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Hello everyone,


I am unapologetically paranoid about graduate school admissions. My undergraduate grades fluctuated quite a bit. I attended a community college for two years receiving a 3.4 GPA. I then transferred to a top 75 liberal arts college where I received a 3.2 GPA. My total undergraduate GPA works out to be a 3.3 which is not very good for more competitive programs in international development/public policy. I was hoping that I could get your feelings on my chances at admissions at Columbia SIPA and John's Hopkins SIAS. Other things to consider.

I served in the Peace Corps in Africa for two years

Taught in Asia for 1.5 years.

Conducting research in Central America from July 2017-July 2018

I won and declined a Fulbright ETA grant.

In total, I will have 4.5 years of international work experience before my program begins.

My brother is a current undergraduate student at Hopkins and is researching at SIAS.

I think that I will have rock solid letters of recommendation from undergraduate professors. I completed three internships during my undergrad and work 20+ hours per week.


Tell me what you think.


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You have a good profile, your GPA may be mitigated by a strong GRE (mid to high 150s). Your work and international experience will be conducive. I think apart from SAIS and SIPA, you may consider Tufts Fletcher and maybe another DC school (Georgetown, GWU, AU).

Good luck.


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I really liked Magoosh. It is an online service that is far cheaper than the in-person classes, and helped me really raise my scores (though it is a bit less helpful on the analytical writing section, though a lot of that supposedly comes down to just writing as much as possible). The GRE is an exam that tests your ability to learn its format more than anything else, and there's no reason you can't do well if you complete the course and leave yourself two months or so to prepare.

GRE scores are often thought to be important in determining merit aid, so it's worth putting in the time to get your score as high as possible even if you already feel that you're in the range that sufficient for your target schools.

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My GPA wasn't much better than yours, and my work experience was decent but less international than yours. I rocked the GREs and ended up at SAIS with a significant scholarship. These programs aren't as competitive as you think.

Also, for what it's worth, Peace Corps gives you a huge advantage because you get preferential hiring for the federal government. This significantly boosts your chances of prestigious employment post-grad school, which admissions committee members know and see as a major asset.

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  • 2 months later...
On 7/30/2017 at 7:43 PM, freakaleke said:

Do you have any advice about studying for the GRE? Best books or classes to take.

If you haven't taken the GRE yet, I strongly recommend the Kaplan books. I reviewed the books cover to cover both times I studied for the GRE (for masters in 2010 and now PhD this year) and was extremely pleased with my scores both times. Let me know if you have any questions. You seem super nervous so feel free to PM me - as someone who has been through the agonizing masters application process before, I'm happy to help any way I can :) 

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