Hi from a warming Central New Jersey.
We just wrapped our latest round of admissions, having turned to the waitlist for a very small number of candidates this year.
I love my job because of all the amazing people that comprise the broader Princeton School of Public and International Affairs community. (Not to mention, our students are second to none!) But it is also incredibly hard at times, not least because there are so many deserving, well-qualified and accomplished applicants for whom we would love to extend an offer of admission but cannot because of our small size. To all those who fall in this latter category: We thank you for your patience as we worked through our process. We appreciate the time, energy and effort you put in to your application. Thank you for applying to our School.
Each year around this time, one of the most common questions we get is: Can you give me some feedback on my application? What can I do better? What did not work? Can I reapply?
Allow me to try to do that here.
You may also want to check out a prior blog “Application Pro Tip – Reapplication.”
By now you probably know that we fully fund tuition and fees for all of our students. Because we do this, we lean very heavily in to our public service mission; indeed, it’s the ethos around which we revolve. And demonstrating a commitment to public service—whether through internships and volunteer service or in your professional pursuits—is the single most important thing an applicant can do. For us, public service is defined broadly, but can generally be conceived as containing an aspect of helping others. We recognize this can take many forms.
Similarly, we look for applicants that can learn what we teach. Our curriculum is rigorous, as is our admission review process, and what this means is that we are looking for applicants, especially to our MPA program, that have demonstrated some quantitative capacity—this may come in the form of a strong GRE score or prior coursework at the undergraduate level, this may also come through in demonstrated impact in the public sector. For those who may not have had the opportunity to take quantitative courses during their undergraduate experience, you may wish to explore a statistics or economics course at a local community college to get a baseline foundation in these skills.
We value full-time professional work experience. We think these value-added skills and experiences make you a stronger classmate to your cohort, and we also think you will get more out of our program and all on offer here at Princeton. Please refer to our Viewbook to see a rolling average for the typical number of years of work experience for each degree.
Building on the theme of public service, and how much we value it, we are also looking to learn what you intend to do after the School. In any given year, well over 85% of our graduating MPA and MPP students return to the public and non-profit sectors. The remaining individuals opt for additional schooling, while a few move into the private sector, which for us includes law, impact investing, social entrepreneurship and public sector consulting. (Which is to say: even those who do enter the “private sector” out of the School tend to do so with an eye toward the public sector and the public good.)
We look for leadership. We look for impact. The more you can quantify and demonstrate each, the better.
Finally, tell us your story and in an authentic way. Don’t tell us what you think we want to hear. We have small cohorts and there are far more deserving people than spots available. We look for heart and we look for individuals that will add to the composition of our community. To do that, we read each file individually and we reach each file holistically. Reapplication is fine, even encouraged (please see the above-linked blog), for those that believe the School is the next best right place for them.
Ultimately we know that most who apply will continue to make an impact and do well in their respective communities, irrespective of whether they spend some time at the School. Keep up the good work!