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Government Affairs 2014 Wrap Up - Final Decisions

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Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): top Polish business school

Previous Degrees and GPAs: Quantitative Economics, 3.6
GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): V155, Q168
Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): N/A

Part-time Work Experience: extensive experience in private (banking, consulting), public (diplomacy) and NGO sectors including entry-level as well as senior positions
Math/Econ Background: basically my whole BA degree was about math and econ ;)
Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): German, Polish
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: Public Policy
Long Term Professional Goals: Energy Policy
Schools Applied to & Results:
Accepted: Georgetown MSPP MPP, SAIS MA, SIPA MPA
Rejected: HKS MPP

Ultimate Decision & Why: SIPA, because of its excellence in energy policy as well as an opportunity to take courses from other top-notch schools (e.g. CBS)

Advice for Future Applicants:

Believe in yourself. If you have a strong feeling that it is right time for you then you can apply despite of the fact whether you are straight from undergrad or not. Naturally, it would be great to have an extensive work experience when you enter your graduate program but if your undergrduate institution allows you to do this you can work while studying and if you are smart enough you can advance earlier than your peers. 

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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

Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): Big 10 public undergrad (not one of the good ones, either...)

Previous Degrees and GPAs: Double major in Economics and PoliSci, 3.9 GPA
GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 170v/158q/5.5aw
Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): 6 months (immediately following UG) in a non-profit, 5 years enlisted military

Part-time Work Experience: Worked for the state Democratic Party for the 2006 midterms while in UG
Math/Econ Background: Lots and lots of econ w/ really good grades, not too much math - two stats classes, and then calc for business majors
Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): Biggest weakness besides my lack of an impressive academic quant history (A's in the ones I took, but didn't take very many or very difficult ones).  Studied Russian in high school and first year of college, but none since.  Trying to decide whether to pick it up again or go with something different.
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: Strategic Studies
Long Term Professional Goals: IGO, US government (if they'll start hiring again!), or NGO/think tank
Schools Applied to & Results:
Accepted: Georgetown McCourt School of Public Policy, Columbia SIPA, Johns Hopkins SAIS, UC San Diego IR/PS

Rejected: None!  I kind of wish I had applied to HKS or WWIS.

Ultimate Decision & Why: SAIS - A large part was just name recognition.  I always regretted following friends to the flagship state u instead of going to some much better UG schools I got into.  UCSD offered me more money than SAIS and San Diego is *awesome*, but I just decided I'll take the debt for the SAIS name, network, and location.  Also, I have the GI Bill which severely dampens the blow  Also, the strategic studies program there is top notch!

Advice for Future Applicants:

Don't leave your essays for the last minute!  At least my experience was that they are *MUCH* harder than you'll think.  I'm generally a pretty good writer and the policy writing samples weren't really an issue, but the personal statements kept me up at night, shaking and crying myself to sleep.  That Breaking Bad scene where Walter White is laughing hysterically under his house after learning all his money was gone?  That was me trying to write my personal statements.


Super excited, though!  I remember reading about SAIS while still in UG and thinking it sounded so cool but I probably wouldn't get in.  I kind of planned to go to law school when I got out of the military and just wasn't all that excited about it at all.  Then, maybe 2 years ago, I spoke w/ a friend who did his MPP and realized I'd rather go that route, then when I started looking into schools I remembered all about SAIS and here I am.  Even more excited given the fact that I'm stuck delivering pizzas until August :)

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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, GPA 3.6 overall, 3.8 major
GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 165v/155q/4.5aw
Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): 2.5 years in private sector focusing on STEM policy, 1 year teaching EFL in HS abroad.

Part-time Work Experience: dance coach,  cafeteria food server, copyroom/courier for a small law firm
Math/Econ Background: One combined Macro/Micro Econ course (A-), Calculus ( B )and Statistics ( B )as an undergrad.  Not stellar, but I had enough in my private sector experience to demonstrate my comfort with numbers.
Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program):  Spanish (fluent), Arabic (intermediate), Korean (beginner)
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: Human Security, Diplomacy or Education
Long Term Professional Goals: IGO or US government
Schools Applied to & Results:
Accepted: Tufts Fletcher MALD ($$), GWU Elliott, American SIS

Rejected: Georgetown MSFS


Ultimate Decision & Why: Tufts Fletcher School!  It's been my dream school for a long time because of the flexible curriculum.  The money I was offered just sweetened the deal.   I went to a state school as an undergrad where there wasn't much of a network for IR and the name won't open any doors, so getting into a good IR school with name recognition was important to me.  If I was going to spend so much on a degree I wanted to get into a school where I could get a solid network in addition to the education. 

The hardest decision for me to make was not being in DC.  But I decided I'd rather go back to school full-time for four semesters and intern during the summer than only go to school part-time in order to work an internship year-round in DC.    


