FAQs: Your CIPA Application

 Hoping to pursue a degree in public administration? Are you interested in applying to CIPA?

Each year, CIPA administrators get a host of questions about the admissions process, application materials, and more. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions.

About the Application Process

How do I apply?

Please apply online through our online application system.

Is it possible to apply to more than one master’s degree program at Cornell?

You may apply to only one master’s degree program at a time. See more details here.

What is the application deadline?

Applications are now open. CIPA has a rolling admissions program, admitting qualified students throughout the year. As the number of applicants increase, admissions may be closed at any point when the class is full. Candidates are urged to apply between November and January.

When can I expect the admissions decision?

A faculty committee evaluates individual applications. If you submit your application for fall semester by the end of January, you can expect to receive notification of our decision in early March.

Where can I find more information about financial assistance to attend CIPA?

There are a variety of ways to access financial assistance to help fund your studies at CIPA. Some opportunities may include, but are not limited to:

  • Merit Based Fellowships: CIPA awards fellowships to approximately 50% of fellows, which are granted on a merit-based, competitive basis. Competitive applicants are offered fellowships as a part of their letter of admission.
  • Teaching and Research Positions: CIPA has limited teaching and research positions available, which are paid on an hourly basis. Most positions are granted to students in their second year.
  • External Scholarships: A variety of sponsors from outside of Cornell offer scholarships and fellowships on a variety of needs and bases. Please see requirements for more details. Some external fellowships/scholarships may include, but are not limited to:
  • Part-time employment: Once accepted at CIPA, fellows may apply for campus work positions, which are paid on an hourly basis. The database and website can be found here.
  • Federal loans: Once accepted at CIPA, you may apply for federal student loans through Cornell University.

What do you look for in your ideal applicant?

CIPA’s admissions committee reviews applications on a case by case basis, and there is no single “ideal” candidate that we look for.  We value the diversity of our student population, and encourage people that are interested in pursuing a career in the public service to apply at CIPA.

For applicants whose academic or professional backgrounds come from areas outside of policy, we encourage you to express your interest in pursuing your MPA in your application. While having previous experience in policy is an asset, you are not required to have a background in policy in order to apply.

Who should write my letters of recommendation?

Your letters of recommendation should come from a combination of professors, employers, and other relevant individuals who can speak to your professionalism, academic rigor, and personality. CIPA requires three letters of recommendation for all applications, one reference must come from a professor. Please avoid references from personal connections.

Are interviews required for my application?

Interviews are a required part of the admission process, and is completed online as a part of your application package.

Is there a foreign language requirement?

There is no foreign language requirement, however, English proficiency is required. International students must submit TOEFL or IELTS scores in order to demonstrate proficiency in the English language.  Official test scores from a TOEFL or IELTS exam must be submitted.

  • The following minimum scores must be met on the new (2005) Internet-based test version of the TOEFL: writing 20, listening 15, reading 20, speaking 22.
  • The Cornell Graduate School requires an overall band score of a 7.0 or higher on the IELTS.

Do I need to have a particular work experience to join CIPA?

Students decide to join Cornell Institute of Public Affairs from a variety of backgrounds; some have substantial work experience in policy, others are using CIPA to pivot their career into the public sector, and some students may come directly from undergraduate studies.

In any case, we are looking for candidates who demonstrate their interest and passion for a career in public affairs.

If you are coming to CIPA from a different field (professionally or academically), we hope that you may expand on your interest in turning your trajectory to public affairs, what skills you can leverage from your background, and your future career goals.

May I provide any additional information to supplement  my application?

You should submit only the required documents. Supplementary materials will not be considered.

Does CIPA accept transfer students?

Transfer students may be accepted, however, their applications are reviewed on a case by case basis. This process takes into account one’s academic background, professional experience, and coursework completed in other masters programs to understand how these attributes fit with CIPA’s requirements.

What other resources are available to help fund my CIPA education?

There are many wonderful external funding opportunities, and opportunities at Cornell University to choose from. Taking time to do some research, reaching out to current students, and learning more at an open house are all great ways to find other funding options.

Test Scores

What is the average GRE score for successful applicants?

As of July 7, 2020, CIPA will no longer require a GRE score for the MPA admissions application.

What is the minimum requirement for TOEFL or IELTS scores (international applicants only)?
The following minimum scores must be met on the new (2005) Internet-based test version of the TOEFL: writing 20, listening 15, reading 20, speaking 22. The Cornell Graduate School requires an overall band score of a 7.0 or higher on the IELTS.

Do you look at all of my GRE scores if I take the test more than once?

As of July 7, 2020, CIPA will not require a GRE score for the MPA admissions application.

7 thoughts on “FAQs: Your CIPA Application

  1. Do I need to have all application documents prepared before sending my application? In other words, can I send my app before sitting for the GRE next month?

  2. No, you don’t need to wait. Go ahead and submit your application now and then send the supplemental material later when it’s ready (test scores, transcripts, etc.).

  3. What should I write in the second policy essay? It seems that the requirement is more like talking about what I look at a certain concern and how I would do in the future. But how about I write a policy analysis in which I will analyze a social issue that I’m interested in and give some policy advice based on my own research? It won’t be in a personal tone but a rather formal way of illustrating my opinions on public affairs. Does this make sense?

  4. There are many facets of policy which you could address in this essay, including but not limited to topics dealing with environmental, economical, or social policy. Discussing a social issue is a great idea for this essay as long as your are able to illustrate its relevance to public policy. Keep in mind that CIPA’s program is expressly nonpartisan, so while opinions are an important part of discursive politics, any opinions or commentary should be driven by evidence-based deductions. I hope this helps, please feel free to reach out if you have any additional questions.

  5. What if I use the second essay to talk about my future goals in one area of public affairs? The requirement seems like to be asking for this.

  6. Hi Patricio,
    International students who have received a 4-year Bachelors degree from a US institution are exempt from taking the TOEFL or IELTS exam.
    Let us know if you have any additional questions!

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