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Fall 2015 Wrap-up (Profiles, Results, and Decisions)


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Hey everyone, though there are still some results coming out, it seems like a lot of people are already making decisions about where they'll be in the fall. Tradition has been to pass on a little info to the next pool of applicants, so I figured we could go ahead and get that started. The following template has been used pretty often, though if you want to do something else, feel free! 


Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier):
Previous Degrees and GPAs:
GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing):
Previous Work Experience (Years, Type):
Math/Econ Background:
Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program):
Intended Field of Study in Grad School:
Long Term Professional Goals:
Schools Applied to & Results:
Ultimate Decision & Why:
Advice for Future Applicants:

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I'll also start things off. 

Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): Top 100 LAC 
Previous Degrees and GPAs: BA (3.9) in Political Science (4.0) and Economics (3.93)
GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 163/162/4.5
Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): Fresh out of UG so zilch. Though I do have a few months of study abroad experience, some tangentially related internships, and a boatload of independent and assistant research experience and presentations, which I think sort of balanced things out. 

Math/Econ BackgroundLoads of econ courses, stats I & II, math for economists (applied calc I-III + linear algebra in one, accelerated course #smallcollegeprobs), some accounting stuff  

Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): Basic Spanish, Portuguese, and Arabic
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: International Affairs 
w/ emphasis in development and/or conflict res 

Long Term Professional GoalsWorld Bank or development NGO working in strategic planning and impact analysis for economically-oriented conflict prevention and post-conflict recovery programs. Probably PhD in Econ down the road.

Schools Applied to & Results: Accepted at SAIS (IA-IDEV), American SIS (IPCR), and GWU (IA). Rejected from Yale Jackson. 
Ultimate Decision & Why: I'm probably going to wait a year or two and try again with the hopes of getting better funding. Ideally, I won't have to go 100k in debt to get my MA. 
Advice for Future Applicants: Work experience matters. I've heard it straight from the mouth of admissions counselors that my lack of WE is what kept me from good funding offers. Also, make sure you decide what you want to do early. I flip-flopped between MA and PhD programs and/or a gap year until almost December and really shot myself in the foot. If I would've gotten things together earlier I could've applied for more external funding opportunities. Furthermore, I still have no good idea of what I want to do with my life, which definitely showed in my applications. Ultimately, if you're coming straight out of UG, don't sweat it if things don't go exactly how you would've liked. You're young and you have time do explore and/or try again. Fortunately, I have a number of job opportunities available because I hedged a few months ago by applying to a ton of jobs, I would recommend doing the same. 

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Good idea, I think it'd be helpful for future applicants. 


Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): UT Austin
Previous Degrees and GPAs: Bachelor of Journalism, 3.5
GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 152/150/5.0
Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): 2.5 yrs of work experience after college in a variety of fields (non-profits/governmental organization in public health, international development, plus did some campaign work) + worked at college newspaper and on a variety of projects while in undergrad. 
Math/Econ Background: no math/econ background in undergrad, but I took micro, macro, and stats online at my local community college to meet the requirements after graduating and while working full-time. 
Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): French native speaker, bilingual in English (that was considered my foreign language on my applications since I am not native), some Dutch. I have got a pretty extensive international background, did some development work in West Africa, etc. 
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: international development/global policy/global health
Long Term Professional Goals: I'd like to work for the UN, or EU, doing development work, preferably with women and children, or maybe becoming a spokesperson since I have a background in journalism. 
Schools Applied to & Results: Accepted at American University SIS, George Washington University Elliott w/ 20K scholarship, United Nations University in the Netherlands, University of Texas School of Public Health. Waitlisted UT Austin LBJ School of Public Affairs (MGPS). Rejected Georgetown University and London School of Economics. 
Ultimate Decision & Why: I am going to attend the United Nations University in the Netherlands. Since I also have EU citizenship, the tuition is only $2,000, whereas I would still have to pay $45K at GWU (including the scholarship). The program and the mentality better correspond to what I want to do and who I am. They also pretty much guarantee funding for your research. Their network seems very strong + quantitative skills-based, which is important for this field. Plus, it's in an awesome city and I'll re-learn the Dutch I forgot (courses are in English though). Even though GWU is highly ranked and I am sure I'll get a great experience out of it, it's not guaranteed to have a job upon graduation and I don't want to have to take a random job just to pay back my loans. I looked at the career data from GWU and I was surprised (sort of negatively). Being debt-free will offer me the freedom to take a low-paying but more interesting job, or even travel for a bit if I wanted to. 
Advice for Future Applicants: Take your time. Seriously, there is no rush! I have seen some people here going to grad school straight from undergrad, which is something I wanted to do too until I started working. Get that experience, even if it's not in the field you want to study, you'll learn something and meet people. Save up some money if you can. Travel, volunteer, go teach English somewhere! I have been out of school for almost three years and I am pumped to go back. I like my current job, but I want to get into a different field (I do work in a somewhat related field). I had the chance to work in very different places and I learned a ton. Now I am going back to grad school with more maturity and a clearer vision on what I want to do. Also, as you can see my GRE scores weren't the greatest, I took the test twice over a year, took a prep course and all that, I just don't really do well on this stuff. I still got into the schools I wanted and even got a scholarship (though if I had scored higher, I would have probably gotten more funding). If your grades/scores are low, but you have a stellar essay, great experience and good letter of rec., you'll be fine. 


I think it's very wise to wait and re-apply with a stronger application to get more funding. I'll be declining my acceptance and scholarship at GWU, so hopefully it will be useful to someone else! 

Edited by intldvpt123
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This forum was incredibly helpful (and entertaining) as I went through the process of applying. Thanks to everyone before me and hopefully everyone after me will find it as useful as I did.

Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): State School
Previous Degrees and GPAs: B.A. Government and Politics Spanish Minor GPA: 3.59
GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 167V/155Q/5(AW)
Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): At the time I submitted my applications, 2.5 working for a cabinet level agency. As a senior, I interned and then was converted full-time and have since worked in different capacities primarily in management (finance, procurement, and acquisition) but also in public affairs in the dep.secretarys office.
Math/Econ Background: Just micro econ and some stats
Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): Spanish (Proficient) Turkish (Terrible)
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: Masters in International Affairs
Long Term Professional Goals: FSO
Schools Applied to & Results (funding over two years) Columbia SIPA-Accepted (65K) Georgetown SFS-Accepted (17K) Tufts Fletcher-Accepted (30K) Hopkins SAIS Bologna-Accepted (13K) Denver Korbel (40K) American SIS, Rangel-Accepted, Pickering- candidacy pulled after Rangel acceptance
Ultimate Decision & Why: I have not yet officially accepted, I’m attending the admitted students days for SIPA, Fletcher, and SFS (I’ve declined the offers for the others), but based on current funding I will more than likely end up at SIPA. I had two goals going into applying: 1. Place/prepare myself on FSO career path 2. Incur as little debt as possible. Based on this, I doubt I would have gone through with graduate study if I had not been selected for one of the aforementioned fellowships.

