Thursday, 31 January 2013

Now's the time to think about finances

Financial aid applications are due by February 15, 2013. 

Applicants to SAIS Bologna are asked to submit a complete financial aid form along with supporting documents. We will communicate scholarship awards at the same time as the admissions decisions -- by mid-March.

SAIS Bologna offers generous amounts of financial support. Here is a link to our financial aid page. Non-U.S. applicants to SAIS Bologna should look at this page in particular for information on some of the scholarships administered by SAIS Bologna. (Note that the list is not exhaustive. There are several other grants that are not included as well as the funds that we set aside from our yearly budget.)

If you think you meet the criteria for one or more of the grants listed, please be sure to mention it in the application form.

While we are proud of being able to help many students each year, we know that the money we have available is not enough to make everyone happy. For this reason, we recommend that students look for other sources of funding and use their creativity. Make a list of potential sources and be sure to reach out to all of them. Don't disregard small scholarships: every little does help. And don't give up.

In this document, you can find a list of institutions that have provided funding for our students in the past. (Please note that it will be up to you to ask about the application procedure, requirements and deadlines of these institutions.)

As my colleague Nelson Graves said in a post last week, there is no one game plan. In fact, most students are able to make ends meet by combining different sources of funding. The key is to get started as early as possible.

Are there any questions you'd like to ask on this topic? If so, please comment on this post or write to

We will post more on financial aid in coming weeks. In the meantime, below are the links to previous posts:

Financial Aid: The Student Mosaic
The cost of graduate school: Investing in your future
Spending wisely
Financial aid

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Photo contest: The runners-up

Last week Maxwell Cohen, a student this year at SAIS Bologna, won first prize in our recent photography contest.

To see his winning photo, click here.

Here is Max himself on the winning snap: "I took the photo shortly before sunset on the roof of the Duomo in Milan in October, while my parents were visiting. My mom had taken the elevator while my dad and I had taken the stairs, only to discover later that she was blocked from getting to our side of the roof. So I was taking this pic while also trying to find my mom, who we thought had been kidnapped by rogue priests."

Max used a  Panasonic Lumix snap-and-shoot which he had set to auto.

Today we have the pleasure of presenting the three runner-up photos:

by Veronika Bauer-Maxwald
Veronika on her photo: "The picture was taken during our classmate Natalia's birthday 'roast' right before Christmas. Mulled wine, panettone, formaggio, merry Saisers and a proper roast all captured in one shot."

by Jennifer Ottolino
Jennifer on her pic: "The picture was taken from the terrazza of my apartment after the first snow of the season! Thank you to SAIS and Salvatore for the opportunity to live in this 5th floor apartment, with a terrazza overlooking the rooftops of one of the oldest sections of Bologna!"

by Michael Aubrey
Michael on his photograph: "I took this picture of the Guaita fortress from its sister fortress, Cesta, on top of Mount Titano, which overlooks San Marino. We were on a weekend trip to the charming microstate and managed to capture some wonderful photos - truly a spectacular place."

Veronika, Jennifer and Michael win a free lunch with the Admissions team.

Thanks to the students for submitting their photos and for participating in the contest.

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The Interview: some tips

Many of our candidates are being interviewed this month and next. It's one of SAIS Bologna's distinguishing features and also very satisfying for members of the Admissions Committee, who have the chance to probe beyond the written application to better understand candidates' motivations and qualifications.

Here are some tips for candidates as they prepare for their interview:

- Like porridge in the story of Goldilocks (neither too hot nor too cold), it's best to arrive neither too early nor too late for an interview. I'll leave the exact time frame up to your judgment. But to be able to arrive at any set time, you will need to organize in advance and know how long it takes to get there and what the potential impediments may be. Plan ahead. Always have a phone number at hand that you can call if you are unexpectedly delayed.

For those doing the interview over the phone or Skype, be ready to call or to receive the call at the agreed time. If you call earlier, you're likely to find a busy line.

- The interviews generally last about 20-25 minutes. Your challenge is to say what you think you need to say in that time frame. What do you think is most important for you to say to the interviewer? They will have read your dossier, so you don't want to merely repeat what you've written. Again, this takes some planning and thinking ahead.

- There is no dress code. When I was growing up in the United States, our generation resisted all dress codes. But one of my children told me the other day: "You cannot overdress for an interview." Taken to the extreme, that statement might lead to disastrous outfits. But I think the point was that the candidate should look neat. But not so neat as to look uncomfortable. It's a balance one often has to strike in the workaday world.

