Category Archives: College Admissions

As a freelance writer, I create blog content on college admissions issues. I have written for various test prep and educational consulting companies. Through my website, I also offer advice and reviews for students writing college essays, personal statements, and resumes/CVs.

Need a blog on college admissions for your website?

If so, ask me to be your freelance writer through UpWork.

My personal experience with college admissions:

As a senior in high school, I was accepted to 10 different US colleges for undergraduate school. However, I ended up not attending college right away. Instead, I spent a gap year with Rotary International in Bolivia. I am a big fan of gap years because they can give you much-needed time to think about your college admissions options!

Thanks in part to my gap year, I received the Eugene McDermott scholarship to attend UT Dallas tuition-free with a monthly stipend. It was a great decision.

In my senior year of college I applied for the prestigious Fulbright Award. I received the award and left for Spain for one year. While I was there, I taught high school students and learned more about the concerns facing college applicants.

After my year with Fulbright, I was accepted to Sciences Po — one of Europe’s most prestigious universities for international affairs — for my graduate studies. I also received the Boutmy scholarship for my degree.

During my graduate studies, students began to contact me through my website for advice about college admissions. That is when I began working as a freelancer. At first I helped students by reviewing their Sciences Po essays. Now, I write blogs about college admissions for a larger audience.

Sciences Po Review

Frequent website visitors may have noticed that I stopped reviewing CVs and personal statements for Sciences Po for a short time. But now, I will begin again!

Even during my short hiatus I continued to receive many requests from students hoping I would make an exception for them. It’s been really hard to say no.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone, including many people with careers in international affairs. I’ve decided to offer my services again for a short time so that I can help students in need and also prepare in case my own career is affected.

Worried about studying for a career in international affairs under the dark cloud of COVID-19? Read this.

Ready to request a CV or personal statement review for your Sciences Po application? Go here.

An International Career & Coronavirus

COVID-19 has had an enormous impact on our world… and international careers have not been spared! With travel restrictions everywhere, you may be asking yourself: Do I really want to study for a career that depends so heavily on international travel?

This is a good question. But before you make any life-altering decisions out of fear of the unknown, consider the following:

  1. Global pandemics highlight a need for more international cooperation, not less.
    I’d like to say that COVID-19 is only a temporary visitor to our world. Yet, even if it sticks around forever, there is no question that mitigation strategies will require international cooperation:
    – Somebody has to facilitate the sharing of testing and vaccine innovations.
    – Somebody has to argue for more or less research dollars.
    – Somebody has to advocate for testing in refugee camps and amongst our world’s most vulnerable populations.
    Rather than a hurdle, think of this as an opportunity.
  2. International affairs degrees have many uses.
    That Master’s in International Public Management could still land you a job in a local business back home. That may not be your plan, but it can always be a back-up plan. In the meantime, why not shoot for the stars?
  3. Competition may thin.
    Make no mistake: others in your place may also be unsure about a career in international affairs. Even more so, they may be nervous about attending university anywhere outside their home country.
    Recently Sciences Po has moved all of its classes online. Online classes may seem less exciting or useful, and while I’m certainly not privy to any numbers, this might discourage some individuals from even applying in the first place. After all, the greatest joy of studying in France is, well, being in France!
    But even if you have to do a semester or two from a distance, that doesn’t mean you won’t eventually get to France. Plus, online classes are becoming the new norm all around the world, even for elementary school students! But remember: just because classes are online doesn’t mean they are lesser quality or they don’t allow opportunities to interact with other international students. Most online class forums still allow for substantial back-and-forth conversations with your peers — you just might have to be a bit more proactive about it.

I cannot predict the future any more than you can. Yet, I would argue that fear simply isn’t worth letting your dreams fall to the wayside.

Sciences Po: 4 Tips for the Policy Stream Essay

Sciences Po requires a policy stream essay for some of its graduate school applicants. The prompt is as follows:

Please explain your motivations for your policy streams choice(s) (250 words)

Here are my tips for an excellent policy stream essay:

  1. Write 3 paragraphs.

    250 words isn’t very long. If you write more than 3 paragraphs then you’re probably not writing grammatically accurate paragraphs. If you write less than 3 paragraphs, well… you might be able to get away with just two, but one paragraph probably doesn’t showcase much organizational skill.

  2. Explain what your career goal is and state that this policy stream will help you to achieve it.

    This can be your first paragraph. Think of it as an introduction. Just state what your choice is and how that fits in with your broader career goals.

