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Government Affairs 2014 Wrap Up - Final Decisions


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Previous Schools: University of Washington (the state one), Seattle University, Chinese University of Hong Kong
Previous Degrees and GPAs: International Studies, History, Chinese 3.56; Post-Bac Certificate Teaching English as a Second Language 4.0
GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 164V, 157Q, 4 AW
Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): One year teaching English in South Korea, 1.5 years Peace Corps Volunteer in China, summer internships in state government and in Beijing consulting firm, volunteer work with foreign students and immigrants, 1.5 years restaurant management
Math/Econ Background: Intro to micro and macroeconomics, business & econ calculus
Foreign Language Background: Mandarin Chinese (advanced-low), Korean (novice), German (novice)
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: MA in international studies with concentration on China/East Asia region
Long Term Professional Goals: Foreign Service or Civil Service at the US State Department
Schools Applied to & Results: American University SIS - accepted($), George Washington Elliott School - accepted ($$), Johns Hopkins SAIS 5-semester Nanjing-DC program - accepted ($$), Tufts Fletcher School - accepted ($$), Georgetown MSFS - waitlisted 
Ultimate Decision & Why: My top schools to get in were Johns Hopkins or Georgetown simply because of their reputations. Since I got waitlisted by Georgetown, it made decision making a lot easier. Decided on Johns Hopkins ultimately because of my interest in China and East Asia. SAIS has a program at Nanjing University where there are classes that are taught in Chinese by Chinese professors. I want to take my Chinese language skills to the next level and Johns Hopkins offers that. What better way to get a better understanding of China than to study in China? Also the program is eligible for the Boren Fellowship. There are also professors at SAIS that do research on topics I am interested in, especially China's current presence in Africa. Johns Hopkins also did a nice job selling me on the Nanjing program as well, they have an informative blog and hold online chats about the program. Also their admissions staff is very responsive. The second year and a half of the program will be in DC, which fits nicely with my aspirations in working for the State Department. The DC location will make working at internships while studying much easier. SAIS also offers pre-term courses to get you back into the academic world. SAIS also has a heavy emphasis on economics and quantitative skills which I think are great assets. Also in terms of job prospects, when I was taking the oral assessments at State a couple years ago, I met quite  a number of SAISers, that must mean something...
Advice for Future Applicants: -Know why you want to go to grad school. If you are having trouble finishing writing a statement of purpose, you might want to reconsider grad school.

-One regret of mine is not retaking the GRE, a higher GRE score can be the difference of thousands of dollars in fellowship money.

-Meet and talk with your professors from undergrad about your plans for graduate school. This will help with letters of recommendation and statement of purpose.

-Work experience helps. I'm not going to lie, I think my Peace Corps service helped me A LOT in getting into these great schools.

-Double check on the spelling of some of the schools, some of them have unusual spellings.

Edited by bjorntsui
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Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): Yale Previous Degrees and GPAs: B.A., Political Science, 3.7 GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 165(V), 161(Q), 5(AW) Previous Work Experie

Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): Large public state university known for STEM and awesome tailgating.  Previous Degrees and GPAs: BA International Relations with minors in Spanish and Arabic,

I hope this is helpful to future applicants:   Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): Top Public School Previous Degrees and GPAs: B.Sc. Math, Economics, >3.6  GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/A

I imagine ad comms would catch wise to this the second they see 3 score submissions with "NS" for the other two sections. 

 

I would definitely not recommend taking the test three times, each time only taking one section. I can't imagine that does you any favors but as someone else said, since they pull your best scores from each section, retaking your lowest section once doesn't seem to hurt. Who knows - maybe they see it as dedication?

 

If you're worried about doing it, ask the ad comms of the schools you plan on applying to if they're bothered by a submission of a NS on certain sections of the test for different dates.

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Does every school only take your best score from each section, or is it only some schools? I haven't been able to find this information on the school websites I've looked at so far.

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Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): Military Language School; Distance Programs;
Previous Degrees and GPAs: Spanish, Intelligence Studies- 3.85
GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 165, 160, 4.5
Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): 8 years, military and defense-related work after
Math/Econ Background: Micro/Macro, took them during the fall before applications were due. 
Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): Spanish
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: Strategic Studies
Long Term Professional Goals: I have them; they are private.
Schools Applied to & Results: Johns Hopkins SAIS (Accepted +$20k/yr), George Washington Elliott (Accepted + $30k/yr), Georgetown SSP (Rejected)
Ultimate Decision & Why: Starting the process, I had two goals: 1) I didn't want to pay to go to school and 2) I wanted to find a university that accepted a well rounded approach to strategic understanding.  The first goal was aided by GI Bill, essentially making both SAIS and Elliott free to attend.  The second goal was aided by my SOP- which clearly defined my thesis and outlook for study in grad school.  This was manifest in my rejection from Georgetown (in my estimation).  Ultimately, I've decided on SAIS- 1yr Bologna/1yr DC.  The economics focus at SAIS was really the deciding factor. Bologna also offers a break from the grind of both living in destitute countries and the fast-paced DC life.  
Advice for Future Applicants: To all veteran applicants, I hope my application season can encourage those that have shit undergrads.  I got my degrees while in the military, so you do what you can. You hear guys tell stories all the time about how they were accepted to this school or that and decided to join the military instead.  It doesn't have a 'this or that' decision.  The GRE was key.  I studied ~ 3 months for it and did well enough on the first try to make me competitive. Choose the right people for your LORs, not just those in high authority positions.  I happened to get lucky and found a person of great influence that was very familiar with my operational contributions.  As far as the SOPs, no one wants to hear a dramatic story about a firefight in Helmand.  Use your experiences but make sure you're connecting them to your overall goals during grad-school- not just boasting about how cool you were. Don't be afraid to go bold, make strong statements, and let your worldviews show through your essays. I probably wrote 20 versions of my SOP, many starting from scratch. Write until its the best thing you've ever written.  If you get sick of reading it, its probably not good enough. Lastly, know why you want to go to grad school before you apply.  In all honesty, I started my search for schools due to being burned out from working in high-risk areas. I needed a break.  In addition, grad school offered the opportunity to erase the 'education gap' from my resume and focus on studying the regions in which I intend to work.  Finally, grad school was a prerequisite for a lateral career progression.  I started with all these things in mind and that helped me focus where to apply and how to shape my brand.  

