Kick start your graduate school application with these tips

No doubt – summer is a time to kick back and enjoy; lounge at the pool/beach, frequent happy hours on sunny patios and savor picnics in the park. I write this from my south-facing deck in shorts, a tank top and SPF 30 with lemonade in hand. Life is good.

For those of you itching to prepare your graduate school applications – this post is for you. That is, after you color coordinate your paperclips.  I’m kidding, we LOVE hyper organized applicants who submit their applications and supplemental materials in a timely manner.

The Fall 2012 application isn’t available until early August, but don’t fret! There are plenty of things you can do to prepare for graduate school. The following are a few summer tips from your friendly Graduate Admissions Office at the Josef Korbel School.

1. Review our application checklists
Save these handy docs on your desktop and if you’re like me – you will take pleasure in putting a big “X” in the check box when each item done! If you have questions about the requirements, refer to our Admissions FAQs. Still stumped? Call us at 303.871.2544 and we will be happy to assist you.

Josef Korbel School application checklists

2. Prep for the GREs
I know, you thought you were done with those dreaded standardized tests after high school but sorry Charlie – you have to take this exam to complete your application. As most of you (hopefully) know, beginning August 1st, ETS is changing the format and scoring of the exam. More information about these revisions can be found on the ETS website. The good news about planning ahead…you can save 50% on your test fee if you register and take the exam between  August 1st and September 30th. Check out the discount details here.

3. Volunteer/Intern
Additional volunteer/work experience will make you a more competitive applicant, unless you do a terrible job and get an awful recommendation from your supervisor. Don’t just do an internship or volunteer somewhere because you think it will “look good,” or will be a “resume builder.” Be deliberate in where you intern/volunteer to build your skills and experiences so you can really hone in on your career aspirations when you get to grad school.

4. Check out our student endorsed reading list
You successfully navigated the GREs – bravo! Now you want to toss those vocab flashcards in the BBQ and hunker down in the park with a good read. Here are some suggestions, thanks to our current students. Josef Korbel School Student Endorsed Reading List.

5. Peruse our external scholarship list
The tuition at the University of Denver is expensive. There’s no way to sugar coat it. Graduate school is also a choice and you, as an adult, are responsible for your decision to earn an MA degree. With that comes the responsibility of paying for it. While it’s not exhaustive, we put together a comprehensive list of relevant external scholarship opportunities to help narrow your scholarship search, you’re welcome. Now it is up to you to click here, peruse the list and create a spreadsheet containing application requirements/deadlines/scholarship amounts for those you qualify for. Oh, and actually apply.

6. Plan a visit to the Josef Korbel School
It doesn’t get any better than summer in Colorado. Trust me – I’ve spent summers in New York, Rhode Island, Jamaica, New Zealand and England and this place is the best! And…we’re bored! It’s a ghost town on our campus and while you won’t have an opportunity to observe a class, meet with professors or sip coffee in our cafe, you can have a one on one meeting with one of us, tour the campus without bumping into undergrads and then cruise out to Rocky Mountain National Park to enjoy the incredible weather and scenery. It’s worth the trip! If you can’t make it to Denver this summer, we will be at various APSIA (Associate of Professional Schools in International Affairs, get familiar with APSIA) and recruitment events around the globe this fall and of course, you’re always welcome to visit us in the fall, winter or spring.

I need to refresh my lemonade so I will sign off.

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


What’s next?

The application review process has begun! Over the next few weeks, our admission committee will be reading piles of  applications to select our incoming class. While this is always a stressful time for us, we also enjoy reading about the dynamic, dedicated and promising individuals who apply to the Josef Korbel School.

We understand that this can also be a stressful time for you as you wait to hear back from us.  If you have already been notified that your application is complete, it is a matter of waiting to hear from us on the final admission decision. If your application remains incomplete, please send in your remaining documents as soon as possible. You can check the status of your outstanding documents by visiting DU’s MyWeb Admissions page and signing in with the same username and pin you set up to fill out your online application. Click “Apply Online” to be directed to your online application checklist. Please keep in mind that once application documents are received, it takes approximately 3-4 business days to process them. Keep in mind that we operate on a rolling admissions basis so we will continue to accept applications and review them until we fill our class. So don’t worry too much if your application isn’t complete yet, but try to get everything ASAP.

The following will provide you with additional information about next steps are and things you can do while we review applications. This does not include biting your nails, pacing, obsessively checking the status of your application or calling/emailing us obsessively to check the status of your application.


If your application, including all supplemental materials, is complete, our office will notify you of the admission committee’s decision in early March.

Best case scenario:
You’re accepted! We will send a message to the email address provided on your application which will contain your acceptance letter along with an admissions packet. In addition to your acceptance letter and admissions packet, there will be a funding letter describing any departmental merit scholarships offered to you. Need based funding will be emailed to you at a later date from the University of Denver’s Office of Financial Aid.

You are waitlisted. Could be better, could be worse. The waiting game continues. If you are placed on our waitlist, you will be sent a letter via to the email provided on your application. Unfortunately we don’t have too much advice other than to hold tight. We will not make decisions on the waitlisted applicants until April.

Worst case scenario:
You are denied admission. We will send a message to the email address provided in your application. If, after evaluating your application and determining potential areas where you can improve (and take actions to do so), you decide to reapply, you are welcome to do so for a future term of enrollment. If it’s within three years from the time of your previous application, your materials will be on file. It is not looked upon negatively if you reapply, however, it is strongly encouraged that you seriously consider the areas that you can improve on and work on strengthening them. Our admissions is becoming more competitive each year so submitting the same exact application you were previously rejected with will not likely translate into the results you desire.


Fill out your FAFSA. You will not be eligible for any need-based aid unless this form is submitted, so submit it as soon as you complete your tax return. The priority deadline for incoming students is March 1st.

  • Peruse our list of external scholarships, grants, fellowships, etc. Every little bit helps, so take some time to do your research. Please note that this is by no means an exhaustive list but is a helpful resource to get you started.
  • Take a look at our current graduate student blogs. Current students from each of our degree programs blog on a weekly basis to give you an insider’s perspective on life as a Josef Korbel School student.

Good luck!

Nicole Vilegi
Associate Director
Josef Korbel School of International Studies

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