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2017 Results Thread

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Programs Applied To: MPP at Harvard, UChicago and UC Berkeley; MPA at Princeton

Schools Admitted To:  Harris(15k$), GSPP(0$)

Schools Rejected From:  HKS, WWS.

Undergraduate School: average Uni in France with a one year exchange in top Australian uni.

GPA: 3.84 GPA, highest of my class (90 people).

Undergraduate Major: Sociology  [Note: I enrolled in some economics classes after graduation and got A+ in micro/macro]

GRE 1: 164 (94%) Verbal, 168 (95%) Quant, 4.5 (80%) AWA

Years Out of Undergrad: 1 and a half years

International experience: 6 months Kenya, 2 and a half years France, 1 year Australia, 1 year Englang, 3 months Peru.

Languages: perfectly fluent in English, French, Spanish, Italian. Some knowledge of Mandarin.

Work Experience: 1 year as social worker before college. 1 year in social integration in a leading national charity (unknown in the US though), internship with top organisation for international development.

Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc):  Was personalised and described my process towards the schools. Probably not too creative but was well descriptive of my motivations. It had many links with things written in LORs.

Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc): All of my recommendations were solid. One from a professor that known me well and is the director of a master program in political science. She talked about my intellectual ability and my positive presence in class. Two from different employers - one focusing on leadership and one on passion for poverty/adaptability in poor countries.

 

Some thoughts: my applications were definitely strong, and got me in at harris and gspp, but I think I was too "unripe" for WWS and HKS. I probably needed more relevant work experience and a better crafted SOP.

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Hello Everyone, I would be grateful if you could help me in making my grad school decision.

Schools have got into - Duke Sanford MPP, Indiana SPEA MPA, Columbia SIPA MPA-DP, UPenn Fels, NYU Wagner, USC Price , Cornell CIPA  (still waiting to hear from harris)

School rejected me GSPP, HKS, CMU

I am an International student who will need a sponsorship after graduation.  I am looking for a career in consulting.  

 

Edited by gateway11

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Programs Applied To: UCSD GPS, Berkeley Goldman, American SIS, Johns Hopkins SAIS, Columbia SIPA, HKS, Georgetown MSFS

Schools Admitted To:  UCSD ($0), American ($0), SAIS ($0), SIPA ($4k in Work Study)

Schools Rejected From:  HKS, Goldman, MSFS

Undergraduate School: UCSC

GPA: 3.87 - Magna cum laude/University Honors

Undergraduate Major: Politics (minor in History of Art and Visual Culture)

GRE 1: 160 Verbal, 156 Quant, 5.0 AWA

Years Out of Undergrad: 1 and a half years

International experience: 8 months Spain (Study Abroad), 2 months around SE Asia (Conference and indp. research), Delegate to international political party event in Czech Republic

Languages: native English, fluent Spanish, intermediate Russian, beginner Burmese and Mandarin

Work Experience: 6 month internship with International Rescue Committee (Oakland), 7 months with Catholic Charities SF in social work position, 4 months with local Democratic Party, plus interspersed customer service experience to make ends meet.

Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc): Fairly strong, wrote individualized versions for each school emphasizing the aspects of the program, instructors, and student life I thought were most conducive to my career goals. Always get a friend, professor, and/or colleague to edit!

Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc): Solid across the board. One from my thesis adviser who knew my work very well, one from a non-politics background but knew my writing and work all throughout college, one former supervisor (division director for a nonprofit), and another former professor in the diplomatic field.

 

**CONCERNS: Obviously I didn't get any money from anyone. It makes the most financial sense to choose UCSD since I'm from San Diego and live here now - but there isn't a huge focus on human rights and humanitarian policy (my career objective) and the alumni network seems to be pretty focused on private sector and big Asia development firms. SIPA gave me a tiny amount of money but it would still cost more than SAIS, which is my #1 choice at this point since the curriculum is golden and the alumni network is broad-based and rooted in public, private, and nonprofit firms. Any advice from anyone out there who's about to take out $70k in federal loans??

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I am curious - a lot of you don't seem to have applied to WWS even though you applied to all other top programs. Any reason? As someone that is potentially going there, it would be helpful for me. Please do share if you can :)

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1 hour ago, Palolem said:

I am curious - a lot of you don't seem to have applied to WWS even though you applied to all other top programs. Any reason? As someone that is potentially going there, it would be helpful for me. Please do share if you can :)

My guess: it's the one program geared toward mid-career professionals.

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16 minutes ago, 3dender said:

My guess: it's the one program geared toward mid-career professionals.

Actually no, WWS has both a regular program and a mid-career one. @Palolem I think a lot of people take themselves out of the running because they don't think they can get it, especially since WWS explicitly states that in order to be competitive you need at least 2 years of public service along with good grades and GREs. Also, WWS has a different vibe to it than other programs like SAIS, SIPA, Fletcher, etc. It usually attracts a similar crowd as HKS and Goldman instead. 

