Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Here are some of the questions we are hearing

As prospective candidates scout out different graduate programs, they naturally have questions about academics, student life, application procedures and potential careers.

Here are some of the questions -- all of them good ones -- that we are hearing:

Q: I am not a native English speaker but did my undergraduate degree in an English-language program. Do I need to submit the results of one of the English competency tests?

A: It depends. If your university was in an English-speaking country and you did a full undergraduate degree there, you are exempt from taking an English test as part of your application. If your university was not in an English-speaking country, you will have to submit the results of one of the tests (TOEFL, IELTS or the Cambridge English Proficiency exam).

Why the distinction? A student who studies in an English-speaking country is immersed in the language both inside and outside of the classroom; all other things being equal, the linguistic experience will be more powerful.

For more information on the English requirements at SAIS -- both for entry and for graduation -- and on the definition of a native English speaker, you can consult this guide.

Above all, applicants should keep in mind that SAIS is a "full-on" graduate program in English. The voluminous readings are in English; the papers and exams are in English, and classroom discussion is in English. It's essential that a student be very comfortable in English to benefit fully from the SAIS experience.

For some data on average TOEFL scores for this year's class, you can look at page 18 of the SAIS brochure.

Q: Do I have to take the GRE or GMAT?

A: Again, it depends. Three categories of applicants are required to take either the GRE or GMAT:
  • U.S. citizens
  • non-U.S. citizens who want to start their SAIS studies in DC
  • non-U.S. citizens who are open to starting in either DC or Bologna
Non-U.S. citizens who want to start their studies in Bologna are not required to take the GRE or the GMAT. However, we strongly recommend that applicants take one of the exams, and most of the applicants to Bologna do so.

Why do we recommend that non-U.S. citizens who want to start in Bologna take either the GRE or the GMAT? Relatively good scores can help an applicant. And if an applicants scores below the SAIS average, it could be a warning sign for both the candidate and SAIS. (For data on average scores of this year's students, consult page 18 of the brochure.)

Keep in mind that very few applications are either made or ruined by GRE or GMAT scores.

If your GRE or GMAT score is lower than you would have wanted, you can address the issue in your statement of purpose. Perhaps there were extenuating circumstances you would like to mention.

Q: Will my application be handled by SAIS DC Admissions or SAIS Europe (Bologna) Admissions?

A: Yet again, it depends. If you are a U.S. citizen or if you are a non-U.S. citizen who wants to start studying in DC, your application will be handled in DC. The email address for the DC Admissions Office is

If you are a non-U.S. citizen who wants to start in Bologna, your application will be handled in Bologna. Our email is

Q: SAIS is a private program with tuition. How does one pay for it?

A: Many SAIS students receive financial aid from SAIS. Financial aid applications are due by February 15, 2014. Aid is allocated on the basis of need and merit. The stronger one's application, the better one's chances of receiving aid.

Students will typically mix a combination of sources of money to make ends meet. There can be aid from SAIS or from alternative sources, loans, savings, part-time work. One good way to learn about financing a SAIS education is to speak to current students or recent graduates from your country and to ask them about their strategy. If you'd like to speak to a SAIS Europe student or alumnus, you can send an email to

Although SAIS is a major commitment, it can open up a host of career opportunities, as our alumni will attest. Here is a document detailing the types of careers that the SAIS Class of 2012 chose.

Nelson Graves


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