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HKS MPA/ID Fall 2017: Strategic advice needed


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Hi all,

I need your strategic advice on long-term application preparation for the HKS MPA/ID program. I am planning to apply for the Fall 2017 round.

I would like to briefly share my background to gain your insight on what works best. I am a Jordanian citizen working with USAID in Jordan's flagship economic development program since January 2015. Before that, I worked as an external auditor for Ernst & Young - Jordan for 2 years. I graduated from American University of Beirut, the region's best school, with a BBA in Finance and Accounting (GPA: 3.5). I have limited volunteering experience with local NGOs and with Syrian refugees. I also passed the CPA exams recently.

Since I still have more than a year to apply, I need to know what is best to do in order to make my application more appealing, given that the MPA/ID program is the most competitive in HKS. Please help me in answering the following questions:

1- What are the best activities/volunteering to do to strengthen my CV?

2- What are the best websites/journals to read to follow policy issues? (this a question in the HKS application. Note: I read the Foreign Affairs and The Economist)

3- I did not take Calculus courses in college. Is it advisable to take them online through the Harvard Extension School (cost per course: $1,350)?

4- Is it true that Harvard won't admit students from developing countries without having a recommendation from senior government officials (prime ministry, royal court, etc) or experience in the government?

 Thank you for your help!


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Hi, Jordan1st. Properly, your post really belongs in the Am I Competitive thread. Check that out to see other people's backgrounds and what kind of preparation they have made for applying to graduate school. I'll do my best to answer a few of your questions.

1. I suggest you volunteer for a group or activity that you are really strongly interested in. No matter what it is, your interest will make it a compelling part of your story. You can also choose to volunteer in order to challenge yourself and learn a new skill, like teaching or tutoring. There is no one best activity.

2. Depending on your area of interest (economic policy vs. health care vs. int'l development), good journals and newspapers will vary. Do research into your field of interest.  

3. Calculus courses often are not a pre-requisite for even quantitatively rigorous Master's programs, but good grades show that you have a strong quantitative ability. If you have other rigorous quantitative classes with good grades on your transcript or have a high quant GRE score, you don't need to take calculus classes. It is certainly not necessary to take them from Harvard Extension School. Any accredited college or university that will grant you a credit-bearing transcript will do.

4. I don't work in Harvard admissions, nor am I from a developing country, but I am 150% sure that this is not true. Harvard, like any other school, will look at your whole application to consider your "fit" with the school, which means how well you and your experiences and aspirations fit with the program and what it offers. Good substantive recommendations that give insight into who you are can only help, but they need not come from anyone prestigious. Do more research into what the MPA/ID is looking for in its students, but I know quite a few int'l students in my MPP program who have not had government experience either. 

Final note: in order to get a more accurate view of the application process to MPA/ID, I strongly suggest you email the program at HKS and ask to be connected with a current student or alumnus/alumna from Jordan. This is a common request that can get you some better insight. Good luck! 

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