- It's OK to take notes during the interview. But I would not do so at the cost of being able to have a conversation (and to look the interviewer in the eye -- unless it's over the phone). This is a dialog between two people, not a lecture or a class.

- Relax. Speak slowly. The thoughts will come out if you give them time.

- What questions do you have that have not been addressed? You should make sure to ask them at some point during the interview, often at the end. Don't ask questions that can be answered by spending a few minutes on the SAIS website or by reading the SAIS Bologna catalog. Ask the questions that you really want answered -- not the ones you think we expect you should ask.

- You can watch videos on interviews with prof. Erik Jones and prof. Michael Plummer here and here.

Nelson Graves

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Financial aid: many game plans

How do SAIS Bologna students pay for their studies?

There are as many answers to that question as there are students. Just as each student is unique, so are their financial strategies.

Still, there is a common thread: Students invariably mix different sources of funds to make ends meet.

That was certainly my case when I attended SAIS. I can hear our readers mutter: "But that was the dinosaur age. When you went to SAIS, it cost a lot less."

True, it did cost less. But taking into account inflation, SAIS was a financial challenge even in my day and age. (As my grandfather used to say, a year at a U.S. university has historically cost about the same as a top-of-the-line automobile. Up to you whether a euro is better spent on your education or on a car.)

I'll risk sounding trite by saying I can't remember exactly how I paid for SAIS. Yes, there was some financial aid -- just enough to take the sting out of tuition. I had worked for 4 years after my undergraduate studies and so had saved a modest amount. I had to borrow a bit. I worked part-time while studying in both Bologna and DC to help make ends meet. And while in Italy I took almost all of my meals at the University of Bologna mensa (cafeteria), paying 450 lire per pasto (about 50 U.S. cents) and never setting foot in a ristorante.

Many SAIS graduates will tell you this: With time, the memories of the financial challenge of SAIS fade into oblivion. That's little solace to a current or prospective student but something to look forward to.

True, many of today's temptations to spend did not exist in the early 1980s. No monthly smart phone bill -- they did not exist. (To call my fiancée in Paris, I had to wait in line at the nationalized phone company for a cabin and then, once my call was finally put through, watch as a spinning counter ticked off the lire I was spending for 2 minutes on the phone.)

What do these ancient realities have to do with today's students? This: there will always be an element of sacrifice in taking a U.S. graduate school degree. The most resourceful students do it with grace.

Those who appreciate the value of the investment and who start thinking early on about ways to make ends meet tend to find a way to their objective.

Many of our students receive financial aid from SAIS. Many tap other sources of grants for aid. (Here is a partial list.) An increasing number take out loans. Savings and part-time jobs help. And of course it's worth looking for a rich uncle.

There is no one game plan. But hundreds of SAIS students do it each year and then catapult themselves into  rewarding careers. It can be done.

Nelson Graves

For more posts on financing your investment in a graduate education:
Financial Aid: The Student Mosaic
- The cost of graduate school: Investing in your future
- Spending wisely
- Financial aid

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Photo contest: And the winner is ...

Last month we posted a series of photographs taken by this year's students at SAIS Bologna.

To see the photos, click here and here.

Students were given the chance to vote for their favorite photograph. Today we have the pleasure of announcing the winning photo, which was taken by Maxwell Cohen:

by Maxwell Cohen
For his winning efforts, Max will have his photo framed and mounted in the Bologna Center. He will also receive a framed print for himself. And, should he accept the offer, he can have a free lunch with the Admissions team here.

(An impromptu quiz: What is Max's photo of? The first person to send in the correct answer, either by submitting a comment at the end of this post or with an email to, wins a SAIS Bologna tee shirt.)

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Why interview candidates?

It's little wonder that one of the most watched videos we've posted since we launched this blog two years ago relates to interviews.

Not many graduate schools interview candidates, so it's natural that our applicants would be curious about the process.

Why do we conduct interviews? And what goes on in an interview?

I spoke to Michael Plummer, a professor of economics, about this annual rite that brings candidates together with senior SAIS Bologna faculty and staff.

"It gives us a good chance to get to know the students better, and perhaps more importantly it gives the students a chance to know us better," says Prof. Plummer, who is on the SAIS Bologna Admissions Committee and will be interviewing candidates in coming weeks.

