized to each school and cited specific courses I wanted to take/relevant clubs. But, we will see. 

Extracurriculars/Leadership: Pretty lackluster to be honest. This is where I feel second weakest. I was a part of a lot of different clubs in college, but nothing to write home about. Because I studied abroad for my entire junior year, I lost a lot of the momentum of being in the clubs I was involved in so by my senior year, I wasn't really doing much outside of being in a sorority. I'm super involved and active now in adulthood at my job (hi sub-committees) and volunteer as a mentor in the city I live in. I volunteered a lot in college. 

1. So I'm just going to imagine that you went to Boston College as a point of reference.

2. I think you are generally fine with the exception of HKS MPP + JHU SAIS. These programs are exceptionally quant heavy/focused and like people with prior quant (specifically things involving calculus and/or econometrics). 

3. I actually think your biggest weakness (and it might not be a weakness because you just haven't expressed it) is a clear idea of WHY you want to go to grad school for and what type of IR are you most interested in. IR schools try to balance 2 things - diversity you can't control (ethnic, national, and background) and diversity you choose (area you are interested in). I think you are in good shape with diversity you can control, especially having a tech sales background - which is more unique. HOWEVER, I have no idea what is your purpose for pursuing grad school. Failure to express a meaningful purpose can really put your application behind even if it shines elsewhere. Once you express you purpose, admissions will then weight you against the rest of the student population. If you are something more unique, it helps you somewhat. If you are less unique, it goes against you a bit. From where I have sit, there always seems to be a disproportionate number of migration, refugee, and IDEV folks. HOWEVER, that can vary by school.

4. Don't worry about leadership as long as you did it as an adult at work. Grad schools care about showing leadership, but care less when you did it as long as show involvement.

5. Other schools thoughts.

a. I'm really curious why you want to do Hertie MPP. Like any MPP school it has a wide range of academic opportunities, but it makes more sense if you want to do Euro oriented stuff (or maybe appreciate their angle towards technocracy) and less sense if you want to do general IR / IDEV.

b. I can't speak coherently to Sciences Po, but I will say, I have never encountered any American in the non-academic IR space from Sciences Po. I'm sure someone else can speak better to its value for job portability back to the students (or anywhere else).

c. Columbia SIPA is an all around great IR school, just be warned that it is notorious for having  less than cohesive community - since everyone has their NYC lives.

d. I really like Georgetown MSFS due to its extensive interdisciplinary opportunities, but not everyone appreciates DC land

e. I know this is super controversial --> I am not a fan of Fletcher Tufts. I wrote about it previously here: 

f. Other thoughts - there may be programs in LSE the might fit you well. Also if you are more interested in the tech side of things with an international flair - an MBA might be better suited for you. 

Edited by GradSchoolGrad
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30 minutes ago, GradSchoolGrad said:

1. So I'm just going to imagine that you went to Boston College as a point of reference.

2. I think you are generally fine with the exception of HKS MPP + JHU SAIS. These programs are exceptionally quant heavy/focused and like people with prior quant (specifically things involving calculus and/or econometrics). 

3. I actually think your biggest weakness (and it might not be a weakness because you just haven't expressed it) is a clear idea of WHY you want to go to grad school for and what type of IR are you most interested in. IR schools try to balance 2 things - diversity you can't control (ethnic, national, and background) and diversity you choose (area you are interested in). I think you are in good shape with diversity you can control, especially having a tech sales background - which is more unique. HOWEVER, I have no idea what is your purpose for pursuing grad school. Failure to express a meaningful purpose can really put your application behind even if it shines elsewhere. Once you express you purpose, admissions will then weight you against the rest of the student population. If you are something more unique, it helps you somewhat. If you are less unique, it goes against you a bit. From where I have sit, there always seems to be a disproportionate number of migration, refugee, and IDEV folks. HOWEVER, that can vary by school.

4. Don't worry about leadership as long as you did it as an adult at work. Grad schools care about showing leadership, but care less when you did it as long as show involvement.

5. Other schools thoughts.

a. I'm really curious why you want to do Hertie MPP. Like any MPP school it has a wide range of academic opportunities, but it makes more sense if you want to do Euro oriented stuff (or maybe appreciate their angle towards technocracy) and less sense if you want to do general IR / IDEV.

b. I can't speak coherently to Sciences Po, but I will say, I have never encountered any American in the non-academic IR space from Sciences Po. I'm sure someone else can speak better to its value for job portability back to the students (or anywhere else).

c. Columbia SIPA is an all around great IR school, just be warned that it is notorious for having  less than cohesive community - since everyone has their NYC lives.

d. I really like Georgetown MSFS due to its extensive interdisciplinary opportunities, but not everyone appreciates DC land

e. I know this is super controversial --> I am not a fan of Fletcher Tufts. I wrote about it previously here: 

f. Other thoughts - there may be programs in LSE the might fit you well. Also if you are more interested in the tech side of things with an international flair - an MBA might be better suited for you. 

