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FP Guide

2016 Applying to Grad School

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Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS)

Sidney T. Jackson, Director of Global Enrollment and Recruitment

What characteristics make for a successful applicant to SAIS?

The answer to this question is slightly different for each of our programs, but generally speaking, we look for applicants who are creative, passionate, and driven, and demonstrate that they are poised for success. Of course there are several ways of illustrating these characteristics in an application, but there are a few commonalities: Most successful applicants come to Johns Hopkins SAIS with significant international exposure—either having worked, studied, volunteered, or traveled outside of their home country. They also demonstrate strong analytic and quantitative aptitude—as evidenced through previous coursework, professional experience, and/or standardized test scores. Finally, our students are often proficient in one or two foreign languages.


“In addition to professional experience, academic preparation, and international exposure, Johns Hopkins SAIS emphasizes a candidate’s quantitative aptitude. We believe that a sound understanding of economics is instrumental to building competence as an international affairs professional.” – Sidney T. Jackson, Director of Global Enrollment and Recruitment

How much do GRE scores matter in your admissions review?

The admissions committee takes a holistic approach to reviewing candidates and looks for indicators throughout the admissions cycle that will predict success at Johns Hopkins SAIS. Although standardized tests such as the GRE and GMAT can demonstrate an applicant’s quantitative and qualitative aptitude, they are not the determining factor in the admissions review. For example, there are some candidates who do very well on the GRE or GMAT, but lack appropriate work experience. (Johns Hopkins SAIS requires the GRE or GMAT for most degree programs; the GMAT is quite popular with applicants pursuing a dual MA/MBA degree.)

Does applying early increase one’s chances of admission?

Johns Hopkins SAIS seeks talented and motivated candidates who wish to further develop their expertise and build a globally minded career. Candidates should apply as soon as they feel their application best highlights their academic and work experience, extracurricular activities, and personal or professional leadership roles. While the school offers an early notification enrollment option for some master’s degree applicants, the acceptance rate is comparable in both early notification and regular decision pools. For the most competitive applicants, an early acceptance reduces the need to apply to other programs.

How much does work experience matter?

Work experience helps the admissions committee to see that a student’s goals are informed by practical exposure to the subjects they wish to study. Students with relevant work experience are called upon to contribute in classroom discussions. That said, about 10 to 12 percent of our incoming Master of Arts students arrive at Johns Hopkins SAIS directly from undergraduate programs, and they typically distinguish themselves by having a strong academic record, unique internship experience, or fellowship supporting their graduate study.

What types of recommendations are most effective?

If the candidate is employed, the committee would prefer that at least one recommendation come from an immediate supervisor. Also, the longer someone has been out of school, the more emphasis will be placed on their professional accomplishments and career trajectory. Many undergraduate applicants will have professors write academic recommendations; however, the committee also welcomes recommendations from an internship supervisor or a volunteer organization. Applicants should avoid recommendations from someone who does not know them well, but rather seek out a recommender who can talk about their interpersonal skills, character, leadership, and ability to succeed in the program.

Master’s Degree Program Options and Campus Locations:
• Master of Arts (Bologna, Italy; Nanjing, China; Washington, D.C.)
• Master of Arts in International Affairs (Bologna, Italy)
• Master of Arts in International Studies (Nanjing, China)
• Master of Arts in International Economics and Finance (Washington, D.C.)
• Master of Arts in Global Policy Program (Washington, D.C.)
• Master of Arts in Global Risk (Bologna, Italy)
• Master of International Public Policy (Bologna, Italy; Washington, D.C.)

Fall 2017 Application Deadlines: Varies by program. See deadline dates at: http://www.sais-jhu.edu/content/admissions#important-dates
Standardized Exam Scores: GRE or GMAT required
Recommendation Letters: Two required
Application Checklist: http://www.sais-jhu.edu/application-checklist

Contact Information:
Washington, D.C., Admissions
[email protected]

SAIS Europe Admissions
[email protected]
+39 051 291 7811

Hopkins-Nanjing Admissions
[email protected]