SAIS Bologna interviews non-U.S. candidates who have applied to the Bologna Center and some who are open to starting either in Washington or in Bologna. All U.S. candidates are handled by the SAIS DC Admissions Office, which has slightly different admissions procedures but the same standards.

Faculty and staff interview in some cities in Europe and the United States, but given the geographic diversity of our candidates, most interviews are conducted on the phone or via Skype.

In the video below, Prof. Plummer addresses what is generally discussed during the interview and how -- or how not -- to prepare for the interview.

That senior faculty spend as much time as they do preparing for, conducting and writing up interviews reflects the importance SAIS Bologna attaches to the opportunity to get to know candidates better, to shape the incoming class and to give applicants the chance to learn more about our program.

If you are reading this via email, you can watch the video here.

Nelson Graves

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Financial Aid: The Student Mosaic

Paying for one's graduate education can be a financial challenge.

SAIS offers financial aid to many incoming students. As Bart Drakulich, director of Finance and Administration, explains in the video below, aid helps ensure SAIS has the quality and diversity that set it apart.

"We offer a significant amount of financial aid," Drakulich says. "We are not trying to be a school just for wealthy people."

Many applicants will be requesting financial aid from SAIS. The deadline for applications and supporting documents is February 15. Here are the two forms:

- for non-U.S. students who want to start in Bologna
- for U.S. students

There is a wealth of information on financial aid -- both grants managed by SAIS and alternative sources of funds -- on our website: click here and here.

"There's a little bit of science and a lot of art in this process," Drakulich says when asked how SAIS allocates grants. "Aid is used in a way to attract students who we think would fit well into this mosaic."

Financial aid decisions will be communicated to applicants at the same time as decisions on admission -- in mid-March.

Most students combine a mix of sources of funds, which can include grants, loans, savings and earnings, to make ends meet. We'll be writing more about this in coming weeks.

If you are reading this via email, you can see the video here.

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Where SAIS Bologna students are heading during semester break

Bologna is a springboard to fascinating destinations.

Each year many students take advantage of the break between semesters and the location of SAIS Bologna to pack their bags and travel. The city of Bologna has excellent air, train and road connections to elsewhere in Italy, Europe and beyond.

In this video, some current SAIS Bologna students tell us where they will be heading during the two-week break, which starts at the end of this week.

You'll see that some of them will be going to London or Brussels with Career Services or to Sarajevo with the CCSDD think tank -- trips that extend the SAIS learning experience well beyond the city's limits.

If you are reading this via email, you can see the video here.

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The next steps

Our candidates have submitted their applications. They are now looking to the next steps.

Here is a rough calendar going forward:
  • mid-January: candidates are informed if anything is missing from their dossiers
  • January-February: non-U.S. candidates to SAIS Bologna are interviewed
  • February 15: deadline for financial aid applications
  • Early March: SAIS Bologna Admissions Committee meets
  • Mid-March: Candidates are informed of the admissions decisions and financial aid
  • April 15: SAIS Bologna Open House for admitted candidates
  • Late April, early May: deadline for admitted candidates' decisions
We are receiving lots of questions about three topics in particular: transcripts, interviews and financial aid.


Each candidate should have arranged to have their undergraduate institution send us an official copy of their transcript.

The transcript can be sent in one of two ways:
  1. Through an electronic service;
  2. By mail to:
          SAIS DC Admissions
          1740 Massachusetts Ave, NW
          Washington, DC 20036

For more information on transcripts, consult the application instructions.

Keep in mind that an application is not complete and cannot be acted upon by the Admissions Committee until an official copy of the candidate's undergraduate transcript is received.


We will be contacting non-U.S. candidates to SAIS Bologna in coming days to set up interviews with members of the Admissions Committee. The Committee is composed of senior faculty and staff.

Most interviews are conducted over the phone or via Skype. One faculty member or staff member will conduct each interview. We will be holding face-to-face interviews in a number of cities in Europe and in New York and Washington, DC.

We've written quite a bit over the past two years on interviews, emphasizing that they are an opportunity for candidates to put their best foot forward. If you want more information, you might want to read these posts:

Seeing how you think
Interviews: the home stretch
Your interview

Please keep in mind that there is no advantage to doing the interview in person, over the phone or via Skype. In each case the applicant has the opportunity to strengthen their candidacy.


Financial aid requests are due by February 15. Here are the forms:

For non-U.S. candidates to SAIS Bologna
For U.S. candidates to SAIS Bologna

Supporting documents are also due by February 15.