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Previous Schools Tier 1 school 
Previous Degrees BA and MA in linguistics, languages and area studies GPAs: 3.5/3.4
GRE Scores so so....not a standardized test person
Previous Work Experience: summer government admin jobs (8 months total), 3 years teaching English at universities abroad, 1 year of being a teaching assistant, 10 months of being a research assistant
Math/Econ Background:  basic statistics, basic math course both in undergrad and received As. No econ
Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): Italian, French
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: MPA with non-profit/public admin focus/global studies
Long Term Professional Goals:work for an NGO, but I am open to consulting and also FSO
Schools Applied to & Results: Applied and accepted to UGA (MPA with $0), GA state (MPA) with $0, Syracuse-Maxwell (MPA) with $5k, Indiana-SPEA (MAAA) with $1700/semester, Pitt-GSPIA (MPA) with $26k

I applied to the joint MPA/MAAA at SPEA, but was told my quantitative background was not enough for the MPA portion of the dual degree.  They told me that I would have to take a math bootcamp and then ask to be reconsidered for the MPA after my first semester.
Ultimate Decision & Why: GSPIA because they offered me the best financial package.  Their program is also quite flexible so I can tailor it to fit my interests.
Advice for Future Applicants:  I did myself a disservice by waiting too long to apply to more schools.  Be aware of deadlines and apply to as many schools as you can.  If money is an issue, don't limit yourself to a handful of schools like I did.  I am happy with my decision, but I wish I had more options.  

 

Also, if you are horrible at taking standardized tests like I am, study study study.  Invest in a course if you must.  I took the exam 2 times and studied on my own, but my scores were just not that great which didn't help in the funding department.  

 

I think my saving grace was my SOP.  I worked on it and reworked it for a long time before submitting it  I had  a critical eye give me feedback on it as well and my statements were very strong.  

 

Lastly, aim high.  Don't decide on behalf of admissions that you won't be accepted.....just put in the work on your application and give it a try.  Good luck!

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Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): Top tier in my home country, but pretty much unknown internationally.
Previous Degrees and GPAs: Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Arts, Graduate Certificate in Public Policy. We don't have GPAs, but my BSc was equivalent to first class honors and the BA and GCPP to upper second class honors.
GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 170/158/5.5
Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): 9 years full-time as a policy analyst/adviser in a mix of government agency, political and think-tank roles in my home country, including at some nationally significant organizations. 
Math/Econ Background: A bit of undergraduate statistics as part of a research year in my BSc; some non-quant 'economics for public policy' courses at graduate level.
Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): None
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: Domestic policy
Long Term Professional Goals: Roles in government, think tank and advocacy organizations in my home country.
Schools Applied to & Results:  Admitted: Princeton WWS MPP; HKS MC/MPA; Columbia SIPA MPA; NYU Wagner MPA; and Georgetown McCourt MPM. I also applied to the LSE MPA, but withdrew my application before they made their decision.  

Funding: WWS offered me full tuition plus a stipend; SIPA offered around $30K over two years; nothing from the others.

Ultimate Decision & Why: Princeton WWS MPP. I ideally wanted a one-year mid-career program, so WWS and HKS were always my top two choices. The funding offer from WWS made this an easy decision. I can see pros and cons to each program (e.g. careers services vs breadth of course choice), but nothing at HKS made it worth an extra $80K+ in out-of-pocket costs, especially since I don't expect either degree to significantly change my earning potential post-graduation.

Advice for Future Applicants:

1. If you're looking at mid-career policy programs, don't freak out too much over the quant requirements - as you can see above, I didn't have any serious quant training before applying. I used what I had (some undergrad stats, an OK-but-not-great GRE score, and some quant work experience) to show that I wasn't scared of math, and explained in my essays that one of the reasons I wanted to do a grad degree was to build my quant skills.

2. Reputation isn't everything, but if you're not from the US and want to return home eventually after graduating, then do think about how the 'name' will work back home.  I didn't apply for a couple of schools that I know have good programs because no-one here has ever heard of them, and would have no idea that they're top-tier schools in the US rather than just Random U.

3. It took me a while to work out that lots of the advice on this board is very focussed on diplomacy, development or international affairs.  Views on program quality, reputation etc won't necessarily carry over to domestic policy, so if that's what you're interested in, take comments here with a grain of salt and do your own research.

Edited by samiam
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Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): Top-tier school in my country
Previous Degrees and GPAs: Political Science, 3.91 GPA.
GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 165/160/4.5
Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): By now I have almost 4 years working in my country's government. 2.5 years in the Education sector and a bit over a year in Tourism.
Math/Econ Background: My undergrad degree was heavily focused on math/econ, so I took 3 math courses (up to multivariate calculus and matriceal algebra), two statistics, five economics courses, plus two courses focused on statistical research methods for poli sci. And an elective on behavioral econ.
Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): Spanish is my native language.
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: Conflict resolution, program/policy evaluation and management, development
Long Term Professional Goals: I want to work in a government or non-profit organization that works for peace. My ideal job would involve being a policy maker/influencer in peacebuilding efforts within my own country.
Schools Applied to & Results: Columbia SIPA (accepted with a small assistantship for the second year), Fletcher MALD (accepted with a significant scholarship), Georgetown MA in Conflict Resolution (accepted with a small tuition scholarship), and George Mason MS in Conflict Analysis and Resolution (accepted, but no funding).
Ultimate Decision & Why: I haven't made a decision yet. I declined Columbia and George Mason's offers, since Fletcher and Georgetown are my top choices. Still struggling to make a decision, though. Georgetown could mean considerably more debt.
Advice for Future Applicants:

1) Don't stress over the GRE. Study hard, do as many practice exams as you can, but try and be relaxed during the exam. Also, try and do it as early in the year as possible. This way, you can learn your score with enough time to re-take it, if you feel you can do better.

 

2) Get in touch with faculty/students from the program. I am only doing this now, in the month that I must make a decision and I wish I had more time to talk to them.

 

3) Learn as much as you can about the program before applying.

 

4) Be clear and concise in your SOPs. Be aware of your own strengths and have as many people as you can review them before submitting them.

 

5) Send your applications with time. I sent most of mine within HOURS from the application deadline. Looking back, it was a really stupid thing to do. If the power had gone out, I would have been in serious trouble.

 

6) Be prepared to spend some money. Especially if you are not from the US. First, you have to pay to get the TOEFL/IELTS/Whatever. Also, some universities ask for foreign transcripts to be certified by some agency, which will of course charge you money for its services (and it's not a cheap one). If you start early, you can distribute the money spent along the year. 

 

7) Choose your reccommenders carefully. In my experience, it is good to have a good relationship with them, both personally and professionally/academically.

 

8) Don't panic. Looking back, I spent most of my application process and ALL of the waiting time feeling terribly anxious. Worst case scenario is tog et rejected by all your options, but you can always work to improve your profile and reapply the next year(s).

