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FP Guide

2018 Applying to Grad School

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American University, School of International Service (SIS)


“Successful candidates make a thoughtful and concerted effort to understand who we are and what we do as a school,” says Jia Jiang, director of graduate enrollment management at the American University School of International Service (SIS). “They understand that SIS’s key vision and mission is to be of service to the international community, and that we understand service to be a mindset and not just a moment.”

Students work toward their individual ideas of service. Some focus on social justice and poverty alleviation, or on educational and cultural exchange. Others may address issues involving global governance, security, or foreign policy.

“At the core of these approaches, we have an incredibly collaborative learning culture that is built around our strong commitment to public service,” says Jiang. “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.” She finds that competitive applicants to SIS demonstrate academic and co-curricular success, a clear sense of focus for their graduate education, and a compelling rationale for why they have chosen the specific program to which they are applying.

“With increasing demand in the job market for advanced degrees, it is important for applicants to tell us not just why they are seeking a master’s degree, but also why this particular degree in this particular field—what drives them and why doing it at SIS is important,” says Jiang.

Before applying, many successful candidates interact with the SIS community to better understand the school’s learning expectations, program offerings, research opportunities, and ways to pursue their unique interests within SIS’s structured but flexible curriculum. In-depth experience with SIS helps candidates put together a focused and thoughtful application that fully reflects their achievements and potential.

“It is important for applicants to tell us not just why they are seeking a master’s degree, but also why this particular degree in this particular field—what drives them and why doing it at SIS is important.” -Jia Jiang, Director of Graduate Enrollment Management, School of International Service (SIS), American University

GRE scores are important but only one of many indicators. “We review applications holistically, so any weakness has the potential to be mitigated by other factors,” says Jiang. Key factors include relevant 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.

About 80 percent of master’s degree students at SIS have a broad range of post-college work experience. It is helpful when work experience is relevant to an applicant’s intended area of study, but many students bring professional perspectives from a related field.

Students who enter the program directly after college graduation have been highly engaged in undergraduate curricular and co-curricular activities. Most have interned or volunteered extensively and have experience with a second language or a study-abroad program.

An effective recommendation letter may provide details on an applicant’s academic achievements and identify strengths such as commitment to public service, work ethic, and overall potential to succeed. Another useful type of letter may help offset a weakness. For example, if quantitative test scores are a concern, a letter from a supervisor who managed the applicant’s successful quantitative analysis at work may be helpful. “It is always important for us to hear from recommenders who can elaborate on an applicant’s successes and areas of growth,” says Jiang.

Master’s Degree Program Options:

• MA in Comparative and Regional Studies
• MS in Development Management
• MA in Ethics, Peace, and Human Rights
• MA in Global Environmental Policy
• MA in Global Governance, Politics, and Security
• MA in Global Media
• MA in Intercultural and International Communication
• MA in International Development
• MA in International Economic Relations
• MA in International Economics
• MA in International Peace and Conflict Resolution
• MA in Natural Resources and Sustainable Development
• MA in United States Foreign Policy and National Security
• MA in International Relations (online)
• MA in Social Enterprise (on campus or online)
• Executive Master’s in International Service (on campus or online)

Participates in the Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and matching program for the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award.

Priority Deadline for Fall 2019: January 15, 2019

Standardized Exam Scores: GRE required for most applicants

Recommendation Letters: Two required for master’s degree applications

Application Checklist: https://www.american.edu/sis/admissions/required-materials.cfm

Visit the Request Info page to receive more information.