    “I have chosen the X policy stream because I am interested in Y, and I intend to pursue a career in A.”

  3. Tell what this policy stream offers.

    This can be your second paragraph. Think about it as an opportunity to show that you’ve done your research and you know what your choice means.

    Don’t be afraid to refer to specific classes or professors that make this policy stream stand out to you.

    “The courses taught within this policy stream will teach me about….”

    “Classes such as X and Y will teach me about….”

  4. Wrap it up.
    Tell how the course offerings will help you to ultimately achieve your career goals. Given the classes you’ll be taking, why does this choice make sense for you?

    “By taking the courses listed above, I hope to improve my understanding of….”
    “Ultimately, this will make me more prepared for a career in….””For these reasons, I think that the X policy stream is the perfect fit for my ambitions.”

Simple as that! Feel free to leave a comment if you have questions, and also check out some of my most popular posts:

Perspective on Getting a Foreign Degree

A reader writes:

“Hi Maija,

I hope your holidays are going well!
I have a question in terms of post grad opportunities. I know Science Po is a very prestigious school in Europe, but I wanted to know your thoughts on the value of getting an international master’s degree and opportunities in the US. Although I am primarily interested in working in France and internationally, I am curious as to how that degree would be perceived if I were to seek job opportunities in the United States. Thank you!
Best Wishes,
Dear Perspective:
You shouldn’t have any problem using your Sciences Po degree in the U.S. Most employers will see your degree the same as they do any other master’s degree. Many employers have heard of Sciences Po before and know that it is prestigious, while those that haven’t are still likely to be impressed when they see that you studied in France.
Certain jobs (including jobs with the U.S. government), may require your to have your foreign degree evaluated for its U.S. equivalency. This can cost between $80 and $200 . When I did this (I used the service SpanTran), my 2-year Sciences Po master’s degree was evaluated as the equivalent of a 2-year master’s degree in the United States.
Hope this helps!

Anxious About What I Submitted

A reader writes:
“Hi Maija!
Last month I submitted my application to Sciences Po for the PSIA’s Master in International Development.
Prior to that, I had been contemplating availing of your services for my personal statement, but two weeks before my deadline I was nowhere near finished. I hesitated and decided not to bother you with a last-minute request.
Long story short, my anxiety is getting the better of me. I’m wondering if you might be willing to simply check out my CV and personal statement that I already submitted. I know it won’t do anything to change my application, but I was still hoping you would share your thoughts anyway.
Please let me know if you can help.
All the best,
Dear Anxious:
Sorry to hear that you weren’t able to finish everything in time to request my help.
Given that you have already submitted your application, I don’t think it make much sense for me to review your work. Rather, I would like to prioritize my time for those people who need my help to improve their work before submission.
I know that it can be nerve-wracking to await judgement on your application. Try to focus your efforts on a different college application, a hobby, or your current job. The judgement you are really looking for is not from me. Rather, what you are seeking is an admissions decision from Sciences Po — and it will come soon enough.
Looking for a second pair of eyes to review your application? I can help!

The Paragraph Ain’t Dead

Remember that paragraph you learned to write in middle school? The one with the topic sentence, 3 supporting sentences, and a concluding sentence? Well, guess what– it never died.

The proper paragraph is alive and well.

More importantly, it is ABSOLUTELY what you should be using to write your personal statements for college.

I know what you’re thinking– those kinds of paragraphs are so constraining. Hell, at least one person is eyeing this very blog post and thinking: “But you’re not following the paragraph rules! That last chunk of text only has one sentence in it!”

Well, sorry my friend, but I’m writing a blog post, not a personal statement. Nobody is grading me on this post and, certainly, nobody is going to keep me from furthering my education because of it. You, on the other hand, need to follow the rules.

We tend to forget about the paragraph sometime either late in high school or in college.

Teachers suddenly stop caring if you indent. Students with non-traditional essay formats begin to make good grades. You also have to cite stuff and, you know, it gets tricky to cite things and still maintain a rigid format. I get it.

But your personal statement for college is an academic pursuit.

Some rules can be bent, but not all of them.

For example, the first sentence doesn’t have to be the topic sentence. You can have more than 5 sentences. You can even leave off the concluding sentence occasionally. But other rules cannot be bent…

Here are your basic, personal statement ground rules of paragraphs:
  1. All the sentences should relate to the same idea.
  2. You should have at least 3 sentences in every paragraph.
  3. You should organize your sentences in some sort of logical manner.

