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greendiplomat

Wrapping It All Up: Government Affairs 2012 -- Final Decisions!

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As most of us have received most or even all of our admissions and financial aid decisions, I figured I'd start a thread for final thoughts and decisions as in previous years (though making it more generally for everyone on this forum, as opposed to just IR). This is intended as the authoritative thread where next year's applicants will look back, so please share as much of the following information as you feel comfortable, after you have made your decision. [N.B.: Since posts seem to become no longer editable after a certain amount of time elapses, make sure to only post once you've made your final decision. That way, you also have a single post to which you can link in your signatures. :)].

Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier):

Previous Degrees and GPAs:

GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing):

Previous Work Experience (Years, Type):

Math/Econ Background:

Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program):

Intended Field of Study in Grad School:

Long Term Professional Goals:

Schools Applied to & Results:

Ultimate Decision & Why:

Advice for Future Applicants:

Edited by greendiplomat

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Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): Johns Hopkins University

Previous Degrees and GPAs: BA Economics, Philosophy, GPA: 3.99 (PBK, Dean's List)

GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 770 V, 720 Q (can't do math on a computer)

Previous Work Experience Straight from undergrad, but about 9 months of paid economic consulting/research assistant work

Math/Econ Background: More econ than I can keep track of, Single/Multivariate Calculus, Linear Algebra, Prob/Stat & Econometrics, Logic

Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): Spanish since grade school.

Intended Field of Study in Grad School: MA-IR/MPP

Long Term Professional Goals: International economic policy for a few years (WB or Treasury), transition into political risk analysis, private sector consulting

Schools Applied to & Results:

Applied: Fletcher, SAIS, Georgetown MSFS, HKS, WWS, Yale Jackson, SIPA

Admitted: Fletcher, SAIS, HKS

Ultimate Decision & Why: SAIS. Best placement for the institutions/firms I want to work for, high level of economics content, strong faculty in IPE. SAIS just about fits my interests perfectly. And I'll always to be loyal to JHU.

Advice for Future Applicants:

Start planning early. I knew I wanted to do a graduate program going into my sophomore year. And I knew that my top choice was SAIS. Many of the academic and extracurricular decisions I made from that point on were focused on getting myself into SAIS and programs of comparable quality. I wouldn't look at my experience as typical for someone applying straight out of their undergraduate institution--I had a number of advantages, including the fact that I already go to Hopkins and had Hopkins faculty/alumni as recommenders.

Don't skimp on quantitative courses. Math is an important vehicle for understanding economics, which in turn is essential for understanding foreign affairs, but it's also an important academic credential. It serves as a signal that you can think logically and carefully.

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Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): Undergraduate at large public research university (APSIA affiliate)

Previous Degrees and GPAs: B.A. International Studies/History, minor Japanese; 3.2 overall GPA (3.5 major/last two years)

GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 670V/680Q/4.5AW

Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): 2-2.5 years; 1 year teaching English overseas, 9 months internships, currently 7 months into Americorps Service Year w/ AAPI community organization

Math/Econ Background: no math since high school, basic econ (intro micro/macro + international econ/business survey course for major)

Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): Japanese minor

Intended Field of Study in Grad School: International Politics

Long Term Professional Goals: NPO/government agency position; dream job is Public Affairs Officer for US Foreign Service

Schools Applied to & Results: Columbia SIPA (rejected), GWU Elliott (rejected), Johns Hopkins SAIS (wait-listed), UC San Diego IR/PS (accepted, no funding)

Ultimate Decision & Why: I accepted UCSD's offer because I was impressed by the effort their Career Services puts in, and because the Pacific Rim focus really appeals to my professional goals/interests. All of the schools I applied to have a strong professional/quantitative focus which is what I was looking for. I was tempted to decline and try again in a year or two but decided I didn't want to gamble again in hopes of more funding/more acceptances next time.

Advice for Future Applicants: Do your research before you apply to schools, and make sure you're looking early--my list of "finalists" changed a lot in the six months between my GRE test and the first of January. Ask the advice of your academic LOR when you're looking at schools; my professor pointed me in the direction of SAIS and IR/PS based on my stated interests and goals. And don't be discouraged from applying by a lower GPA or a couple of genuinely bad grades on the transcript; the onus is on you to prove that you've grown beyond those Fs but admissions officers are a lot more interested in how you did in higher-level relevant coursework, or what you accomplished in your professional career, than that freshman Astronomy course.

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Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): one of the 1st tier universities in Indonesia

Previous Degrees and GPAs: B.A. Political Science majoring International Relations.; 3.52 overall GPA (3.6 major/last two years)

GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 155V/155Q/3.5AW

Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): 3 years; 2 years at the ministry of foreign affairs, 1 year at a bank

Math/Econ Background: no math since high school, no basic econ,,, (prepared for exam waiver)

Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): French minor

Intended Field of Study in Grad School: International Political Economy (international finance and economic policy)

Long Term Professional Goals: continue serving the ministry of foreign affairs / ministry of trade / ministry of finance; joining the WTO, World Bank, or IMF

Schools Applied to & Results: Columbia SIPA (accepted), Johns Hopkins SAIS (accepted), American Univ SIS (accepted), Fordham GSAS (accepted), GWU ESIA (wait listed).

Ultimate Decision & Why: SIPA, apart from the fact that Columbia is my dream school, the course listings and offering at SIPA is more varied, well-structured, and richer than any of the other schools I applied to (according to my personal taste and opinion of course and the fact that I can tailored my course listings using other Columbia's graduate school courses such as the school of business and law). The resources in general offered at SIPA and NYC is way better than any of the other schools I applied.

Advice for Future Applicants: Know what you want, know what you can sell, know yourself! Wrap it up on a very strong package of application that the parts of the application are actually supporting each other in letting them know what you want, what you sell,and yourself. I have no econ background, a very standard GRE (even pretty low for some standards), and only 2 years of related experience. But I made sure that my CV/resume, letter of intent, academic writing sample, my letter of recommendations, all telling the facts that is supporting each other that I'm one who is deeply in love with int'l economic policy and finance, been doing some things for it, and been learning about it even if I had to do it by myself.

