Admissions Blog

Ready to Submit Your Application? Check Out These 6 Reminders and FAQs

By Clara Li '23
Posted Jan 31 2023

We are thrilled that you have taken the time to apply to SIPA! If you are at the homestretch and ready to submit your application, please review the following 6 most commonly asked questions and missteps people run into when submitting their application.

#1 There is a red check mark for my GRE/GMAT scores; I thought these were optional?

The GRE/GMAT scores are currently optional for all applicants to SIPA except for the summer MPA-EPM program. If you decide not to submit your scores with your application, your application portal will look like the following:


After application submission, there will be red check marks in the GRE/GMAT rows and the status will stay as “Awaiting.” This is expected! The GRE/GMAT status defaults to Awaiting in the portal when no scores are submitted with the application; when the admissions team processes the application we waive it if it is not required for the program. The team will waive it automatically and you do not need to contact our office to clarify that you are not submitting your scores.

#2 What should I include in the Quantitative/Language Resume?

When in doubt, follow our template! Below are the most common mistakes made on the Quantitative/Language Resume:

  • Quantitative Coursework Grades: For each quantitative course listed, please be sure to include the grade. High school level courses should not be included. 
  • Professional Experience Section: If you have professional experience (i.e. full-time, part-time, internship, volunteer work), please remember to include this section to outline how you have used quantitative skills in your work.
  • Foreign Language Section: If you are applying for the MIA program OR if you are an MPA applicant that has selected Economic and Political Development (EPD) as your concentration, you are required to include a foreign language proficiency section. This should include details around your language study and experience.

#3 Which transcripts should I send?

We need to see all the courses you took and the grades/marks received for all education you listed in the application (ex: B.A., M.A.). The most common mistake we see is that students take courses at another institution during their undergraduate experience and these grades are not listed on their undergraduate transcript. Instead, the transcript merely notes that transfer credits were received.

When in doubt, send in all transcripts from any institution that you have taken a course and received a grade.

#4 Do I need to submit my TOEFL/IELTS/Cambridge scores?

If English was the primary language of instruction of your undergraduate institution (all four years or international equivalent) then you are not required to submit a TOEFL, IELTS, or Cambridge score.

The admissions team will be confirming the language of instruction of your undergraduate institution. If this information is not easily found online, we recommend uploading an official document from your university to your application that states this. This saves everyone time!

#5 When can I access the video response essay?

Only after submitting your application and paying the application fee will you be able to access the video response. This needs to be completed by your desired application deadline in order for your application to be considered complete.

#6 Can I receive an application fee waiver?


We currently only waive application fees for applicants with ties to certain organizations and, unfortunately, we do not grant fee waivers for financial hardship.

We only grant application fee waivers to applicants who meet any of 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

Fee Waiver Request Process:

If you are eligible for a fee waiver (see criteria above), please email [email protected]  for the waiver request form. 

Please submit the fee waiver request after the application has been submitted and well ahead of the deadline. You should submit the application and the fee waiver at least a week or two prior to the application deadline to allow for review of the waiver and if approved, to submit the video response. Submission of the waiver does not guarantee that it will be approved. 

If you still have any questions about your application, please first review our FAQ page; more likely than not your question will be answered there. If you cannot find your answer on the FAQ page or on the SIPA Admissions website; then you can contact the SIPA Office of Admissions at [email protected] or the Office of Financial Aid at [email protected].

Hang in there, you are almost done with the application process! My best advice is to start early and don’t panic!!