Posted by: Josef Korbel School, Office of Graduate Admissions | October 19, 2011

the advice continues…

Apparently I forgot a couple things on my last post and should have made it a top 12. So here are a couple more:

11. Do NOT submit your essays until you’ve had at least 2 people proofread them first. These people should be intelligent, educated, good writers themselves, and not afraid to tell you “Dude, this sucks. Start back at square 1.” Flattery is definitely not your friend in this case. And you may think that you’re the next Pulitzer winner, but the chances are very, very good that your spelling, grammar, essay structure, and/or content need some work. Or maybe you really are a great writer but just made a couple dumb mistakes because you were over-caffeinated or something. Whatever – just get other people to read it. You’d be surprised how many essays are submitted with cringe-worthy mistakes in them. No bueno.

12. This is the simplest and most obvious of the tips, yet people STILL mess it up (just saw one this morning, actually). For Pete’s sake, people – make sure you’ve got the right school listed on all documents, including your resume/CV and essay! Look, I get it – you’re using the same base resume/essay for all schools and just swapping in school-specific info. And your computer hard drives are likely drowning in application documents, making keeping it all straight a challenge. Don’t care. There’s no excuse for not checking one last time to make sure the  essay you’re sending to the Josef Korbel School doesn’t say “I know that Georgetown University will provide me with the skills and education necessary to succeed in this field.”  Epic fail.


Posted by: Josef Korbel School, Office of Graduate Admissions | October 14, 2011

How not to irritate the admissions committee

As an admissions staff member who is also a current student, I feel like I have a bit more leeway to be straight with prospective students. So rather than drivel on about my classes and assignments again, this post is dedicated to providing you with a bit of advice/admonishments/tips & tricks for dealing with our office and the admissions process in general. Please know that I mean all of this in the nicest, most constructive way. But we get some pretty ridiculous requests/complaints and I figured someone ought to tell you to knock it off before you totally sabotage yourself. So here goes… my 10 tips for prospective students (in no particular order):

1. No matter how good your GPA, GRE score, time spent abroad, work experience, etc. is, there are at least 10 other applicants whose stats are better than yours. Which is not to say you shouldn’t be proud of your accomplishments; you should, and you should include them on your application. But a little humility can go a long way; bragging about how fabulous you are will likely not endear you to anyone on the admissions review committee.

2. As frustrating as it may be, we cannot tell you what your chances of admission are, and in most cases we can’t be more specific regarding what you should say in your essay/resume/CV/etc. The reasons behind every admissions decision are unique; one person may have a lower GPA but great work experience, another may have a stellar GPA but no work experience and one, both, or neither are accepted. That’s just the way it is. For information on what to include in a resume or CV, I suggest this website.

3. We are also not able to tell you which program is best for you. Only you know that. We are happy to steer you towards one or another program if you tell us your academic interests, but beyond that you’re on your own. Along those lines, we can’t tell you what employers will think of X degree or Y experience; we have no real way of knowing that without doing an extensive survey of all potential employers – not very feasible or useful, as each person’s academic and professional experiences will be different. If you’re totally lost, try setting up some informational interviews at places you’d like to work someday.

4. Please, please, please look through the Korbel website before calling or emailing us. It has tons of info on it regarding the admissions process, future careers, internships, etc. While we are happy to speak with prospective students and answer questions, 95% of emails and calls we get are regarding information that is readily available on the website. Research will comprise the vast majority of your grad school experience so you might as well get started now.

5. You may think that because we are the Office of Graduate Admissions we handle letters of recommendation, transcripts, and the online application. Makes sense, right? Yep, but nevertheless we don’t. All that is handled by the Office of Graduate Studies. Their office administers the applications and related materials for all of DU, including Korbel. Transcript lost in the mail? Recommender never got the email from DU? 303.871.2706.

6. When I was going through this process a couple years ago (geez, can’t believe it’s been that long!) I obsessively searched every online resource I could think of for advice on what to do/not do. You should do the same. That’s how I found out what to send to my old professors to ensure that I got good letters of rec from them. I sent old coursework, transcripts, my essay, resume, and a suggested list of things to highlight in their letters. So despite having graduated 5 years previously, I got great letters of rec from all three of my former professors. Moral of the story: the internet is your friend. However, I would caution you against taking advice from people on forums such as GradCafe without a large grain of salt. While well-meaning, the majority of users on that site are prospective students just like you and are not nearly as knowledgeable as they think they are. (Don’t even get me started on those ridiculous “here are my stats and the schools I’m applying to – please tell me if I’ll get in” posts. Ugh!)

