Admissions Blog

Shally's Recommendations on Applying to SIPA

By Shally Baloch '23
Posted Sep 07 2023

Perhaps not the most sentimental, nostalgic, or Shally-like post, today I come to you with some Very Important things to note about applying to SIPA. Being here and experiencing the SIPA magic is an experience that I want everyone to have the best chance to have! The easiest way to achieve that is to make sure all your materials are in (maybe even well in advance) and the Admission office does not have to reach out to you.

As of 9/7/23, the application for MIA/MPA is not open yet, but should be open in the following few weeks. Please continue to check your emails and the website for more information!

Here are some of the key application components that applicants tend to have the hardest time with:

  1. Recommendations
  2. Transcripts
  3. Test scores


This is a beautiful opportunity to shine and have your many, many accolades and achievements acknowledged by the people who know your work best! You do not want to be waiting the night before the application is due for the notification that your recommender submitted their letter. Reach out and follow up early with trusted professors, advisors, and supervisors to ensure that they are able to complete your recommendation on time, and possibly have a backup in mind.

The two main challenges that applicants encounter are around their recommender’s email and recommender delays in receiving the recommendation request link.

  • After selecting a recommender, you will enter their professional or academic email in the application portal. If they do not have either, you will be asked to submit additional information via a form that will be sent to you. Please note that if you are accepted and decide to enroll, all information is subject to verification.
  • Recommenders sometimes do not receive the link to complete the recommendation. They should check their spam– please give yourself enough time to resolve any issues (by sending another email or reaching out to Admissions) before the deadline!

While only two recommendations are required for the MIA and MPA, you can submit up to three. On a personal note, I reached out to potential recommenders (two academic and one professional) the summer before applying. You typically want one academic and one professional, but this is entirely up to you and whom you feel can best support your candidacy. This was before I was even certain I was going to apply to graduate school. When graduate school applications opened, the first thing I did was submit their emails to the application so that in the event that I ultimately end up applying, the recommendation was submitted. We do not accept recommendation letters from applicants directly under any circumstances!


Transcripts can also be challenging! You must have an undergraduate degree from a four-year institution (and in some select cases, a three-year international equivalent– you can follow up with the Office of Admission to confirm your eligibility). In the application, all you have to do is add the institution(s) and upload an unofficial transcript that is:

  • Legible,
  • Has all of your course titles and associated grades, and
  • Has all semesters or quarters listed.

We must be able to see the date of degree conferral or anticipated graduation. Additionally, if you studied abroad, took classes at another university or community college, or have any coursework listed on your transcript as transfer credit, you must submit those transcripts as well. Generally, when transfer credits are listed at your base institution, they do not have a grade associated with them. We need grades for all coursework taken so we need transcripts from all institutions attended.

Should you be accepted to SIPA, we will request official transcripts to be sent directly from your undergraduate institution. If you are an international student, you will need to submit a WES evaluation for validation purposes (you can do this for your application as well).

Test Scores

The GRE/GMAT while optional is highly recommended especially if you do not have a strong quantitative background. Doing well is a great signifier that you are prepared for the academic rigor of SIPA. Give yourself enough time both to prepare for the test and also to retake it, if you need to. SIPA’s ETS code is 2161 and GMAT is QF8-64-56 for MIA or QF8-64-99 for all MPA programs which you must input for your scores to be sent directly to the Office of Admissions. If you take the exam more than once, the committee will review the highest score obtained in each section across all exams submitted. Since we super-score, report all of your scores rather than just your highest overall score.

Additionally, if you did not attend an undergraduate institution where the language of instruction was entirely in English, you must submit either a TOEFL, IELTS, or  Cambridge score report. Results from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), or the Cambridge English Exam must be self-reported in the application. You must also upload a copy of your unofficial  score report from the testing center as part of your application. Below are the minimum requirements for consideration:

  • TOEFL Minimum: 100 (TOEFL Preferred: 110)
  • IELTS Minimum: 7.0 (IELTS Preferred: 7.5)
  • Cambridge English: C1 Advanced/ C2 Proficiency: C1 Advanced, preferred 191, minimum 185

To reiterate, if you do not reach the minimum score, you must retake the exam to be considered for admission at SIPA. Submitting official codes are as follows (official scores are required should you be accepted and choose to attend before enrolling):

  • GRE/TOEFL: ETS school code is 2161 (there is no department code)
  • IELTS: Must send TRF (test report form) number to admission’s email ([email protected])
  • Cambridge English: C1 Advanced/ C2 Proficiency: C1 Advanced, preferred 191, minimum 185
  • GMAT: Master of International Affairs: QF8-64-56  // Master of Public Administration: QF8-64-99

So with that, I bid you adieu and good luck on your future endeavors and applications! SIPA is a lovely place to be so I really hope you start early and are diligent in ensuring your application is complete so that you too may be a part of this lovely, life-changing, dream-making community <3 !