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Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): Small, private liberal arts college in the south east, ranked among top 40

Previous Degrees and GPAs: BA, 3.8 (3.9 major/last two years), PBK etc...

GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 160/161/5.0

Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): Teaching 2 years as part of TFA

Math/Econ Background: In college I took Stats, Calc, Micro, Macro, and Quantitative Research Methods

Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program):

Intended Field of Study in Grad School: Social/Ed Policy

Long Term Professional Goals: Working in some way with Ed Reform be it through a state dept of ed, with a politician, or non-profit.

Schools Applied to & Results: I applied to so many schools... here are the highlights Duke MPP (accepted with funding), Michigan Ford (accepted with funding), Wisconsin LaFollette (accepted), Harvard GSE (accepted), UGA MPA (accepted with funding + stipend), Vanderbilt Peabody (accepted with funding)

Ultimate Decision & Why: Duke Sanford: I am totally excited about their quantitative approach to social policy, the strength of their career services, and the fact that I will have some semblance of professional and personal balance as I have relationships with people in the area! Further, social policy rather than education policy will leave me well equipped to be versatile in the job market. After talking with faculty members I was sold.

Advice for Future Applicants: Know what you want going in. I didn't and had applied to 13 schools for 4 different degrees and several jobs all over the country. When I had too many options I freaked out. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad problem but if you focus on what you want before you go in the decision process as well as your application will come more naturally.

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I figured it might be helpful to go back and add in thoughts to my original posting. Everything in bold is what I think now versus then.

Program Applied To: Int. Dev, MPA, IR, Conflict Resolution - basically a post-conflict, development focus.

Schools Applied To: GWU Elliott, SAIS, American SIS, WWS

Schools Admitted To: GWU Elliott ($), SAIS ($0), American SIS ($$), WWS ($$$)

Undergraduate institution: University of Nottingham

Undergraduate GPA: 3.9 equivalent

Undergraduate Major: Politics

GRE Score: Q690 (not amazing), V710, AWA 6.0

Years Out of Undergrad: 3

Years of Work Experience: 2.5

Describe Relevant Work Experience: International election observer in Guinea, Côte d'Ivoire and Nepal, interned with two large international NGOs and volunteered in the West Bank.

Languages: French (professional, almost fluent for listening), beginner Spanish and Arabic.

Long Term Professional Goals: Project management in development, hopefully post-conflict related (refugees, capacity building etc.)

Quant: Virtually non-existent at undergrad, so I'm currently taking a diploma in Economics which includes micro, macro and econometrics. Hopefully that'll give me a big enough boost to interest the more quant focused schools.

I'm sure this factored in, particularly in getting me an offer at SAIS which is a lot more quant-heavy.

Strength of SOP: Currently working on this, but hoping I can get something pretty punchy that ties together all my life experience, work experience and aspirations. The main challenge is going to be getting enough research done on all my schools to show good 'fit' and read up on the work of potential advisors. The biggest challenge so far is getting back into the academic mindset and remember authors I enjoyed at undergrad. I should be able to get a pretty strong statement of both experience and academic potential - I just wish my GRE quant was a touch higher, but oh well.

In my opinion this was what got me in. I think my main thing here was trying to show how my personal narrative tied in to my professional goals and aspirations. I ended up not really talking much about theorists I like, and focused more on areas I want to improve and courses/professors I want to study under. I went back and re-read my SOPs after I'd applied (not recommended) and I actually thought my Princeton application was the weakest in terms of showing fit. I think my public service commitment must have been what tipped it.

Give yourself enough time to write multiple iterations and come back to it fresh. I also started with the longest SOP first, and then cut it down to match the shorter SOP schools. I found the writing exercises in "Graduate Admissions Essays: Write Your Way into the Graduate School of Your Choice" by Donald Asher pretty helpful to start putting things down on paper.

Strength of LOR: These should be good as I'm going for one professional and two strong academic. One from a well known prof. who should give me a good recommendation and one from a prof. who knows me really well and I know will describe me as one of his top students. My professional reference said in my evaluation I was the 'best intern he's ever had'. Going to email them my latest CV and first draft personal statement to see if they want to punch things up.

Don't forget to thank your LOR writers and let them know what you decide. I've no doubt they played a role in getting me in everywhere.

Other: I've learned so much in the last few years since undergrad - both professionally and in terms of the application process. I'm a million miles away from where I was as a naïve undergrad applying for PhD programs in PoliSci. I just hope that'll all come together on the page and result in some good offers that include generous financial aid. Most of all, I hope I get in SOMEWHERE - the prospect of an extra fallow year before grad school doesn't appeal too much in this job climate.

Ultimate Decision & Why: Princeton WWS. Everything about the program since being accepted has just been phenomenal. The level of contact from admin at the school, alumni and current students has been second to none. The hosting weekend really blew me away in terms of what alumni had gone on to do and how the school had helped them reach that. The other admit students also played a huge role in my decision – they all come from a period of substantial professional experience and I expect to learn as much from them as faculty. The opportunities to intern and study language abroad, the careers service, plus massive financial support made this an offer I couldn't refuse.

Advice for Future Applicants:

I'm pretty much proof that you shouldn't write yourself off based on GRE scores alone. Prior to applying I'd heard that pretty much all the top programs wouldn't consider you for a spot or fellowships if you scored below Q700 – I guess this isn't true… Princeton was decidedly my 'reach' school and I was pretty floored to get in (still waiting for them to tell me they made a mistake).

I think the key to all of this is that you should only apply to schools you'd want to attend. All of the schools I applied to had one or two lynchpin things I could point to in terms of reasons I would want to attend that tied in to my professional career. By SOP number four I was definitely dragging, and if I'd had six to go I'd have probably just given up. Give yourself time, try to keep freaking out to a minimum and get friends, bosses and professors to read SOPs at various stages. I never thought I'd get in, but here I am, getting ready to start at my dream school this Fall.