Advice for Future Applicants:

1) Don't be afraid to wait. This was actually my second application season.  During the first (for 2012) I applied to AU, GWU and GT because I really wanted to be in DC.  I thought Tufts was too much of a reach, too expensive and too far from home (under my the current circumstances).  I ended up only getting into AU and getting wait-listed at GWU that first time.  But, it gave me a bit of hope and I decided that I wanted to wait and get more experience-- I did 1 more year in the private sector but also worked for a year abroad teaching EFL.  

Besides being great for personal growth, it really helped solidify that this was what I wanted to pursue.  I'm not sure exactly where I'll end up but I have a much clearer idea now of what I'd like to do.  Also, the extra two years of savings doesn't hurt either!  So, my advice for future candidates is that you shouldn't be afraid to wait and try new things.  Work experience doesn't seem important when you are applying straight out of UG but I think it's really, really helpful and that anyone who doesn't have it should look for it.  I'm getting my degree from a better school for a significantly cheaper price just because of two extra years of work experience.  

2)  Check your requirements for each school as far as resumes and CVs. If your work experience is uncommon or ambiguous and you have the option, take the space to explain what you did in detail.  My first application season I worked hard to make my resume concise.  This time, when I was given the freedom to explain, I did.  My CV was lengthy but it allowed me to cut so many words from my personal statements without leaving the readers confused.  Maybe this only applies to me and my weird eclectic background but I wish someone had told me I should do this from the start.

2) Go visit and speak with admissions offices as much as you can.  I was completely talked out of a few schools because of my experiences with their admissions offices in person and online. I think you should be careful attention to the environment to be sure it's one you can thrive in.  I know I would have been miserable at a few of the schools I was initially considering.  I'm glad I visited the campuses to find that out.

3) Turn in your applications early.  My computer hard drive crashed literally 6 hours before two other applications were due.  In the end, this wasn't a big deal for me because I was only writing those apps to diversify my current options -- my heart wasn't really in it-- BUT I missed those two apps and lost all of my writing 3 days before the next deadlines.  It turned out fine (mostly because I could basically recite my statements at that point) but don't let this be your horror story.  Submit everything early or be sure to work in the cloud if you tend to compulsively polish up until the last minute.

4)  You got this.   Gradcafe posts tend to make you feel like you can't get into a good university without a 3.9 GPA,  37 published articles and 5 years working at an entry-level-management-position at the IMF.   I feel like I read every single thread available on here and I definitely read through all the statement writing books and guides with all these conflicting strategies...So, for everyone out there panicking as they read this thread:  Breathe.  Realize there are many correct ways to write a personal statement.  And there are plenty of people who get all of these schools with all kinds of experiences.   Instead of focusing on how much you lack and must make up for, work on demonstrating on what you've made of the experiences you've had.   Let your own personality and passion shine through your personal statement instead of trying to write what your school wants to hear.  You got this.

Edited by Prestomanifesto
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Hopefully future environmental policy people will find this helpful!


Previous Schools A Big 10 University (Go Cats!)

Previous Degrees and GPAs: BS Environmental Science with a GPA over 3.6 (math & science GPA over a 3.8) and relatively high GRE scores
Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): Worked all throughout undergraduate in various positions in and related to local government and spent a year working in DC for a trade organization for local government

Part-time Work Experience: environmental education volunteer
Math/Econ Background: I took the entire calculus sequence in college along with macro and micro econ and a decent amount of statistics. I believe it helped I earned very good grades in these classes since none of my jobs directly used these skills.
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: Environmental Science/Policy
Long Term Professional Goals: US government and then as a sustainability director/dept head of a major US city
Schools Applied to & Results: Indiana SPEA ($$$$$) University of Michigan SNRE ($) Duke Nicholas ($) and Yale FES (rejected for less than 2 years of work experience)


Best Advice:

1. I STRONGLY second the above advice about speaking with the admissions people as much as possible. I almost applied to 2-3X as many schools but after speaking to admission reps it was easy to drop certain schools from my list even if I was temped by their website and prestige. I ended up choosing the school that was the nicest and most helpful all the way through the application process, they answered by every question and were constantly going above and beyond what I expected. Think about the application period as a trial run for the different schools and you will see which schools operating philosophies best line up with what you want from a program.


2. Don't let perfect be the enemy of good! Especially if you want to work for the government or in (much) of the non-profit sector. I was rejected by my dream school (Yale) and almost sat out this year because I was so hung up on the brand name. I see lots of people here oooo-ing and ahhhh-ing over Harvard, Princeton, etc... and while they are fantastic schools there are so many others. I will be attending my cheapest and least glamorous (sounding) choice in the fall but they will take me exactly where I want to go, give me two degrees in the same amount of time, and it will be at almost no cost to me. It took me a LONG time to decide on SPEA since I had so many friends talking up how great Michigan/Duke were or suggesting I wait a year and reapply to Yale and while it would be fun to say I went to Yale it wasn't worth another year of waiting to maybe get in and Duke/Michigan weren't worth 3-4X more debt. If you have a great offer from a school you would be very happy to attend say yes! Don't dwell on the other schools that didn't offer enough aid or rejected you, remember you are great and you can still be great where ever you end up going!