We have written quite a bit about financial aid, too, over the past two years. Here are some of the posts:

Financial aid
The cost of graduate school: Investing in your future
Spending wisely

As always, if you have questions, drop a line to

Nelson Graves

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Sizing up the smörgåsbord of courses at SAIS

SAIS Bologna students are looking past first semester final exams to their course selection for the spring term.

Today Felix Amrhein discusses his courses from the fall and his strategy for the next term. To look at the spring 2013 curriculum, click here.

I vividly remember browsing through my welcome booklet as if it contained the answer to all my questions.

It was SAIS Bologna Open Day in 2011, and I had received the list of classes to be offered the following year. A total of 29 classes in the fall semester, 40 in the spring. Everything from "Intellectuals in Politics" to "Agriculture and Food Security" to "Econometrics". The list of courses I thought I had to take in case I was admitted soon exceeded both the time I could spend on them and the recommended limit of four.

Felix Amrhein in Cinque Terre
Today I still feel the excitement of that day.

Of course in the end I ignored the advice of friends and staff, and decided to take five courses in my first semester. I learned the hard way why four is said to be enough. Still, every course I took in the fall was a great experience, and I can't say which one I would have dropped.

Choosing classes for the second semester has again been difficult, but fortunately there is help. There are electronic resources: syllabi saying what material will be covered and what the course requirements are. Do you want to take four classes that have papers due at the same time? How many readings do you need to do for this class? One class might not be a problem, but you might get into trouble if you don't select carefully. Be strategic about your choices!

One of the most valuable resources for me has been the evaluations by last year's students. While they are subjective and need to be viewed critically, they give a solid impression of the course. Just remember, be sure to judge for yourself before taking a final decision.

Finally, each student has an academic adviser and can also draw on the expertise of Margel Highet, the director of Student Affairs. You can breathe a sigh of relief after meeting with your adviser or Ms. Highet. They know what they are talking about and will not hesitate to point out possible difficulties with your choices while leaving you room  to make up your mind.

One of the first questions you will be asked is: What is your concentration? While you might think a concentration would restrict your choices, selecting electives from interesting concentrations helps you remain flexible. I am currently enrolled in one Conflict Management and one Energy, Resources and Environment class, and will take one class in each of those concentrations in the spring as well. I can still choose between concentrations as late as the end of my first year. That's what I call flexibility.

What combination of courses should I take, then? Should I focus on getting the economics requirements out of the way early or take a broader approach? I have sought a balance: one core course, one economics course, one concentration course and one elective. In addition to a language, you can always still choose to audit up to two other courses.

Another thing to keep in mind: While there are naturally more courses in Washington, where there are three times as many students, Bologna offers a unique curriculum with excellent professors from all over Europe. You should take advantage of being in the heart of Europe and think about courses like "European Economic Integration" or "European Imperialism in the 20th Century".

If you still don't know what to do with your courses, you have two weeks to attend as many of them as you want during the add/drop period. You can weigh your options and shop around.

So don't fret too much about your choice of courses. No time for worrying!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Where 2013-14 SAIS applicants come from

Our 2013-14 class has started to take shape now that candidates have submitted applications for all but one of our programs.

Below is a map showing the countries where the applicants to SAIS Bologna and SAIS DC come from. Applications for all 2013-14 Bologna programs were due on January 7. All applications to SAIS DC except from MIPP candidates (who face a February 15 deadline in Washington) were also filed this week.

The Admissions Committees in Bologna and DC will start reviewing the dossiers in coming days. Those committees will be communicating their decisions in the first half of March, and admitted candidates will have several weeks after that to decide.

One thing that is already clear is that SAIS will continue to be the diverse community that helps to set it apart. There is diversity by nationality, as shown by the map. There is also diversity by background, experience, culture, age, perspective and interests.

Is your country on this map?

View SAIS applicants' nationalities in a larger map

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

SAIS as a springboard to publication

How do SAIS students, eager to leave their mark on the world, burnish their credentials outside the classroom?

Many use their studies as a bridge to the policy-making world. Consider Amar Causevic, who has just published a policy paper while still a student at SAIS.

Amar studied at SAIS Bologna in 2011-12 before moving to DC for the second and final year towards his MA.

Amar Causevic
Before enrolling in SAIS, Amar, who was born in Addis Ababa and is a citizen of Bosnia & Herzegovina, earned a master's in international relations at Boston University. He had also worked as a researcher in his home country.