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Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): University of Virginia

Previous Degrees and GPAs: Double major in English and Spanish; minor in Religious Studies - GPA 3.2 (3.4 last 2 years)

GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): V: 680 Q: 700 AW: 5.5

Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): 5 years teaching ESL/volunteering; Peace Corps (included in those 5 years)

Math/Econ Background: AP Stat; Micro/Macro in college, but didn't do well so re-took Micro for my apps, now taking Macro

Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): Spanish and Azerbaijani - conversational, beginner Turkish (although can get by based on my Azeri)

Intended Field of Study in Grad School: International Development (applied mostly to MPA/MPP programs)

Long Term Professional Goals: to work with refugees/displaced peoples in conflict/post-conflict areas

Schools Applied to & Results: UVA-Batten (accepted, some funding) LBJ-MGPS (accepted, in-state funding) Georgetown SFS-GHD (accepted, full funding) SIS-EPGA (accepted, little funding) Tennessee (accepted, no funding) and Duke Sanford (wait listed)

Ultimate Decision & Why: Georgetown. It was a dream of mine for years to go to SFS, and this new program is perfect for my career goals. I'll be going for the Refugee and Humanitarian Emergencies certificate, and I was really excited after meeting the faculty and those involved with the school. I really feel like SFS is deeply invested in this program, and that no other school was better for my career options. The full ride has also been a huge plus, of course.

Advice for Future Applicants: Don't be too hard on yourselves. I honestly didn't think I'd get in anywhere, especially with my "low" GPA and poor performance in quant classes in college. But I started on my applications as soon as I possibly could, and started writing drafts of my SOP in early summer last year. I am fairly certain that I got into schools because I made sure my essays showed my genuine passion for this field, and I had great professional LORs. Overall, I would say being older helps, and knowing exactly what I want to do so that I could show schools how it connects to my past and their programs of study are what gave me the extra push.

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Previous Schools:University of Michigan

Previous Degrees and GPAs: Double major in Political Science and Russian Studies. 3.8 GPA.

GRE Scores: V 800 / Q 770 / AW 4.5

Previous Work Experience: 2 years (by fall 2012, when school starts). 1 year unrelated corporate stuff, 1 year teaching English in China, multiple analytical internships throughout both years. I assume we're not counting undergraduate stuff, because I did a boatload of IR-relevant things then as well.

Math/Econ Background: Stats, Micro, Macro, some data modeling courses

Foreign Language Background: Russian (professionally fluent), Mandarin Chinese (intermediate)

Intended Field of Study in Grad School: Security Studies

Schools Applied to & Results: Princeton WWS MPA (rejected), Yale Jackson MA (rejected), Georgetown MA Security Studies (rejected), Tufts Fletcher MALD (accepted + $), SAIS MA Strategic Studies (accepted + $), Pittsburgh GSPIA MA Security + Intelligence Studies (accepted + $), GW Elliot MA Security Policy Studies (accepted + $)

Ultimate Decision & Why: GW Elliott. Why? I got a full ride + stipend to go there. It has a dedicated Security Policy Studies degree, which is more in line with my interests and goals than a generalist IR degree. It's in DC. Literally the only option that could have competed with GW would have been a fully-funded Georgetown admit, which didn't happen (not even close, haha). Very easy decision.

Advice for Future Applicants: Get started early (like a year ahead of time). The more time you allow yourself to research your schools, get recommenders, polish your SOP, and double-check that all admission materials have been received, the better your chances are.

On that note, double-check EVERYTHING - GRE scores received by university, transcripts received, pre-reqs met, recommenders submitted their stuff, fin-aid deadlines, etc. Then triple-check it. There are horror stories of people on this forum whose stuff got lost, and application thrown out. As much as you care about your application, the people handling it (low-level university functionaries, often recent grads) do not. I highly recommend making a spreadsheet to keep track of all this stuff.

Bust your butt studying for the GRE. There really is no reason not to. It's a highly masterable test - all it measures is your ability to prepare for the questions they ask. Based on an admittedly small sample size of 1, it makes you more competitive for fin-aid. I got significant funding at every school I was admitted to (including several full rides), and I think the GRE was a major part of this.

Get work experience before you apply. Get work experience before you apply. Get work experience before you apply. Ge... okay I'll stop now, but based on what admission representatives have said, and the admission results of people on this forum, WE is a vital part of your package. Don't neglect it. It doesn't have to be 100% relevant (if you were already doing what you wanted to, why would you want to leave the field to go to grad school), but it should improve your skill set in some way. Could be foreign language, could be budgeting + management, whatever.

Spend at least 100 hours on your SOP. Preferably more. Write them, polish them, have others edit them, personalize them to each school. Show your commitment to the field by highlighting relevant experiences, instead of telling them about it.

I personally found it very useful to make every sentence in my SOP belong to one of three baskets.

1) What you have already accomplished and why. My work at Alphacorp directly engaged my interest in international development. Experiences like managing a project to create accessible drinking wells in drought-ridden areas of Mali confirmed my belief that public service, not fame or riches, must be the axis of my career.

2) What you want to do in the future and why. Although my work in the field was invaluable education in the realities of international development, it also left me wanting more. Creating high-level policy would allow me to address more of the issues facing Mali than working in the field. I want to transition from a practitioner to a planner in order to create widespread change.

3) How University X will SPECIFICALLY build upon past experiences (point #1), and prepare you to achieve your future goals (point #2) University X's curriculum closely matches my professional plan. Development-focused classes such as X and Y will give me a more focused and relevant education than a generalist degree. I particularly relish the chance to work with Professor John Doe, whose experience leading the Africa section of USAID is exactly the sort of career I hope to achieve.

No stories about when you were 8 and how thuper thuper passionate you have been about the field since then.

No hokey inspirational quotes ("excellence is a habit, not a virtue...").

