SIPA Students on Campus – Fall 2021

Admissions Frequently Asked Questions

Learn more about the admissions process

Admissions Policies

  • The global COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 presented institutions of higher education with challenges in teaching and learning, as well as in the assessment of academic performance. As a consequence of these challenges, Columbia University affirms the following principle:   


    The University’s graduate and professional schools, as well as their respective admissions committees, will take into account the important disruptions caused by the COVID-19 outbreak when reviewing student transcripts and other admissions materials as part of their customary practice of performing holistic reviews of individual applications or dossiers. Specifically, we will respect decisions made by institutions or individuals regarding the adoption of Pass/Fail or similar grading options during the period in question.


    The Provost and University Deans adopted this principle to ensure that no applicants are disadvantaged by policy decisions made by their colleges/universities as a result of this unprecedented public health event.

  • Yes, you may apply simultaneously to more than one SIPA MPA degree program at SIPA. However, you should apply to the program(s) that most closely reflects your professional, personal, and geographic interests and experience. Admission decisions are determined by each individual program. SIPA will not accept simultaneous applications to its 21-month MIA and 21-month MPA programs. 

  • The Admissions Committee reviews each application thoroughly and with great care. All decisions are final.  There is no appeal process.

  • The Admissions Committee appreciates the commitment of time and energy put into each application.  However, we are unable to offer individual feedback on why they did not gain admission into the program.


    Requesting Feedback Details

  • Yes, SIPA welcomes applications from candidates who have previously applied for admission, regardless of the outcome.

Application Process

  • The application processes for all SIPA programs are handled online. All documents required to be considered for admission can be submitted through the online application. We do not require documents be mailed to our office. Feel free to contact the Office of Admissions at 212-854-6216 or send an e-mail to [email protected] if you have any further questions.

  • Deadlines vary on based on program and term. Please see this website for more information.

  • Those who apply to an Early Action deadline will receive their enrollment decision sooner than those who apply after this deadline. They will receive any funding notifications with the rest of the Fellowship Consideration applications. An Early Action application is not binding.


    In order to receive funding consideration you must both apply before the deadline (and ensure all of your materials are submitted as well), and mark that you would like to be considered for funding in your application.

  • The admissions committee seeks to admit candidates with a combination of proven academic ability and most successful applicants possess two to three years of relevant professional-level work experience. Please refer to the What We Look For page for details.

  • The $95 USD non-refundable application fee can be paid by credit card or check. Unfortunately, we do not grant fee waivers for financial hardship.

    We may grant application fee waivers to applicants who meet the following criteria:

    • Active duty U.S. military personnel
    • AmeriCorps 
    • Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellows
    • Columbia University (Barnard, CC, GS, SEAS) 5-year dual-degree applicants 
    • Columbia Displaced Persons' Scholarship applicants
    • Graduates from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)
    • Graduates from Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs)
    • Institute for International Public Policy (IIPP)
    • Joint Japan/World Bank Scholarship Program (MPA-EPM applicants only) 
    • McNair Scholars
    • Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF)
    • Payne Fellows
    • Peace Corps volunteers (MIA, MPA, MPA-DP applicants only)
    • Public Policy & International Affairs (PPIA) Fellows
    • Teach for All network partners (currently in service)
    • Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellows
    • Truman Scholar
    • Questbridge

    Applicants requesting a fee waiver should email [email protected]. Applicants must be prepared to submit an official document confirming participation in the appropriate program. 

  • Decision notifications are posted to the application portal. You will receive an email when a decision is available.


    MIA/ MPA: Fall Early Action applicants will receive decisions by January 1, and remaining fall decisions are communicated in mid-March. Decisions for spring applications are released by late November.

  • Yes, you must select your program and concentration of choice on your admissions application. For information on concentrations and specializations, please visit this website.

  • There is no separate application for SIPA fellowship consideration. In order to be considered for funding, you must select “yes” on the application and apply by the fellowship consideration deadline. SIPA has a need-blind admission policy, meaning an applicant’s financial need is not a factor in the admission decision.

  • To monitor the status of your application materials, you may log into your application portal. You will receive a notification email once a decision has been made.