3. When working on your application try to tell a cohesive story that includes your resume, statements, LORs and any other information the schools ask for. I think it really helped my application that I was able to tie together everything I had done into a thoughtful story. At the same time don't think your story needs to reinvent the wheel. If you want to go into healthcare policy for the same reasons as other people you know then thats great! Don't stress about having similar essays because they are coming from different perspectives. On the other hand if you have a less common story like mine with local government and environmental policy thats fine too, just because its different from what other people are saying on gradcafe or to you when you show them your essay doesn't make your story less good or important. 


4. You can do it! Work hard, apply smart (at times take gradcafe with a grain of salt) and you will be happy with your application cycle!

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  • 1 month later...

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/Analytical Writing): V160 Q167 AW 5
Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): 3 yrs in a federal reserve equivalent of a developing country
Math/Econ Background: calc 1,2,3, diff eq, real analysis, abstract algebra, numerical methods, probability theory (grad), linear algebra (grad), linear optimization (grad), topology (grad -phd level)/ Microecons (intermediate and advanced), macroecons (intermediate and advanced), international and development econs electives, economics honors class
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: Economic policies
Long Term Professional Goals: Economic policies in IFIs
Schools Applied to & Results:
Accepted: HKS MPA/ID, WWS MPA ($$$$), Harris MPP ($$), Goldman MPP, SIPA MPP ($), Stanford IPS
Rejected: Yale Global Affairs Masters

Ultimate Decision & Why: WWS, Economics and Public Policy track. Primarily due to the small class size and greater individual attention. The full scholarship helps, but even with a full scholarship from HKS I would've chosen to go to WWS. 


Advice for Future Applicants:


1. GPA- Try to get it above 3.5. 


2. GRE- There has been discussions about how much weight is given to GRE by the adcoms.  My advice is regardless, don't let them use this as a reason to ding you. Get a score above the safe threshold of V/Q/A - 160, 160, 5. This is really a beatable exam, just study for it like crazy and do lots of quality exercises and practice tests.  I endorse magoosh and manhattan gre.


3Work experience-  I think there are many ways to think about work experience. My approach is to emphasize depth over breadth.  I believe what you do counts a lot, and often you will only be given big projects/ assessments tasks after working for some time in an organization.  I stayed in one organization for three years after graduation.  So I had time to be involved in complete process of policy making: from risk assessment, escalation of risk to top management, policy recommendation, to representing my organization in responding to external parties. Because of the coherence it was easy for me to sell my experience to adcoms in applications. 


An added advantage of emphasizing depth over breath is your bosses would have more things to write about you in rec letters, because they know you for a longer period of time (this is only natural!). Having said that through, there is a risk of staying in an organization for too long, when the learning curve starts to flatten or when a person is starting to over-specialize.  So there needs to be a careful balance. 


In any case, I strongly echo previous posters advice: DO NOT apply for a professional degree without first having professional experience.  International experience is a plus. Internships are okay, but know that the responsibilities given to an intern cannot be compared to the ones given to a full-time employee. 

Edited by seiryu
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  • 4 months later...

I spent a lot of time on here when considering where to apply and then accept. Hope this is useful for future applicants.

Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier):  Outside US
Previous Degrees and GPAs: Int’l Relations
GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): V169 Q156 AW 5
Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): 5 years relevant work experience in govt 
Math/Econ Background: Econ major
Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): basic Spanish
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: International development and economics
Schools Applied to & Results:
Accepted: LSE MPA IDev, JHU SAIS MA IDEV ($$), SIPA MPA ($), Fletcher School MALD ($$), Georgetown MIDP ($$$)
Rejected: WWS
Ultimate Decision & Why: Georgetown MIDP. Flexible int’l devt program that will give me the econ and quantitative skills I want with a real-world policy focus. It was one of the few programs that was in a great city for development-related internships that would give me the quant rigor I want with the flexibility to also take courses in a range of disciplinary areas including finance and political economy. Great professors with professional experience. Small enough and new enough program so that the school really seems to go out of their way to assist students and to build the name of the program. And more people have heard of Georgetown in my country than have heard of Tufts or JHU/SAIS, so might be better in the long-run if I go back. Plus a very nice scholarship! 4 months in, I’m very happy with my decision.
Advice for Future Applicants:
My decision-making process may have been made easier if I’d travelled to the US to visit open houses, but financially this was not possible. It was really really hard doing pros and cons lists for these programs based only on Gradcafe, university websites, and then contact with others on the facebook admitted students pages, current students and professors. If you’re in the US already and agonizing over your decision, it is probably worth going to the open houses.
It would also have been ideal if I’d done more thorough research on the exact course requirements of each program earlier on (i.e. filling in time in February and March). That might have meant I had more fully-formed pros and cons lists by the time admissions decisions rolled in.
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  • 7 months later...

I am pretty sure this is NOT true. You have the option of sending schools your scores from a test you took one day and not another time (meaning there's no disadvantage to retaking the test), but you send them the scores from one single day, not section-by-section. 

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