No "Webster's Dictionary says 'public service' has this meaning but really I think it's this."

Where you've been, where you want to go, how University X will get you from point A to point B. That's it.

Edited by MYRNIST

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Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): Small liberal arts (top 30)

Previous Degrees and GPAs: Economics and Political Science, 3.78

GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 168Q/168V/4.5AW

Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): 3 years - 1 in DC at a private consulting firm; 2 in India at a development consultancy

Math/Econ Background: Econ major; calc and stats coursework

Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): Fluent Hindi, basic French

Intended Field of Study in Grad School: International Development

Long Term Professional Goals: Ideally to be involved in economic policy design, either as a consultant or with a World Bank type

Schools Applied to & Results: American SIS (accepted full ride), GWU ESIA (accepted $20k/year), HKS MPP (accepted, $0), SAID IDEV (accepted $20K/year), Georgetown MSFS (accepted $20k/year), SIPA (accepted $0)

Decision & Why: SAIS. The IDEV programme looks fantastic and perfect for me. Strong econ focus. DC location.

Advice for Future Applicants: Use friends, advisers, and of course gradcafe for support, advice, and encouragement. But don't let all the info coming your way overwhelm you. Everyone has their thoughts on the best way to do your application, but it's ultimately your own work so be confident in yourself and your decisions.

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Previous Schools Diablo Valley College (Community College) & John F. Kennedy University (4-year)

Previous Degrees and GPAs:, AA, Graphics Design, 3.7 GPA. BA Social Ecology, 3.9 GPA

GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 160/162/5.5

Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): Community College Dean's Secretary, 6 years.

Math/Econ Background:Taking Calculus 1 over the summer, just finishing the intro econ series this semester.

Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): N/A

Intended Field of Study in Grad School: Family Policy

Long Term Professional Goals: Ph.D, then family policy research working for state/federal government.

Schools Applied to & Results: Rejected: Duke, Princeton, Harvard, Northwestern, U. Michigan - Ann Arbor

Waitlisted: U. Chicago, U. Mass - Boston,

Accepted: Brandeis, UNC Charlotte

Ultimate Decision & Why: Brandeis University, one of the best Family Policy programs in the nation.

Advice for Future Applicants: My situation was rather unique. I shot waaaaaaaaaaaaay high in my applications (Ph.D programs), with the rejections I received I started asking if it could be FW to the MPP programs for consideration. Some sad yes, some no. To be fair, UNC Charlotte did accept me to their Ph.D program, but the education I'll get at Brandeis will be far better for me.

Best advice I can give. If you think you're good enough for a Ph.D program, go for it, but put some Master's applications in the mix too, don't need many, just 1-2, and don't hesitate to ask if they can FW your rejected Ph.D app to the Master's program!

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Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): Small liberal arts college, top 50

Previous Degrees and GPAs: 3.80

GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 690/760/5.5

Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): 3.5 years, non-profit advocacy

Math/Econ Background: micro and macro with As, stats with a B

Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): Fluent in one, pretty good in another, basic in another

Intended Field of Study in Grad School: Economic development

Long Term Professional Goals:

Schools Applied to & Results: HKS (Waitlisted), WWS (Full Ride + Stipend), SAIS (30k for 1st year), Fletcher (22k for each year), SIPA (Accepted but no $), Goldman ($15k), Harris ($15k), Duke ($18k + $4k assistantship), Ford (out-of-state tuition waver)

Ultimate Decision & Why: WWS, all about the benjamins.

Advice for Future Applicants:

I had great test scores and grades and I know I wouldn't have gotten into the places I did with the money I did without them--my work experience was solid but not amazing. I also worked like hell on my WWS and SAIS policy memos and I know they were good--I think they're the reason I got into WWS and got the money out of SAIS I did without getting into HKS (which didn't have a policy memo).

Getting into a school is like counting to 10--there are a bunch of different ways to get there but the equation has to add up. If you've got great grades and scores, your work experience can slack a little. If your numbers aren't so great, that can be made up for with very high-level work experience. Having one reduces how well you need to perform in the other.

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Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): College of William & Mary, Sciences Po Lyon (study abroad)

Previous Degrees and GPAs: B.A. in French and Francophone Studies and Music, 3.9 GPA

GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 167V/165Q/6.0W

Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): 1 year at the State Department, internship at a human rights NGO

Math/Econ Background: Math through calculus and linear algebra. No econ.

Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): Fluent in French, two years of Japanese.

Intended Field of Study in Grad School: European Studies/IR.

Long Term Professional Goals: US Government Foreign Policy Advisor

Schools Applied to & Results: Fletcher MALD (accepted), Georgetown MAGES (accepted), Yale European studies (accepted), Harvard Middle Eastern studies (rejected)

Ultimate Decision & Why: Yale E&RS. Best fit overall as far as classes and faculty. Didn't want to do a program like MALD or SFS that is a little less focused but has better connections to State since I already have some USG work experience. Want to focus on academia right now while I can. Also the opportunity to take classes at Yale Law School is one I very much want to take advantage of.

Advice for Future Applicants: Make a compelling argument for why this degree/program now. Show conviction for the field you want to be in. Work experience helps a lot to show that, too.

Edited by jrnels

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Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier):

University of Arizona

Arizona State University

Previous Degrees and GPAs:

Bachelors in Psychology: 3.93

Masters in Secondary Education: 3.83

GMAT Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 710 total, 6.0 writing

Previous Work Experience (Years, Type):

Two years in operations department of amusement park

3 years of teaching through Teach for America and then the Australian Education Fund in China

Math/Econ Background: Honors Statistics, 2 years of applied laboratory research using advanced stats as used with publishable social science studies

Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): 5 Years Spanish, including study abroad in Central America

1 year Mandarin study, basic level, including working for one year in China.