Below, Amar tells us how he used two courses he took while in Bologna as springboards for work at a think tank in Germany, which in turn has led to the publication of a paper on China's rising demand for oil.

Amar worked for the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt after his studies in Bologna, and in December the Institute published his paper, "A Thirsty Dragon: Rising Chinese crude oil demand and prospects for multilateral energy security cooperation".

In the 45-page paper, Amar concludes that "multilateral cooperation is the only feasible strategy for preventing dangerous confrontation" between China on the one hand and the United States, Japan, the European Union and India on the other.

To read Amar's paper, click here.

Here is Amar's own explanation of how he ended up publishing the paper:

Like many of my classmates, I have been inspired by my time at SAIS. The school gives students an opportunity to tackle crucial issues relating to international development, the global economy and geopolitics.

My publication stemmed from two classes I took at SAIS Bologna -- Politics and Economics of International Energy, and International Security Cooperation. Thanks to Prof. Manfred Hafner, I became familiar with the economics and politics of global energy trends, especially China's rising demand for petroleum.

In Prof. Harald Müller’s class, I wrote a paper concentrating on multilateral energy cooperation as an alternative to the mainstream pessimistic outlook that foresees armed conflict over petroleum supplies. Under Dr. Müller’s supervision, I wrote a first draft of the paper in the Spring Semester of 2012.

After the academic year ended, I worked as a non-resident visiting fellow at the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt in the department of Policies for Security Governance of States. From June until October 2012, together with Dr. Müller and several of his colleagues, I revised and improved the draft before it was published in December 2012.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

A photo gallery by SAIS Bologna students - Part II

Today we publish a second series of photographs taken this term by SAIS Bologna students. Last week we posted a first batch.

The photographs illustrate the breadth of the students' experiences these past four months.

Thanks to Michael Aubrey, Veronika Bauer, Mallory Baxter, Yaelle Ben-David, Daniela Beyer, Ally Carragher, Max Cohen, Nameerah Hameed, Tetyana Ivanishena, Xiupei Liang, Megan Rhodes, Tristram Thomas and Adrienne Wong.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

"It will be my treat to myself today..."

Italian, French or Spanish?

I spent a fair amount of time in my first weeks at SAIS Bologna debating which language to study. What I did not know was that the language class I would enjoy the most was not among those three. It would be English. The Academic Writing Workshop.

A workshop session
After I took the English proficiency exam at the beginning of the semester, I went to a meeting to receive the results. The meeting was almost over, and I was happy I had completed my first SAIS requirement when, almost as an afterthought, I mentioned that I am a journalist. “In that case, you should consider taking the writing workshop," the professor said. "You don’t have to, but you may find it interesting.”

She had piqued my interest. But I was not sure I would have time to take all the classes I wanted and wondered if the writing workshop should be a priority. After all, I told myself, I am already a writer. Granted, there is always a lot to learn and I am more used to writing in Portuguese. Still …

My curiosity prevailed, and I decided to go to the first workshop session. In the back of my mind I still thought my time would be better spent in other courses. So I arrived in class at least partially convinced I was overstretching myself and that there was a better than even chance I would have to drop the workshop once work in my other classes picked up.

Soon in the writing workshop we had covered academic register, summaries and definitions in such an interesting way that I was hooked. And when assignments and readings piled up, I thought: “I am working hard, and I deserve this. Going to the workshop will be my treat to myself today.”

What is so interesting about the workshop? First, writing an academic paper is not the same as writing a journalistic story. And writing in English is different from writing in Portuguese.

But I had already known this, and these are not the only reasons I enjoyed the classes so much. Every class I had a feeling I was learning something that would be useful in the future -- and not only for my MA papers. I believe even my Portuguese writing has improved due to this workshop.

The teaching method is highly stimulating. As the semester advanced, the professor, Jennifer Varney, seemed to know the group better and better, and she always selected articles that engaged the class. Consequently she presented the grammatical and linguistic information while at the same time sparking lively debates which led to thoughtful writings.

Not only have I learned a lot, I am applying what I learned to my other assignments. I cannot write a paper, even a simple one, without thinking: Is this syntactically correct? Am I using the right cohesion devices here?

Sounds dry? Not if you take the workshop. If you don’t trust me, ask any student from either Dr. Varney's or Dr. Rebecca Hopkins’s class. I guarantee all of them will tell you how happy they are to be in the workshop.

by Ana Luiza Farias