Saturday, June 15, 2013

Grad School Part Five: Accepted!

Applying was quite an intense process, but in the end so was getting accepted. To start with I didn't get into Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or Berkeley. Harvard and Princeton were the schools I was the most disappointing to not get into since Harvard was my first choice, and Princeton was one of the rare schools known for giving out great scholarships. Yale I wasn't so concerned with since it was one of the last schools I decided to apply to, and besides the name I wasn't really sure what made it a good fit. Berkeley I still don't understand. I got into a number of better schools and in some ways my application seemed like a really good fit there. But in the end I guess it's impossible to know exactly how each school evaluates the applications.

I also got wait listed by two more schools, AU and Tufts. The way wait listing works for these schools you basically have to forgo anywhere else. It takes them so long to decided if to take more people off the wait list that the deadline for decisions from everywhere else would have passed. I wasn't so disappointed to not get into these schools since by the time I found out I already had a lot of good options.

The first school I was accepted at, and the first to tell me one way or the other, was Denver. Denver was an odd one since I had added it to my application list late in the process, and mostly the only thing I knew about it was that Condoleezza Rice had gone there. After I got accepted I had a while to look at the school though, since they accepted me far before any other school, and there were a number of good qualities. They had at least one person who studied China, and they published a journal of China studies. The school also seemed to be an up-and-coming International Relations school. The best part though was that they offered me a scholarship. The tuition was about $40,000 a year, pretty much the standard price, and they offered me a $20,000 a year scholarship. It was definitely a good way to begin hearing decisions, with not only an acceptance but a scholarship as well.

I can't remember the order for the other schools. I also got accepted into Michigan with a $10,000 scholarship, and into Pittsburgh. I have to admit that I didn't really consider these schools to much though since neither were really better than Denver and Denver had offered me a better deal. The other schools I did consider were SAIS, San Diego, and Columbia.

SAIS or the School of Advanced International Studies is actually part of Johns Hopkins, but since it's in DC and Hopkins is in Baltimore people usually just call it SAIS not Hopkins. SAIS was a school that when I was first thinking of where to apply I had ruled out. It was considered one of the most policy focused schools, and I was more interested in an academic focus, and it was so highly ranked that I thought I'd never get in. I decided to apply in the end when I realized that it was one of the absolutely top places to study China. I figured with so many applications what was one or two more. I was pretty shocked when I got it. It jumped up pretty much immediately to be my top choice. Besides the great reputation I liked a lot of what I learned about the flexibility and the focus of the program. The biggest drawback was the money. Besides $40,000 a year in tuition living in DC is just massively expensive. $1200 a month even with a roommate was what I was thinking I was going to have to spend. Compared with maybe $600 a month alone in Denver.

San Diego was actually where I thought I'd wind up before I started applying. It was a good school but not so highly ranked that I didn't think I had a shot of getting in. It has a good China focus and San Diego itself is supposed to be amazing. Actually another advantage of the school was that with in state tuition, which I think I could have gotten in my second year, It would have been about half the cost of SAIS, or pretty much the same as Denver even with the scholarship. This meant that mostly when I was figuring out where to go it came down to San Diego and SAIS since San Diego seemed a little better than Denver and at a similar cost.

Columbia was the strangest one I got into. I know I said I thought SAIS was a long shot, but I thought Columbia was impossible. Not just because it was highly ranked, but because all the questions and stuff they asked for on the application seemed to indicate that they wanted a person not at all like me. On there website they said that they strongly preferred students who had taken economics, not me, and spoke a second language, not me either. In fact they required filling out a list of every math, economics, and political science course you'd taken in college. For me that list was two math classes I'd taken about eight years ago and nothing else. It seemed ridiculous. After filling out that form I almost didn't apply at all. But I figured I'd already filled out everything else I might as well. I still have no idea exactly why they accepted me.

Well this post is getting pretty long so I'll finish it next time with where I actually ended up going and why.

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