1. Close - This may dox me but I went to Villanova. This was a very helpful assessment.

2. I applied to JHU Bologna, and had a very positive interview (no idea if that's the norm). Not sure if going the Bologna route might help me out, but that's helpful to know and something I am concerned about. HKS being hyper-quant heavy is a reason I'm shying against applying there. Also I've seen they're not the most generous with funding and I don't want to take out any more student loans than I already have. 

3. Truly a lame reason, but I've always wanted to go to grad school. In my SOP, I leaned into going to grad school to further skills in policy analysis/quant to help me as a Political Foreign Service Officer. Academically speaking, I'm interested in understanding the impact of gender/religion on development/economic outcomes (which ultimately helps Political Officers better understand on the ground political situations/attitudes toward governance). I also am really interested in studying more about Islam in SE Asia. Writing this now this makes my SOP seem incredibly disjointed, lord help me. Other challenge is that you do NOT need to go to graduate school to join the foreign service, but a lot of the FSOTs I've spoken with have told me it helps. We'll see if any admission offices buy it. 

5. For grad schools in Europe, a lot of it is financially motivated plus if I don't join the FS, I'd love to move abroad long term. Hertie's technocracy stuff is really cool, tbh and Science Po is more about moving to France than anything else. To your point tho, I've read the forms here about it and IDK if it's a wise choice. I've discounted an MBA for the time being but increasingly people have told me I should look into one so maybe.

For Columbia, I actually live in NYC so I probably wouldn't be too bugged about the lack of community. (But, I'd definitely be annoyed by the fact I'm broke when all of my friends are working their high paying financial services jobs.)  

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10 minutes ago, francophile_1 said:

1. Close - This may dox me but I went to Villanova. This was a very helpful assessment.

2. I applied to JHU Bologna, and had a very positive interview (no idea if that's the norm). Not sure if going the Bologna route might help me out, but that's helpful to know and something I am concerned about. HKS being hyper-quant heavy is a reason I'm shying against applying there. Also I've seen they're not the most generous with funding and I don't want to take out any more student loans than I already have. 

3. Truly a lame reason, but I've always wanted to go to grad school. In my SOP, I leaned into going to grad school to further skills in policy analysis/quant to help me as a Political Foreign Service Officer. Academically speaking, I'm interested in understanding the impact of gender/religion on development/economic outcomes (which ultimately helps Political Officers better understand on the ground political situations/attitudes toward governance). I also am really interested in studying more about Islam in SE Asia. Writing this now this makes my SOP seem incredibly disjointed, lord help me. Other challenge is that you do NOT need to go to graduate school to join the foreign service, but a lot of the FSOTs I've spoken with have told me it helps. We'll see if any admission offices buy it. 

5. For grad schools in Europe, a lot of it is financially motivated plus if I don't join the FS, I'd love to move abroad long term. Hertie's technocracy stuff is really cool, tbh and Science Po is more about moving to France than anything else. To your point tho, I've read the forms here about it and IDK if it's a wise choice. I've discounted an MBA for the time being but increasingly people have told me I should look into one so maybe.

For Columbia, I actually live in NYC so I probably wouldn't be too bugged about the lack of community. (But, I'd definitely be annoyed by the fact I'm broke when all of my friends are working their high paying financial services jobs.)  

1. If you want to be the FSO (I'm assuming for the US), there are essentially 4 big "fraternities" so to speak.

a. HKS

b. Georgetown MSFS

c. Fletcher

d. Columbia SIPA 

Beyond that, you'll have chances, but you really won't be going in with any major built in network advantage.

2. You'll find very quickly that gender and development are two of the most disproportionately over represented interests in IR/policy world. Traditionally schools want people who are passionate about things + social impact, but increasingly, schools are focused upon your ability to get jobs, and those two areas are ULTRA competitive do to high demand low supply of jobs. 

3. Yes, you seem lost on what you really care about. I recommend you tighten up your messaging. You don't want to make it a shotgun blast of random things you care about. You want to have a semi-focused message.

4. European schools (with the exception of UK schools) generally don't do the best with interdisciplinary academics and experiential learning. Obviously, you'll learn what is local really well, but they will be the first to tell you from a thematic and programatic perspective, the US schools have them beat.

Also, even if they are cheaper, you may struggle with actually being able to get a job in the US. 