7. Yes, applying to grad school is expensive. No, we can’t waive your application fee. Not even if you’re in the Peace Corps. Not even if you’re unemployed. Not even if you’ve got 15 kids to feed. Not even if you’re single-handedly propping up the economy of Lichtenstein. Unless you’re a Pickering or McNair Fellow you’re out of luck. (And if you don’t know what those are, you’re not one of them.) I feel your pain, I really do – I shelled out about $900 for grad school application fees and related expenses, and I was unemployed at the time. It sucked.

8. Please don’t complain to us that some other university did X for you or doesn’t require Y. This is not that university and we have our own policies, no matter how unfair or lame they may seem (or be).  What irritated me most during the application process was how some universities required me to send in 2 copies of my transcripts. Do they not own a copy machine? I have to shell out even more money because they can’t walk over to the next building with a copy of my transcript? But as ridiculous as that seemed to me, I had to do it, and I did. Fortunately, Korbel only wants one copy of your transcripts, but I’m sure there are plenty of other things that might be frustrating. You just gotta deal with it.

9. The Master of Development Practice degree is gone. Please move on.

10. You need to know why you want this degree. Which means you should know what you want to do after graduation – the whole purpose of getting a Master’s degree is to be more competitive in the field you want to work in. Don’t apply to grad school because you think you should or because every generation of your family for the past 80 years has gotten one. If you don’t have good reasons for wanting this degree it will be painfully obvious to those evaluating your application and you will likely not get in. And if you’re an expert BS’er and do get in, you will have a much harder time succeeding – grad school is TOUGH and you have to really know why you’re here putting yourself through all this stress and misery to get through it. So figure out a rough career plan and apply to schools and degrees that will assist you in that career. In other words, don’t put the cart before the horse.

Okay the tough love session is now over. Carry on.

Viel Glück!

Posted by: Josef Korbel School, Office of Graduate Admissions | October 12, 2011


Well, it’s week 5. The quarter is halfway over, which is both good and bad. Good because I’m that much closer to graduation and bad because the procrastination fairy is still wreaking havoc with my well-laid plans for paper writing. I have 2 shorter papers (8-10 pages) due week 8, which means I really should be farther along than I currently am (for example, I should have at least found a few sources by now – yikes!). Especially since Halloween is week 8 and therefore the weekend immediately prior is not going to be available for my usual frantic last-minute writing – gotta party it up downtown since I have an awesome costume! (Yes, I am aware that my priorities might be a little misaligned.)

But on to more important things, like jobs – the reason all of us are here and why you’re thinking of joining us! I’ve already started browsing organization websites and sites such as for open positions. I think it’s still a bit too early to apply, but I’m trying to get a feel for what’s out there and what I should be doing now to prepare. One of my friends who graduated in June started her job search last November and ended up being offered a position that started in May. Fortunately, Korbel allows you to use up to 15 credits (or 3 classes) of independent study, so she was able to move to Boston in April and start working while finishing up her last 15 credits to graduate.  I’m going to follow her example and hope for similar results.

Part of my job search plan includes going to NYC at the end of November for a networking trip. Our career office organizes trips to NYC, DC, and Boston every year for the purpose of allowing students to visit the headquarters of various NGOs, think tanks, and U.S. government agencies and network with Korbel alumni that work at each location. A lot of first year students go on the trips to look for internship opportunities, but I’m hoping for job leads. 🙂 Most people seem to think primarily of DC when considering an education and career in international affairs, but the truth is that this field allows you to study and work all over the U.S.  I don’t want to work for the government and I’m not particularly interested in living in DC, so I’ve decided to skip the DC trip. Most of the major human rights organizations (Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Rescue Committee, etc.) are headquartered in NYC so it seemed like a great idea to go. Plus, I love New York and this is a great excuse to visit the city again. As for the Boston trip, I’m not sure yet – that trip isn’t until March, so I have some time to decide.


