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FP Guide

2016 Applying to Grad School

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American University, School of International Service (SIS)

Jia Jiang, Director of Graduate Enrollment Management

What characteristics make for a successful applicant to SIS?

Successful applicants all share a strong academic background, have multiple indicators for how they can succeed at SIS, and have a compelling rationale for why they have chosen the specific program to which they are applying. Many of our successful applicants actively interact with the SIS community before applying to understand our degree offerings, learning expectations, global opportunities, opportunities to be involved in scholar-practitioner-led research, and ways to pursue their unique interests within our structured but flexible curriculum. Successful candidates also understand that SIS has a very collaborative culture, built around a strong commitment to public service, which is rooted in the school’s history. People who come here often find some common ground in their core values and their interest in making a positive impact on the larger communities around them. These values connect students with each other and with faculty.

“SIS is committed to creating a diverse community of international relations professionals who are ready to take on the great challenges of our time. We want our students to behave with an unfailing spirit of inquiry and a deep commitment to service.” – Jia Jiang, Director of Graduate Enrollment Management

How much do GRE scores matter in your admissions review?

The GRE is significant and useful, but it is only one of many indicators. We review applications holistically, so any weakness has the potential to be mitigated by other factors, such as impressive work experience; a statement of purpose that demonstrates substantive knowledge of the field and conveys a clear understanding of the program; and evidence of critical thinking, leadership, and resilience.

Does applying early increase one’s chances of admission?

For master’s applicants, completing your application before our priority deadline of January 15 is required for merit-based funding consideration. All applications submitted (and complete with supporting documents) by this date are considered with the same weight. Applications completed after this date are reviewed on a space-available basis.

How much does work experience matter?

SIS prides itself on combining knowledge and practice, so having relevant work experience is really valuable for our students to be able to measure it up against the theory they are learning and to contribute real-world perspectives. Members of our incoming class who came straight out of undergrad have usually completed at least one internship, volunteer program, or study-abroad program, and have proactively put themselves on the path of gaining relevant work experience.

What types of recommendations are most effective?

There are two types of recommendation letters that can be particularly effective for SIS applicants. One type speaks to the applicant’s academic performance and potential, commitment to public service, and work ethic. It may cite specific examples that we can’t see elsewhere in the application. While those attributes can certainly come across in a personal statement or résumé, having a third party cite them in a recommendation can certainly enhance the application. A second type of recommendation might help offset an applicant’s weakness. If quantitative GRE scores are a concern, for example, a letter from a supervisor who managed quantitative analysis the applicant successfully completed at work could be a great way of highlighting the strengths and balancing the weaknesses in an application.

Master’s Degree Program Options:
• MS in Development Management
• MA in Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs
• MA in Global Environmental Policy
• MA in International Affairs: Comparative and Regional Studies
• MA in International Affairs: Global Governance, Politics, and Security
• MA in International Affairs: International Economic Relations
• MA in International Affairs: Natural Resources and Sustainable Development (with University for Peace, Costa Rica)
• MA in International Affairs: United States Foreign Policy and National Security
• MA in Intercultural and International Communication
• MA in International Development
• MA in International Economics
• MA in International Media
• MA in International Peace and Conflict Resolution
• MA in International Relations (online)
• MA in Social Enterprise
Participates in the Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers

Executive Master’s:
• Master of International Service (on-campus or online)
(Executive Track and International Studies Track)

Dual Degrees:
• JD/MA (International Affairs)
• MA/MAT (International Peace and Conflict Resolution)
• MA/MTS (International Peace and Conflict Resolution/International Development)

Fall 2017 Application Deadline: Priority deadline: January 15, 2017
Standardized Exam Scores: See www.american.edu/sis/admissions/requiredmaterials.cfm for more on test requirements.
Recommendation Letters: Two required for master’s degree applications
Application Checklist: http://american.edu/sis/admissions/requiredmaterials.cfm

Contact Information:
Office of Graduate Enrollment Management