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Previous Schools: Mid tier Wisconsin State School
Previous Degrees: BA in International Studies with emphasis in Security, Geography and Africa / Minor Political Science
GRE Scores: Verbal: 156 Quantitative: 148 ANA: 5.5
Previous Work Experience: Research internship in Germany and Internship at UN based NGO (Both Seasonal) 6 months research assistant for DePaul Professor, two summers of teaching assistant for Johns Hopkins CTY

Math/Econ Background: Very poor, just took basic Algebra in undergrad, I know what econ I do from research and Model UN
Foreign Language Background: High intermediate German and basic Spanish
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: Security Studies
Long Term Professional Goals: Work in international affairs for a public institution addressing emerging and regional security issues (State Department or IGO, looking into Think Tanks as well)
Schools Applied to & Results: Denver Korbel (Accepted) Pittsburgh GSPIA (Accepted) GWU (Rejected) American SIS (Rejected)
Ultimate Decision & Why: Pittsburgh GSPIA - First of all the location is much more ideal than Denver AND the program costs 20-30K less a year even if I am out of state. Most of all though, GSPIA has a solid security studies program and I can also fluidly work towards a regional and language emphasis which can add more flexibility to my career goals. Additionally, GSPIA has many centers where you can apply for fellowships while Denver mainly offers base pay research positions, which would put a scratch into the loans I would have to take out.
Advice for Future Applicants: Target the schools you know for sure you WANT to go to. Schools, such as Denver, looked good on paper to me but when faced with a decision the cost is too cumbersome without a scholarship. Make sure the ones you apply to match your needs based on program, funding and location. If you don't otherwise, you might as well throw another $65 into a hole.

Edited by wolfie53
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Can't believe this has fallen to the second page already--bumping it even though I haven't accepted anywhere (yet). Deciding between Texas's LBJ, Georgetown's MSPP, and Michigan's FSPP currently, although I'm 90% decided on Georgetown. 

 

Previous Schools: Southern flagship state university. You've likely seen our football team get humiliated on national television a few times in the past decade.
Previous Degrees and GPAs: AB, History, ~3.25 overall and ~3.5 in major. I put in minimal effort in many classes, although I did take a lot of higher-level electives where I got B- and all, so I could at least demonstrate intellectual curiosity. If you're still an undergrad and reading this, don't be like me and be 2 cool 4 school--get A's!
GRE Scores: 169 verbal/163 math/5.5 writing
Previous Work Experience: 2+ years in Peace Corps Ukraine, 1 year at nonprofit health clinic in DC with a lot of work on Affordable Care Act and HIV policy
Math/Econ Background: Negligible. Took macro as an undergrad, AP Stats in high school, and a housing economics class as an undergrad. No micro, although when I decided I was applying to Georgetown in late December/early January, I signed up for a microeconomics course at Grad School USA. I didn't bother telling other schools I had applied to of this (namely, Princeton WWS), so I wonder if it might have improved my chances. A fellow can dream, at least...
Foreign Language Background: Borderline fluent...ok that may be a stretch, highly proficient in Russian (Peace Corps) and Spanish (high school and undergrad), use both at my current job. A smattering of French and Ukrainian as well. 
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: MPP or MPA (depending on school). Would like to focus on health policy, with some international classes thrown in
Long Term Professional Goals: senior adviser to public official (or be the official), foreign service officer (took the FSOT in 2013, passed 1st round but not 2nd, also applied to Pickering, rejected), or lobbyist if I decide I like money more than I think I do now
Schools Applied to & Results: See signature. On the funding, I'm pretty sure American didn't offer any fellowships, but I was only halfheartedly interested in AU anyway. Michigan is a special case, as they offered initially full tuition for my second year because they thought I was an undergraduate Pickering Fellow (where 1st year of graduate study would be covered). When I told them that it didn't make any sense, they said they would revise the offer. As an RPCV, I'm at a minimum eligible for $10k, but they haven't revised their offer yet to tell me if I get that minimum or something more. Georgetown offered $15k at first, but then doubled their offer after a bit of negotiating. UT wasn't as amenable to negotiating, and I didn't really bother with AU. I may try with GWU this week, but as they didn't offer anything to start, I'm not holding my breath.
Ultimate Decision & Why: I still haven't committed, but I'm leaning strongly toward Georgetown. The funding is nice, and with a bit of family support (I had a full tuition scholarship for undergrad, so what my parents saved for me for college is still mostly intact) coupled with the fact that I can stay on part-time at my employer makes it hard to say no to. I went to the open house last week and came away fairly impressed. The whole McCourt rebranding leaves the impression that the school has a lot more resources now, and that it will only be improved in the future, and I really enjoyed meeting some of the professors, the dean, and the current/prospective students. Plus, I'm already here in DC, where the policy jobs are plentiful, and I'd like to stay here for at least a few more years. I'm still going to ask LBJ to reconsider the funding situation (or lack thereof), and wait for Michigan to revise their offer (if they ever do...), but my future is looking more and more Hoya blue. 
Advice for Future Applicants: Like others have said, don't stress too much about things beyond your control and focus on what you can affect. My undergraduate GPA was lackluster, so I put a lot of effort into the GRE and got good professional experience post-college. Oftentimes schools have some flexibility with funding offers, so try negotiating with your top 2 choices if you don't like that. And also, don't neglect the opportunity to look into external scholarships! I applied to Pickering and didn't make it, but that and the Rangel or Payne fellowships are great opportunities to both get funded and secure a job if you're into the Foreign Service/USAID. There are myriad small foundations that can give some small amount of aid depending on what you want to study and who you are, so explore all those as well as in-school funding. I am also a big proponent of getting at least 3 years of experience instead of applying right out of undergrad. I know the job market can be scary, especially if you have a BA in Underwater Basket Weaving, but it's possible to find a decent job if you're willing to move around. I know that there's no way I would be anywhere near a decent graduate student if I had gone straight away after my bachelor's--not to mention that my candidacy (and work ethic, but that's personal) has only improved since college. 

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Can't believe this has fallen to the second page already--bumping it even though I haven't accepted anywhere (yet). Deciding between Texas's LBJ, Georgetown's MSPP, and Michigan's FSPP currently, although I'm 90% decided on Georgetown. 

 

Previous Schools: Southern flagship state university. You've likely seen our football team get humiliated on national television a few times in the past decade.

Previous Degrees and GPAs: AB, History, ~3.25 overall and ~3.5 in major. I put in minimal effort in many classes, although I did take a lot of higher-level electives where I got B- and all, so I could at least demonstrate intellectual curiosity. If you're still an undergrad and reading this, don't be like me and be 2 cool 4 school--get A's!

GRE Scores: 169 verbal/163 math/5.5 writing

Previous Work Experience: 2+ years in Peace Corps Ukraine, 1 year at nonprofit health clinic in DC with a lot of work on Affordable Care Act and HIV policy

Math/Econ Background: Negligible. Took macro as an undergrad, AP Stats in high school, and a housing economics class as an undergrad. No micro, although when I decided I was applying to Georgetown in late December/early January, I signed up for a microeconomics course at Grad School USA. I didn't bother telling other schools I had applied to of this (namely, Princeton WWS), so I wonder if it might have improved my chances. A fellow can dream, at least...

Foreign Language Background: Borderline fluent...ok that may be a stretch, highly proficient in Russian (Peace Corps) and Spanish (high school and undergrad), use both at my current job. A smattering of French and Ukrainian as well. 