Intended Field of Study in Grad School: Masters in Public Administration

Long Term Professional Goals: International NGO/Government work with focus on sustainable development

Schools Applied to & Results: UC Berkeley - waitlist, UPenn Fels- in with scholarship, Columbia SIPA-in zero money, Johns Hopkins- in with 2/3 scholarship,

Ultimate Decision & Why: Still deciding, only have a couple of weeks! I think it is down to SIPA and Fels.

Advice for Future Applicants: Make sure you have some good work experience and also a coherent narrative of what you have done in the past, what you want to do, how the past informs that, and how said school will move you down that direction. Also, really do your research on schools, programs, your own interests, etc. Originally I set out to go to business school, even focusing on the GMAT rather than GRE. However, by the end of the process I realized that a high-end Mpa was far more suited to my interests, personality, and goals. This wouldn't have happened if I didn't spend endless hours researching things, going to graduate fairs, etc.

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Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): Top 40 liberal arts college

Previous Degrees and GPAs: B.A. French Language & Literature, 3.80

GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 167/163/4.0

Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): Straight out of undergrad; 1 year interning and tutoring during undergrad

Math/Econ Background: Micro and macroecon (B, B+)

Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): French, Mandarin

Intended Field of Study in Grad School: International organizations, conflict resolution, human rights

Long Term Professional Goals: US govt., international NGO

Schools Applied to & Results:

Accepted- American SIS, George Washington Elliott (10k/year), Seton Hall Whitehead, Syrcause Maxwell (21k/year), UCSD IR/PS, University of Denver Korbel (18k/year)

Rejected- Georgetown SFS, Tufts Fletcher

Ultimate Decision & Why: George Washington. Coming right out undergrad, I know it's important to not only get a good education but also to have solid work experience. I feel like going to school in D.C. and GW's generally strong reputation/connections can help me do both of those things, which, for me, justifies the extra cost.

Advice for Future Applicants: While other members on GC will make the (reasonable) case for relevant work experience and spending time abroad before applying to IR programs, it is possible to get into many places as an newly-minted graduate. A strong GPA and high GRE scores will help, as will a succinct, focused statement of purpose. That said, for the "Ivy League" of IR schools (MSFS, SAIS, WWS, etc.) and/or big scholarship money, I would definitely say that a few years of relevant work can only help.

Edited by sengpatt

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Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): Top 20 university

Previous Degrees and GPAs: B.A. International Studies, Italian Studies 3.7

GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 590/730/4.0

Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): 4, teacher and school leader, TFA

Math/Econ Background: Statistics (A) Micro and Macro (B, B-)

Intended Field of Study in Grad School: Social and Urban Policy

Long Term Professional Goals: Found group in New Orleans advocating for policy solutions to youth in the criminal justice system

Schools Applied to & Results:

Accepted- HKS, Michigan (full tuition), Chicago (10k), Duke (22k), Syracuse (26k), NYU (22k), CMU - DC (24k)

Ultimate Decision & Why: HKS. I tried hard to shoot down HKS without funding given the generous funding i reveived from most other programs. In the end, I want to learn from the considerable depth of the K school peer community and take the experience with me for the rest of my life. I also visited Michigan and didn't believe it was a fit.

Advice for Future Applicants: Focus on a compelling narrative. As you can see, my scores are nothing to call home about, but I knew exactly the kind of expertise I could bring to the table. My statement made a pretty direct link between my experiences and the assets I would bring to a policy program. If your statement doesn't come off like you passionately care, why should admissions passionately care? Spend time perfecting this.

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Previous Schools: Top 10 LAC

Previous Degrees and GPAs: BA Political Science & South Asian Studies, 3.38 (3.6 last 2 years)

GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 690/640/4.5

Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): 4 years when entering school this fall, 3.5 when applying. 2 years overseas. .5 years in microfinance internship in Asia, 2 years permanent position at democracy NGO in DC, 1.5 years consulting for democracy groups in Asia

Math/Econ Background: Intro to Econ (pass/failed it- pass), Methods/Statistics of Political Science (B+), Principles of Micro (A), Principles of Macro (A)-- last two were at night school at The Graduate School in DC.

Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): Intermediate Spanish

Intended Field of Study in Grad School: Democracy and governance policy and programming

Long Term Professional Goals: USAID Governance Foreign Service Officer, think tanks on DG work, etc.

Schools Applied to & Results: WWS (Rejected), Tufts Fletcher, American SIS, Johns Hopkins SAIS, Georgetown Government, GWU Elliot (All Accepted)

Ultimate Decision & Why: Johns Hopkins SAIS!! I wanted to go to Georgetown Government since I was an undergrad, so I am still in a bit of shock with my decision to turn down that acceptance. Ultimately I realized I wanted to be more on the policy side of things rather than the theory side of the democracy field. Plus, SAIS's resource, career services, student morale and cohesiveness are one of the absolute best in the country. The Government program was very small, only a few years old, with far fewer resources than SAIS or other Georgetown programs. Whereas larger schools like Fletcher, Elliot, and SAIS sent lots of informaiton, held online chats, provided clear and helpful financial aid info, I felt I had to squeeze it out of Georgetown. This is understandable for a small program, but I realized that's not what I wanted for the next two years. Lastly, even though I would love to study democracy all day long, the broader degree and curriculum at SAIS would be advantageous for future careers should foreign aid continue to be put on the chopping block.

Advice for Future Applicants:

- Work Experience. I would say really focus on the WORK part of that phrase. Volunteering is good, teaching English in a foreign country is good, interning is good, but try to secure a full-time, staff position with increasing responsibility and promotions before you go to grad school. You will be able to speak articulately about your field and you will increase your chances of acceptance. If you are moving to DC after undergrad graduation, the job market is tough- take an unpaid internship (I did without financial support of my parents, worked in a coffee shop for 3 months while interning), or an admin job sort-of related to your field to get a foot in the door. You'll work your way up quickly. Others may disagree, but I really think there is no substitute for working in a full-time permanent position.