Edited by Ella16

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6 hours ago, Palolem said:

I am curious - a lot of you don't seem to have applied to WWS even though you applied to all other top programs. Any reason? As someone that is potentially going there, it would be helpful for me. Please do share if you can :)

@Palolem WWS was my dream program - if I were you I'd be so excited to go there!

I guess the reasons are two:

1) WWS sounds like the most competitive out of all Public policy programs (at least to me), so probably many people don't even try to apply to it.

2) It's application is also the most complex: not only they require a long statement (compare it to harris for instance, that was 300wds max!) but also they ask for a policy memo. Unless you have one already there from your undergrad, writing one takes a lot of time and might discourage some people.

I think those are the main reasons - which underscore again how good WWS is and how lucky [and proud] you should feel to go there!

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I don’t post here much, but throughout the application process I have found reading other people’s results from previous years to be very helpful (and in some ways reassuring!).  I’m glad to finally be in a position to do the same for others . So, here goes!

Program Applied To: MPA, MSSP (this is a Master of Science in Social Policy that’s just offered at Penn)

Schools Applied To: Penn Fels, Penn SP2, Princeton WWS, Syracuse Maxwell, NYU Wagner, UDel SPPA

Schools Admitted To: Penn Fels + SP2 (~75% scholarship), Syracuse Maxwell (~60% scholarship + 54k stipend), UDel SPPA (90% scholarship + $18k stipend), NYU Wagner (no funding)

Schools Rejected From: WWS

Still Waiting: N/A

Interests: Domestic social policy, specifically food insecurity and safety net programs.

Undergraduate institution: Top 100 liberal arts college

Undergraduate GPA: 3.97

Last 60 hours of Undergraduate GPA (if applicable): 3.98

Undergraduate Major: American Studies, with a specific focus on poverty and racial inequality in the US.

GRE Quantitative Score: 157

GRE Verbal Score: 170

GRE AW Score: 5.5

Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable): 5

Years of Work Experience: 5

Describe Relevant Work Experience: Nonprofit development/fundraising at two different well-established organizations whose missions are directly related to the policy areas of interest to me: food insecurity, poverty, safety net programs. I also serve as the Secretary of the Board of Directors for my neighborhood food co-op, and I have significant community service experience.  

Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc): My guess is very. I opened with a compelling personal story that connects my family background to the policy issues I care about, and then led into how that experience shaped my career goals in terms of the work I’ve done in nonprofit development over the past 5 years, why I am now pursuing an MPA, and what I want to do in the long-term. I also customized my SOP for each school to demonstrate "fit" with their program and show I did my homework.  

Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc): I didn’t see my rec letters, but my guess is that they were also strong. I had one letter from each of my direct supervisors at the nonprofits I’ve worked for, and have good relationships with both of them.  My third letter came from my college advisor, who has described me in the past as one of the best students he’s taught.     

Decision: I’m doing the MPA + MSSP dual degree program at Penn. Since I know I want to stay in the Philly area for the foreseeable future for family reasons, the Fels MPA offers a great network – and I’m really interested in pairing that with the ability to focus specifically on social policy analysis through the MSSP. 

Words of Advice:

  • Start the application process early. Between my full-time job and community involvement I tend to be a very busy person, so taking a full year to research schools and work on my applications gave me the time I needed to apply confidently. I decided I officially wanted to apply to grad school in December 2015, so from January - August I studied for and took the GRE (I originally intended to take it in the spring but life got in the way). Then I spent August - December visiting schools, writing essays, coordinating with recommenders, and filling out applications.  Maybe if you aren’t as busy as I am you could do it in less than a year, but regardless I would recommend starting earlier than you might think you should.  A year sounded like SO much time to me but it really wasn’t.
     
  • MAGOOSH!! Magoosh is a really stellar online test prep service that I truly cannot recommend highly enough – and at $99 for a 6 month subscription, it made WAY more sense for me than spending upwards of $1,000 on test prep from Kaplan or Princeton Review. They have fantastic study plans, very helpful video lessons, a gazillion practice questions that mirror the test format, and 8 excellent practice tests. It’s self-guided, which worked well for my schedule. I’m not great with standardized tests: I first took the GRE in my senior year of college with minimal preparation and did poorly (152Q, 160V, 4.5 AWA). For a long time I wondered if I would ever actually apply to grad school because the GRE felt like such a big hurdle. I really credit Magoosh with helping me get my scores up.
     