As for the school decision breakdown, SIPA and SFS were my top choices, with Tufts and SAIS a close second. After receiving the funding packages, I dropped SAIS. The blessing of significant funding from the fellowship and the certainty of a job after school altered the calculus for my decision a bit from most others on the government affairs forum. Personally (family in the area) and professionally (given the FSO path), I think Gtown probably is the better route but having been in the DC area for most of undergrad and for work after, the push for a change of scenery is too strong. I really loved almost everything about Tufts, the small flexible program, the faculty, and obviously the community. The few things I didn’t: while Boston is great, I just prefer NYC and DC, it is not as practitioner-focused i.e. you have to do a thesis (although I think you can get around it), and they grade on a curve. going to work hard in grad school but with the need to maintain certain gpa requirements for funding, this seems like a big potential for added stress. Ultimately, it really comes down to money (what doesn’t) and the opportunity to incur as little debt as possible. Between the fellowship, the funding from SIPA, and my meager savings, I can live and go to school in NYC with no loans and everything paid for at a well-established, professionally-oriented program. Arguably, while Gtown might be best for the FS route, I believe the difference is negligible and the other considerations of funding and personal circumstances more than make up for it.   


Advice for Future Applicants:

If I could impart any advice to my six-months-ago-self, I would say apply to more schools and start early with everything (and stop being so lazy!).


Apply to more schools: In the beginning, I would have been ecstatic just to get into one school. I found gradcafe late and with so many variables that go into the application process e.g., GREs, SOPs, recs,  work experience, I had no way to scale my expectations. I thought my quant was way too low, my work did not directly relate to IA, and my recs weren’t big name professors or senior level officials. I actually started at a  community college so when it came to applying, the big names really intimidated me. But looking back I wish I had more confidence and applied to more schools e.g., HKS, WWS. While I could not be happier with the way things turned out, I would advise others to, if they can, (financially and time/energy-wise) apply to as many as possible. You can’t have too many options.


Start Early: You see it on here a bunch but it probably can’t be said enough. If I had to do it again, the timeline I would shoot for: Study GREs starting in Feb, GREs done by April/May, recommenders notified before June, start and work on SOP beginning in summer, finalize paper work (resumes, quant cvs, transcripts, etc.) beginning of fall, and everything wrapped up by thanksgiving.  The actual timeline went something like, started studying for the GRE in April, did nothing all summer, went back to it in the fall, took GRE in October. After, used Nov. and Dec to frantically write SOP and cover all the paper work, and then submit everything pretty much day of deadline in January. The earlier the better. Especially, with many of the deadlines falling around the malaise of the holiday times at the end of the year.

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I found so many earlier posts helpful––happy to return the favor!


Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): Liberal arts college with good reputation on west coast.
Previous Degrees and GPAs: B.A. with dual degree in English and Hispanic Studies. Total GPA was above 3.4 but my highest major GPA was 3.75. My transcript has a very obvious upwards trend, which I think was helpful.
GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 159V/155Q/4.5AW.
Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): Two years of Peace Corps and two years with a private international education organization. I was promoted early with my current employer.

Recommenders: 1 professor, 1 from my boss, and 1 from a Peace Corps supervisor.
Math/Econ Background: None. I thought this might be somewhat of an issue, but I have since discovered there are other students like me at Evans.
Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): Spanish (professional proficiency), Mandarin (professional proficiency) and Portuguese (elementary level). I have traveled a lot and lived in 4 different countries (for anywhere from 6 months to 2 years in each of those countries).
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: International Development or Nonprofit Management.
Long Term Professional Goals: See below, but I am open to working in both the public and private sector, preferably in an international development position that will allow me to use my foreign language skills. Having said that, I am keeping an open mind and will consider a variety of career paths. 
Schools Applied to & Results: University of Washington Evans School of Public Affairs ($10,000 and in-state tuition).
Ultimate Decision & Why: I applied to Evans because their MPA Program has a wide range of specializations from which to choose. I believe their program will allow me network with nonprofits and foundations located in Seattle, which is where I plan to stay. Since I want to remain in Seattle, obviously having a network there is a big positive. The cost, though not cheap by any means (but significantly cheaper than out-of-state tuition), seems worth the skills I will gain and opportunities I will be provided. The program, well-known for Nonprofit Management, will help me develop skills that I wouldn't have the chance to gain without the degree. I feel I am not progressing in my career and heading in the direction I want. Ideally, it would be amazing to land a position with an employer like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but I am flexible in the kind of work I want to do in the future.

Advice for Future Applicants: Few people on this forum seem to do it (as Filmore22 above me even indicates in his/her advice section––I suggest reading it if you haven't already), but there is something to be said for only applying to one school. I was able to focus all of my energy on a single application, and I think that showed when it came time for the school to make a decision. The ability to give individual attention to the program meant that I was able to speak one-on-one with the Director of Admissions, carry on exchanges with current and past students, visit the Open House and research professors in the program. I made all of this known in my Statement of Purpose. They knew I had done my research, and when I visited the school they made it clear that a significant portion of applicants simply turn in vague and generic essays that are not tailored to the school. My recommenders also were able to tailor their letters; since they knew they were only writing to one school, they supported my admission using relevant information to the school.


Also, by submitting my application in mid-December, I was able to hear back in mid-January. I would recommend getting your application in 3-4 weeks before the January 15 deadline (though they may be doing away with early decision submissions). While everyone else has been worried about hearing back from schools, I have known for nearly 3 months.


In regards to getting funding, I don't know what advice to give for Evans. They clearly use a holistic decision process for admissions. Unfortunately, they don't seem to give out a whole lot of funding. I thinking attending as an in-state student makes it a bit harder to get a scholarship there. When you look at the profiles for applicants on this site, there are many applicants who get generous funding from a wide range of schools, whereas they are accepted into Evans with no funding at all. I think that speaks to how much money they have available, and so I feel grateful for what I have been offered. The downside to applying to one school is you cannot leverage one offer for another. I don't think this would have been useful for Evans, but I have heard it is for other schools.


In short, tailor you entire application to your schools! Do your research. Leave yourself enough time to prepare well for the GRE. Submit early. Stand out.

Edited by Nocho
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Great idea. Good base for future applicants. 


Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): Top 10 Public. 
Previous Degrees and GPAs: Economics BA (3.5).
GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 156/151/4.5 (I think).
Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): Math and English Instructor in the U.S. and abroad for 2.5 years. 
Math/Econ Background: Loads. All required/preferred courses for MPP applicants plus tougher courses like Econometrics, Game Theory, and two graduate level courses on the Economics of Policy Making and Quantitative Methods in Policy Analysis. Surprised I bombed the math GRE despite my poor physical condition on exam day. 
Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): Not applicable. 
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: Income inequality, Economic Development, and Education. 
Long Term Professional Goals: To put it simply but vaguely, successful social entrepreneurship.
Schools Applied to & Results: Harvard HKS (denied), UC Berkeley Goldman (accepted), and USC Price (accepted). 
Ultimate Decision & Why: I chose UC Berkeley Goldman. I put my soul into my application with great results (full ride plus stipend). I'm a California native who has had the fortune to live and intern in DC, travel some States, and travel the world a bit. I haven't been Stateside in about two years and I cannot think of a better place I want to set up shop next than the Bay area for the environment and professional enrichment I'm am pleased to have been offered, for free. I can (and have) written the merits of Goldman's MPP program and why I particularly fit in with, but I'll just simply state that this was a no brainer for me. I get to live and play in the pay with no worry of incurring debt with great work prospects. Truly blessed. 
Advice for Future Applicants: Firstly, make sure your quant background is up to scratch. A lot of people I know personally who I would consider academically more gifted than I lack quant, and that was and is their downfall. Second, this is a professional degree. You won't really have much of a better idea of where your passions lay without first going through employment for at least a couple years. Yes, experience is important for funding, but employment will help you understand your passions better and the steps to get there. A masters degree may or may not be needed, but without getting your hands dirty first, you won't know if it's worth the investment. Lastly, a perfect GPA and GREs don't mean a thing if you don't have a strong SOP, strong (not famous) letters supporting your SOP and resume, and an overall clear narrative bridging what you've accomplished, to where you are now, to what you hope to achieve with a Masters to assist you in your journey. It all should paint a vivid personality of a vivacious Public Leader in training. 

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Hey everyone, long-time lurker, first time posting--I thought this would be helpful for future applicants


Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): Top 15 Public 
Previous Degrees and GPAs: B.A. in Political Science and Chinese (Magna Cum Laude), Minor in History, IR Certificate, 3.68 GPA 
GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 168V/151Q/5.5A
Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): 1 year teaching at an inner-city school as an AmeriCorps volunteer, 1 year in the consular section of a foreign embassy, a few internships as an undergrad 
Math/Econ Background: Minimal. Basic stats and micro in undergrad, received AP credit for macro so did not take an actual college course on it 
Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): Cantonese (fluent), Mandarin (advanced proficiency) French (very basic)
Long Term Professional Goals: FSO
Schools Applied to & Results: 7/7 Accepted at Tufts Fletcher (MALD), Columbia SIPA (MIA), Georgetown MSFS, American SIS, GWU Elliott, UCSD IR/PS, Johns Hopkins SAIS 
Ultimate Decision & Why: I haven't officially accepted an offer yet but I will most likely be going to Georgetown. It was a difficult decision since I received funding at some other schools (including a full ride + stipend at UCSD) but did not receive any at SFS, which has a pretty hefty price tag. Some of my friends think I'm crazy for turning down funded offers to take on such a huge debt burden at Gtown but other than UCSD I would still have to take out loans to attend the schools where I received funding (Fletcher, GW, American) except for UCSD, and I see grad school as an investment, so I might as well pay a bit extra for the school that's the best fit for me. Since I want to join the FS, I think MSFS is probably the best program to prepare me for that and it's in DC, which has the added bonus of networking opportunities and relevant internships (Fletcher's location is a big con for me. Beyond it being outside the DC/NY corridor, I also just highly dislike Boston for some reason). SAIS was originally my first choice but it's more econ-focused, which I'm not too excited about, and there's less chance of getting second-year funding than MSFS. I've crunched the numbers and I think paying back the MSFS debt will be doable after graduation, though it's going to take a while (at least 10 years, if the Public Loan Forgiveness Program is still viable). 

Advice for Future Applicants: I'll echo what some of the previous posters have said and recommend gaining more work experience before applying. I would've applied right out of undergrad but I knew my profile wasn't strong enough to be accepted at the top programs fresh out of school, so I took a few years off and it was the best decision I made. Not only does it boost your profile and chances of funding, but it really helps clarify what career path you want to choose and what you want to go to grad school for. Plus, it might help make up for a weak quant background/GRE score like mine (I was worried I wouldn't have a shot at SAIS or SIPA since they place such an emphasis on quant in their admissions materials, and if I had applied right out of undergrad I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have gotten in). 


Before writing your SOP, I recommend doing some research into the programs you're applying to and really tailoring the SOP to fit the school. I used the same template for all of my SOPs but I made sure each one mentioned program-specific concentrations, professors, special features, etc. (and that they fit within the different word limits from each school!). Also, make sure to answer the question. The prompts might be similar, but some schools want to know more about your research/academic interests while others place a heavier emphasis on career achievements/goals. Regardless, it's best to go over your essay at the end and check to see if you hit every point the prompt expects you to make.


Congrats to everyone on your acceptances and good luck to all future applicants! :) 

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Thanks so much to everyone on gradcafe for providing so much info and feeback and for helping me get through those antsy months of waiting on grad school decisions. The decisions thread really helped me have a little bit of an idea or where I might stack up for program admissions, so, as someone else said, I'm happy to pass on the favor.


Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): Well-respected flagship state school
Previous Degrees and GPAs: BA Spanish/International Studies, 3.54 overall
GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 163/161/5.5
Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): 2 years Peace Corps Panama (Education Volunteer, Gender and Development Board). Also part-time and volunteer experience during undergrad.
Math/Econ Background: During undergrad, took multi-variable calc, introductory econ, micro-econ, two international econ classes, developmental econ. Also took a couple of free online coursera macroecon classes just before applying. I made a note of this on my application, as well. Haven't taken stats since high school.
Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): Spanish (advanced), Mandarin (intermediate at best)
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: Public Policy/Public Affairs (looking for strong quant program)
Long Term Professional Goals: Econ Officer for State Dept
Schools Applied to & Results: Syracuse Maxwell MPA (accepted), Harvard HKS (accepted), UC Berkeley GSPP (accepted w/some funding), U Michigan FSPP (accepted w/full funding), Duke Univ. Sanford School (accepted w/full funding), Princeton WWS (accepted w/full funding)
Ultimate Decision & Why: WWS was the dream, so once I got in, it almost seemed like a no-brainer. I was not AT ALL expecting to get into all these schools (you'll notice my GPA is average at best and I have little work experience), so I was pleasantly surprised and actually pretty overwhelmed at the response I got from schools. Some even called me back to chat with me personally once I notified them of my decision to attend another school.
Advice for Future Applicants: Apply to a spread of different programs! Start your research early, decide what you're looking for in a program, find about 5 or 6 schools that can supply that, and APPLY! Apply to some schools that are likely to give you funding and apply to a couple that may be a stretch for you. I was not 100% sure that I would be going to a grad school program this cycle, because it all depending on funding for me. (I don't have financial resources, and I DID NOT want to go into debt for this degree--I want to focus on working in public service without worrying about servicing my debt!) Applying to a spread of programs gave me a better chance to have options once decisions are in. That being said--I didn't apply to any programs that did not interest me. Some people may recommend doing that, but I'm in favor of applying to programs that appeal to me.