- International experience. Get you some! No, study abroad doesn't count, everyone has that :)

- SOPs. A lot of people say to write about your goals + their school = where you want to be, but I took a slightly different approach. I included analysis of the democracy landscape through an illustrative anecdote, what needed improving, and how I needed a degree from THEIR school to positively effect that change. I emphasized why I wanted them, not just a general IR degree, and why they should invest in *me*. I think this underscored my understanding of my sector beyond just 'I want to do this work' and that I really understood what made them and their degree unique

- GREs. Nail them. I didn't put enough time into it and wish I had. They could have helped with scholarship money and definitely put me on the edge because of my fine-but-not-amazing GPA.

Thanks to everyone at Grad Cafe for your sage advice and support over the past few months. I am so grateful! Good luck to future applicants :)

Edited by charlotte_asia

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Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): top Australian Uni - University of Melbourne

Previous Degrees and GPAs: Combine Bachelor of Arts (Languages) and Laws (no GPA, but had a first class honours degree)

GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 170, 161, 4.0

Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): Corporate Lawyer in big commercial firm (1 yr), Policy analyst at State Government Department (2 yrs)

Math/Econ Background: nil

Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): French (fluent), beginners Italian and Spanish.

Intended Field of Study in Grad School: public policy

Long Term Professional Goals: public service

Schools Applied to & Results: MPA at WWS (rejected), MPP at HKS (admitted), MPA at SIPA (admitted), MPA at NYU Wagner(admitted), MPP at GPPI (admitted with $15K/yr scholarship)

Ultimate Decision & Why: HKS, couldn't go past the reputation, particularly b/c it is better known in Australia.

Advice for Future Applicants: Don't stress about a low score on the GRE analytical writing.

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Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): top 25 Liberal Arts

Previous Degrees and GPAs: Double major in International Studies and History. 3.45 GPA

GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 163, 159, 5.5

Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): 2 years AmeriCorps VISTA, another year at a national nonprofit, some contract grant-writing (4 total)

Math/Econ Background: summer stats class. While in college, I took Micro, Macro, and an Econ Development class.

Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): Proficient in Spanish

Intended Field of Study in Grad School: Education policy

Long Term Professional Goals: strategic planning/consulting/management in nonprofit sector, potential PhD

Schools Applied to & Results: MPAff at Texas-LBJ (admitted - full scholarship), MPP at Duke-Sanford (admitted - $15k per year), MPA at NYU Wagner (some $, can't remember how much), MPA at Columbia - SIPA (admitted), MPP at UChicago - Harris (admitted), MPP at Michigan - Ford (wait listed).

Ultimate Decision & Why: TEXAS. It's home, and the program is the best fit for me (I wrote a killer SOP spelling out why we're a match made in heaven, and luckily they thought so too!). Was a little tempted by Duke and Chicago, but geography won out, especially after deciding that these are very comparable programs when looking at average student age/experience and job prospects. SIPA tempted a little more, but I don't really want to be in NYC or spend 140k on something that I'm not sure is worth the ROI, although I sat in on a really nice class there and thought it was a great place.

Advice for Future Applicants: This process went so much better than I thought it would. If you're a fit, inertia will move you toward the right program. Only advice is not to get burnt out on essays (this happened with Michigan and their Jan 15 deadline...).

Edited by texpat

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Previous Schools: University of Michigan (undergraduate); Wayne State University (non-degree graduate coursework).

Previous Degrees and GPAs: B.S. in Brain, Behavior, and Cognitive Science, with minors in Political Science and History (3.35); graduate coursework in public health (4.0).

GRE Scores (V/Q/AW): 710/720/6.0

Previous Work Experience: Part-time in a biomedical lab for two years, full-time (two summers) and part-time (two semesters) in an autism clinic, and have been working full-time in clinical research regulation since graduation (spring 2011).

Math/Econ Background: Calc 1 (A-) and Stats (B+) in undergrad.

Intended Field of Study in Grad School: Health/health care policy (domestic)

Schools Applied to & Results: UMich Ford (Accepted), UMich School of Public Health (Accepted). I only applied to UMich because it’s hard to beat in-state tuition, they offered the dual MPP/MPH and really seem to enable/encourage interdisciplinary study. Also, if I choose to stay in the state for professional pursuits, Michigan actually probably holds more weight as a brand than more “elite” programs.

Ultimate Decision & Why: Well, there wasn’t much to decide, ha. Once I sussed out some financial considerations, I emailed with a few current students pursuing the same dual degree. They advised that I start at Ford, so start at Ford I will!

Advice for Future Applicants: I don’t think we can stress the importance of creating a coherent narrative through your SOP/Personal Statement enough. I’m relatively green out of undergrad, my background is somewhat nontraditional for the field, and my GPA was less than stellar. However, I think I was able to explain how a more science-oriented background would be an asset and illustrate how my academics/work experience had contributed to the evolution of my goals. I think MYRNIST’s post does a really excellent job of detailing how to approach your essays.

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Previous Schools: Small liberal arts university (poor ranking, not in any 'tier')

Previous Degrees and GPAs: MA Biology (3.2)

GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 160/157/4.5

Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): 4 years total; 1 year at a non-profit, NIH grant funded biotech; 3 years teaching English in Japan (1 year high school, 2 years elementary school)

Math/Econ Background: Principles of Microeconomics; Principles of Macroeconomics; Statistics

Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): Japanese

Intended Field of Study in Grad School: International business and government relations, especially between developed and developing nations.

Long Term Professional Goals: US Commercial Service; US Foreign Service; private sector (gotta keep my options open!)

Schools Applied to & Results: See my signature

Ultimate Decision & Why: Georgetown MSFS. It was tough choosing between MSFS and SAIS, especially since many people on this forum favor SAIS. It sometimes seemed liked I was the only person here seriously considering MSFS. To be honest, I don't think I could go wrong with either school. There are a few drawback to SAIS in my opinion. I don't want to do a pre-term. I also don't really want to go to Bologna for the first year. Both these things make the degree more expensive. I like MSFS for obvious reasons; smaller program, good reputation, real college campus, 2 years in DC ( = more internship opportunities; I'm making a big career change and want all kinds of different experiences to test the waters as it is). MSFS's International Commerce and Business concentration curriculum also seemed more practical to me vs. SAIS's economics/theory/regional studies curriculum. In the end, I think an MSFS degree can take me anywhere I want (geographic location, sector, etc.). I feel a degree at SAIS will send me straight to an investment bank or other dull private sector job, which is not my goal.