  • You CAN avoid going into massive debt if you make it a priority. I knew I was not willing to take on any more than $30,000 in debt for grad school, so as I was researching programs I made sure to look into the amount of aid available. I only considered schools in a very limited geographic area, but even within that I made sure that my list of schools included a couple where I would have a good chance of getting funding. I also worked really hard to get my GRE scores up knowing what an impact that can have on schools’ financial aid decisions. I was fortunate that I was able to afford my top-choice school because of the scholarship I was offered, but if that hadn’t worked out I definitely had a good “safety” school option that would have ensured I could get my master’s without going into massive debt.
     
  • Getting into the most selective school isn’t everything. I’m not gonna lie, I was disappointed when I didn’t get into WWS. If I had gotten in, I would have gone without a question because I felt like it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I mean, essentially getting paid to get your master’s from a top program is pretty awesome. But I realize now that I had built WWS up in my mind because of the prestige factor and the incredible funding they offer. If I’m being honest with myself, I knew deep down that WWS wasn't right fit for me when I visited in the fall; I walked away from that visit feeling less excited about the program, not more. I really think it was a blessing in disguise that I didn’t get in, because I know I will be much happier at Penn in just about every way -- academically, personally, and professionally. Since I intend to stay in the Philly area, I think Penn will actually open more doors for me here than Princeton would. And I absolutely fell in love with Fels the two times I visited. I know there’s a temptation to just try to go to the “best” or most highly ranked school you can, but I would recommend really putting a lot of thought into what you want to get out of your degree and what makes the most sense for you. 
Edited by CPRMPA

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1 hour ago, CPRMPA said:

I knew deep down that WWS wasn't right fit for me when I visited in the fall; I walked away from that visit feeling less excited about the program, not more.

Hi CPRMPA, congrats on getting into upenn! I'm glad you had a good cycle and got into such a great school. Would you mind elaborating a bit on why you didn't love WWS? I'd love some insight from someone who visited. 

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Program Applied To: (MPA, MPP, IR, etc.) IntDev, MPP
Schools Applied To:  American SIS, NYU Wagner, George Washington Elliot, Chicago Harris, University of Reading
Schools Admitted To:  American SIS (no funding), NYU Wagner (no funding), George Washington Elliot (50% of tuition)
Schools Rejected From:  -
Still Waiting:  
Chicago Harris, University of Reading
Undergraduate institution:  Unknown school, as they listed it in application
Undergraduate GPA:  3.85, diploma with honors

GRE Quantitative Score: 154
GRE Verbal Score:  156
GRE AW Score:  4.0
Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable):  7
Years of Work Experience:  7
Describe Relevant Work Experience:   2.5 years with local NGO in post-Soviet country, have had quite a career during this time, climbing from entry-level position to top-management position.


Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc):   I think it is good. Have talked about changing my career and finding what I want to do for a long time from now. Also stressed on what I want to do for my country. I did not have anyone revised it. But I did change it a bit for every school. The shortest version got me the best offer!


Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc):  I had my supervisor (American) from NGO write my letter - I think it was quite strong as I know for sure he values my professional qualities quite high, and he always encouraged me to apply to Masters. Also, a letter from professor - but 7 years out of school I think no one really expect and extraordinary LOR. Nevertheless, I think it was a good letter, as I did very well academically.

Reflection

I am glad I did not talk about reasons I scored average on GRE as I thought years out of school and current job title would justify this enough. I travel 80% of my time, often work late and overall am highly dedicated to my job, so I really had little time and energy to study. Maybe my funding offers would be stronger if I scored higher, but looking back I don't think I could with my circumstance. 

Also looking back, I regret not researching the schools and options better. I did this all by my own, never asked anyone's advice and if I did, maybe I'd get more funding. I also did not apply to Columbia SIPA because I did not think my chances were strong, but now, being admitted to at least 3 of 5, I think I had a chance there as well.


 

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4 hours ago, Nasty Woman said:

Program Applied To: (MPA, MPP, IR, etc.)  International relations/public policy
Schools Applied To:  Harvard Kennedy School MPP, Princeton WWS MPA, Fletcher MALD, Georgetown MSFS, GW Elliott School MA, Johns Hopkins SAIS MA
Schools Admitted To:  Harvard Kennedy School MPP (full tuition), Princeton WWS MPA (full tuition + stipend), GW Elliott School MA (full tuition – Wolcott Foundation Fellowship), Johns Hopkins SAIS MA (full tuition), Fletcher MALD ($15k/year), Georgetown MSFS ($19k/year)
Schools Rejected From:  None
Still Waiting:  None
Undergraduate institution: Top public school
Undergraduate GPA:  3.9
Last 60 hours of Undergraduate GPA (if applicable):  4.0
Undergraduate Major:  Political Science and area studies
GRE Quantitative Score:  161
GRE Verbal Score:  170
GRE AW Score:  5.5
Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable):  6
Years of Work Experience:  6
Describe Relevant Work Experience:  Foreign policy jobs in NGOs and government
Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc):  I only had one person—my significant other—look at my essays. It was really helpful to have someone who knows me super well look at the essays and say “I think you’re spending too much time on this” or “I think you should highlight this aspect of your career a bit more because it’s unique/interesting.” I did the Harvard essays first, because that application was due first, and used them as a template for my essays for other schools. The HKS admissions blog has a very helpful series on writing SOPs that I referenced over and over.
Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc):  I asked one professor from college with whom I’ve kept in touch and whose research intersects with the issues I’ve been working on throughout my career. I also asked two former bosses, one from the NGO sector and one from the government, who had worked with me on substantive projects. I know that the schools say to have multiple in-depth conversations with each letter writer, but I didn’t do that. The people I was asking are so busy that I didn’t want to take up too much of their time. On the other hand, they all know me reasonably well and are familiar with my career trajectory and goals, so YMMV on this approach.
Other:

I was really surprised by my success and am pretty much a poster child for impostor syndrome at the moment. For anyone thinking of applying to these schools in the future – first of all, just go for it. I almost didn't apply to half of these places because I felt I didn't have a chance. If I had to guess why I got in/got aid, I think it likely helped that I articulated very clearly exactly what I want to do after grad school, why, and how grad school is going to help me get there.

Other things that may have helped - I have very little quant background (one econ class and one stats class in college, although I did get As in both), so I took an economics class before applying and got an A. I think it showed that I was serious about going to school and that I can handle quanty material. Same with the GRE. It's one of the only things on your application that you can control. I used Magoosh and highly recommend it. My first practice test had a quant score somewhere in the low 150s, and I credit Magoosh's materials for helping a mathematically challenged policy wonk like me get above 160.

Wow!!!!!!!!! Congratulations!!!!!!!!

Full tuition in abundance ?

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On 3/14/2017 at 3:01 PM, sturdyelm said:

Program/Schools Applied To: MPP - Brandeis Heller, Duke Sanford, Georgetown McCourt, UMichigan Ford, UMass Amherst SPP (MPPA), Northeastern SPPUA

Schools Admitted: Heller (60% $ 70%), Sanford (~50% $ ~65% inc. assistantship), McCourt (20% $), Ford, UMass, Northeastern (25% $)

Undergraduate: Top 15 Liberal Arts College, 3.43 GPA, 3.61 last two years, Government Major

GRE: 161 Verbal/157 Quant/4.5 Analytical

Math/Econ Background: Intro MicroEcon, Intermediate Econ, Intro Statistics & Probability, Quantitative Methods

Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable):  will be 2 by start

Years of Work Experience:  2 years at legal education non-profit. 6 months’ contract position in my last semester of undergrad (too lengthy to explain). 2 internships in undergrad: one related to policy, one general nonprofit work. Paid customer service work in undergrad.

Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc: This was probably the strength of my entire application. I wrote and re-wrote my base (which I then modified for each school) many many times over 10 weeks. I had a few family members and close friends (who attended grad school) review throughout the process. I crafted a strong essay to show my path towards pursuing the MPP with a focus on child & family policy. 2/3 covered my personal background, why child & family policy, undergrad academics and extracurricular activities, and my current position. I didn’t go into a lot of it in detail (as they are all on my resume/cv) but instead focused on the intangibles that weren’t visible on my CV. 1/3 covered why an MPP, and why specifically this schools’ program.

Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc):  Very strong LORs. 1 professional – my current supervisor at the non-profit; 2 professors – one of them was my informal mentor and knows me very well, the other I didn’t know as long but I took on a leadership role in her class and brought together a panel to address a gap in the syllabus (which has thus been corrected for each class afterwards!).

Other: I believe another key factor for my admissions was my extracurricular/volunteer work. I had A LOT of relevant extracurricular work relating to my passion of child and family policy, as well as to low-income and diversity. It made up for my slightly lower undergrad GPA because I showed that I have not only the academic interests, but actual interests visible through a variety of consistent work with student organizations and non-profits, both while in undergrad and post.

As promised....

Ultimate Decision & Why: When I first started this whole process, I was unquestionably sure I would end up going to Heller if I got in because I wanted to attend a program that had a super strong Social Policy program with my specific focus (Child & Family Policy). Much to my surprise, there was A LOT of back and forth between Brandeis Heller and Duke Sanford. I easily knocked off the schools that I applied to that weren’t a good fit (for many reasons) and didn’t give me enough funding to afford grad school. I also ended up negotiating a bit more money out of both Heller and Sanford ( I didn't try to with the other schools and took myself out of the running for one school's aid). 

In the end I decided to go with Sanford because I thought that their program was more out-right quantitatively rigorous than Brandeis (another important aspect for me, which was doable at Brandeis but it seemed that I would have to work for it), they have a diversity of coursework (something I valued more the further along I went in the decision making process) yet I am still able to focus on social policy, it is a bigger program yet still a good size, along with all of the personal life things (such as a my spouse and finances etc).