Intended Field of Study in Grad School: MPP or MPA (depending on school). Would like to focus on health policy, with some international classes thrown in

Long Term Professional Goals: senior adviser to public official (or be the official), foreign service officer (took the FSOT in 2013, passed 1st round but not 2nd, also applied to Pickering, rejected), or lobbyist if I decide I like money more than I think I do now

Schools Applied to & Results: See signature. On the funding, I'm pretty sure American didn't offer any fellowships, but I was only halfheartedly interested in AU anyway. Michigan is a special case, as they offered initially full tuition for my second year because they thought I was an undergraduate Pickering Fellow (where 1st year of graduate study would be covered). When I told them that it didn't make any sense, they said they would revise the offer. As an RPCV, I'm at a minimum eligible for $10k, but they haven't revised their offer yet to tell me if I get that minimum or something more. Georgetown offered $15k at first, but then doubled their offer after a bit of negotiating. UT wasn't as amenable to negotiating, and I didn't really bother with AU. I may try with GWU this week, but as they didn't offer anything to start, I'm not holding my breath.

Ultimate Decision & Why: I still haven't committed, but I'm leaning strongly toward Georgetown. The funding is nice, and with a bit of family support (I had a full tuition scholarship for undergrad, so what my parents saved for me for college is still mostly intact) coupled with the fact that I can stay on part-time at my employer makes it hard to say no to. I went to the open house last week and came away fairly impressed. The whole McCourt rebranding leaves the impression that the school has a lot more resources now, and that it will only be improved in the future, and I really enjoyed meeting some of the professors, the dean, and the current/prospective students. Plus, I'm already here in DC, where the policy jobs are plentiful, and I'd like to stay here for at least a few more years. I'm still going to ask LBJ to reconsider the funding situation (or lack thereof), and wait for Michigan to revise their offer (if they ever do...), but my future is looking more and more Hoya blue. 

Advice for Future Applicants: Like others have said, don't stress too much about things beyond your control and focus on what you can affect. My undergraduate GPA was lackluster, so I put a lot of effort into the GRE and got good professional experience post-college. Oftentimes schools have some flexibility with funding offers, so try negotiating with your top 2 choices if you don't like that. And also, don't neglect the opportunity to look into external scholarships! I applied to Pickering and didn't make it, but that and the Rangel or Payne fellowships are great opportunities to both get funded and secure a job if you're into the Foreign Service/USAID. There are myriad small foundations that can give some small amount of aid depending on what you want to study and who you are, so explore all those as well as in-school funding. I am also a big proponent of getting at least 3 years of experience instead of applying right out of undergrad. I know the job market can be scary, especially if you have a BA in Underwater Basket Weaving, but it's possible to find a decent job if you're willing to move around. I know that there's no way I would be anywhere near a decent graduate student if I had gone straight away after my bachelor's--not to mention that my candidacy (and work ethic, but that's personal) has only improved since college. 

 

Updating now, as I decided today on Georgetown. Michigan revised their offer to $20k/yr, which was good, but still more than Georgetown or LBJ, plus I have no family or friends in that entire region, so I had decided it would take a better offer to get it into top choice. LBJ didn't budge with their no funding offer...so, hoya saxa it is!

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Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier):  Small university - poor ranking overall but a decent business program
Previous Degrees and GPAs:  3.25 cumulative, two Ds and a fail on transcript
GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing):  162/161/4.5
Previous Work Experience (Years, Type):  8 months financial advising internship, 1.5 years corporate finance, 4 years teaching English in Korea, travel writing in SE Asia
Math/Econ Background:  micro/macro, calculus, business stats (All As)
Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program):  fluent Korean
Long Term Professional Goals:  International finance/econ in the government or multilateral sector
Schools Applied to & Results:  SAIS DC(Accepted), Georgetown SFS Asian Studies (Accepted off wait list), no funding from either program (unless you count the "generous" $3,000 summer internship/language fellowship that Georgetown offered.)
Ultimate Decision & Why:  SAIS - I like the heavy quant aspect, many of the professors and the career services dept.  
Advice for Future Applicants:

 

If you have a poor undergrad transcript/GPA then being older definitely helps!  You can get into the best programs but don't expect funding from them.  

 

I didn't take college very seriously during my first two years.  However, after studying abroad I realized that I have a passion for international affairs and living/traveling overseas.  I repeated every class that I did poorly in and earn As in all of those during my junior and senior year of undergrad.  I ended up landing a job for a prestigious mutual fund corporation but realized very soon that the corporate rat race wasn't for me.  I bought a one-way ticket to Asia and ended up staying for four years.  I came back fluent in Korean and a desire to enroll in one of the best IR graduate programs.

 

Bust your butt on the GREs!  Everyone whines about the quant section but it can be mastered.  Just keep in mind that there are only so many types of problems, once you learn the tricks it becomes much easier.  For each problem there's long way to solving it and a short-cut.  Learn the tricks and short-cuts…they appear over and over again in all of the test prep and online practice questions!  I practiced thousands of sample questions.  Get into a routine of studying on a daily basis.  I liked going to Starbucks everyday after work and in the morning on weekends.  It's a great way to avoid the distractions you might encounter at home.  Once you feel comfortable with your skills, DO A FEW FULL LENGTH PRACTICE EXAMS!  The test isn't only about knowing how to do the problems but also how to manage your time wisely.  If you're like me and have a poor GPA, a good GRE score will help to offset it.  If you have a good GPA, a good GRE score will make you competitive for funding.  Oh, and Magoosh is EXCELLENT for preparing for the GRE Exam.  The Manhattan book series is excellent as well.

 

Show your passion!  I attended advanced level Korean classes on a weekly basis for over a year after I returned from Korea.  I found opportunities travel writing and volunteering in SE Asia.  I spent hours and hours writing a SOP that demonstrated my passion.  I made sure there wasn't a single grammatical error in any of my application materials.

 

Hope my experience helps those of you with weaknesses on your application.  Feel free to PM me if you need any advice!  Good luck to everyone!

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Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): Top 10
Previous Degrees and GPAs: Economics BS, 3.6
GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 170 / 165 / 5.5
Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): 4 years - two domestic in the private sector, two abroad with an NGO
Math/Econ Background: Significant - intermediate-level micro and macro, stats, econometrics, advanced econometrics, multivariable calculus, linear algebra
Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): Intermediate-level French, survival-level local language abroad
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: Public Policy/International Relations
Long Term Professional Goals: International relations field, US-based (e.g. State Department, etc.) 
Schools Applied to & Results: Princeton Woodrow Wilson School (Accepted, full tuition + stipend), Harvard Kennedy School (Accepted, $0), Johns Hopkins SAIS (Accepted, $20k/yr)
Ultimate Decision & Why: WWS. It came down to HKS vs WWS, and I went with WWS not just for the money, but for what it represents - it seems the school is much more heavily invested in each of its students than at HKS. My impression is there's a ton of individual attention, career support, etc., and though I initially saw the smaller cohort size as a downside, I realized along the way that if the 60-70 people in your class are awesome (and they all seem to be), then it's actually a benefit to be able to get to know them all really well. 
Advice for Future Applicants: Work first!! I've seen other advice on here that says "you CAN go to grad school straight out of undergrad," and that's true, but unless you really, really know what you want to do, it's probably not a good idea. And even if you do know what you want to do (what I thought I wanted to do at 22 is still pretty close to what I'm planning now), I'd suggest going and doing it for a while, even if it's at a lower level, and then going back to school because you'll bring more to the table and be able to put your classroom experiences into the context of the working world you've seen. 

