Thursday, June 13, 2013

Admissions: Get the ball rolling early

Advice to prospective SAIS Bologna candidates: The earlier you get on top of the application process, the better your chances of being admitted.

The strongest applications come from candidates who offer a solid academic track record and who also spend time making sure their dossier is as good as possible.

Get the ball rolling
An application to SAIS Bologna is made up of many different parts, which together give the Admissions Committee -- made up primarily of resident faculty members -- the broadest and most detailed view possible of the candidate.

So an application is not something to be thrown together at the last minute. Like a fine wine (excuse the simile), it takes time to mature.

With those general points in mind, what can an aspiring applicant do now to get the ball rolling? Here is a checklist:

1. Read up on SAIS. Peruse our catalog and website, and check in on this Admissions Journal regularly (you can subscribe to the Journal by either email or RSS feed).

2. Familiarize yourself with the application process. Check out this web page and register yourself here.

3. English competency. Are you a non-native speaker of English? If so, you will have to submit the results of an English competency test. Here are the requirements for non-native English speakers.

We accept results from three tests: TOEFL, IELTS and Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English. You might like to take one of these tests more than once to maximize your chances of getting a good score, so the earlier you start planning, the better.

4. GREs or GMATs. We do not require non-U.S. students who want to start their studies in Bologna to submit GRE or GMAT scores. But we do recommend they do so. A higher than average score can help a candidate; a sub-par score can be a warning flag. Scores very rarely make or break an application, but they help round out an application. Get on top of these standardized tests early as you might want to take them more than once.

It takes time to mature
5. Referees. Letters of recommendation constitute one of the most important elements of an application. The choice of referees is important. Once you've chosen them, it's important that they understand what SAIS is, why you want to study there, what you would contribute that is unique and how the experience would benefit you. It can take time to explain that to the referees. Plus you want to leave them enough time to draft their letters, which need to be confidential.

6. Statements. The statement of purpose and analytical essay provide two opportunities to put your best foot forward in your application. You will want to let your ideas for each germinate before you start writing.

7. Finances. A SAIS education is an investment in your future. SAIS offers financial aid to many students, but just about all of them have to finance at least part of the cost. The earlier you start mapping a strategy, the better. For a list of alternative sources, click here. For information on a special loan facility offered to some incoming SAIS Bologna students, click here.

As we wrote last year, the early bird gets the worm. The deadline for applications for 2014-15 -- January 7, 2014 -- may seem a long way away. It's time well spent by candidates keen to maximize their chances of success.

Nelson Graves

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