Thursday, August 8, 2013

Thinking of applying to SAIS? Here are your next steps

To help prospective applicants plan, we offer a checklist of steps to take plus links to past posts.

If you are thinking of applying to SAIS Europe (formerly SAIS Bologna), now is a great time to get your thoughts and plans in order.

1. Standardized tests

If you are a non-native speaker of English, you will have to submit the results of one of three competency tests: TOEFL, IELTS or Cambridge Proficiency Exam.

Here is a document spelling out our English-language requirements. If you are going to sign up for one of the competency exams, it's a good idea to leave yourself enough time to take the test a second time in case you are not satisfied with your score on the first exam.

If you have taken one of those three tests since January 7, 2012 (two years before the deadline for applications), those results can be submitted as part of your application.

All U.S. citizens are required to submit the results of either the GRE or the GMAT; non-U.S. citizens who are open to starting their SAIS studies in either DC or Bologna must also take one of those tests. Non-U.S. citizens wishing to start in Bologna are not required to take either the GRE or the GMAT, but we strongly recommend that these candidates do so. (For more detail, read this post.)

As with the English competency tests, if you are taking the GRE or GMAT, it is best to leave enough time to take one or the other a second time in case you are not satisfied with your first set of scores.

For more on the GRE and GMAT, click here.

2. CV

This is a basic building block of an application. There is no minimum or maximum length; the crucial thing is to keep it very tight and to make sure it is an accurate reflection of your studies, work and experiences. It's important to get the CV right as you will want to share it with the authors of your letters of reference.

Here is a past post on CVs.

3. Statement of Purpose

The statement is your chance to tell us why SAIS would be the best next step for you, how it fits in with your career aspirations and what you would bring to SAIS that is unique and valuable.

It takes time for your thoughts to come together before you start writing your statement, so be patient. Be sure that your statement is not a generic text saying you want to go to graduate school; it should capture what attracts you specifically to SAIS. Try to make your statement engaging and original but of course not frivolous; remember, Admissions Committee members read hundreds of statements.

You may want to share your statement with your referees as it will help them tailor their letters.

For more on the statement of purpose, click here.

4. Letters of reference

We require two letters of reference. Some candidates ask two professors to support them; those with more work experience might ask one professor and one work supervisor. The crucial thing is that the person should be able to write with authority about you and also consider why SAIS would suit you. That means you may have to spend time explaining your situation to the referees. Give yourself time.

Referees can be notoriously bad with meeting the deadline for their letters. Be prepared to lean gently on them. Also, we require referees to send us their letters directly; they can upload them to your online application or send a hard copy on official letterhead to the SAIS DC Admissions Office.

For more on the letters of reference, click here.

5. Transcripts

We will need an official version of your undergraduate transcript. Your university's registrar should send your most recent transcript directly to our SAIS DC Admissions Office, where it will be loaded into your online dossier.

Some universities use a third-party service to distribute transcripts.

6. Analytical essay

This is a chance to show that you can write with authority on a topic of current interest. No original research is required, and we are not looking for footnotes or a bibliography. Also, we do not want a copy of your 20,000-word undergraduate thesis; the essay should be no more than 600 words.

For more on the analytical essay, click here.

7. Stay in touch

The more you know about SAIS, the better your application. We will be holding a series of online information sessions in coming months. We welcome visitors to SAIS Europe and can arrange an ad hoc program for those who do come. More formally, we'll be opening our doors to prospective applicants during a one-day Open Day in the beginning of December.

Contact Amina or me if you have any questions.

Finally, keep reading this Journal!

Nelson Graves

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