Posted by: Josef Korbel School, Office of Graduate Admissions | September 27, 2011

Snooki will save your sanity

I have a lot going on this quarter. Too much, probably. But all of it is important and none of it can be postponed. So consequently I feel like a juggler with a dozen or so pins in the air, constantly working to keep everything moving and in sync. It’s a challenge. I keep finding myself zoning out in class as I mentally make to-do lists of all the things I have to get done. No bueno. I’m pretty good at managing my time and I actually prefer being super busy over being bored, but this quarter is going to stretch the limits of time management skills. Sink or swim, eh?

I’ve found that it’s incredibly important to take some time on a regular basis to do something that will allow you to mentally check out for a bit, no matter how much you have going on. For me, that means watching Jersey Shore. Yes, yes, I know – absolute trash. But that’s the beauty of it. It doesn’t require a single iota of brain power to sit and be entertained by the drunken antics of the GTL crew. And after I’ve watched an episode I feel refreshed and ready to read something really dense and theoretical, thereby proving to myself how intellectually superior I am.

Brilliant, no? 😀


Posted by: Josef Korbel School, Office of Graduate Admissions | September 20, 2011

Hello internship, goodbye social life!

I finally have an internship! Huzzah! While most of my fellow 2nd year students completed their internships this summer, I (in my usual way) procrastinated and didn’t apply for a single one. Don’t be like me. But anyway, in yet another example of how important connections are to your career, my friend and former colleague Clifton Martin (and fellow blogger) referred me to the non-profit organization where he interned this summer and suggested that I send in my resume. While the organization isn’t a human rights organization per se, the position is similar to what I’ve been doing for the admissions office this past year and yet different enough that I’ll learn several new skills and build on ones I’ve been developing. In my opinion, that will be far more important in the upcoming job search than whether or not the organization is billed as a “human rights” org. So I sent them my resume, got an interview, and was offered the position! It was that simple. I feel very lucky, because I know most people have to apply to dozens of places before landing an internship and this one pretty much fell in my lap.

The big downside of this internship is how much it’s going to add to my workload and take away from my study time. I currently work 20 hours a week in the admissions office. I’ll be working about 15-20 hours a week at my internship, including some stuff at home. This means that I’ll have a lot less time for school work than I normally would, and the already-stressful last 3 weeks of each quarter are likely to be upgraded to absolutely hellish. I keep telling myself that there are only 9 weeks left in the quarter, so no matter how stressful it gets it’ll be over fairly quickly. I won’t have a life for the next couple months, but I’ll survive. I hope.

In other news, I applied for the NYC Career Connections trip today. Every year, our Office of Career and Professional Development hosts trips to NYC, Boston, and Washington, D.C. They set up informational interviews with Korbel alumni and other representatives from dozens of international NGOs and government agencies and while you only spend 3 days in each city, they pack those 3 days full of as many appointments and visits as possible. It’s nice because you don’t have to go to all 3 – you can pick just one or two, and it’s cheap – there’s a $115 program fee, but that’s all the school charges. You’re on your own for flights and lodging, but I’d much rather find my own (really cheap) flights and hotels than be forced to pay for whatever they came up with. I’ve decided to skip the D.C. trip and I’m still not sure about Boston. I really have zero desire to live or work in D.C. or work for the government, so there’s not much point in spending the money to go on the trip. However, New York City has a lot of human rights organizations headquartered there (e.g., Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, UNICEF, International Rescue Committee) and I’d love to live there. I’ll find out October 7th if I’ve been chosen to go. Can’t wait! 🙂


Posted by: Josef Korbel School, Office of Graduate Admissions | September 13, 2011

I’m baaaaack!

Holy cow, I haven’t posted since February! I’m a terrible blogger, apparently. Sorry about that. But what can I say? I was out exploring and enjoying as many of the awesome summertime Denver activities as possible. (And there are many – I ❤ this city!)

So as you can tell, I survived my first year at Korbel and am now a big shot 2nd year! Woo hoo!  Last year is a bit of a blur (a new student asked me last week what my favorite human rights class has been and I totally blanked on what classes I took last year. Yikes.) but I remember lots of stress during the last 3 weeks of each quarter followed by immense feelings of relief that everything was completed on time, and then a great big happy dance at the end of the school year when I realized I had completed the first year in one piece and with my sanity intact (more or less). The main thing I learned last year was that it will all be okay in the end. And now I feel almost invincible – you want me to write 50 pages in 3 days? Psh, no problem. I can do that in my sleep now. B-) This year will be cake.