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I'm interested in Technology Policy (privacy, data regulation, cybersecurity.) I know I'm likely an unusual candidate, and tbh, I felt embarrassed even to dream of getting into any of the schools.

Still, I hope for a realistic assessment of my chances at these programs or any suggestion on boosting my profile and other programs that I should consider. Thanks

Applying to: GWU Trachtenberg MPP, GA-Tech MS Cybersecurity (Policy), UT-Austin LBJ MGPP, Brown MPA, JHU SAIS MEPP, Tufts Fletcher MALD, MIT TPP, CMU EPP, CMU MSISPM, Georgetown McCourt MPP, Chicago Harris MPP, Duke Sanford MPP, Williams & Mary MPP, Lehigh MPP (new program starts 2021)

Undergrad institution:  Large State School. (One of the Big Ten schools.)

Undergrad Major: STEM major with minors in Computer Science 

Undergrad GPA: <2.5/4.0. 

Grad GPA: Took a graduate level class at Fletcher over the summer and got 4.0/4.0

GRE: N/A

Years out of undergrad: 4-5 years

Quant Background: Took one econ, and a few math, and stats classes (Cs for math classes, B+ for stats and econ classes.) However, I have a lot of quant experience at work where I analyze survey and behavioral data using R, Python, and SPSS.   

Relevant Work Experience:  In undergrad, I have 3.5 years of experience as a research assistant at a quantitive psychology lab. Post-grad, I have worked for a few well-known tech companies as a mixed-method researcher conducting both quant and qual research. 


International experience:  Born and raised in different countries (Japan, Hong Kong, China) before I came back to the States for college.
 

Strength of LOR: One is from a professor who I worked with for 3.5 years as an undergrad. He mentioned he's going to write me a strong letter—another from a professor at Fletcher who I took classes with this summer, unsure if it's strong since I have not and probably would not get a chance to see it. The last one is from my ex-manager, who has a PhD, and is now a principal researcher for a tech company. Assumes it's going to be strong too. 

 

Strength of SOP: While I do not have the final version yet, I plan to write about my reason for pursuing an MPP. I will walk through my personal experience of dealing with data regulation (GDPR) in 2018 and how the experience helped me developed an interest in tech policy (privacy, regulation...etc) and decided to pursue an MPP. After MPP I would like to assist the private sectors in preparing for any future tech policy and assisting the general public in understanding the policy related to them.

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Hoping to get your insight on my application. Thanks in advance:

Background info : Current grad school student and former lawyer.

Applying to:  LBJ MPAff, HKS MPP, USC Price MPP

Undergrad Institution: Large Canadian Institution

Law School: Top Canadian School

Graduate School: Current MSc Candidate at a top 3 British Institution

Years of experience: 3

Undergrad GPA: 3.95

Law School GPA: Top 25%

GRE: Q 160, V 162, AW 5.0

Quant experience: Beginner Stats; Causal Inference; Multivariate Stats; Econometrics; Microeconomics; Macroeconomics; Formal Logic; I can use R, Python and Stata.

Relevant Work Experience: Lawyer for one of the largest law firms in the world. International volunteering experience. Worked as a research assistant. A few publications to my name.

International experience: International volunteering. Currently studying in the UK.

Strength of LOR: Very strong LORs. References were from a judge, a law school dean, and a partner at my former firm.

SOP: Very strong in my opinion.

Weakness: Small gap in my record due to illness. But I've recovered since and am more active than ever.

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Just now, Canuck2020 said:

Hoping to get your insight on my application. Thanks in advance:

Background info : Current grad school student and former lawyer.

Applying to:  LBJ MPAff, HKS MPP, USC Price MPP

Undergrad Institution: Large Canadian Institution

Law School: Top Canadian School

Graduate School: Current MSc Candidate at a top 3 British Institution

Years of experience: 3

Undergrad GPA: 3.95

Law School GPA: Top 25%

GRE: Q 160, V 162, AW 5.0

Quant experience: Beginner Stats; Causal Inference; Multivariate Stats; Econometrics; Microeconomics; Macroeconomics; Formal Logic; I can use R, Python and Stata.

Relevant Work Experience: Lawyer for one of the largest law firms in the world. International volunteering experience. Worked as a research assistant. A few publications to my name.

International experience: International volunteering. Currently studying in the UK.

Strength of LOR: Very strong LORs. References were from a judge, a law school dean, and a partner at my former firm.

SOP: Very strong in my opinion.

Weakness: Small gap in my record due to illness. But I've recovered since and am more active than ever.

You are insanely competitive as a candidate based on basic stats. Just highlight illness in the addendum. The only thing that concerns me is your lack of explanation on WHY you want to go to policy school. Your school choices hereby don't exactly have the most coherent pattern which confuses me. 

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