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International Affairs School/Program Guidance Request

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Would someone be so kind as to take a guess at what are the best international affairs schools I could gain acceptance to with an undergraduate GPA of 3.2 (BA in International Studies), 15 months of study abroad experience in two emerging markets, Peace Corps service, and fluency in a foreign language?

As of now, I'm looking at The New School's MA in International Affairs program and The Monterey Institute of International Studies' MA in International Policy Studies. As a last choice (mainly because of location): The University of Denver's MA in International Security.

Do I have a shot at any of these programs (or others)?

It might also be worth mentioning that I didn't do so hot in an introductory economics class in college; I'm not sure if that would bar me from admission to some places.

Thank You

Edited by mranderson
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Hi MRAnderson,

You definitely sound like a good candidate for the Monterey Institute! They take a portfolio approach to their applications and value good work and international experience, such as Peace Corps. I recommend getting in touch with the Enrollment Manager (dejohnson@miis.edu), Danielle, for more information about what they like to see in an application! She graduated from MIIS last year and is now helping prospective students going through the application process.

When I applied one year ago, her team was really helpful and honest throughout the process.

Hope that helps,


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From the way that thread's been going, I don't know if you want to deal with the hair-pulling anxiety they seem to give their applicants :)

I will say that I have a similar undergrad GPA and resume to yours and I got into UCSD IR/PS, albeit without funding, and wait-listed at JHU-SAIS--so aim high! You might want to look into schools that offer credit/scholarships for Peace Corps service; a lot of top schools really value that service year, and if they have dedicated funding for alums then you might have a better chance of having your GPA offset by your experience.

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If you're looking in the DC area, have you checked out the University of Maryland- College Park? It's in a DC suburb on the Metro green line. The tuition is more affordable than a lot of other schools, and the financial aid seems pretty decent. It's an MPP program, but there are two international affairs-related specializations (International Security and Economic Policy and International Development). I was impressed when I visited--friendly faculty and staff, great DC-area alumni network (esp. in the public sector) and career services office.

I also think that you'd probably be competitive at GW-Elliott or AU. Having gone through the admissions process, I think that the essay is probably more important than the GRE score or GPA. They want you to show them how your past experiences have led you to pursue a degree in international affairs, and why you are specifically interested in their school, as opposed to other programs. If you can do that well, I think you're golden.

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GW-Elliott is definitely one to consider--it's professional development-focused with all evening classes (except for language) to better recruit people currently working during the day in jobs or internships. Most of their professors are current practitioners, which is the other reason that they hold classes in the evenings--the instructors come in after work to teach classes. Its sticker price is also a lot lower than the other DC private schools and it's literally 2 blocks away from the State Department and World Bank. I've also attended some of their guest lectures/open forums and they're fairly impressive--at one point I attended a lecture/Q&A with Hilary Clinton's right-hand policy guy that was fairly frank and classified as "background only, unattributed" for the attending reporters.

AU I didn't do a lot of research in--my initial impression was that they didn't have a strong Asia focus so I didn't apply there, though I could be completely wrong about that-- but based on all the "xx-wonk" ads they have plastered over the Metro they have a pretty strong policy focus in their graduate programs.

I think that UMCP's MPP program is fairly decent, but I don't know how rigorous the international track is.

If you want to get a rigorous quant-based program and don't care about the collegiate campus environment, you should also look at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. They're right on the edge of Embassy Row off of Dupont Circle and across the street from Brookings. They do like if you have a quant background, but I got the impression they get a lot of lopsided applications--either people with a strong policy background (excellent SOP and Verbal/AW GRE) or strong quant background (perfect Quant GRE and Econ minor/major)--so they sort of compare within those two pools.

Also, Georgetown SFS has a very rigorous standard of admissions but with Peace Corps under your belt, I think you'd have an advantage over others who don't have significant international experience or foreign language expertise.

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