Frequently Asked Questions

When is the deadline for submitting the application?
The early notification deadline for the program is November 1. Those who submit their application to the program and for fellowship consideration early are guaranteed an answer about the program and their fellowship application by December 1. Otherwise, you may submit your application form by January 15 for the program along with fellowship consideration.  The final deadline for applying to the program without fellowship consideration is February 15. You will be notified by early March if you have been admitted. Please ensure that all necessary supporting documents are included in your application and submitted by the appropriate deadline.

Can I apply online?
SIPA encourages applicants to apply online. If you are unable to apply online and prefer to submit a hard copy of the application, please visit this link.

If I am an international student, do I have to take the TOEFL?
If your bachelor's degree was not earned in a country in which English is the language of instruction, then you MUST submit proof of competency in English. If you need to prove competency in English, you can find out more about the TOEFL at or call the TOEFL Educational Testing Service at 609-771-7100.

A minimum score of 600 on the paper test, 250 on the computer-based test or 100 on the internet-based test is required

You may also prove competency by achieving a grade of 10 on the American Language Program (ALP) English Placement Test (EPT) offered at Columbia University. Visit for further details.

What is the GRE policy?
The School of International and Public Affairs recommends, but does not require, that all applicants to the MPA ESP Program submit GRE scores. Admission decisions are based on the application, science background, familiarity with environmental issues, the personal statement, the résumé/curriculum vitae, transcripts of prior college and/or graduate school work, three letters of recommendation, prior work experience, GPA, and standardized test scores. GRE results are never the sole basis for an admissions decision. They are a useful indicator of academic ability.

What is the GRE school code?
The GRE code is 2161

What methods of payment can I use for the application fee?
We accept checks, money orders, drafts, and travelers' checks made out to Columbia University. We cannot accept wire transfers for any reason. If you apply online you, may choose to pay the fee with a credit card. (All payments must be in the form of United States dollars.)

Is there any fellowship funding?
There are fellowships available however, they are partial and must be used toward tuition. Fellowships awards are dispersed in three installments, at the beginning of each semester. If you are a candidate seeking a fellowship, you should fill out the fellowship application form when you apply for the program. You will be notified about the status of the fellowship application at the same time that you receive notification about acceptance. If you apply by the early deadline, notification about the fellowship will be given by December 1. The final deadline for admission with fellowship consideration is January 15.

Is there a part-time program?
The Environmental MPA Program is an intensive twelve-month program. There is no part-time program for the MPA ESP. For students interested in part-time study, SIPA has a part-time Executive MPA program.

Can I earn a PhD?
The MPA ESP Program is a terminal professional degree program. It is not designed as a Master of Arts program that is followed by a PhD. SIPA offers a PhD in Sustainable Development and MPA graduates are eligible to apply for admission. In addition, many PhD programs will accept Columbia University credits, and your master's degree work may be transferred to a PhD program; however, such transfer credit is always at the discretion of the institution offering the PhD.

Can I take electives?
Students take one elective during the fall and two electives in the spring semester. Students are provided with a list are recommended courses before the start of each semester.

How much does the program cost?
The program's tuition and fees for 2013-14 will total $68,698. For more information on the estimated cost of attendance, please visit the SIPA website. However, please keep in mind that these costs vary according to your personal choices.

Do I need to have a science background to be considered for the program?
At the very least, students should also have taken chemistry and biology taught at the AP high school level. The summer term involves science classes including Climatology, Hydrology, Environmental Chemistry, Environmental Toxicology, as well as Ecology and Biodiversity, therefore a basic understanding of chemistry and biology are necessary.

Do all students have an environmental science background?
The students accepted in the MPA ESP program come from diverse backgrounds.  Graduates of the program have undergraduate degrees in a variety of disciplines including economics, geology, international affairs, English, Spanish, industrial engineering, and anthropology.

What is the average age of students?
The average age of the 2013-14 class is 27.

Where do students go after they graduate?
To date, 11 classes have graduated from the Master of Public Administration in Environmental Science and Policy program bringing the total number of graduates to 619. These graduates have entered into a diverse range of professions within the environmental policy field in non-profit, government, and private sectors. Graduates are working in organizations throughout the US and globally as consultants, environmental protection and restoration specialists, directors of environmental services, environmental and public health advisors, policy analysts, teachers, researchers, and environmental biologists and engineers. Some graduates chose to continue their education with advanced degrees in Law, Doctor of Science in Environmental Health, and Doctor of Philosophy in Anthropology.

Do I have to do a thesis?
A 5-credit Workshop in Applied Earth Systems Policy Analysis and Management in the spring is the equivalent of a thesis for the degree. The spring workshop allows students to work as consultants for clients from the government and non-profit sectors. These teams, working under the supervision of faculty members, write a report analyzing an actual environmental policy or management problem faced by their clients. Past clients have included Transparency International, National Resource Defense Council, United Nations Division of Sustainable Development, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the New York City Economic Development Corporation. To learn more about the spring workshop course please visit our Workshop site.

What do I have to do to prepare for the program?
We advise those lacking an economics background and a basic understanding of chemistry, biology, and microeconomics to make up these deficiencies before entering the program. Proficiency in Excel will also be beneficial.

Does the program require an internship?
The intensive nature of the Environmental MPA Program requires a great deal of devotion and time and therefore an internship is not part of the requirement for the completion of the degree. Students are discouraged from having an internship in the summer and fall semesters so that they may fully engage in their studies. The 5-credit workshop in the spring allows students to obtain the same professional experience as an internship.

How do I get housing in New York City?
Approximately one-third of incoming MPA ESP student receive Columbia University housing. Accommodations near campus can also be found at International House ( or through the off-campus registry ( /cu/ire/ocha). The MPA ESP program will work with students to ensure that each person has housing. For more information about housing please visit our website at:

Can I speak to past alumni about their experience in the program?
Our office can connect you with past alumni. Please contact Sarah Tweedie, Assistant Director, by phone (212-854-3142) or by email to get connected.