Advice for Future Applicants:

  • Breathe! Take it one step at a time. Allow your mind to change throughout this process.
  • One thing I really cannot stress enough, do your research – both before you apply to a program and after you get in. I started doing my extensive comparison research and outreach as soon as all of my applications were in – and this really helped me narrow down my options and thoughts as admission results came in. In hindsight, I wish I had spent more time researching other programs (and found grad café earlier in the game), and not applying to some schools that weren’t a good fit for all of the things I was looking for (seriously don’t do this. It’s better to have fewer applications than waste time and money on a program you don’t want).
  • When making your decision, be sure to talk to current students/alums/faculty (all three if you can!) and visit the school so that you can sit in on classes. It really changes your perspective on the program’s fit for you.
  • Focus on what you want out of a program, and what is a good fit for you. Take advice from others and learn as much as you can, but in the end, tune everyone out and go with your gut and what works for you. Grad school decisions are a very personal process and everyone is looking to get something a little bit different out of it.
Edited by sturdyelm

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Scouring previous years' versions of this thread was extremely helpful to me in deciding on which schools to apply to and what my chances might be, so I can't imagine not paying it forward.

Program Applied To: They all have a different acronym, but all masters in public policy/management/administration

Schools Applied To: Princeton WWS, Cornell CIPA, Michigan Ford, UT LBJ, Texas A&M Bush, Carnegie Mellon Heinz

Schools Admitted To: Cornell CIPA (half tuition), Michigan Ford (no funding), UT LBJ (no funding), Texas A&M Bush ($10k/year, which almost covers their insanely affordable tuition), CMU Heinz (3-semester track, full tuition)

Schools Rejected From: WWS

Still Waiting: N/A

Interests: Nonprofit management, inequality/health care policy

Undergraduate institution: One of the NESCAC schools

Undergraduate GPA: 3.4 (an upward trend, rigorous coursework, and academic curiosity to a fault that led to some low grades that bogged down my GPA)

Undergraduate Major: Political Science, Economics, and a liberal arts major that I did "for fun"

GRE Quantitative Score: 161

GRE Verbal Score: 165

GRE AW Score: 5.0

Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable): 4

Years of Work Experience: 4

Describe Relevant Work Experience: I've spent the past four years rising through the ranks of the communications department at a medium-sized think tank.

Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc): I was pretty happy with them. My boyfriend's mom is a writing teacher and professional editor, and she was enormously helpful in taking them from "probably would've been fine" to "probably really helped my applications." I started writing last summer and reworked and revised sporadically throughout the fall, submitting my final application sometime in mid-December. Don Asher's book on graduate admissions essays has been recommended a lot on this forum, and I think it helped me get into a good frame of mind to start writing.

Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc): I was very stressed about not having kept in close contact with a lot of my professors and not being sure how strong their letters would be. I realized that the solution was right in front of me: have 2 from work and use the 1 professor who had very strong things to say about me. I ended up with one from my boss, one from our director of health policy, and one from a professor I took two courses with who liked me quite a bit. My best advice on letters is to ask early and often. Cornell doesn't have a specific deadline, but my goal was to have all my materials submitted my November 15. I gave that as my deadline to all my letter writers, and two turned them in on the 15 and my professor didn't submit hers until mid December- which was just in time for all the hard deadlines that I had. Those were an incredibly stressful few weeks as I started wondering if she was even going to write the letter, and I was very thankful that the November 15 deadline was there to give me a cushion for the others. My understanding is that this is a fairly common situation, and I get it: these are very busy people with a thousand other priorities who are doing you a favor for pretty much nothing in return.

Decision: CMU Heinz. They weren't my first choice going in, but seemed like a program that fit my interests and tended to give a lot of funding, so I applied. I thought that I would almost certainly end up at UT or Cornell (unless I got into Princeton), and I was willing to go into (a reasonable amount of) debt to go to those programs. But I'm glad CMU offered me so much money- it made me really look at their program and realize that it was the best fit for me. I want to be involved in think tank management & operations, and their program is absolutely phenomenal at providing the practical skills necessary to excel in that area.

Words of Advice:

  • Before you even start finalizing your list of schools, really think long and hard about where you want to be 5-10 years from now and how graduate school will help get you there. People say to do this to make sure grad school is the right choice for you, which is obviously an important distinction to make, but it's also very helpful for figuring out which programs make the most sense and getting your personal statements written. Every school's questions are a little different, but they all essentially want to know where you come from, where you're going, and why you need their program to get from A to B. I really thought I knew exactly what I wanted to do and why I wanted to go to school, and this process still took a while for me. 
  • Once you've accomplished the above process, make sure the schools you choose really reflect your goals and interests. In hindsight, Princeton didn't reflect mine, and I put a lot of energy into that application because who DOESN'T want a free master's from Princeton, but that could have been spent elsewhere with a school that was a better fit.
  • If you're interested in the public/nonprofit sectors, don't get hung up on prestige. First of all, there's no universally agreed upon ranking system that can tell you if school A is more prestigious than school B. If you're on gradcafe, chances are you're looking at and will get into programs that are well-respected and will open doors for you. Sure, if you're looking to go into certain career paths (consulting, etc.) or are an international student where name recognition matters, you may need to take perceived prestige into account. Otherwise, focus on what you'll learn from the program and where the alumni go.
  • Once you have your acceptances and are making your decision, two pieces of advice: (1) talk to as many current students as you can at admitted students' days (and go to them in the first place!). The presentations are helpful, but the most valuable information I got at each event was from current students. How's the workload? What do they do for fun? What don't they like about the program? And (2) don't be afraid to ask for more money!! The worst they can do is say no. Carnegie Mellon originally offered me 90% tuition, which I was blown away by, and then sent an email saying we should let them know if we had a better offer. I sent them the offer from the Bush School and they upped it to full tuition. If they hadn't sent that email, I probably wouldn't have been brave enough to ask because I felt like 90 percent was amazing, and I would've spent several thousand dollars that I didn't need to. I also asked LBJ for money and they didn't budge, but there was no harm done in the process. If you like one school the best but are tempted by another financial offer, there's absolutely no harm in asking.

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Program Applied To: (MPA, MPP, IR, etc.) MPP
Schools Applied To:  Harris, Evans, Goldman, HKS, Ford
Schools Admitted To:  Evans ($$), Goldman ($$$), Ford (no funding)
Schools Rejected From: HKS, waitlisted at Harris
Undergraduate institution:  rigorous liberal arts school. Sociology major
Undergraduate GPA:  3.0

GRE Quantitative Score: 148
GRE Verbal Score:  164
GRE AW Score:  6.0
Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable):  3
Years of Work Experience:  3
Describe Relevant Work Experience:   1 year local government, 2 years consulting with nonprofits and local govts 


Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc):    My essays were the strongest part of my application and I took a fair bit of time to write the "optional" essay and explain my terrible grades/mediocre test scores 


Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc):  Couldn't ask my direct supervisor because he's sensitive to turnover. I think overall probably decent but not stellar. 

Reflection: I wish I'd studied harder on the GREs because that was my only opportunity to demonstrate quantitative skills. Overall I'm pretty happy with the outcome, since I got into one of my top choices with full funding

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Programs Applied To: MPP 

Schools Applied To: HKS, Sanford, WWS, Harris, Ford, Goldman

Schools Admitted To:  HKS (full $), Sanford (full $ + stipend), WWS (full $ + stipend), Harris (half $), Ford (half $), Goldman ($0)

Undergraduate School: Top 25 liberal arts college

GPA: 3.7

Undergraduate Major: Sciences & social sciences

GRE 1: 163 Verbal, 158 Quant, 5.0 AWA (I hope this motivates others cause I did not think this was going to be adequate!)

Work Experience: 4.5 years working for a policy think tank - I think this solid and robust work exp. was possibly the most compelling element of my app to admissions teams

Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc):  Spent a ton of time reflecting on my experiences and future and polishing my written narrative 

Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc): At least 2/3 were very strong. I didn't read my academic recommendation but after several years it's hard to imagine this was extremely personal. 

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On 4/2/2017 at 10:40 PM, nic2017 said:

Programs Applied To: UCSD GPS, Berkeley Goldman, American SIS, Johns Hopkins SAIS, Columbia SIPA, HKS, Georgetown MSFS

Schools Admitted To:  UCSD ($0), American ($0), SAIS ($0), SIPA ($4k in Work Study)

Schools Rejected From:  HKS, Goldman, MSFS

Undergraduate School: UCSC

GPA: 3.87 - Magna cum laude/University Honors

Undergraduate Major: Politics (minor in History of Art and Visual Culture)

GRE 1: 160 Verbal, 156 Quant, 5.0 AWA

Years Out of Undergrad: 1 and a half years

International experience: 8 months Spain (Study Abroad), 2 months around SE Asia (Conference and indp. research), Delegate to international political party event in Czech Republic

Languages: native English, fluent Spanish, intermediate Russian, beginner Burmese and Mandarin

Work Experience: 6 month internship with International Rescue Committee (Oakland), 7 months with Catholic Charities SF in social work position, 4 months with local Democratic Party, plus interspersed customer service experience to make ends meet.

Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc): Fairly strong, wrote individualized versions for each school emphasizing the aspects of the program, instructors, and student life I thought were most conducive to my career goals. Always get a friend, professor, and/or colleague to edit!

Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc): Solid across the board. One from my thesis adviser who knew my work very well, one from a non-politics background but knew my writing and work all throughout college, one former supervisor (division director for a nonprofit), and another former professor in the diplomatic field.