  • If the Admissions Committee determines additional materials are required, you will be contacted. No additional materials may be uploaded after your application is submitted.

  • The school places a small number of applicants on an admissions waitlist each year. Students on the waitlist are notified when and if places become available in the entering class. The waitlist is not ranked, nor is there any guarantee that applicants on the list will be granted admission.

    If your application has been placed on the waitlist, we ask that you respond to let us know if you would like to remain on the waitlist or be removed. Applicants who wish to remain on the waitlist will receive occasional updates via e-mail about their status; these updates may continue until our incoming class is finalized. A final notice will be emailed to all applicants on the waitlist once the class has been finalized. At any time you may contact us if you would like your application to be removed from the waitlist.

  • No. We do not permit applicants on the waitlist to submit any additional materials. These applications have already been evaluated by the Admissions Committee; newly submitted materials will not be reviewed unless requested by the Committee.

Transcripts/Recommendation Letters

  • A bachelor's degree or its equivalent from an accredited institution is required to enroll at Columbia SIPA. Applicants must submit transcripts forany college or university attended, even if the coursework was not part of a degree program. We need the credits, grades, and grading scale to be submitted. Unofficial copies of transcripts may be uploaded to the admission site for admission consideration. Only if an offer of admission is made and the applicant accepts will we require the submission of official transcripts; these documents must be on file one month prior to orientation. In addition, official documentation of the degree conferred is required.


    Classes that have notes such as T, TR, or CR will not be accepted. These notes generally refer to transfer classes. If an applicant attended one school and transferred to another and the new school only notes codes for transfer credit, the applicant must submit the transcript from the first school with the grade achieved.


    If an applicant is currently in an academic program and will not finish the program by the time of the application deadline we ask that the applicant submit the most up-to-date transcript information. We do not require that a program be completed at the time of application. In other words, we can make an admission decision with incomplete transcripts if an applicant is still finishing a program. However, the academic degree must be completed prior to enrollment at SIPA. 

  • Materials that are not in English must be translated by an official translation agency and notarized. SIPA does not endorse or recommend any individual provider of translation services. Please submit both the original documents and the translations to the Admissions Office.

  • Once you have accepted our offer of admission, you must submit an official electronic transcript from each university you attended. This transcript must include degree conferral, or you must submit proof that the degree has been awarded.


    If you completed a study abroad or exchange program that is credited on your “home” transcript (where your bachelor’s degree was conferred), the official transcript (from the abroad institution) is not needed. 


    *For incoming GPPN students, all official transcripts are needed from colleges and universities prior to your enrollment of the partner dual degree institution. We also require official transcripts from the partner institution where you spent your first year of study with the exception of Sciences Po.


    Accepted Transcripts:


    • Domestic Institutions (within the United States):  All students who have attended a college or university in the United States must submit electronic transcripts directly from their school to the admissions office through a secure, password-protected system. Transcripts sent as email attachments are NOT considered official.
    • International Institutions within the People’s Republic of China:  2) All students attending Chinese institutions will be required to contact CHESICC to arrange submission of a “Verification Report of China Higher Education Student's Academic Transcript” AND a “Verification Report of China Higher Education Qualification Certificate” or "Online Verification Report of China Higher Education Qualification Certificate" (for those earning a degree in China) to Columbia at [email protected].
    • International Institutions (NOT including the People’s Republic of China):  3) All other students who have attended an international university (outside of the United States) must submit an electronic transcript (if their school offers secure online delivery) to
      • If the university cannot send transcripts electronically via a secure, password-protected system, applicants must order a Course-by-Course Evaluation and International Credential Advantage Package to be sent electronically to the SIPA Office of Admissions. You may view a guide of arranging for the report to be sent to us here: WES Evaluation.pdf


    Paper transcripts from outside of the United States cannot be mailed to our office under any circumstances.

  • References are integral to the application evaluation, and we encourage applicants to ask individuals who are equipped to attest to your academic abilities, leadership skills, and/or character. The Admissions Committee requires two recommendation letters, and your references may be either academic or professional.