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Very, very excited about making this post!

 

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

Previous Degrees and GPAs: B.A. in Sociology, 3.63 overall GPA

GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): V 168, Q 156, W: 4.5

Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): 1 and 1/2 years at a social service agency for immigrants, doing fundraising and external relations; 2 years for a high school enrichment program based at a university, doing career and college counseling.

Math/Econ Background: Statistics for social sciences in college, which I got a B on, but nothing other than that. Moral of the story: take calculus when you're in undergrad no matter what you're doing! I really regretted that.

Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): native speaker of Mandarin Chinese, bits and pieces of French and Latin otherwise.

Intended Field of Study in Grad School: Public policy, specifically domestic social policy, in education and labor.

Long Term Professional Goals: Non-profit or government, in advocacy preferably, working in cross-sector initiatives that integrate education and employment, like vocational education, education for prison populations, transition from school to work, etc. Possibly working as a policy advisor in state or local government. 

Schools Applied to & Results: I applied to four schools for the Masters in Public Policy program: Berkeley GSPP (rejected), Michigan Ford (waitlisted), USC Price (accepted with full-tuition merit scholarship), Duke Sanford (accepted with ultimately $26k in fellowship funding, $4k in an assistantship).

Ultimate Decision & Why: I sent off my acceptance to Duke this morning, which made me intensely happy. Overall, this whole process felt more intense but wholesome. It forced me to think hard about what was right for me according to what I really wanted to do afterwards, and as I went through the process, I felt more focused and purposeful instead of feeling adrift and hopeless, like the last time I was applying to places. (You know, those fond days of being a high school senior and hoping that schools will validate all your efforts from the last four years by accepting you into their bosom.) To tell the truth, I was confused by Berkeley (which was my top choice)and Michigan's responses, because I felt like I was a great fit for their focus in education and labor. I haven't gotten confirmation back from either school on this, but now I'm pretty sure it was my lack of econ/math experience and my less-than-stellar quant score on the GRE.

 

 

I chose Duke for a lot of reasons. Duke has a much better emphasis on groupwork and intensive research -- they have a spring consulting project for first-years and a master's project for second-years, whereas USC only does the spring practicum (a group work exercise) for their capstone. I also looked closely at all the professors at both schools: Duke has a great contingent of education and labor focused faculty who are also majority women, which is amazing. I sensed far more of a private sector bent in the faculty at USC who specialize in transportation, health care, real estate, etc. This forum provided me with good info about people's experiences at USC, but ultimately, I believe it is not the most solid base for someone interested in social justice-related causes. Finally, Duke has a much smaller cohort (50-60), and I've gotten to know so many with related education interest from our admitted students Facebook group and the numerous live chats with Duke's student ambassadors. USC has done a poor job of contacting me, and I've only heard back from one of the professors I emailed, and no current students. Also, cost of living is much better in Durham. I have some savings, so overall, I'll take out $20K or so in loans, which is almost nothing to sacrifice to have a program and experience I believe will better position me for the right job afterwards.

Advice for Future Applicants: The most important question to answer before you apply is: what will it help you to do? Having as clear an idea as possible of what you want to do when you're done with that grad degree is the best preparation for it. The second most important question to answer is: have you had any full-time job experience? My aims for grad school changed drastically between my last year of college and last fall when I began applying, and full-time work was the most important factor in helping me figure out what I want to do in the future, which goes back to the first question. It doesn't matter what exactly your degree was or in what sector you've been working in (public or private or international), but before you apply, make sure that you have a clear vision of where you want to be in the future and how this degree can help you get there, and can articulate how your experience to date has brought you to understanding the above. (Also conveniently exactly what you have to write in your SOP!)

 

Also, know your strengths and weaknesses. I took two graduate classes in an MPA program to make sure that I wanted to do public policy, and it helped me gain a recent academic reference that I sorely needed. I probably should've taken an econ course as well just to get it on my transcript, because I knew quant was my weak spot. I almost screwed up because one of my recommenders (well meaning but flaky) did NOT come through, and I had to get a last minute substitution, so know your recommenders well and choose them wisely! Finally, ask for more money if you have a decent competing offer. I think USC was not the best fit for me, but the full-tuition scholarship they offered enabled me to get $5K more from Duke per year. Overall, this has been a great experience even if I didn't get into my top school. I feel pretty confident I'm choosing a program that financially has worked out but more importantly is a great fit for me and what I want to do in the world. 

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Previous Schools: Top 10 among US public unis
Previous Degrees and GPAs: BA Sociology & BA History (3.61 Cumulative / 3.8 & 3.9 Major) 
GRE Scores: 166V / 160Q / 4.0AW
Previous Work Experience: ONE AND HALF YEARS part-time journalism experience / THREE MONTHS think tank internship in DC
Math/Econ Background: Only basic stat for social science and an IPE course
Foreign Language Background: English (Native/Fluent), Korean (Native/Fluent), Portuguese (Intermediate), French (Basic)
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: International development, esp. as it relates to urban related issues and sustainability and resource issues.
Long Term Professional Goals: Work for couple of years in the nonprofit sector or researching job, see if I'm cut out for it, and then pursue a PhD in a social science subject if possible, ending up in academia hopefully. 


Schools Applied to & Results

Columbia SIPA MIA Political and Economic Development (X), Stanford IPS MA (X), MIT Urban Planning International Development Group Master of City Planning (X), NYU Wagner MA Urban Planning (X), UC Berkeley CED Master of City and Regional Planning (W)

IHEID Graduate Institute MA Development Studies (O), Columbia GSAPP MSc Urban Planning (IDEV), GWU Elliott MA International Development (O), LSE MSc Urbanisation and Development (O), UCL Development Planning Unit MSc Urban Development Planning (O), New School Milano MA International Affairs (O + $$). 

Ultimate Decision & Why:

Most likely LSE, while still waiting on Berkeley.

It's a short program, it is a very focused program zooming in on my core academic interest, it has the brand name for when I come back to the US, it has a renown faculty and access to intellectual and professional opportunities, it's in London, it gives me the option to pursue a consultancy project but also requires a master's thesis which will make my life easier when I apply for a Phd and shave couple requirements off my doctoral studies, the program's employment stat's not too bad and many graduates successfully get back in the US job market according to alum surveys, and it is the cheapest option besides IHEID (which I still feel absolutely shi* for turning down). I got partial funding from New School but LSE is still cheaper, both in yearly tuition terms and overall cost. This tells you how ridiculously expensive American postgraduate education is. I don't know how others finance their education w only 20-30% funding on a 50k a year program........