I think one thing that I believe did help my application's strength is having a really good idea of WHY I wanted to attend the type of program for which I was applying, being able to articulate that, and being able to connect it with the 'story' of my personal and professional/academic history. Also maybe Peace Corps helped. I may never know.

In the end, all you can do is put your best foot forward and hope for the best. Good luck to all future applicants!

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Previous Schools: Mid-tier public university in Canada; full year exchange at Sciences Po
Previous Degrees and GPAs: BA Economics & Political Science, 3.95 GPA
GRE Scores: Didn't take it since it wasn't required
Previous Work Experience: 2 years as a policy analyst with the Canadian government (treaty negotiation) and BC government (financial regulation)
Math/Econ Background: BA in Econ including first-year calculus, two semesters of statistics, and econometrics
Foreign Language Background: Fluent French (DELF B2), intermediate German, elementary Mandarin
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: General policy analysis with interests in economic/fiscal integration in the EU and financial regulation
Long Term Professional Goals: Flexible, but I would like to stay in Europe and work for an international organization or think tank in some area of economic policy. I would consider a policy-related job in the private sector but prefer public.
Schools Applied to & Results: Very few. Hertie School of Governance MPP (accepted, 25% tuition waiver), Willy Brandt School of Public Policy at the University of Erfurt MPP (accepted), Erasmus Mundus Economic Policies in the Era of Globalization MA (reserve list)
Ultimate Decision & Why: I have yet to submit my tuition deposit since I'm waiting to hear about a DAAD stipend, but I am planning to accept the offer for the MPP at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. There's just so much more information available on the program and its alumni outcomes, current students have said great things about the quality of teaching, and there are a lot more networking/job hunting opportunities in Berlin (not to mention, it would be a fun place to live!). The cost initially scared me off since I had hoped for a higher tuition waiver, but after crunching the numbers, I decided that it was worth taking out a modest loan to attend the program.
Advice for Future Applicants: Cast a wide net and give yourself plenty of options to choose from, since your desires and priorities may change from one end of the process to the other. Although I'm happy with my decision to go to Hertie, I do wish that I'd applied more broadly and not limited myself to just three programs. Explore all your funding options before simply ruling something out due to the cost.

Edited by zadigblue
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The 2013 and 2014 versions of this thread were a huge help in picking schools and tailoring my application. Hope this one helps future grads too.



Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): Top 25 (?) university in the UK. Exchange year in Germany. Few have heard of either uni. 
Previous Degrees and GPAs: BSc Business and International Relations - GPA 3.6
GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 162 / 163 / 5.5
Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): 3 years as a journalist with a brand-name business magazine. Had done 6 internships during school/college but none were relevant to my application and I didn't mention any in my essays. I volunteer with an NGO that crowd-sources funds for micro-loans (something like Kiva) and I write descriptions for loans, but this is only for a few hours a week. 
Math/Econ Background: Took a fair few stats, econ classes at undergrad. (It's not as standardised in the UK as it is in the US.) Good GRE quant score for what it's worth. I also do a lot of maths/econ analysis in my daily job.  
Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): 9 years of French in school, 2 years of German (including a year in Germany). Speak Hindi every day. None of these languages are up to professional/business fluency though. 
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: International Relations, with a focus on cross-border trade and investment. 
Long Term Professional Goals: Live around the world and help bring trade and investment to India which benefits low-income Indians. 
Schools Applied to & Results: See below
Ultimate Decision & Why: Yale Jackson. They offered me 50% of tuition and I simply couldn't say no to that. The Yale brand-name is extremely important for me since I want to live and work outside my home country (India) and everyone I speak to says having that on your CV helps convince international employers to seriously consider sponsoring your visa/hiring you. The class size is only 30 per year so it seems comparable with WWS and smaller than SIPA and some other big schools. Apparently you can take classes in any of Yale's graduate schools and so the potential network is that much larger. Biggest draw-back is that it's an IR program that's miles from NY/DC. Also I've lived in some pretty lively cities and I'm not sure what student life is going to be like in Connecticut.  
Advice for Future Applicants

- Take time to do your GRE. I didn't spend enough time/effort on my SATs before undergrad and only score like 2100/2400. This time, I enrolled in a coaching class and spent 4 months preparing for my GRE. The first 3 months I would study on weekends and weeknights after getting home from work. The last 2 weeks before the exam I took off from work and studied all day. In the end, I feel I could have done better but I'm still satisfied with my score; it's the first time I've done well in a standardised test. It is possible. It just takes time and effort. 
- Create a spreadsheet using this forum to understand the profiles of applicants who get into different schools. I saw that folks with my GRE scores/GPA/etc... were by and large getting into Yale/Fletcher/SAIS with some aid, while WWS/HKS were a massive stretch and pretty much everyone got into SIPA but without any aid. This forum shouldn't be the be-all and end-all pool for information but it's a great resource if you sift through it and pick out info that's relevant to you. Reading the AMA's from past students helped me tweak my essays to certain schools. 

- Figure out the DNA of the school. For example, WWS's is public service. This was clearly an area I was weak on and so while I was disappointed not to get in, it didn't really surprise me. I think if you speak to current students and chat to admissions officers, you can build up an idea of what the school stands for. Not so much from a political stand-point, but you can get a sense of what tone your essay should take. With Yale, I felt it was about their alumni innovating at the intersection of different fields of study and I used examples of alumns that I knew well (one was working in Medical-Tech, another in Development-Finance) in my essay to outline how I also want to do something similar.

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Previous Schools 

Private Liberal Arts College
Previous Degrees and GPAs:

BA in Spanish and Secondary Education / 3.5
GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing):

Didn't take the GRE (after studying for months, I decided not to)
Previous Work Experience (Years, Type):

3 years - high school spanish teacher
Math/Econ Background: N/A
Foreign Language Background 

Spanish, Portuguese 
Intended Field of Study in Grad School:

International Educational Development
Long Term Professional Goals:

Working for the UN focusing on the development of education
Schools Applied to & Results:

TC Columbia - Accepted

NYU Steinhardt - Accepted
Ultimate Decision & Why:

I paid the tuition deposit for TC, although it wasn't an easy decision by any means. Ultimately, TC offered a 9k scholarship and they are a reputable school. I am still on the fence though and will be going to both schools to try to make my decision easier. NYU is closer to where I live and I will be commuting (its downtown NYC vs. Harlem). They are great schools and I am a terrible decision maker. 
Advice for Future Applicants:

-Start early. Early decision is important so contact your professors as soon as you can - I did this in October.