Advice for Future Applicants: The entire application matters! Many weak aspects of an application can be compensated by stronger aspects. My profile seems pathetic compared others on this forum (which makes me wonder why so many people come here to freak out, despite having 4.0 undergrad GPAs at Amazing University, perfect GREs, fluent in 10 languages and possess stellar work experience). I do not have a great GPA nor did I graduate from a prestigious school. But I think I had good recommendations (the president of my university plus my adviser, dean of graduate studies, and one professional recommendation). I also think my personal statement was good; I was very specific about where my life has taken me thus far, my goals, my readiness to enter graduate school and how graduate school can help me attain my goals. And lastly, I think I have good 'international experience' (biracial, dual citizen, fluent in Japanese, working knowledge of Spanish, Tagalog and Korean, plenty of world travel since infancy, experience living abroad).

I didn't get into all the schools I applied to. But I think my experience offers some hope to those who feel their chances of getting into a great school are low. My grad school application has taught me a lot, specifically that there is no universal rhyme or reason among grad school admission committees. American and UCSD were my safety schools. I didn't get into American. I also thought Tufts, SAIS and SIPA admission would decide my fate with a coin toss. I feel blessed to get into SAIS and lucky to not get flat out rejected at Tufts and SIPA. Georgetown I thought was a long shot, but I got in.

Advice: If you are a similar applicant to me, with a less than average application, try and compensate for weak parts of your application. Unfortunately, I made my undergrad college decision based solely on sports. I wasn't good enough for Division I, so I went to a Division III school because I thought I'd be more competitive. My major and career goals weren't really on the radar at the time. I though I'd become a doctor and it'd be simple. For the first 2 years of undergrad, I was doing well. During my 3rd year, my world crashed down around me and all hope of medical school was wiped out. That's when I really started to examine myself and discover what I really wanted to do with my life. I studied abroad my senior year and started to consider IR grad schools. But because I didn't go to a prestigious school and had a poor GPA, I knew I needed to do something to make myself a more competitive applicant. 5 years later, after working with stem cells, studying at a Japanese language school, working in Japan and plenty of travel, I'm heading to Georgetown.

Good luck to all of you!

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Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): Gotmy BA at the University of Florida

Previous Degrees and GPAs: BA in Political Science, 3.94 GPA

GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 660 verbal, 710 Quant, 4.5 writing

Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): 1 year volunteering in Central/South America in rural education, 1 year teaching 6th grade science with Teach For America on the border of Mexico, 1 year working as a research coordinator for the University of Florida College of Medicine, working in bioethics, global health, and human subject research.

Math/Econ Background: Principles of Micro and Maco, Stats I and II, taught middle school math and science concepts

Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): AP Spanish in high school, a couple semesters in college, 1 year spent in Central /South America, 1 year working in English and Spanish on the Mexican border

Intended Field of Study in Grad School: Economic Development

Long Term Professional Goals: Project Management, Monitoring and Evaluation of development projects

Schools Applied to & Results: SAIS - accepted, SIPA- accepted, Fletcher-accepted $$, American -accepted $, SFS -accepted

Ultimate Decision & Why: JSU SAIS!! Picked for the rigorous quant work, the impressive open house, positive previous experience with the school, and its UNBEATABLE location in Dupont

Advice for Future Applicants: Don't underestimate yourself. Don't be afraid to sell yourself on the application and don't assume that one or two blemishes on your record will sink you. I wasn't even thinking of applying for graduate school this year because I didn't think I had enough on my resume to get in. I went to see a former professor who encouraged me to apply and BOY AM I GLAD I DID because I was accepted to every school and I did not aim low!

I completely re-wrote my SOP to tailor it for every school and I think that might have been one of the main reasons I got in everywhere I applied. I also received a promotion at work after I submitted my application and I made sure to follow up with admissions offices about it.

Good luck!!

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Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): Top 60 LAC

Previous Degrees and GPAs: Economics and Philosophy, minor in Poli Sci (3.9)

GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 99% V, 93% Q, 5.0

Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): 2 summer internships (applied as a senior in college)

Math/Econ Background: Calc I, and a ton of Econ classes including Quant Methods and Econometrics

Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): English + my native language (international student)

Intended Field of Study in Grad School: IR/ID

Long Term Professional Goals: work in ID/teach

Schools Applied to & Results: SAIS (accepted, $8k), AU SIS (accepted, full tuition + $15k stipend), Pitt GSPIA (accepted, no aid), UChicago CIR (accepted, full tuition), GW (accepted, $20k)

Ultimate Decision & Why: CIR - one year program so I save a year (which I needed to for personal reasons); great faculty; great reputation; leaves the option of a PhD wide open; lots of flexibility

Advice for Future Applicants: I thought applying straight out of undergrad would mean either no acceptances or definitely no aid (and this is what most people on this forum said - everyone keeps stressing how work experience is such a decisive factor). I got accepted everywhere and had the option of deciding between two great schools (AU and Chicago) which was a tough decision. Even the stingy programs gave me aid, and I was expecting them to reject me because I was applying straight out of college! If you know what you want to do and have relevant experience (not necessarily full time!)/coursework/passion to back it up, APPLY. Just make sure you are making up for less experience through your GPA/GRE/and LORs.