Standardized Tests

  • International students who did not earn a four year bachelor's degree (or international equivalent) from an institution in which English is the primary language of instruction, must submit proof of competency in English by submitting TOEFL*, IELTS, or Cambridge English scores in order for the application to be reviewed.

    In order for the application to be considered for admission, applicants must successfully achieve a minimum score on the English proficiency exam. By achieving a preferred score, admitted applicants will not be required to enroll in SIPA's mandatory American Language Program (admitted students required to take this course are notified in their admission letter). Scores must be verified after admission to the program, but before your scores expire. If scores will expire, please contact us well ahead of time so that we can retrieve the official scores before they expire. TOEFL scores must be reported to code 2161. 

    • TOEFL ibt minimum score: 100, preferred score: 110 or above
    • IELTS minimum score: 7.0, preferred score: 7.5 or above
    • Cambridge English C1 Advanced/ C2 Proficiency: minimum score: 185 C1 Advanced, preferred score: 191 or above

    Email us at [email protected] to request an English Proficiency Exam waiver at least four weeks prior to your application deadline. A completed waiver must be received in order to process your request. The waiver request should include details on how you think you have met the English proficiency already like work experience and studies done. Each waiver is reviewed on an individual basis; submission of the waiver does not guarantee approval. 

    *We do not accept the at-home version of the GRE, GMAT, TOEFL or IELTS exams at this time. We do not accept TOEFL myBest scores. 

  • GRE (or GMAT) scores are currently optional for applicants in all programs, with the exception of the MPA in Economic Policy Management program. However, even if optional, we have found them to be useful indicators of academic ability. You may review this blog post here for additional information.


    Applicants (who are reporting scores) must submit a self-reported (manually input) GRE or GMAT score. If admitted, applicants must arrange for the official test report(s) to be sent to the Office of Admissions prior to enrolling. Please note the Admissions Committee reserves the right to reverse an admission decision if the self-reported scores do not match official scores sent by the testing agencies.


    Applicants who do not have evidence of quantitative coursework are strongly encouraged to submit a GRE/GMAT exam.


    Columbia SIPA GRE school code is 2161 (there is no department code). Our GMAT codes: Master of International Affairs: QF8-64-56 and Master of Public Administration: QF8-64-99

  • We do NOT accept LSAT scores.

  • Self-reported test scores should be submitted with the application by the deadline. Scores must be verified after admission to the program, but before your scores expire.

  • SIPA has no minimum GRE or GMAT scores. The Admissions Committee carefully reviews every application in its entirety, including test scores, grades (particularly those in relevant coursework), letters of reference, and the applicant's personal statement and work experience.

  • We do not accept the at-home version of the GRE, GMAT, TOEFL or IELTS exams at this time.

Applicant Profile

  • The average age of an incoming MIA/MPA student is 26. However, we have received applications from students who are as young as 21 and as old as 61. The vast majority of MIA/MPA students are between 25 and 35 years old. Most admitted students have a minimum of 3 years of full-time work experience. 

  • We encourage all applicants to carefully review the curriculum set forth for the MIA and MPA programs, along with the various concentrations and specializations. The Admissions Committee will look for evidence of quantitative abilities, which can be reflected within the undergraduate transcript, resume, or standardized test scores. If you determine that you would like to supplement your application with additional coursework, you may consider courses in Economics and/or Statistics at an accredited institution.

  • Each year, 5 to 10 percent of accepted students come directly from undergraduate institutions. These are individuals with extraordinary academic records who have also had significant internship or study abroad experience. In some cases, recent undergraduates with very strong academic credentials are not offered admission, but are encouraged to reapply after they have gained at least one year or more of relevant work experience.

  • We do see a lot of candidates that are career-changers, and SIPA has students that come from many different academic backgrounds. What you will need to do is draw the connections clearly from your background and experience, to what you want to study at SIPA. Highlight your transferable skills for the Admissions Committee. There are many areas to do this within your application, including your resume and essays, and if applicable, the optional essay.

Financial Aid and Planning

Find answers to commonly asked questions regarding our Financial Aid Policies, Fellowships/Scholarships/Assistantships review processes, Loan (Federal and Private) information and more by exploring the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page of the Office of Financial Aid.

Learn More