 

**CONCERNS: Obviously I didn't get any money from anyone. It makes the most financial sense to choose UCSD since I'm from San Diego and live here now - but there isn't a huge focus on human rights and humanitarian policy (my career objective) and the alumni network seems to be pretty focused on private sector and big Asia development firms. SIPA gave me a tiny amount of money but it would still cost more than SAIS, which is my #1 choice at this point since the curriculum is golden and the alumni network is broad-based and rooted in public, private, and nonprofit firms. Any advice from anyone out there who's about to take out $70k in federal loans??

If you're going to make the terrible decision of going into that much debt, you might as well go for broke and go to SIPA. Your chances of landing a relatively well-paid job are much, MUCH higher in NYC than they are in DC. 

Edited by went_away

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6 hours ago, went_away said:

If you're going to make the terrible decision of going into that much debt, you might as well go for broke and go to SIPA. Your chances of landing a relatively well-paid job are much, MUCH higher in NYC than they are in DC. 

Higher in NYC? Really?

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Hey @sturdyelm and @brittanyandrea - I'm planning to apply to MPP/MPA programs next year in the same geographic area as you both, and Northeastern is the top of my list currently. (I'm leaning toward MURP over MPP there.) Would you share why you decided against it? It would be helpful to get a perspective from someone not already biased in favor!

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On 4/25/2017 at 5:57 PM, Ami said:

Hey @sturdyelm and @brittanyandrea - I'm planning to apply to MPP/MPA programs next year in the same geographic area as you both, and Northeastern is the top of my list currently. (I'm leaning toward MURP over MPP there.) Would you share why you decided against it? It would be helpful to get a perspective from someone not already biased in favor!

I honestly cannot give you a reason why I didn't pick Northeastern. They were generous with their financial aid offer, it's a great school and has a phenomenal alumni network. I will say that for me, it just didn't feel right for me. I would recommend visiting all of the schools you plan on applying to. I wish I had done that as I would have felt more confident in my decision. 

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21 hours ago, brittanyandrea said:

I honestly cannot give you a reason why I didn't pick Northeastern. They were generous with their financial aid offer, it's a great school and has a phenomenal alumni network. I will say that for me, it just didn't feel right for me. I would recommend visiting all of the schools you plan on applying to. I wish I had done that as I would have felt more confident in my decision. 

That is very helpful, thanks so much for sharing. Good luck with your decision!

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On 4/25/2017 at 5:57 PM, Ami said:

Hey @sturdyelm and @brittanyandrea - I'm planning to apply to MPP/MPA programs next year in the same geographic area as you both, and Northeastern is the top of my list currently. (I'm leaning toward MURP over MPP there.) Would you share why you decided against it? It would be helpful to get a perspective from someone not already biased in favor!

Honestly, I applied to Northeastern as a "backup" school. I was much more interested in other programs, but I really liked the fact that they had some good non-profit/social policy work, so I pretty much declined as soon as I got into another school with a decent aid package. Their tuition cost (and aid, although I didn't try to ask for more) is something to heavily consider.

What area/work are you looking to go into? I did research on a bunch of schools in the area as I thought I would be staying in Massachusetts, but alas. If you message me I might be able to help you figure out some other programs.

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Program Applied To: MPP
Schools Applied To:  WWS, HKS, GSPP
Schools Admitted To:  WWS(funded + stipend), HKS($0), GSPP($funded + work study)
Schools Rejected From:  
Still Waiting:  
Undergraduate institution:  USNWR TOP 20
Undergraduate GPA:  3.65
Last 60 hours of Undergraduate GPA (if applicable):  3.8
Undergraduate Major:  Economics and Political Science
GRE Quantitative Score:  168
GRE Verbal Score:  167
GRE AW Score:  5.5
Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable):  3
Years of Work Experience:  3
Describe Relevant Work Experience: Federal Agency Econ Research 
Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc):  Good, long track record of public - service type activities, and some volunteering and activism made a good narrative 
Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc):  Strong - thesis supervisor, head of a non-profit, lead government researcher.  
Other: 

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This forum was extremely useful during my application process, and my results were far better than expected, so hopefully I can be of use to others through this post:

Program Applied To: MPP/MPAs (also MPhil Econ @ Oxford, MSc Econ & Phil @ LSE and MSc Behavioural and Economic Science @ Warwick)

Schools Applied To: WWS, HKS, Duke Sanford, Chicago Harris

Schools Admitted To: all -- WWS (tuition + stipend), HKS (full tuition), Duke Sanford (90% tuition), Chicago Harris (no funding)

Interests: applying behavioural science to social and microeconomic policy in developed countries

Undergraduate institution: 'top' Australian university

Undergraduate GPA: 3.98

Undergraduate Major: Economics and Psychology

GRE Scores: 170 / 170 / 6.0

Magoosh was extremely useful for this, particularly on the quantitative side. For both the quant and verbal I did a lot of Magoosh practice questions. I also got a copy of the Official GRE book and did all the practice exams (one before I started preparing). On AW, I watched the Magoosh videos and also picked a few (maybe around 5) essays to write at random from the list on the GRE website whenever I felt up to it. Quizlet was super helpful in building my vocabulary: I'd add a flash card with a definition whenever I encountered a word I wasn't familiar with during my Magoosh practice. That being said, I've done a lot of standardised tests in my time, so was probably more comfortable than most during the actual test. I was also very lucky.

Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable): 6 and a bit

Years of Work Experience: 6 and a bit 

Describe Relevant Work Experience: ~5 years in analyst roles at central bank and ~1 year developing and briefing on policy at a federal treasury department.

Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc): I can't self assess overall strength, but I felt like it was strong on detail and motivation (i.e. I could convincingly use examples to show my motivation was genuine and sustained over many years). It was also probably a bit on the dry side. The process I followed was:

  1. Used coggle.it to create a mind-map of all the policy issues I was interested in, going from general (e.g. 'education', 'well-being', 'consumer protection') to specific (e.g. 'best ways to allocate funding', 'difference b/w decision and experienced utility', 'making disclosure more effective'). I then used the mind-map to figure out what I really wanted out of grad school, and to select and consolidate interests to mention in my SOP.
  2. Gathered all the different aspects I needed to cover across each SOP (re: motivation, interest, skills, experience). I then drafted a 'master SOP' that included everything on this list.
  3. After selecting the programs I was going to apply to, I spent a fair bit of time going through the website of each university/faculty and identifying the courses and faculty members/research topics that aligned with my interests.
  4. For each program, I tailored the master SOP to fit the requirements of that specific application, and weaved in details of specific courses and faculty members to demonstrate why I had chosen that program at that university. Some unis required 'special' essays but I was mostly able to use material from my master SOP. I also asked my partner to proof read each SOP. 

Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc): I have no idea how strong my letters were, but I had some variety both in terms of seniority and background: one very senior manager from my current organisation, an immediate manager from a previous organisation, and my thesis supervisor from undergrad (an Assistant Professor in econ). I had a very good relationship with my previous immediate manager, so I emailed her straight out explaining my plans and asking if she had time to write a letter. With the other two, I used this strategy:

  1. Emailed saying I was interested in grad school but wanted to get their advice.
  2. Met in person to talk about what I was interested in learning about, what I wanted to get out of grad school, and to ask about recommendations of programs/universities. My thesis supervisor assumed he would be writing a letter for me, and the senior manager got very excited about a common interest and offered to write a letter without me having to ask.
  3. I followed up with each by emailing: a list of programs I was applying to with short description of each; resume; transcripts; GRE scores; and my draft 'master SOP'.
  4. I had to send multiple email reminders and some of the letters ended up being submitted at the last moment.

Decision: HKS. This was really tough, and ultimately came down to personal reasons. On paper, HKS was my top preference. But I ended up visiting Duke, Princeton and Harvard and was impressed by them in that order (most to least). Duke was impressive and welcoming, but didn't feel cosmopolitan enough; WWS felt like the safe option with lots of great people; HKS felt less personal, more daunting and with a less consistent mix of new admits. In the end I chose HKS because I thought I would grow more by being out of my comfort zone, getting to know people I wouldn't normally get to know, and because it had the most opportunity for someone interested in applying behavioural science to public policy. My partner will be moving with me, and Boston seemed to have the best job opportunities for her outside of NYC.

Words of Advice:

  • Before even deciding on a specific type of program, think about what you're really interested in, what you want to do with your life, and why. 80,000 Hours is extremely useful for this -- check it out! For example, I was considering PhD vs. academic masters vs. professional masters, in economics, psychology and public policy. This will really help with making your SOP sound coherent and convincing.
  • Ask for help and advice from people in your network that might have gone through a similar process in the past. I was amazed at how willing people who I hadn't really kept in touch with were in helping with my applications and providing advice and tips.
  • Don't be afraid of aiming high. I am not at all like the super humans described in the bios section of top schools. I got good marks at undergrad because I was genuinely interested in what I was learning, and managed to land a good job afterwards, but I am also shy, anxious and quiet. I haven't founded a start-up or non-profit, haven't held many official leadership positions and only did a few (low-key) extracurricular activities during undergrad. The length of my work experience and consistency of volunteer experience probably helped balance this out, but the point remains -- don't be intimidated by the descriptions of the students they choose to put up on their websites!
  • Take care of your mental health. I found that practicing mindfulness through meditation to be really helpful in managing stress and in embracing whatever results end up arriving (check out apps like Headspace or Insight Timer). 

Hope this helps!

Edited by plddp

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