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.

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,

Misspelling”

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.
Best,
Maija

 

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

March 15 Deadline & Rush

Wow! In just one week, I received a rush of requests for Sciences Po application reviews from eleven different applicants— ten Master’s degree students and one undergraduate student.

Thank you to all of my readers for keeping me busy.

It has been a joy to read through all of your life experiences and motivations for pursuing careers in policymaking, development, international journalism, and more.

I am more than happy to help out anyone (applying to any university) who contacts me with their letter of motivation.

The Sciences Po international undergraduates still have until May 2 to submit their applications.

I look forward to hearing from those Sciences Po Master’s students who will be admitted in the coming weeks– and also to reading what the 2018 applicants will have in store for me, starting in just a few months.

Read my other posts:
Sciences Po Applications: Is It Bad to Submit at the Last Minute?
Can I Appeal My Rejection?

Can I Appeal My Rejection?

I recently received this message from a reader who wanted to know if she could appeal her rejection:

Hi Maija,

I would really appreciate your advice with an issue concerning my Sciences Po Application. Unfortunately, today I received my rejection from the University. However, I am very much confident that there must be some sort of mistake.

I know this might sound too self-confident, but I am sure that I had an excellent application. I prepared every single component in advance, from recommendation and motivation letter to a well-planned gap year that perfectly fits the Student Profile of PSIA.

Plus, I was really expecting an offer– especially since two students from my home University with worse grades, less practical experience and an overall average profile got admitted. I know that all sounds a little arrogant, yet I was very confident with my application and therefore really irritated about my rejection.

Could you give me any advice in this manner. How can I deal with this Situation. Would it make any sense to contact the Admission Office directly?

So, there are a couple of issues to be addressed here.
The first is “Can I appeal my rejection?”
The answer is that yes, you can always contact admissions and politely request that they take a second look at your application. As far as I am aware, Sciences Po does not have a formal avenue for students to appeal an admissions decision. Nevertheless, you can find the appropriate email addresses/phone numbers online quite easily.
The second question is “Will it work?”
The answer is probably no. It’s very rare for this tactic to actually work. There might be a compelling reason to try if there is some new and important information that you did not include in your initial application that you think will make the difference. However, it does not sound like that is the case in this instance.
Perhaps the more important questions here, though, are:
“Was my application not excellent?”

and

“Did these other two students with worse grades and less practical experience really have better applications than I did?”
 
If you think your application was excellent, then it probably was.

(I did not personally review this student’s application, nor did I review the applications of the other two students mentioned.)

Sciences Po is an extremely competitive university and, unfortunately, they often have to reject even some of the most qualified applicants. They just don’t have space for all of the excellent students who are interested in attending their programs.
Keep in mind that Sciences Po looks for much more than good grades and good practical experiences.
If you look at their international graduate admissions criteria, you will see that, beyond academic and professional background, Sciences Po also takes into account the applicant’s career plans and personality.

Did you accurately explain what your career plans are and how Sciences Po can help you to achieve them? Did you show intellectual curiosity and a strong capacity for leadership?

 Even given all of the admissions criteria, perhaps you truly were a better applicant than your peers.

Maybe you were just unable to express that clearly in words.

It is also possible that Sciences Po thought you were “too good” —
meaning that you are already able to pursue your career goals without first completing a master’s degree. While your peers need a Sciences Po master’s degree in order to continue in their fields, you are actually in a good position to go ahead and start working on what you want to do now.
Whatever the case may be, I encourage you not to despair. There is a great opportunity for you on the horizon!
Perhaps you will spend a year working in your field. Maybe you will travel and see more of the world. You could even decide that another university program is ultimately a much better fit for your particular goals. Rather than seeing this rejection as something negative, see it as something positive.
All the best,
Maija
Read my post about dealing with a college rejection.

Don’t Complement Your School on Its Rankings

Based on the 2016 QS World University Rankings, the following are the top places to study for a degree in Politics & International Studies:

  1. Harvard University
  2. University of Oxford
  3. London School of Economics and Political Sciences (LSE)
  4. Sciences Po
  5. University of Cambridge

WOW! Wouldn’t it just be the best to apply to one of these universities?

If you’ve started your application to one of these top schools, then you should be extremely excited about the opportunity to earn a world-class degree.

But you don’t need to put that in your personal statement!

The personal statement is an opportunity (with a limited word count) to express why you are a good fit for a certain program and why you plan to attend.

Of course, it’s possible you are only applying to a program because of its rankings. Yet, “I want to attend your school because it is the best” just isn’t a very good reason to apply somewhere. I see this all the time. Students write things like:

  • “Your university is the #3 in the world for politics and international relations, so studying at your prestigious university will allow me to achieve my dreams.”
  • “This school is in the top 10 for development programs in the world. It provides an excellent education and helps students to achieve great things.”

My reaction: “So, what?” The above lines are sentences that any student could write. They don’t provide any insight into who you are or why you are are good fit for a specific university or program.

Universities are looking for students who are talented and hard working. They want students that not only will do well in their classes, but will also go on to do great things after graduation– thereby giving an even better reputation to their institution.

If you make it sound like you are incredibly impressed by a school’s rankings, then the school may wonder if you aren’t applying to a program that is — quite frankly — out of your league.

Top universities do not give out positive admissions decisions to the students who most want to attend their school. They give them to the students who are the most deserving. Keep that in mind as you are crafting your application essays.

Grammar Quiz: A Nod to Some Grammatical Issues I See Frequently

I hardly consider a clickbait grammar quiz to be a good judge of whether or not you truly paid attention to your high school English teacher. English grammar is very, very complex! Moreover, I think that it’s under-emphasized in American high schools. (And one of these days I’ll probably write an entire post about that…)

Although many of my readers who contact me for help with their college personal statements are foreigners, I would say about 1/3 are native English speakers.

Regardless of nationality, this quiz touches on a few issues that I come across regularly, such as:
  • who VS whom
  • affected VS effected
  • that VS which
  • then VS than

Of course, a quiz like this makes things look simple. When I’m editing a personal statement, grammar is just the first of many things that I look at. Word choice, overall feeling, flow, and organization are also equally important.

Nevertheless, quizzes are fun! See if you can get a 25/25.