Advice for Future Applicants:

1) GRE is only part of your app. Try to improve your app as a whole, instead of obsessing over GRE results. 

2) Try to pick professors and professional references that could really write a personalized letter about you instead of generic ones. 

3) Look for external funding early on. You can't count on funding from schools

4) Take econ and calc classes

5) Learn a language or improve your skills

6) Make sure you send all req material to the schools. I've made several mistakes where I forgot to send GRE scores and transcripts. Double check.

7) Waiting and being nervous is pointless, I realized. Just forget about the app and look out for emails from schools, in case they need additional materials.

Edited by dpgu800
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Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): Top 20 LAC 

 

Previous Degrees and GPAs: B.A., Political Science, 3.8

 

GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): V 169/99th, Q 153 /55th, W 5.0/93rd

Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): 5 years, highly relevant government work experience, but in entry-level positions

 

Math/Econ Background: Intro Macro/Micro in college (took intro Micro pass/fail), one Stats class at a night school that I took the fall I applied 

 

Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): a little French and Arabic from college, but not fluent in anything and very little opportunity to practice since leaving undergrad

 

Intended Field of Study in Grad School: Middle East foreign policy/national security issues 

 

Long Term Professional Goals: Leadership positions on foreign policy/national security issues. 

 

Schools Applied to & Results: Applied: SIPA, WWS, HKS, Georgetown MSFS, and Tufts MALD.  Accepted at all five.  Very big fellowship at SIPA, $22k/year at Tufts,  full tuition plus stipend at WWS. No $$ at HKS, but since I knew I wanted to defer I did not apply for some fellowships that I might have been eligible to receive.  No $$ at Georgetown (and they required a Microecon and a language course before I could enroll). 

 

Ultimate Decision & Why: WWS.  While the offer from SIPA was huge and completely unexpected,  after visiting my top three (HKS, SIPA, and WWS), it was clear where I really belonged.  The SIPA fellowship made it a tight race between SIPA and WWS, but in the end I liked that WWS students were a little older and more experienced (about 20% of the SIPA entering class is right out of undergrad).  I also decided that while WWS is a smaller program and doesn't offer the same huge variety of coursework, the smaller size would also mean a lot more personal attention (not just for classes, but also career services, extracurricular activities, etc).  Plus, after attending admitted students day, I felt that a lot of my concerns about the size of WWS were put to rest. I'm confident I can pursue my interests there, even without 50,000 courses to choose from. 

 

Advice for Future Applicants:  As others have said, take your time and start early.  I was surprised how time consuming the application process was, and I'm glad I set myself an initial deadline to finish everything by Thanksgiving.   Also, take advantage of suggestions/resources available to give you an idea of what the admissions teams are looking for.  READ THE SCHOOLS' BLOGS, they often have useful tips that are universally applicable.  HKS' admission blog was really helpful when I was writing my personal statement, because their posts on personal statements spelled out clearly what they did/didn't want.   Also, if you are working, don't be afraid to enlist the assistance of coworkers and supervisors.  I was very open with them about my plans and they gave me some of the best advice and guidance. They even allowed me to leave early one day per week so I could take my stats class.  Don't feel that you have to keep it a secret that you're applying. You'll need all the support you can get. 

 

Think seriously about all of the little costs involved in attendance that can really add up, beyond tuition.  Housing, food, transportation to/from school, transportation to/from internships (and housing/food at internships), definitely research what support schools provide in these areas.  All of that can add up to another big loan (I appreciated that WWS provides a lot of support for activities like internships and business travel, one of the reasons I picked them).  

 

My biggest piece of advice is that you shouldn't be afraid to wait.  Going straight from undergrad to a professional masters program doesn't necessarily convey a benefit in the job market.  Take your time to work and explore your field before committing yourself financially.  That will help a lot in determining where you want to focus your applications (I ended up applying to schools that were well represented in the places that I've worked).   It will also give you a more clear story to tell.  Given my thin quant background and low quant GRE scores, I was pessimistic about my chances for acceptance and fellowships. But because I had a lot of job experience, I was able to write specific, detailed, relevant personal statements and garner strong letters of recc.  I think that really helped me when it came to both admission and scholarship offers. 

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Previous Schools: University of Chicago 

Previous Degrees: BA, Law, Letters, and Society (BA thesis on constitutional politics) GPA: 3.4

GRE Scores: 168v/163q/5.5aw

Previous Work Experience: 2 years of meandering followed by 2 years with a family services public program 
Math/Econ Background: no math/econ in college, took stats+micro at a community college before applying
Foreign Language Background: fluent in Mandarin (conversational in French but not relevant to program)

Intended Field of Study in Grad School: MPP, child and family policy
Long Term Professional Goals: advocacy for early childhood programs, possible PhD
Schools Applied to & Results: UCLA Luskin (accepted, no funding); USC Price MPP (accepted, full tuition); Chicago Harris (accepted, half tuition); Georgetown MSPP (application never processed due to transcript problem from one summer class I took 8 years ago, but was already accepted to Harris so didn't follow up....)

Ultimate Decision & Why: Harris.  1) Very strong in child and family policy (faculty/classes/research centers).  2) Academically rigorous. 3) Emphasizes social justice. 4) Will be in a good position upon graduating to apply for PhD programs, if I decide to go that route. 5) I <3 UChicago
Advice for Future Applicants:

Only apply to programs that you actually want to attend.  

 

Make friends with people in your prospective field.  Get their feedback on your application, qualifications, decision making process, etc., not in the least because they'll remind you that it's silly to hyperventilate over things like the grammatical errors you find in your application after you've submitted it.

 

Do NOT look at your application after you've submitted it.  

 

Figure out your rec-writers early and follow up with them often, which, as a corollary, is a good test of whether or not you should ask a particular person to write you a recommendation: if you're not on good enough terms to send them weekly emails asking about the progress of your letter without being wracked with anxiety, find someone else.  (lesson learned for next time!)

 

 

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Previous Schools: D II state school in the midwest (adequate, but nothing to write home about)

Previous Degrees: BA, Communication

GPA: 3.9

GRE Scores: 167v/158q/4aw

Previous Work Experience: 5 years at two nonprofits doing comm/marketing/partnerships, 1.5 years CSR/crisis comm/reputation management at a major corporation 
Math/Econ Background: No math/econ in undergrad; took microecon at a local college in fall 2013
Foreign Language Background: Beginner/maybe intermediate French; 1 year high school, 1 year college, 1+ years taking French classes with local orgs as a hobby

Intended Field of Study in Grad School: MPP/IR; a program that fits with and builds on my background
Long Term Professional Goals: Corporate Social Responsibility and reputation management in the private sector, or communications/information officer leadership position with a multilateral org or major international nonprofit
Schools Applied to & Results:

UW Evans MPA (admitted, no funding),

GWU MPP (admitted, no funding),

GWU Elliot MA in Global Comm (admitted, no funding),

USC Price MPP (admitted, full tuition),
USC Annenberg Public Diplomacy (admitted; never got back to me about funding),

Tufts Fletcher MIB (admitted, approx. half tuition scholarship),

UC Harris MPP (waitslisted)

Ultimate Decision & Why: Fletcher.

