Letters, letters, we’re talking letters today

Letters of recommendation are easy right? You find the biggest name you can find and you ask them to write about you. Not so fast. This approach should actually be thought out some more. First of all, make sure that the authors of your letters know you and more importantly feel like they can write about you. Contact them, ask them if they are open to writing letters on your behalf. Don’t stop there, take them out for coffee, tell them why you want to go to graduate school, what you want to do with your career and why you’re applying to the specific graduate school for which they are writing the letter. Make sure you give them all the information they need to write a letter for you.

Each year we get letters that read like this:

“Jane Doe is a great student. I have taught courses at (insert any university name here) for the past (insert impressive time frame here), I take my courses and grading very seriously and look critically at each student. She was in my (insert difficult sounding course here) and earned (insert letter grade here that tells application reviewer nothing). She was nice, smart and seems capable of being successful in your program. If you have any questions about her application, please contact me.”


Big name university

What does this letter say to me as a reviewer? The author of this letter does not really know the student other than looking in his/her class roster and looking up their grade along with some blah-blah-blah rah-rah-rah superlatives. Other than the grade, nothing in the letter is unique to the student. What about the “nice smart and capable” comment? This essentially tells me the author does not know the candidate but tried to insert something into the letter to suggest otherwise.

If you can sit down with your authors (or at least email them) and clearly lay out what you want them to mention in the letter, your application will be more complete since your letters will match your personal statement. Make sure they have an outline of what you want them to address and your application should be stronger.

Good luck!
Brad Miller
Director of Admissions


T minus 10 days… application priority deadline

The long winter break has come and gone and the first week of the winter quarter 2011 here at the Josef Korbel School is upon us. Ben Cherrington Hall is alive once again with chatter about holiday adventures and excitement abounds over winter courses such as: Indigenous Movements and Human Rights, taught by Professor Louis Esparza, Population, Environment and Development, taught by Professor Sally Hamilton, Political Economy of Globalization, taught by Professor Martin Rhodes and Terrorism, Transportation and Homeland Security, taught by Professor Joseph Szyliowicz, to name a few.

To kick off the new quarter, the next two weeks at the Josef Korbel School are chock full of exciting professional and newtworking events, including:

  • Deputy Director of the Peace Corps, Carrie Hessler-Radelet, and Chief Economist at USAID, Steve Radelet will speak with Josef Korbel School students about their career paths and answer questions.
  • The Institute for the Study of Israel in the Middle East will be hosting a lecture on China-Israel Relations.
  • The Office of Career and Professional Development will be offering its quarterly Career Development Course starting this week and lasting six weeks.
  • “Obama and the Greater Middle East: Rhetoric vs. Reality”: Fawaz Gerges (Professor of Middle East Politics and International Relations at the London School of Economics) will deliver a lecture at JKSIS on “Obama and the Greater Middle East: Rhetoric vs. Reality.”
  • Dr. Richard Gilmore, Special External Advisor to the U.S. Government for Private Sector Global Food Security, will present, “The United States and Global Food Security in the 21st Century: Opportunities for Sustainable Agricultural Growth.”
  • Information session regarding the US Department of State’s Oral Assessments and Foreign Service Officer Process.
  • The Josef Korbel School student group, the Denver Women in International Security, will be hosting the Denver CERT (Community Emergency Response Training) course – featuring search and rescue, disaster prevention and mitigation, and recognizing signs of terrorism. This course is a FEMA IS-317 course that will complement online NIMS independent study courses and looks great on a resume.
  • “The Happiest Man in the World” Book Launch Event Featuring Dr. James W. Jackson: You are invited to hear internationally renowned humanitarian and founder of Project C.U.R.E.

JANUARY 15th, 2011

If you don’t know this date and you are applying to our school, there may be a problem. As most of you (hopefully) know, this priority application deadline is quickly approaching so please submit your application and supplemental materials on or before this date.

We do offer rolling admissions so we will consider applications after January 15th,  however, there are no guarantees for admissions after this deadline. Likely we will continue to accept applications until March, but again, there are no guarantees.

To expedite the processing of your supplemental materials, send them directly to the Office of Graduate Studies. Their mailing address is:

Office of Graduate Studies
University of Denver
Mary Reed Building
Room 5
2199 S. University Blvd.
Denver, CO 80208

Please note: there is a 3-5 business day processing time upon receipt of materials. If you would like to obsessively check the status of your application online, feel free to do so by clicking here and entering your login and pin in the “returning user” section. Please don’t obsessively call us as that will only delay the review time which means you will be waiting longer to hear from us regarding your admission.

If you have a really REALLY important question and have scoured our website and can’t find an answer, feel free to email or call us; korbeladm@du.edu, 303.871.2544.

Good luck!


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

Policy changes for the 2011 application cycle

Each summer, we revisit some of our admission policies that we feel have become outdated. This year, there are two changes to our policies which will have implications for the admission process. The policy changes are discussed further below, along with a rationale for making a change. If you have questions about these, or other admission policies at the Josef Korbel School, please contact me at brad.miller@du.edu. We strive to be honest and upfront with what we require and why we require it.

Three year degrees:

Old Policy: All applicants to the Josef Korbel School needed to complete a four year bachelor’s degree. Applicants with a three year bachelor’s degree were not considered for admission.

New Policy: The Josef Korbel School of International Studies will consider applicants to the Master of Arts Degrees and the PHD degree who hold three-year bachelor’s degrees provided they meet the following criteria:

Requirements for three year degree holders applying to the MA degree

  1. IBT TOEFL score of 100 or higher (Paper based TOEFL of 600 or higher, ILETS of 7.5 or higher) for non native English Speakers.
  2. Three year bachelor’s degree GPA must equate to a “B” or better. This will be determined by the University of Denver’s Office of International Admission.

Requirements for three year degree holders applying to the PhD degree

  1. IBT TOEFL score of 100 or higher for non native English Speakers (non-three year degree IBT minimum is 95).
  2. Applicants must have completed a Master’s degree. Applicants who have yet to receive a Master’s degree are still eligible to apply for the PhD program provided they have fulfilled the requirements for the MA degree prior to matriculation for the term to which they applied.

Rationale for policy change: Our world is an increasingly complex place where one model of education is no longer the norm. By opening our applicant pool to three year degree holders we are acknowledging the fact that formal education does not need to follow the American model. European nations, Pakistan and India have been utilizing a three year degree for years and have produced outstanding leaders in the international arena. We will continue to take a holistic approach to reviewing applications in which we look closely at not only transcripts, but also applicants’ resumes, letters of recommendation, statement of purpose, GRE scores and when necessary, tests of English language proficiency.


Old Policy: Applicants could submit the GMAT in place of the GRE.

New Policy: Effective July 1, 2010 the GMAT will not be considered in place of the GRE exam. All applicants must submit an official GRE score.

Rationale for policy: The GMAT does an excellent job of predicting if students will be successful in business school. The Josef Korbel School is not a business school. We are a school of international studies that requires an advanced level of reading comprehension. We believe the GRE is the best standardized test for predicting applicants’ ability to be successful in our program.

Brad Miller

Director of Graduate Admissions

Josef Korbel School