Category Archives: Sciences Po

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!

Last Call for Sciences Po Admissions Essay Review

I have decided to stop offering Sciences Po review services in 2018.

If you stumbled across my website and are thinking about requesting my help, now is the time.

Why will you stop?

In May of this year I started a full-time job in my field (international affairs). Therefore, I have less time to devote to editing essays.

When exactly will your review services end?

Due to the trials and tribulations of filing self-employment taxes, I will officially stop accepting new payments (and therefore new clients) as of January 1, 2018.

That said, please plan to send me your requests in advance. I may not be diligent about checking my email during the week of Christmas.

Will you also shut down your website?

Probably not. I no see no sense in shutting it down as long as it continues to serve as a good resource for applicants. 🙂

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!