Of course, I don’t actually think that. But now I know what to expect and that’s tremendously helpful in reducing anxiety. I’ve been to 2 out of the 3 classes I’m taking this quarter and both seem like they’re going to be awesome and very helpful for my future career, especially my Cross-Cultural Communications class. The other classes I’m taking are Human Rights and the International Refugee System, and Humanitarian Law of Armed Conflict.

Enough about me for now – it’s application season! Right about now you’re probably researching schools, trying to figure out which programs are the best fit for you, who you’re going to get letters of rec from, and how in the heck you’re going to scrape together the ridiculous amount of money it takes to apply to grad schools. (I applied to 8 schools and ended up paying over $800, so I feel your pain.) I recommend spreadsheets. Excel is your friend. Craigslist is also great for selling off your belongings to pay for app fees. 😀 As for deciding which schools to apply to – research, research, research. Read every bit of info that schools post on their websites, email profs, call admissions offices (although most aren’t nearly as helpful as Korbel’s, if I do say so myself), talk to people you know who are familiar with the school, etc etc. Grad school is difficult, and in my opinion it’s crucial that you enjoy the school and the location of where you choose to study. So do your homework! Big name schools are good and all, but you should choose the place where you feel you’ll have the best academic and personal experiences, regardless of the name on the building.


Posted by: Josef Korbel School, Office of Graduate Admissions | February 22, 2011

Some things change and some stay the same

It’s the middle of week 8, which means in less than two weeks I need to submit two 20-25 page papers and do one group presentation.  Have I started on any of them?  Nah.  Should I be way more concerned about this than I actually am?  Yep, probably.  Sigh.  So much for last quarter’s pledge to not put off writing my papers until the last week…. but what can I say?  Procrastination is apparently an immutable part of my DNA.  But enough about me… big things are happening at Korbel!

First, as some of you may have already heard, the Master’s in Development Practice program has been suspended.  Everyone who applied to that program has been notified that they have the option of switching to a different program or having their application fee refunded.  This has caused quite an uproar, not only with applicants but also with current MDP students who are facing the very real possibility that they will be the only ones to ever receive an MDP degree from the Josef Korbel School.  Eek.

Second, I know you all are anxiously awaiting your admissions decisions.  They’re coming soon!  Yep, yep… I can’t give you an exact date (because I don’t know what it is), but I can tell you that your wait is nearly over.  Hooray!  With that said, PLEASE don’t bombard our office with phone calls/emails asking if you were admitted or not.  We can’t and won’t tell you until all the decisions are made and sent out.  For those of you who are still gathering your application materials, I suggest you get a move on.  The incoming cohort is filling up quickly and you don’t want to be left out in the cold.

Finally, our office is in the midst of planning the Discover Korbel event for admitted students.  It will be April 7th and 8th, and I STRONGLY suggest that you attend if you can.  I went last year and I had a great time.  I’ll leave my DK plug at that for now because I’m going to preach about it more as it gets closer to April, but mark your calendars!


Posted by: Josef Korbel School, Office of Graduate Admissions | February 14, 2011

Just Say N♥

Today is Valentine’s Day (meh), but far more importantly, it’s also Spring Quarter Registration Day!!  I just finished registering for classes, and next quarter is going to be tough.  I’m taking 18 credits (4 classes) and considering that Winter and Spring quarters are back-to-back (only one measly week in between as a “break”), I’m probably going to be extremely burned out by the time May rolls around.  Ah well.  Next quarter I’ll be taking Human Rights Research and Design, Social Movements, Globalization and Human Rights, Homeland Security, Civil Society and Human Rights, and Politics in Africa.  I’m not sure if other grad schools do this, but one thing I love about Korbel is that the syllabi for past, current, and upcoming classes are posted online.  That is really helpful when you’re trying to plan out which courses to take – you can see how much work the course requires and whether it looks like something that you’ll actually find useful/interesting.  As far as I know, no other schools at DU provide syllabi for their students prior to registration.  Just one more reason why Korbel rocks. 😀


Posted by: Josef Korbel School, Office of Graduate Admissions | February 8, 2011


It’s cold.  Really cold.  When I walked to school this morning it was 6 degrees.  Which is way too cold for someone who grew up next to the beach in California and went to college in Hawaii.  I’ve been resisting wearing thermals or leggings under my jeans, but this morning I finally caved.  I can’t say I’m enjoying the strange feeling of wearing two pairs of pants at the same time, especially now that I’m inside and overheating.  Sigh.  Cold weather is no fun.  But last week we had our very first snow day of the season!  The university was closed for the evening on Monday and all day Tuesday, so I got to miss work and my International Criminal Law class.  It snowed quite a bit last night and many of us were hopeful that we’d get another snow day, but no such luck.  On the bright side, it’s supposed to be close to 60 degrees on Sunday. 😀  Denver weather is so strange.