Incredibly difficult decision between USC Price and Fletcher, but I chose the MIB because my interests, at least in the short term, are focused on the private sector. I feel it's easier to take private sector experience to the public or nonprofit sector, but not as easy in reverse. International exposure was also a major factor in my choice to go back to school, and I am certain Tufts offers that. I had some great conversations with current MIB students, who did an excellent job articulating the value of the degree and their support of the school. Also, the average salary for grads of this degree is reassuring me that I'll be able to pay back my debt in a reasonable timeframe (hopefully 2 or 3 years).

Advice for Future Applicants

1. Study for the GRE. I took the test 5 years ago and had ok, but not stellar scores. I felt that if I put in 30 hours (arbitrary number) of studying, and it earned me thousands of dollars of funding, then it would be worth it. My scores improved dramatically, and I had the option of attending a great school with full funding, or another great school at a significant discount. So worth it!! I studied for about 2 months, taking around 5 practice tests, and really focusing on quant, as it was my weak spot. I also made a bunch of vocab flash cards and practiced them during my daily bus commute. 

2. Take relevant classes prior to applying, if needed. I think my microecon class probably helped my apps, but I also think it will help me as I take on more difficult courses during my actual program.

3. Maintain relationships with undergrad professors. I didn't, and I've been out of school for 7 years, so I felt really awkward about contacting a professor and wrangling her into my process. It was fine, and she was fine with it, but if I had been mildly in touch it would have been easier.

4. Save money!! Start saving money long before you decide to go back. Last year I applied at one school, decided to defer, and instead spent the year socking it away. I'm still going into debt, but I'm going into $20k less debt.

5. Don't apply where you don't want to go. I skipped Syracuse because of the terrible weather, and threw in an extra app at USC. 

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Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): UTSA

Previous Degrees and GPAs: BA in Political Science (~3.2 GPA by the time I finish)
GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 159/156/4.5 (highest)
Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): Campaign internships throughout undergraduate career and teaching assistantship job for the political science department.
Math/Econ Background: Took the required statistics courses for political science majors and performed well. Nothing serious.
Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program):  N/A
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: MPA focusing on education policy.
Long Term Professional Goals: I would like to work in policy analysis, although I am contemplating a dual degree in law if offered it.
Schools Applied to & Results: A&M Bush (accepted + scholarship), UTSA (accepted + funding), MPA@UNC (accepted + assistantship), Indiana SPEA (accepted w/o funding), UT LBJ (accepted from wait list), UVa Batten (accepted from wait list), Maryland (rejected)
Ultimate Decision & Why: LBJ. Being from San Antonio -- and a sister UT school -- LBJ was my top choice from the beginning. They offer very inexpensive tuition rates for Texas residents (even without funding it's a little over 5k a semester). Their program is also well connected throughout the Texas political scene (and well beyond), where I hope to work one day.
Advice for Future Applicants: Start your applications early. I waited until the last minute to submit a lot of mine, including Maryland (the only school I was rejected from). I honestly believe this affected the ultimate decision I received from them. Although I ended up getting into my top choice program anyways, there are innumerable advantages to being organized and starting your application process as soon as possible in the fall.

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Previous Schools: Big 10 School
Previous Degrees BA International Relations, minor Middle East Studies, GPA 3.4

GRE Scores: 154 V, 148 Q Low, but honestly the GRE hardly matters

Previous Work Experience: 1 year study abroad in the Middle East as a Boren Scholar, relevant internships, IR-related fellowship during undergrad, PPIA Fellow, 1 year unrelated to IR post-grad experience with a government agency, post-grad part-time internship with a small non-profit while working as a sales associate at a department store

Math/Econ Background: 2 undergrad stats courses (B, A), micro , macro [C], international economics (A), PPIA summer courses: Advanced Stats (A), Advanced Econ

Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): Arabic, Spanish
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: MA in International Relations

Long Term Professional Goals: Public, Foreign Service

Schools Applied to & Results: Applied and accepted to Columbia ($$$), Georgetown MSFS ($$), Johns Hopkins SAIS Bologna ($)+re-take macro and pass with a B, Tufts Fletcher ($), Milano @ The New School ($$), GW Elliott ($0)

Ultimate Decision & Why: After visiting the schools, it was between Georgetown MSFS and Fletcher. I enjoyed the smaller program size and curriculum flexibility compared to the larger schools where the curriculum was too cookie cutter for me. SAIS Bologna was a distant third, but I wasn’t about to re-take macro when MSFS did not require me to.
 

Advice for Future Applicants: Where to begin?

 

1.     VISIT, VISIT, VISIT! the schools you are seriously considering! This is your investment! You need to see how much the school is willing to invest in you while you are there! Go to the open house and try to visit a class if possible. Scouring the websites and idealizing the program from afar are not helpful. If visiting is not an option, definitely find a way to contact current students in the program to give you both the good and bad aspects.

 

2.     GRE Scores: As you can see, I have very low GRE scores. I am just terrible at standardized tests that are not applied to any sort of real-life situations. This is why I made sure to make up for this through taking econ and stats in undergrad. Those courses were not a walk in the park, but I worked hard at them. If you are an undergrad, start challenging yourself with these courses now because every time you take it, your grade WILL climb higher each time you take it. Definitely apply for PPIA http://www.ppiaprogram.org/ppia/what-we-do/junior-summer-institutes/ because you will have dedicated faculty and peers who want you to succeed in these areas and IR/MPA/MPP grad programs really look favorably upon PPIA because they know you have had the preparation necessary to succeed in grad school quant courses.

 

3.     Work experience: It was painful. I really wanted to go to grad school directly out of undergrad. Everyone told me wait 2 years…they were RIGHT, and I am so glad I listened. While internships are important, gaining experience out of college, in any field, no matter how unrelated, will be an added perspective that you will bring to your grad courses. I know its tough finding relevant work experience with a BA these days, but volunteer work (AmeriCorps, City Year, Peace Corps) is great because it is highly likely that you will get more financial aid than someone who has had a chance to save money for grad school with a full-time job with a nice salary for the same amount of time. With that being said, I noticed that the people who did get a lot of Fellowship money had worked for 4-7 years. If neither of these appeal to you, I would totally recommend starting some sort of business venture at this age and if it doesn’t work out, you’ve always got grad school to fall back on!