-Your statement of purpose is e v e r y t h i n g. Seriously. Work your butt off on that 2-3 page paper. It got me into two great schools with a less than amazing GPA from a less than amazing small university without taking the GREs. Write it. Edit it. Write it again. Have a friend edit it. Keep it concise, engaging and write about how that program is perfect for you. 

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Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): Top public school in the US
Previous Degrees and GPAs: BA Integrative Biology/Music Minor (3.2 GPA/2.7 Major GPA)
GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 161/162/4.5
Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): Currently serving in AmeriCorps VISTA (month 8 out of 12)
Math/Econ Background: 2 semesters Calc, 1 semester Stats
Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): N/A
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: MPA - Environmental/Health Policy, Nonprofit Management
Long Term Professional Goals: Would love to work at a foundation that supports environmental/health development or become a community/organization leader to create positive change in the environmental/health sectors
Schools Applied to & Results: UW MPA (accepted - $$$), American U MPA (accepted - $), University of Oregon MPA/MNM (accepted - $), UT Austin MPAff (accepted - no funding), UC Denver MPA (accepted - no info on $ yet)
Ultimate Decision & Why: UW - It was my first choice and I was impressed with the city, campus, and faculty when I visited during the open house in November. I would love to work for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is located in Seattle. I think it's a great city with opportunities and resources for what I want to do. I also got a great scholarship and offered in-state tuition rate.
Advice for Future Applicants: I agree with everyone who emphasized the importance of having a good statement of purpose! Coming from a Biology/Music background with the only relevant work experience being AmeriCorps, I was worried that I would have trouble getting accepted. But in my statement of purpose, I really laid out my motivation/inspiration to apply for a MPA program, and why the experience I do have makes me a good candidate (did not even mention my lack of experience... I didn't think that "Even though I do not have much experience...." would help me at all).

I do regret not researching more schools, but honestly I just looked at schools in cities that I positively wanted to live in - since I knew that the network I will build in grad school may keep me in that city for a while.

Edited by Glitter1nTheAir
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Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): Regional University
Previous Degrees and GPAs: English 3.29
GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): V:162 Q: 157 A: 3.5
Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): 5 years retail leadership. 2 years Peace Corps
Math/Econ Background: Nada
Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): Bahasa Indonesia
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: Non-Profit & Local Government
Long Term Professional Goals: Start out in the public sector to gain experience & stability, but ultimately get to non-profit work. I'd also love to work for Peace Corps at some point.
Schools Applied to & Results: UW Evans (Accepted - Half $), USC Price (Accepted - Half $), U Arizona (Accepted), UPenn (Still waiting)
Ultimate Decision & Why: UW Evans...unless UPenn comes up with an offer I can't refuse this weekend. Their specialties are right in my wheelhouse, and I'm from the Seattle area so after 2 years in the peace Corps it'll be nice to settle back near my family and friends. While I'll still be looking at debt for living costs, and some tuition, their funding offer and home-town advantage made the decision easy.
Advice for Future Applicants: I believe the only reason why I got accepted was because of my statement of purpose and Peace Corps experience. My academics were lacking, and I had no academic letters of recommendation - which most programs said they "required". Obviously for experience like Peace Corps, you either have it or need to get it, but my advice on the SOP is to not do yourself any favors. Like any serious piece of writing, let the most particular, anal-retentive, contentious people you know (My English Major friends) tear it apart again and again until they give you at least a "looks alright". Then don't forget to buy them a beer or something for the trouble.

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Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): Well-known small liberal arts college

Previous Degrees and GPAs: Media Studies 3.65
GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 170 V / 161 Q / 3.5 AW (that hurt since I consider writing to be one of my strengths!)
Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): 3 years at a national nonprofit related to my policy interests
Math/Econ Background: Limited. Took a few intro/intermediate econ and CS classes during undergrad. Got a C+ in my first econ class (lowest grade ever) but went on to get As in others which I explained in a supplementary letter.
Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): Some Spanish & French, not relevant to my field
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: MPP - Urban informatics
Long Term Professional Goals: local government leadership role using data and technology to improve service delivery (possibly CIO, CDO, similar)
Schools Applied to & Results: UC Berkeley GSPP (Accepted, no $ but in-state tuition), U Chicago Harris (Accepted $$), NYU Wagner (Accepted, no $), HKS (Rejected)
Ultimate Decision & Why: I am currently deciding between GSPP and Harris. Very tough decision. Both are well-reputed and strong on quantitative curriculum which is important to me. I have strong relationships with faculty in my area at Harris which would be very valuable, but I have heard a few concerning things from current students about the lack of support from administration and not enough opportunities for applied learning.  But, having connections with faculty might help me get around those issues. GSPP is appealing because it is more affordable, smaller program, better location, and perhaps slightly more prestigious. But, I am a little concerned that most alumni seem to stay in the Bay Area -- not sure if that is self-selection or if graduates aren't competitive nationally? I also know two recent grads who are struggling to find jobs right now. GSPP also has slightly less of a focus on modern data science and technology than Harris, but I think I could make up for that by taking elective courses. Obviously I haven't made up my mind yet -- advice welcome!!!

Advice for Future Applicants: Start your essays early. The hardest (but very valuable) part for me was thinking through why I wanted to go back to school and coming up with a clear articulation of my goals. I did about 12 drafts. Give yourself enough time to proofread, I found a couple of typos during a last review right before I submitted an application that had somehow slipped past me and multiple other readers before. And do your research on schools and funding opportunities early. I mainly picked programs to apply to where I already knew people on a bit of a whim. Post-application while waiting for decisions, I discovered this forum and found other great programs I wish I had applied to, but by then it was too late to get recommendations and everything together.


Also, this was probably obvious to everyone but me, but study for ALL the sections of the GRE. I focused almost exclusively on practicing for the math section, since that's a weakness but I consider my verbal/writing skills strong. I did a ton of quantitative practice tests, and a little vocab review, but barely even looked at the writing section of my prep book, assuming it would be a breeze. Big mistake! I got to the writing section on test day and was really unprepared for the structure and time constraints -- and got a 3.5 to show for it. Don't get me wrong, I think I am a good writer, but writing for a standardized test is a really different skill set. I scored perfect on the verbal and good (for me) on the quantitative, and I think those sections count for more than writing -- but I really wish I had taken even just a few hours to familiarize myself with the standard types of questions to expect in the writing section!

