On the road – the most commonly asked questions

“I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till I drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.”
– Jack Kerouac, On the Road, Part 2, Ch. 4

Being on the road during our recruitment season, always reminds me of one of my favorite books, On the Road, by  Jack Kerouac (who spent a great deal of time in Denver, check out the Denver Beat Poetry Driving tour here.). Although I will say, our travel/accommodations are a bit more cushy than his adventures.

This blog post serves to answer a few of the most commonly asked questions we get while attending recruitment events in locations such as San Fran and Singapore; Bangkok and Boston. Hopefully this will relieve some of your own confusion about the admissions process but if not – respond to this post with any additional questions and I will post a follow-up blog next week.

#1. Q:What’s the difference between the Master’s in Development Practice (MDP) program and the MA in International Development?

A: Great question! We are proud to say we are one of seven universities in the country that offer the MDP program (others: Columbia, Uni of FL, Emory, Uni of Minn, UC Berkeley and UC Davis). Here’s a brief overview:
MDP – generalist approach to development, 27 mo program – 6 months of the program spent in locations all of the world working on community development projects, small cohort of 25-28 students, more structured program.

MA Int’l Development – Two year program (3 academic quarters/year) based on campus, required internship component, largest program at the Josef Korbel School (approximately 150 students in this program), highly customizable/flexible program.

For a more detailed description of the differences between these programs, click here, then click “Comparison of MDP and MA in International Development” under program resources.

#2. Q: What’s the difference between the Peace Corps Master’s International program and the Peace Corps Fellows program? Is one better than the other?

A: The Peace Corps Master’s International Program (MI) requires students to join the Josef Korbel School first and then serve 27 months in the Peace Corps (PC). Every university’s program is a bit different as far as how much coursework is required prior to Peace Corps service. For our program, we require all MIs to complete 72 credits (which can be done in four academic quarters, fall, winter, spring, fall = about 1 year and 3 months) and then ship out for the Peace Corps.  MI students can pursue our MA in International Development or our MA in Global Finance, Trade and Economic Integration (with a wide variety of concentrations and certificates to further customize the degree). The Peace Corps Fellows program is designed for those students who completed their PC service and are applying to graduate school. All RPCVs (if you don’t know this acronym, you aren’t one) who apply and are accepted to the Josef Korbel School are automatically accepted as a Fellow and receive the Fellows benefits. Fellows can pursue any of our 5 MA programs.

The benefits for both: 18 credit hours waived (so MIs and Fellows can complete the degree in 4 quarters vs. 6 quarters, if you matriculate in Sept 2011 for an example, you will graduate in Nov 2012). Both cohorts are waived from the language requirement and the internship requirement but Fellows are required to complete a 150 field practicum (essentially an internship) working with a high needs population in the U.S.

Pros and Cons:
If you want to do the PC and earn an MA you can’t beat these programs (I say that like an info-mercial spokesperson- not only am I an admissions person, I’m also a client). The Fellows program is terrific (I happen to be in this program – PC Jamaica ’02-04) b/c you will inevitably become passionate about something (I hope) while serving in the PC. You can bring your experience, passion and career aspirations to the Josef Korbel School and really hone in on your skills and knowledge base to propel you in to a career for the public good, or whatever sector you choose to pursue. The downside – there is the potential that you will lose your 1 year of non competitive eligibility for federal jobs, however this eligibility is determined by federal employer so some allow you to defer this opportunity until you complete your MA. Also, being a Fellow, I WISH I would’ve known some of the things I’ve learned at Korbel while I was in PC. Which brings me to the pros/cons of the MI program – I think it’s a phenomenal opportunity for students to gather tons of amazing skills, resources, contacts and knowledge through our program prior to serving in the PC. We also have one of the largest PC communities in the country at the graduate level (this fall, we had 26 incoming MIs and 21 incoming Fellows) so you will be surrounded by fellow students who will be going out into the field at the same time as you, along with RPCVs who can share their experiences and tips with you. You can also be in-country when you complete your PC service AND your MA degree so that positions you well if you want to work in your respective country or, you have your one year of non-competitive eligibility if you decide to return to the states or work with entities such as USAID abroad. Check out our  MI and Fellows pages on our website along with our Peace Corps Community web site for tons of information.