 

4.     Statement of Purpose: You must share it with other people, preferably someone you know with impeccable grammar. Learn to take constructive criticism in this area and be prepared to write many, many drafts. It will be worth it in the end!

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Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier):     Tokyo University, Japan (Top Tier) (I am Indonesian)
Previous Degrees and GPAs:     3.25 / 4.00
GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing):   148 V, 157 Q, 3.5 Writing,  TOEFL 108
Previous Work Experience (Years, Type):                1.5 Years
Math/Econ Background:    Basic Economics Background, Introduction to Micro, Macro
Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program):    Indonesian (native), Japanese (undergrad), English (as reflects in GRE and TOEFL score)
Intended Field of Study in Grad School:      International Relations
Long Term Professional Goals:  Policy Consultant
Schools Applied to & Results:    Accepted: Georgetown SFS ($$$), Hopkins SAIS ($$$), Columbia SIPA ($$$), Tufts Fletcher($), Yale Jackson (no funding), Oxford Diplomacy (no funding), Stanford IPS ($$);   Rejected:   Harvard HKS (oh well?)

Ultimate Decision & Why:  Stanford IPS.  As an international students, I can tell you that Stanford is extremely prestigious in East and Southeast Asia.  The flexibility of the program to manage you own academic plan as well as the option to cross enrolling with the business school, law school and other program from political science department drawn my attention.  

Advice for Future Applicants:   Be internationalized.  I believe some students have never studied abroad, lack international experience (not just teaching English in developing countries), strong background in public service or knowledge in second language. One of my US friend who is very fluent in Mandarin (read and write) and worked in China for 5 years is also accepted to many prestigious programs. 

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Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): top 10 UK university

Previous Degrees and GPAs: Econ undergrad, first class honours (4.0?)
GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): V169 Q165 AW 4.5
Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): 1.5 yrs banking, 2 yrs research africa, 0.5 government africa
Math/Econ Background: math grades not excellent but intro, intermediate and advanced micro/macro/metrics. grad level courses in sub fields (Labor econ, behavioural econ, economics of information etc.
Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): english + french fluent, german good, mandarin poor (semester abroad)
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: development + econ & public policy
Long Term Professional Goals: International development. IFIs, NGOs etc focus on africa
Schools Applied to & Results: Accepted in all schools I applied to: Columbia SIPA MPA EPD ($$), John Hopkins SAIS MA IDEV ($$), Harvard Kennedy MPA/ID ($$), Princeton WWS MPA Econ track iv ($$$$), Oxford MSc Economics for Development (no funding - may have received college funding ? but declined), LSE MSc Economics (no funding)

Ultimate Decision & Why: HKS MPA/ID. It was a big hesitation with WWS but im really interested in dev econ and the MPA/ID is more focused on that. Princeton WWS was incredible though: their admissions team is exceptional, the classes are tiny (5-20 students with a professor), the level of attention given to student is unparalled, obviously the full tuition + living stipend is incredible. But in the end I made my decision on program content and the more international aspect of MPA/ID: 80% students from developing & transition countries vs. 80% Americans on WWS MPA.

I think my order of preference (without taking funding into account) was 1) MPA/ID and WWS tied, 2) SAIS, 3) LSE Econ, 4) Oxford, 5) SIPA. But the english programs are hard to compare with the american ones.

Advice for Future Applicants:

GO VISIT THE SCHOOLS. The price of a ticket is a drop in the ocean compared to the funding you receive and/or loans you're going to take.

Study hard for your GRE because it'll pay back in terms of funding later on.

Send your essays to a few key people (no more than 5) that will really take the time to edit and give feedback.

BELIEVE IN YOUR CHANCES During the application period, I felt so unsure about my chance of getting admitted that I didn't apply to all fellowships and scholarship (e.g. at HKS). Mostly, I was reluctant to ask my recommenders for additional letters (I felt that I had troubled them enough already). Also, I was really tired of writing essays and felt discouraged. I regret this now. Perhaps I could have received more from HKS for example.

Also, I wouldnt worry too much about foreign languages (I think only SAIS has a foreign language requirement). Focus on the quant stuff (econ and maths) and the GRE.

For international students, remember that Fulbright comes with a 2-year home residency requirement. That's something to take into consideration as it will limit your job options when you graduate. I wasn't really aware of this (or thought through this thoroughly) until after I sent out my Fulbright app - which took forever). I think I shouldn't have bothered and used that time for other funding opportunities.

Oh and obviously GET WORK EXPERIENCE. it's really not such a good idea to apply to these schools right out of undergrad. I actually did that and I'm glad I decided to go for the job offer I had instead. I'll take advantage of the courses more and I got into better schools with more funding.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): UC Berkeley

Previous Degrees and GPAs: Political Economy, 3.5
GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): V167 Q162 AW 5.5
Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): 1.5 yrs consulting, 2 yrs nonprofit/think tank
Math/Econ Background: stats, calc, intermediate macro and micro econ
Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): Mandarin, basic Spanish
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: Public Policy
Long Term Professional Goals: Urban Policy - Urban informatics or middle income economic opportunity
Schools Applied to & Results:
Accepted: USC Price ($$$$), CMU Heinz ($$$$), NYU Wagner ($$), Chicago Harris ($$), UCLA Luskin, UT LBJ, UW Evans
Waitlisted: Berkeley GSPP
Rejected: Harvard HKS

Ultimate Decision & Why: CMU Heinz. The (near) full scholarship definitely helps. I was accepted into the Policy Analytics program, which is a huge plus since I potentially want to work in urban informatics/civic innovation. Also, I see my immediate career post-college to be in the private sector, and CMU Heinz has awesome connections with the private sector compared to its peers.

Advice for Future Applicants:

DO NOT go straight from undergrad - gain work experience and figure out what it's like to live a life outside of school. It gives you great context into who you are as a person and what you ultimately value/where you want your career to go. Plus, it just makes you much more interesting as an applicant.

 

Start the personal statement early - as early as summer or early fall. They don't really change from year to year, but can be wildly different from school to school. I was surprised at how they varied in length from 500-1500 words and some schools required 2 while others only wanted 1. I spent way too much time freaking out close to the deadline on how I was going to trim and edit my statements to fit each school.

 

Reach out to recommenders very early (early fall) and take the time to chat them up if possible. I didn't really do this, and even though my recommenders were totally willing to help, I can't help but wonder if my recommendations could have been stronger.

 

Don't apply to 9-10 programs. Just don't do it. I could have easily trimmed it down to 6 or 7 and saved myself a lot of pain. You think that the marginal effort once you pass 7 might be minimal, but it's simply not true.

 

Give yourself plenty of time for the first wave of deadlines. It comes hard and fast. I had 4 due in one week in early December and was still crazy busy with advanced warning.

 

Reach out to professors. I didn't do this, but it not only helps you figure out what research is appealing to you, they can potentially be advocates for your admission.

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