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Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): Top 60 LAC

Previous Degrees and GPAs: Economics and Philosophy, minor in Poli Sci (3.9)

GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 99% V, 93% Q, 5.0

Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): 2 summer internships (applied as a senior in college)

Math/Econ Background: Calc I, and a ton of Econ classes including Quant Methods and Econometrics

Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): English + my native language (international student)

Intended Field of Study in Grad School: IR/ID

Long Term Professional Goals: work in ID/teach

Schools Applied to & Results: SAIS (accepted, $8k), AU SIS (accepted, full tuition + $15k stipend), Pitt GSPIA (accepted, no aid), UChicago CIR (accepted, full tuition), GW (accepted, $20k)

Ultimate Decision & Why: CIR - one year program so I save a year (which I needed to for personal reasons); great faculty; great reputation; leaves the option of a PhD wide open; lots of flexibility

Advice for Future Applicants: I thought applying straight out of undergrad would mean either no acceptances or definitely no aid (and this is what most people on this forum said - everyone keeps stressing how work experience is such a decisive factor). I got accepted everywhere and had the option of deciding between two great schools (AU and Chicago) which was a tough decision. Even the stingy programs gave me aid, and I was expecting them to reject me because I was applying straight out of college! If you know what you want to do and have relevant experience (not necessarily full time!)/coursework/passion to back it up, APPLY. Just make sure you are making up for less experience through your GPA/GRE/and LORs.

99% of those applying out of undergrad do not have your GPA, GRE or extensive quant background. Therefore they need the work experience, especially if funding is an issue. Congrats on your success and GL in Chicago!

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99% of those applying out of undergrad do not have your GPA, GRE or extensive quant background. Therefore they need the work experience, especially if funding is an issue. Congrats on your success and GL in Chicago!

Thanks! And yes, I completely understand your point, which is why I said: "Just make sure you are making up for less experience through your GPA/GRE/and LORs. "

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Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): University of Oregon

Previous Degrees and GPAs: Economics, Political Science (3.79 overall, 4.0 Major)

GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 162 (90%-tile)/155 (69%-tile/4.5(72%-tile)

Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): 2 years full-time, Analyst for a small economic consulting firm, 4 years part-time (in school) TA/RA for professor at same firm, summer internship at Department of Commerce.

Math/Econ Background: Single- and multivariable calc, elementary linear algebra, elementary real analysis, several stats/econometrics classes, plus all of the usual econ classes.

Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): two terms of German and a year of Arabic

Intended Field of Study in Grad School: Domestic U.S. policy; education policy, economic policy

Long Term Professional Goals: Policy analyst for public sector consulting firm (education research/consulting), work as quasi public-private free agent

Schools Applied to & Results: UC Berkelely GSPP ($0), Wisconsin La Follette (tuition waiver), Chicago Harris ($20K), Duke Sanford ($25k + TA), UCLA ($15k), Umich Ford ($10k), CMU Heinz ($24k)

Ultimate Decision & Why: UC Berkeley GSPP. My criteria for selecting a school were 1) overall quality, 2) cost, 3)quantitative rigorousness, 4) geographic location.

1) Berkeley won the category of overall quality, based on my conversations and impressions with faculty and current students. The small size (about 70/80 per cohort) combined with the intimate setting (former fraternity house + addition) contribute to a very approachable faculty. The overall flavor of the place is about the highest quality thinking, analysis, and engagement, rather than about who you know and what kind of job you can land in DC.

2) Although I didn't get any aid, GSPP actually turned out to be the best deal for me, even coming from out of state. The school doesn't do a very good job advertising this, but everyone gets in-state tuition for the second year. Unlike UMich. This, combined with the plentiful GSI (teaching, grading, and research) positions means that at a minimum, the second year is basically free (work more than 10 hours/week = a large chunk of tuition is remissed).

3)I was extremely concerned about not selling myself short on the quant front, which made Chicago, Duke, and CMU very appealing, in that order. Each school allows/encourages taking more difficult quant classes from within the school, or in Duke's case, the econ MA program. Although Berkeley has a quant reputation, it only offers one track for quant/econ. After my visit, I was convinced that the quality of the standard quant classes is quite good, and opportunities exist for advanced study from Econ/Ag Econ (although this scenario would require taking the standard PhD track courses, including a summer math camp type course). I'm not convinced that I'll pursue this in the second year, but it's an option. Finally, because everyone takes the same calculus-based econ core, everyone's on the same page in all of the electives.

4) Lastly, my wife and I plan to settle on the west coast, so GSPP wins the regional strength card, and diminishes my willingness to pay a premium for access to east coast opportunities. And on that front, GSPP has made an effort in the past 4-5 years to build the network in DC. Once a year, everyone takes half a week off from classes, and gets a free ticket to travel to DC to network and interview. GSPP has a decent PMF finalist record as well. And, having been around since the 1969, there is a large alumni network across the country.

Advice for Future Applicants:

In contrast to the often-written advice about how a good SOP can make up for low grades and scores, I felt like my SOP was the weakest part of my applications. Particularly regarding my work/volunteer experience. GSPP's SOP was by far my worst (it was done first), and Umich Ford (last) was my best. So go figure. The hypothesis I have from my experience is that grades and scores are weighted more slightly heavily on admission side of things (i.e. they know you're smart and can do the work), while the qualitative SOP/work experience/passion are weighted on the fellowship award side of things (how badly do you want to come here?). After all, it's pretty easy for a place like Chicago or Michigan to admit you with zero or little funding. It's a smaller risk. They reserve the big bucks for the student that is qualified academically, but will also do the kind of work they most hope their alumni will do. This hypothesis is actually the reverse of what I originally thought.

I didn't start freaking out until I got my first notification (Wisconsin). Then it was check Gmail and refresh this forum every five minutes for two months.

Tip: Want to know who's probably on the admissions committee? Look to those faculty that are involved with the flyout/visit days. There was overlap at both Duke and GSPP in this area.

Offer: To prospective students, feel free to message me with questions about the process, and particularly if you have questions about GSPP. From math camp to core classes, facilities, you name it. I spent a good five years browsing these forums, and never dreamed that I'd get accepted at Berkeley without going into the Peace Corps, or launching an after school mentoring program or something. I'm happy to help the next batch of applicants. :)

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