Edited by hamster88
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(Your non-average Gradcafe applicant.)

Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): Somewhere in Louisiana. Nowhere near a top IR program. (I started off a Computer Science major)

Previous Degrees and GPAs: BA International Relations, minor Spanish. Major GPA is a 3.87
GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): Too ashamed to reveal. 4-AW.


Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): N/A. I think it’s easier for some people in fields such MPP/MPA, and international development/education to get work experience ‘in’ their field compared to people in international security. If you’re like me, and want to work with the international intelligence community (CIA,FBI, etc), then there’s nothing out there. I attempted to apply to entry-level intelligence jobs and got denied. The only route vital 'work exeprience route' wold have been the  military for me. Military experience can indeed boost your app though. Nearly 30% of Georgetown's Security Studies students are reported of having military experience on the program's website.


Math/Econ Background: College Algebra (A); Statistics (A); Trigonometry ( B ) ;Micro( B ); Macro ( B ).As a former Computer science major, I have more than just econ courses.


Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): Spanish (proficient); Arabic (working on it)


Intended Field of Study in Grad School: International Security. Fields of specialization in Intelligence and Regional Security and in the Middle East. Includes an Arabic language requirement.

Long Term Professional Goals: Working in various intelligence agencies overseas and dealing with transnational security issue such as international crime, ethnic wars, global terrorism, insurgencies, etc. Putting my language skills into use as well.


Schools Applied to & Results: 7 schools, accepted into 5 (look @ signature). I was not expecting to get into Elliott’s Security program due to my Gres. But, my SOP, high GPA, research, and academic acheivements saved me.


Ultimate Decision & Why: GWU Elliott. There aren’t many grad schools with specializations in international security especially in intelligence. Offers many opportunities to go abroad (semester, short-term, summer, internships). Offers a language requirement. Only offers night classes. DC opportunities/federal work study.

Advice for Future Applicants

1.     High GREs do matter (for funding). But you also have to make sure that you have that along with a good SOP+ GPA

2.     If you don’t have any/much work experience, find other ways to make yourself STAND out. All I did was include most of my research projects from undergrad in my resume and worked hard on my SOP. There are other ways to get accepted.

3.     Something sucks on your application? Bad GPA? Low GRES? Again find a way to make yourself standout.

4.     Start early. If you’re applying from undergrad, don’t save GRes/letters of recs during your senior year like me.


Edited by Guest
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Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): Well-respected private liberal arts university
Previous Degrees and GPAs: BA in Art History, 3.264 GPA
GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 162V/156Q/5W
Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): 3 years working my way up to Assistant Director at a well-known Latino arts nonprofit, 3 years local government work at a cultural center.
Math/Econ Background: Microecon, business statistics, precalculus, and one intro to accounting class in undergrad (AP stat and macroecon in high school)
Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): Spanish (intermediate oral, advanced writing and reading)
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: MPAff
Long Term Professional Goals: Anything dealing with arts and culture policy, whether in a position at the NEA, a museum, or other nonprofit.
Schools Applied to & Results: UW-Evans (accepted), UT-LBJ (accepted), and Princeton (rejected as expected)
Ultimate Decision & Why: UT-LBJ because of the cost, Austin native, and they have an arts and cultural management portfolio program.
Advice for Future Applicants: I started this process with six or more programs in mind, but I put forth a lot of thought into what I wanted to do with my career, and where I could actually see myself. I narrowed it down to two realistic application choices, and in the end it made my decision easier. As much as I've daydreamed about Seattle, the LBJ MPAff program has everything that I want and is financially realistic for me. It was also the school I originally wanted to attend!

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Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): Large, middle of the road public school (best rankings aren't for academics... <_< )
Previous Degrees and GPAs: BA, International Studies, 3.7
GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 168 V / 152 Q / 5 AW
Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): pretty much straight from undergrad; one summer interning at the DoD 
Math/Econ Background: Micro/Macro Econ; regrettably almost no math besides a course called "contemporary math" back in my freshman year 
Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): Spanish since Middle School (maybe limited professional working proficiency); proficient reading level in Russian & German
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: International Affairs/Security
Long Term Professional Goals: analytic work in the IC or at State / FSO / think-tanks / or prep for continuing onto advanced academic study in the field
Schools Applied to & Results: Accepted: University of Denver Korbel School ($$), GW Elliott School ($), American SIS ($); Waitlisted at Georgetown SSP
Ultimate Decision & Why: Still undecided between Korbel & the DC schools. Getting waitlisted at SSP was a letdown, I thought the internship I had secured and was still pursuing would make up for being straight from undergrad but I guess not. I love Korbel's curriculum and course offerings (especially all the IR theory I can take B) ), but the opportunities that one has going to school in DC are hard to brush aside. I suppose at the moment I'm slightly leaning towards American or GW over Denver just for the sheer amount of work I could accomplish during the two years of grad school (interning/working/making connections while going to school full-time) but I think there is something to the thought that I'm likely to spend a large chunk of my career - if not all of it - near DC if I go into intel/foreign affairs work with the government, so why not take these two years and enjoy an experience like living out West while I can, while still getting an excellent education in the field. Furthermore there's also the thought of interning or working for a year and just re-applying next year and taking another shot at Georgetown, but outside of a personal interest in chasing supposed prestige and fulfilling a dream of going to Georgetown, I'm not sure there are many benefits to gain. It's going to be a tough choice, but ultimately a good struggle to have to deal with. 
Advice for Future Applicants

  1. begin the application process early, that way once apps become available you have a clear idea of which programs you want to apply to, why you want to apply to them, and how to tailor your SOPs for them
  2. communicate effectively with your LOR writers so that they know what type of letter will make you most competitive for the programs you're applying to
  3. take an extra stats/math class or two 
  4. don't be afraid to apply for internships that you may think you'd never get: the internship I got I applied to on a whim one night at 2 in the morning; I never expected to hear back about it but I ended up getting it, and I don't think there are many other places that would impress admissions committees as much... so just be willing to put yourself out there and take some chances to get some experience under your belt before you apply, even if it's just for one summer initially
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Previous Degrees and GPAs: BSc Bachelor of Science GPA: 4.0, MD Medical School 
GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): did not take MCAT considered 
Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): 
Math/Econ Background: Undergrad some courses 
Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): German, French, Croatian, 
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: Public Policy MPP/MPA
Long Term Professional Goals: Medical Doctor 
Schools Applied to & Results: Princeton, Hertie, Oxford, Yale, Geneva 
Ultimate Decision & Why:
Advice for Future Applicants:

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I didn't find grad cafe until I had submitted ALL my applications (around January), but it's been a big help. Obsessively refreshing the forum and results pages gave me an illusion of control, at the very least. I actually stumbled across grad cafe after googling "what do I do now that I've submitted my applications". 


Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): Public school (UC), ranked 40th by US News

Previous Degrees and GPAs: BA World Literature & Minor in Professional Editing/Writing - GPA 3.6

GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 161 V / 150 Q / 6 AW
Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): 6.5 years - 5 years at Middle East/North Africa focused NGOs, 1.5 year at environmental NGO
Math/Econ Background: True fact: I haven't taken math since pre-calc in high school. Will be taking micro/macro before starting this August.
Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): Critical language (native speaker) and French (5 years studied) 
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: Global Politics & Security
Long Term Professional Goals: Foreign Affairs Analyst for State Department (gotta get that G15!)
Schools Applied to & Results: Applied: American SIS (accepted), U Chicago CIR (accepted), Columbia SIPA (accepted), Georgetown SFS (accepted with scholarship), Johns Hopkins SAIS (waitlisted). Also applied to three throw away schools (safeties?) -- don't do that.
Ultimate Decision & Why: Georgetown SFS. First off, they gave me a generous scholarship, which alleviates half of my debt concerns. Aside from that, the big draws were a mix of ranking, prestige, DC location, focused and flexible curriculum, small class sizes, and significant attention from faculty. I think I can get more out of a program 90 people big than out of a program 400 people big. 

Advice for Future Applicants

  1. My saving grace was spreadsheets. Lots of them. A sheet for each school, color coded and giving me a quick overview of everything I need to know about the program, past student profile stats, due dates, application fees etc.
  2. Take the GRE early and often. I started studying for the GRE in August, took it in October and then again in November. I'd recommend starting to study no later than March and getting the GRE out of the way by the end of Summer. You don't need a prep course if you're good at book learnin'.
  3. Notify your letter writers a few months in advance (September-ish) and make clear when the deadlines are for what. Be specific about what the letter should reflect in terms of your strengths and make sure to send them a copy of your SOP so they have a sense of where your head is.
  4. Don't apply to throw away schools (schools you KNOW you won't go to). I had a panic moment and applied to three schools I didn't want to go to, effectively wasting about $500.
  5. Be genuine in your SOP. You don't need to write 5 different ones -- tell a story about your background and motivations and tailor each version to relate specifically to how that program's specialties and concentrations can help you meet your long-term goals. Relate it to current events if you can. And make sure you get it proofread and edited by as many different types of people as possible. I had friends ranging from business gurus to finance folks to policy wonks review my SOPs to make sure it spoke to every aspect of IR.

All in all, just make sure to give yourself enough time to submit your apps. I didn't start writing my SOP until the end of November and between edits and back-and-forths I was cutting to close every time. Honestly, most of my apps were submitted at 8:30pm PST -- about a half-hour before the cutoffs. Nobody ever said I wasn't a fantastic procrastinator. 

Edited by it's an IR world
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Previous School Research University

Previous Degrees and GPAs BA Accounting and Finance, Minor in Italian Studies / 3.5 – Overall; 3.6 – Major

GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing) 166/166/4.5

Previous Work Experience (Years, Type)

2 years – Accounting Consultant

2 years – Healthcare Mergers & Acquisition

Studied Abroad in Italy during undergrad & personal travel in Europe, Africa and South America.
Math/Econ Background 
Initially a math major, so Multi-variable Calculus and Linear Systems are on my transcript. I also tutored Calculus.

Foreign Language Background Italian

Intended Field of Study in Grad School European Studies; International Finance

Long Term Professional Goals Working for OECD or the World Bank influencing international trade policy, specifically in US-Euro relations

Schools Applied to & Results UT LBJ – Accepted; JHU SAIS – Accepted; GWU Elliott – Accepted; Georgetown MSFS – Waitlisted Princeton WWS – Rejected

Ultimate Decision & Why

I’m a Texas resident, so applying to schools in DC was really an effort to see if I could pull a full ride out of my experience. I was accepted at SAIS and GWU. That is good news if you come from a business background and are looking to make a switch. Funding was not near as available as I was hoping. I think my switching career paths is definitely more of a risk, so a large amount of funding didn’t come my way. It could also be my average GPA that pulled me down. All in all, I was very happy to be accepted to the LBJ School and will be matriculating there in the Fall. My total cost will be $12K per year, which is a steal for the degree and connections UT has. Since UT is starting its DC program, I anticipate there will be more and more opportunities to network going forward. Another opportunity that I’ll likely pursue is getting a joint degree with McCombs and walk away with an MBA as well, all in three years.

Advice for Future Applicants:

Start early, and study hard for the GRE. That exam is not a test of intelligence, it is a test of how well you know the format of the questions. Magoosh was a wonderful program if you’re willing to study on your own.


Only apply to schools you’d actually see yourself going to. I wanted to either get full funding at WWS or work in DC if I wasn’t staying in Texas. I did not see myself living anywhere else, so I didn’t apply anywhere else. An application is a lot of effort, so don’t waste your time, your recommenders’ time, or your money on a school that doesn’t fit in your goals.


Good luck, make goals and follow through.

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Previous Schools : Top Women's College
Previous Degrees and GPAs: 3.55, with similar stats for the last two years and major 
GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 166/161/4.0
Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): 2 years working for the state legislature, 1 year at a small criminal justice research group
Math/Econ Background: My major in undergrad was combined Math/Econ, so plenty
Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): n/a
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: Public Policy, specifically focussed on policy analysis
Long Term Professional Goals: More of what I have been doing, policy research. More firm opinions on this front probably would have helped applications...
Schools Applied to & Results: Waitlisted at my top choice, UC Berkeley, which hurts. Accepted at the MSCAPP program at U of Chicago and MPA at U of Wisconsin. Also got full funding at the U of Minnesota MPP but ultimately I don't think that program is a good fit for my interests. 
Ultimate Decision & Why: Still undecided. Wishing on a dream to be accepted off the wait list at Berkeley, but it's a stretch. Otherwise I have to choose between Wisconsin and Chicago. Chicago probably has a more prestigious program, but Madison would be an easier place to live (I am bringing my husband and small baby with me, so livability is a big factor in my decision).
Advice for Future Applicants: Can't say I have a lot of advice to give, but the process itself was useful to me.

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2.    Read the application requirements carefully and do not give them a reason to reject you. I hadn’t taken a stats class before I applied, so I enrolled in an online course. My GRE scores weren’t outstanding, so I studied until I got a competitive score. I stayed an extra year at my job to meet the average years’ work experience for the programs I applied to. I got accepted (and received funding!) from every program I applied to, and I think it’s because I was able to meet or exceed the profile of an average student.



Thanks alot!


But was wondering where did you take your online stat course? Im currently looking at UCLA Extension.

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Thanks alot!