As for school, we’re in the middle of week 6 and so far this quarter has been less stressful than the last one.  I’m actually able to keep up with all of my readings and still have time left over to cool my brain with mindless television.  I’m enjoying my International Criminal Law and International Campaign Management classes quite a bit and learning a lot.  Not only is the Campaign Management class really interesting, it’s the first one I’ve taken that will leave me with quantifiable skills that I did not previously have.  The International Criminal Law course is providing me with a very useful background knowledge in the international legal system and international laws regarding war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity.  The disappointment this quarter is Politics of Deeply Divided Societies.  It’s an elective for me and I took it because it sounded interesting, but to quote one of my classmates, “I thought it would be based on more than just common sense.  But maybe that’s too much to ask from a graduate-level course.”   Harsh, but regrettably true. 😦

It’s nearing the time that I’ll have to start buckling down and writing papers, but fortunately I’ve found a spot that’s perfect for studying.  The law library.  Beautiful building!  Always quiet!  No undergrads!  Comfy chairs!  A cafe!  Yep, it’s just about perfect, with one tiny inconvenience– no wireless internet unless you’re a law student.  Boo.  So as long as you have actual books to read/study, you’re all set.  This quarter my big papers are going to be on the conflict in Côte d’Ivoire and the gacaca courts in Rwanda (see? definitely leaning toward Africa these days), and I’m especially excited about the gacaca paper– fascinating subject (yes, I’m a nerd).

Okie doke.  Time to get back to work.

Até a vista!

Posted by: Josef Korbel School, Office of Graduate Admissions | January 26, 2011

The implosion of career goals

The Middle East has pretty much always been my area of interest and expertise (with “expertise” being open to some interpretation).  I’m fascinated by the history, cultures, people, politics, religion… pretty much all of it.  The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been my primary area of interest, and for the past several years my career aspirations included working in the Palestinian Territories.  When I was applying to grad school last year all of my statements of purpose included this steadfast belief in the Middle East as the region I would eventually end up in.  I was so sure….until I actually started grad school.

For the past few months I’ve been going through a sort of mini-crisis, with new interests and aspirations struggling against the old.  The Middle East no longer holds my attention in quite the same way it used to.  I’m increasingly drawn to Africa.  Africa, the continent I never gave more than a passing thought to previously, convinced that it was a quagmire of conflict, disease, and malnutrition (in much the same way that many people write off the Middle East as a hopeless hotbed of Islamofascism, terrorism, and gender inequality).  However, the more I learn, the more I think that Africa, specifically East Africa, is the region that I should focus my studies and career goals on.  I’ve been reluctant to fully commit to this new course, not yet ready to abandon my years-long devotion to studying the Middle East.  Of course, there’s nothing that says I have to pick one or the other, but I have yet to meet someone at Korbel who isn’t dedicating nearly all of their energy into one region (and often one country) and I’ve found myself falling into that same “just pick one” mindset.  As a result, I’ve been tying myself into mental knots over the issue…. “Africa or the Middle East?  Both?  Just one?  Which one?  Africa?  The Middle East?  I’m not ready to decide!  Arghhh!”

I decided to share this dilemma with you all because apparently this is a fairly common issue.  I’ve spoken to some second-year students as well as my bosses at the Admissions Office, and apparently it’s pretty rare for students to stick with whatever interests/goals they outlined in their statements of purpose.  Which makes sense, I suppose.  We’re being exposed to issues and regions in our classes that we had never previously had an opportunity or interest in studying and it’s natural for many people discover new interests that supersede the old.

So I guess the take-away message of this blog post is for anyone who has struggled (or is still struggling) with exactly what they want to do “when they grow up”: even those of us who had a clear direction often end up being just as confused as you are.  But no worries, we’ll all figure it out eventually, myself included.  🙂


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