Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Trying to answer your main questions

Email is a great thing, right?

My inbox and that of Amina are full of questions from admitted candidates. These are important questions, and we need to be clear in our answers. Email is an easy punching bag, but it's also a good way to gauge what the our readers' main concerns are.

(I'm sure you've asked yourself: How did we exist without email? How about existing without the fax -- as I did in my first job after SAIS.)

This week we will try to answer some of the questions we are receiving most frequently from candidates who have been admitted to SAIS Bologna. The beauty of a blog -- even one as modest as ours -- is to be able to address the concerns of a wide community, something email cannot easily do.

So what are the main concerns? They clearly are financial aid, pre-term, housing and visas.

For many candidates, financial aid is the most pressing issue because they have to make ends meet before matriculating. Feel free to read our earlier post on financial aid. In it you'll see links to a number of useful web pages and documents.

You'll also note I make the point in that post that financing a quality education is in many ways an investment, and a sound one. While to some it may seem a leap of faith, it's an investment in your future that will pay off over time.

A last point on financial aid: as we said in a post earlier this month, at the moment we have distributed in awards all of the money available to us for scholarships for candidates who applied through Bologna Admissions. Later in the spring, when we know which admitted candidates will be attending SAIS, if sufficient money is returned to us we may be able to make additional grants, as we have in the past. But it is not something to count on.

We intend to tackle housing in a post later this week. Salvatore, who has helped students find apartments for more than three decades, will not be available until later this week, so we ask readers to wait a few more days. Amina will take up visa issues tomorrow.


First, let me try to clear up a matter that causes some confusion -- the economics requirements.

All students need to have taken introductory courses in both microeconomics and macroeconomics BEFORE starting their course work at SAIS. Many candidates will have satisfied this requirement during their undergraduate studies. For those who have not, SAIS offers an online course. For more information on this, click here. Anyone who has not yet met this requirement will be receiving an email from Amina later this week.

All students also have to pass intermediate micro and macro to graduate. In pre-term, which this year starts on August 29 in Bologna, intensive courses in both intermediate micro and macro are offered. Students who take these courses generally want to accelerate their learning.

I should point out that a pre-term is also offered in Washington, from July 25-August 23, so just ahead of Bologna. For more information on the Washington pre-term, click here. Students headed to SAIS Bologna can participate in both the Washington and the Bologna pre-terms, or in either, but neither is required.

The Bologna pre-term has been expanded this year. It includes, as usual, courses in Italian and, for some non-native English speakers, intensive English. This year, SAIS Bologna is also offering two of the four "core" courses: Theories of International Relations and Comparative National Systems. Registration for pre-term is from May 15 to July 5.

On core courses: to graduate, M.A. candidates must pass written exams in two of four core areas (
except students in European Studies, who take three European Studies comprehensive exams). In addition to the two core courses taught during pre-term, there are core offerings during the academic year in America and the World since 1945 and Evolution of the International System. All four of the core courses are taught in both Bologna and Washington.
For more information on SAIS's core requirements, click here.

You'll note in this information sheet that some combinations of courses during pre-term are possible but that other combinations are discouraged. This is because pre-term courses are intensive by nature -- basically a term's work in four weeks -- and some of the combinations would discourage all but the most masochistic of students.

I have not begun to provide all of the information on pre-term. The information sheet is much more detailed. I might add, however, that for many students pre-term is a great way to start off their SAIS experience. It allows one to get a solid academic start. A student becomes more familiar with SAIS and Bologna. One can settle down early and get to know roommates.

And September is a wonderful month to be in Bologna.

Tomorrow: Visas

Nelson Graves