If your paragraphs contain sentences that are not even related to each other… you’re in trouble.

If the paragraph starts with “I became passionate about ponies because of my dad” and ends “I hope to eat a lot of sushi in Paris”… you’re also in trouble.

If your paragraph, quite frankly, just doesn’t even make any sense… yeah, big trouble.

If you cannot follow those ground rules, please don’t contact me. Some essays are exhausting to edit. That said, if all you need is a little help, check out my editing services.

Submitting a Writing Sample

A reader writes:

“Good day!

Will it help or hurt an application to submit a writing sample from undergrad?

I am applying to the Master in International Development program at PSIA. A friend there now told me she’s never met anyone who’s submitted a writing sample of anything other than their undergrad thesis. However, my thesis was about migrating geese, a topic totally unrelated to international development.

Does it matter whether or not my thesis is related to what I want to study for my master’s? Is it better to attach a sample work of, say, short assignments from related courses such as economics? Thanks much for any help you can provide. And wonderful blog.


Sample Writer”

Dear Sample Writer:
Great question!
No, you do not have to send in your undergraduate thesis. After all, not everyone even writes an undergraduate thesis.
You should choose the best writing sample you have that shows your skill in writing and analysis. It’s a good idea to choose something at least tangentially related to what you want to study. That said, it is more important that the writing be well-written (clear, coherent, and analytical) than that it be about any one particular subject.
If you are proud of the writings you did in economics, then they are probably a good choice.
Looking for a second pair of eyes to review your application? I can help!

Sciences Po Admissions Rate

The overall admissions rate at Sciences Po was 22.6% in 2016, for all its programs.

Of course, that includes both undergraduate and graduate programs (in addition to dual degree programs). If you just look at master’s students, then around 30% were accepted in 2016. The overall undergraduate admissions rate at Sciences Po was 18.5% in 2016.

If you are applying as an international student, you may be wondering if that’s a positive or a negative thing.

International master’s students have a slightly higher acceptance rate to Sciences Po than French students.

The acceptance rate was about 37% for international master’s students in 2016. Hurray!

These rates make Sciences Po a very competitive institution. While it isn’t quite as competitive as Harvard, one of the main reasons may be that it just doesn’t get as many applicants.

In 2017, Sciences Po ranked #4 in the world for Politics and International Studies (just behind Harvard, Oxford, and LSE). Yet, it only had 16,669 applicants (and that includes all of its degree programs). Harvard, in contrast, had 39.044 applicants for undergraduate school alone. 

Applying to Sciences Po? I can review your personal statement.

You can check my math and find other really great statistics here.

PSIA Programs at Sciences Po

Understanding the difference between the various PSIA program can be a little bit tricky.

The thing is, all of the students at PSIA (Paris School of International Affairs – Sciences Po) take classes together. Technically the school offers eight different master’s programs:

  • International Security
  • International Economic Policy
  • International Public Management
  • Environmental Policy
  • International Development
  • International Energy
  • Human Rights and Humanitarian Action
  • Development Practice

So what’s the difference between them? How should you decide which one is right for you?

This issue was the topic of my blog post in September of last year, and I think it’s a good one– especially as the application season heats up again! Read everything I had to say about it here.

An Application Misspelling

A reader writes:

“Hi Maija!

I just came across your site when I searched for an LSE Sciences Po comparison, wish I came across it before I handed in my application. (One year MPA at Sciences Po).

I’m writing you because I have a dilemma. I made a deadly mistake on my Sciences Po application -miss-spelling the name of the institution! And I’m wondering if I should contact admissions and attempt to send a revised one. It’s been two weeks since the deadline and the website states the decision will be given end of June.

I’d be happy to provide more detail and really hope you can offer me some guidance!

Many thanks in advance,


Dear Misspelling:
Ah! I can imagine how nerve-wracking that must feel.
Unfortunately, there’s really not anything you can do. Since the deadline has already passed and it is already June, chances are that they have already reviewed your application and made a decision on it. At this point, you just need to wait and see what the decision was.
That said, assuming the rest of your application was well-written and without typos, it is highly unlikely that misspelling the name of the institution is going to be a major factor in their decision. If your background and essay are up to par, you should receive an offer of admissions.
University staff understands that most students send off many, many applications. While a single misspelling doesn’t look good, it is hardly the most important factor in your application.
Relax, breathe, and try to do something else while you wait for your admissions decision. As for the future, try to get a second pair of eyes to look over your admission essays in the future.


Looking for a second pair of eyes to review your application? I can help!