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SIPA's Reputation

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Hi everyone,

 

I've been reading a lot of forum posts from people who applied to top IR schools such as SAIS, Fletcher, Georgetown, etc but did not apply to SIPA. I have also recently heard from a couple of people that the SIPA program is just not as strong as the ones in these schools. I was surprised by this information and I'd like to get opinions from more people to find out why I have been getting mixed reviews about SIPA. Thanks!

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SIPA gets an undeserved reputation on these forums mainly because it funds only around 14% of first year students, and most people posting here are obviously going to be entering into their first year. That said, around 70% of students get partially funded at SIPA their second year with the average awards lying somewhere in the realm of $15-21k. The average debt a SIPA student can expect is around $63,000. From my own research, all that makes SIPA pretty average for financial aid for the top programs, and it makes it far-and-away better than somewhere like HKS. The "cash cow" reputation is therefore undeserved in comparison to other public policy programs. SIPA is also one of the most selective programs, so why it's considered uniquely "cash cow" puzzles me. The selectivity (by admission rate) goes this way: WWS->HKS->MSFS->SIPA->Fletcher->SAIS.

 

In terms of quality? People are crazy if they think SIPA isn't as strong (or stronger) than any of those schools. The number of top faculty and research centers is superb, the forums and access to world leaders seems unmatched, and certain aspects of the core curriculum (like the second-year workshop) make it entirely distinct from other programs. It's also New York City--enough said.

SIPA has great job placement--and particularly good private sector placement--by public policy school standards. Its median salaries for grads are comparable to or exceed the other top programs with the exceptions of HKS and (I'm sure) WWS. That said, the reputation is that SIPA's career services are awful. Columbia in general seems to suffer from the reputation that it won't hold your hand, won't help you find a job, etc. Even so, the placement of SIPA students in top agencies/firms/NGOs, and the number getting top fellowships, matches or exceeds the performance of other top programs.

Anyway, this has all been discussed a million times before, but don't trust the impression you get from this forum. TheGradCafe is an often biased microcosm that can distort reality. It's largely (like I mentioned) a result of low first-year student funding. I'm sure current SIPA students can answer better than I can, but I think SIPA gets an unfair shake here. No one should doubt it's quality as an international affairs program. Just look at its alumni if you doubt it.

 

If anything, I think SAIS gets an exaggerated boost on these forums. I've spent a fair amount of time working in DC and never felt SAIS exceeded the reputation of any school and even suffered in comparison to the reputation of MSFS/Gtown. So, again, these forums are unique and don't necessarily reflect reality. There are also people who are planning to choose SIPA over SAIS/Fletcher/GTown on the forums currently. Check out the SIPA thread.

Edited by soapwater

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Again people on this forum represent 1% of the grad school applicants. Also all information is anecdotal.

 

Best way to do find out is doing the research yourself, or getting in touch with somebody actually attending the program and figuring out if it's a right fit for you. 

 

Also, they have a google groups page now where you can ask all sorts of questions. 

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Again people on this forum represent 1% of the grad school applicants. Also all information is anecdotal.

 

Best way to do find out is doing the research yourself, or getting in touch with somebody actually attending the program and figuring out if it's a right fit for you. 

 

Also, they have a google groups page now where you can ask all sorts of questions. 

 

I never received an invite to the Google group, and I sent an e-mail where the New Admits website tells you to but haven't heard back.

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SIPA gets an undeserved reputation on these forums mainly because it funds only around 14% of first year students, and most people posting here are obviously going to be entering into their first year. That said, around 70% of students get partially funded at SIPA their second year with the average awards lying somewhere in the realm of $15-21k.

 

Its median salaries for grads are comparable to or exceed the other top programs with the exceptions of HKS and (I'm sure) WWS.

 

I agree with most of your points. SIPA definitely gets an undeserved bum rap on GradCafe. I do want to clarify two things, however. When considering the median salaries, you should note that neither HKS nor SIPA separate dual-degree students from their employment data, while SAIS explicitly does. So some of those people making $80k in banking might be joint MBA students, not to mention that NYC salaries tend to be higher to match the cost of living.

 

Also, it is a pretty big gamble to construct your financial plan for grad school based on the potential for second-year funding. What if it doesn't work out?

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SIPA is an anomaly on this board, because for the most part, if a school gives you no money and will put you in 80k debt, most GradCafe'rs love it and think it's the best school in the world.

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I agree with most of your points. SIPA definitely gets an undeserved bum rap on GradCafe. I do want to clarify two things, however. When considering the median salaries, you should note that neither HKS nor SIPA separate dual-degree students from their employment data, while SAIS explicitly does. So some of those people making $80k in banking might be joint MBA students, not to mention that NYC salaries tend to be higher to match the cost of living.

 

Also, it is a pretty big gamble to construct your financial plan for grad school based on the potential for second-year funding. What if it doesn't work out?

 

$70-80k is the base salary for an entry-level analyst in NYC, which actually makes sense looking at the titles/positions SIPA lists under banking/finance. And since it's median salary, isn't it unlikely to be distorted by dual-degree students? There's no way a dual-degree Columbia MBA student is going to have an 80k base salary in the city unless he made some wrong choices. Executive assistants at banks can make that much. 

 

Anyway, I could be wrong, but I don't think those stats are distorted too much. Then again, I can't explain the 122k median salary for a private sector MPP grad. at HKS--maybe more dual-degree students?--but my suspicion is that an MPP on its own from HKS is a little more valuable than people think. Otherwise, you'd expect the MPA2 to be equally distorted by dual-degree students when, counterintuitively, it carries a lower median salary for private sector.

 

I agree it's more of a gamble and probably prevents SIPA from stealing more top students. 

Edited by soapwater

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According to Petersons, SIPA's MPA program has an acceptance rate of 50%.  I'm not saying anything for or against the quality of SIPA's program, but it's never been my impression that SIPA is among the more selective MPP/MPA programs.

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According to Petersons, SIPA's MPA program has an acceptance rate of 50%.  I'm not saying anything for or against the quality of SIPA's program, but it's never been my impression that SIPA is among the more selective MPP/MPA programs.

 

The MIA is 39% according to Peterson's... and besides, Harvard's MPA2 on Peterson's is 61% and SIPA's MPA probably attracts similar applicants. But in any case, OP asked about international affairs programs, not public policy. SIPA is known (really) as an int'l affairs school and there's probably not much to distinguish its MPA. Peterson's acceptance rate data on SAIS has (mysteriously) been pulled since yesterday when I was researching it, but it was at 43%. Historically both the MIA and MIPP have fluctuated around the 30s to low 40s. 

 

Peterson's data for all these schools seems a little out of date. It's weird, because there's also data indicating the 2004 MIA acceptance rate was 31%... it'd be interesting to know just how much these programs fluctuate. Data everywhere is pretty unreliable.

Edited by soapwater

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