But was wondering where did you take your online stat course? Im currently looking at UCLA Extension.


Sure - I took it online through Portland Community College. It ended up costing around $300 (resident rate). 

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Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): Randolph College - Private Liberal Arts College in Lynchburg Va
Previous Degrees and GPAs: BA Global Studies - 3.81 GPA
GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 161 V/ 149 Q /5.0 AW -  left it to the last minute and took it once 
Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): Worked in Middle East for a few years running a family business, internships at major DC based think tanks focusing on IR
Math/Econ Background: Micro/Macro/International Econ courses - Also took two extended courses on Naval architecture (don't ask)
Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): Fluent Arabic, ILR 2 Farsi, French 
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: International Security Policy, Global Comparative Politics
Long Term Professional Goals: Career Ambassador
Schools Applied to & Results: Georgetown MSFS (accepted), GWU Security Policy (accepted)($), SIPA (accepted), Fletcher (accepted)($$), Rangel Fellowship (rejected), Pickering Fellowship (finalist) 

Ultimate Decision & Why: Georgetown MSFS - Originally was set on Columbia, as I needed that change of scenery. Living in DC for too long takes its toll, and you start itching to get out. But after carefully considering: reputation (GU is consistently top of the charts for grad school), selectivity (GU: about 90 students admitted each year - SIPA is almost 4 times that), academics (I have a good working relationship with a few of the professors and have mapped out my research interests), and alumni and career advising - it was honestly a difficult choice but SFS won out. A lot of what Filmore22 said about wanting to live in NYC but still wanting to go to SFS applies here as well. Although both Fletcher and GWU offered me monetary merit and needs based aid, I still believe GU is the better choice for me. Still waiting for the Pickering interview and exam, so fingers crossed! 
Advice for Future Applicants:

Mirroring what a lot of posts have already mentioned - for the love of God start early! My timeline went exactly like (again) Filmore22's: "The actual timeline went something like, started studying for the GRE in April, did nothing all summer, went back to it in the fall, took GRE in October. After, used Nov. and Dec to frantically write SOP and cover all the paper work, and then submit everything pretty much day of deadline in January." - My experience was pretty much identical - and I suffered for it. My quants grade on the GRE could have been a lot higher, but I was rushed, nervous and unprepared. Don't make that mistake. 


My personal advice however is to believe in yourself. I've read some profiles on Grad cafe forums and wonder 'How can these people think they won't get into top schools with that kind of resume?' Trust that these universities want diversity and people with potential. That being said, be ready to accept a negative outcome regardless of how much effort you put into an application. Take it as a learning experience. Try again next year, or the year after. The first thing I heard back from was the rejection from the Rangel Fellowship, which put me on a downward trajectory - I was convinced that I wouldn't get accepted anywhere, and almost took a position abroad. A very premature move. Wait till all the cards are on the table before making a choice. 


Finally, enlist the help of others on this arduous journey - especially those in the target school or program. They have a wealth of information and will give you a lot of feedback on what, where, how and why. Yes, the internet is your friend and you can get a lot of info of it, but being face to face with someone and being able to ask everything and hear it firsthand is invaluable. Use the program or university directory and send a few emails and what to see who responds. You will usually have 3 - 4 kindred spirits who will guide you and really make a difference. 


Good luck! 

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Previous Schools (Name, type, or tier): Big state schools for both undergrad and law school

Previous Degrees and GPAs: Bachelor's in Journalism with a 3.68 GPA. I graduated last May from law school, so I have a J.D. and my law school GPA was about a 3.6.
GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): I didn't have to take the GRE since I have an advanced degree. I decided to apply late, so I only applied to schools that let me waive the GRE requirement.
Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): I've done some unpaid (or very low wage) internships- a congressman's district office, immigration law with a nonprofit, general counsel intern for a state house of representatives, law school admin. I have very little full-time work experience, but I currently work full-time in law school admissions.
Math/Econ Background: Very little. Journalism majors and law students really don't have to take math and econ classes.
Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): I am at an intermediate level of a critical language. I've received both the Critical Language Scholarship from the Dept of State and the Title VIII fellowship to do an intensive summer program (which was through the Dept of State, but, unfortunately, they are no longer funding it).
Intended Field of Study in Grad School: International Affairs- Foreign Policy
Long Term Professional Goals: I ultimately would love to be a foreign policy advisor, and was hoping to work with some think tanks on my way there. I would also love to get a PhD eventually.
Schools Applied to & Results: American SIS- accepted with 6 credits of tuition remission a year and a research assistantship stipend. George Washington- accepted with $20K fellowship over two years. I only applied to these two schools because I could waive the GRE portion, they allowed part-time study at night (was planning to work full-time) and I knew I only wanted to be in DC.
Ultimate Decision & Why: I decided not to go to grad school this year! The more I thought about it, it just doesn't fall into place for me right now. Instead, I have been interviewing for a legal job in Dubai (cross your fingers) that would make much more sense for me at this stage and, even if I don't get that job, I am going to try to find something else that makes sense like that. I pretty much applied to grad school on a whim to see if I could go for free or something, and, though I did get some scholarships, they would almost triple my current debt. I decided that isn't worth it to me, and, if I'm going to end up in DC eventually, I will need to already have a full-time job when I move there. I just can't be an unpaid intern again and work my way up, so maybe someday I will have the connections and experience for it to all fall into place.
Advice for Future Applicants: I think the number one thing I wish that I had done was taken the GRE. I decided to apply really too late to study for and then take the GRE, and I didn't want to just try to take it without studying because I have like no math background and would've totally bombed that section. Applying to grad school was such a last minute thing for me that I don't know that I would've taken the GRE even if I'd have thought about it earlier because it is expensive and it would've taken so much of my time to study (I wouldn't care about this so much, but I took the bar exam last summer, which basically sapped me of all my time and money in the next few months after that), but I don't know that you can really get a large amount of funding without taking it. I think my law school background likely helped me get in and get the amount of fellowships that I did, but I think the GRE is really key to getting even more. I also wasn't eligible for some big fellowships, like the Wolcott, because I already have a graduate degree. My choices of schools were also limited to ones that will waive the GRE requirement, so I wasn't even able to apply to Georgetown or HKS to see what I could've been offered.


I definitely think it helps having people to talk to about the process, like friends going through it (I met some when I went to visit the schools) or this forum, but I think you should kind of take this forum with a grain of salt. It has good insight, but discussion forums like this tend to freak me out, and they did for law school as well. People on these are all really type A (including myself), so they all want to go to the best school ever and have the most fellowships ever, and that is great, but you have to remember that everyone needs to do what is best for them and everyones' situations are different. Ultimately, you have to take into consideration only the factors that matter for you.


Best of luck!

Edited by kaseyleigh
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