#3. Q: What is the Admissions Committee looking for in an applicant?

A: Fully loaded question – always a fun one at recruitment events when we have approximately 0.3335588 seconds per student. We are looking for a variety of qualities when determining an applicants candidacy (mind-blowing, right). You might want to ask yourself the following questions and (read my comments in parenthesis).
Academics – What’s my overall GPA? (the average for incoming 2010 students was a 3.60), My major? (we don’t require applicants to have pol sci, int’l studies or history majors but these programs are certainly helpful). Did you started out weak freshman and sophomore years, did you step it up during your junior and senior years? How did I do in relevant courses such as intro to pol sci/int’l studies?  How did I do on the GREs (the averages for incoming 2010 students was 600 verbal, 600 quant, 5.0 analytical), how do i compare? Should I consider retaking the exam? (If you do, we take the highest scores for each section, so long as you submit both sets of scores and both are part of your complete application).

No doubt, academics are extremely important but we take other things into consideration which are also critically important, making it a more holistic approach to reviewing each applicants file and looking for ways one aspect may help balance out another aspect. That being said, here are other items to consider:

Supplemental – Do I have solid recommenders that will speak to my academic and professional achievements and abilities? (If you’ve been out of school for 3+ years, you may not be in touch with your professors. If this is the case, be sure to request professional recommendations. P.S. We aren’t impressed with BIG names that know nothing about you.). Does my resume clearly articulate relevant work experience? (This can be anything from professional positions, study abroad, volunteer work, internships, student group involvement, etc. Please don’t include things like: went to Venice for 4 day vacation, airport layover in Amman. You would be surprised my friends.). Did I blow off my statement of purpose? (If you did, set aside a few hours and rework that document! Think about it – this is one of the few items that distinguishes YOU from the MASSES. Spend some time thinking about why you want to come to Colorado College, what you can contribute to the classroom and how our school will assist you with your career goals. If you didn’t pick up on the intentional Colorado College slip – you fail. Do not, for any of the schools you apply to, i repeat DO NOT forget to plug in the school name to which you are applying. And please, spell “Josef” as in the first name of our founder, Josef Korbel, correctly. For the sake of his family, Madeleine Albright’s family that is. You should know that tid bit as well).

Last but not least – keep in mind that every interaction you have with every school is like an interview. We like professional, cordial, informed and understanding applicants. We especially like homemade chocolate chip cookies and Gerber daisies. I’m kidding about the latter part, but think about what you are asking when you call or email us – did you really look at our web site to find the answers and simply cannot find it? Then I’m glad you called/emailed and we will make sure to respond promptly and will consider adding info to our web site. BUT – do you really expect us to receive your GRE scores the day after you took the exam? If your registrar’s office sent your transcripts via snail mail on Monday, do you really think we received it and processed it on Wednesday? Can you REALLY not find the online application on our web site? Of course we love talking to prospective students and applicants and value the more personalized interactions we have with y’all but there are some very basic questions that we answer about 38 times a day that can be found within one click on the web site. I guarantee it, but will gladly accept a challenge.

For additional FAQs, click here.

I hope you’ve found this post informative and semi-entertaining. Please let me know if you have additional questions. I hope Colorado College is among your top choices for graduate programs in International Studies.

And alas, I conclude with a quote from On the Road;

“What’s your road, man?–holyboy road, madman road, rainbow road, guppy road, any road. It’s an anywhere road for anybody anyhow.”
– Jack Kerouac, On the Road, Part 4, Ch. 1

Good luck figuring out your road,

Nicole Vilegi
Associate Director of Graduate Admissions
Josef Korbel School of International Studies

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