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Columbia J-School has a $4.5 Million Scholarship Budget

Although studying at one of the worlds leading journalism schools can burn a pretty large hole in your pocket, it is without doubt an investment in the future. It equips you with top-notch training, exposure and skills in journalism ready for use in any context anywhere in the world.

Dean of Students and Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Journalism, in Columbia University, Sreenath Sreenivasan says outstanding students from financially underprivileged backgrounds have a strong chance of winning scholarships that the school has at its disposal.

In the second part of this interview, Sreenivasan talks to Uttara Choudhury in New York about the numerous, well-known Indian journalists who have studied at the school and India remaining one of the largest applicant pools along with China, U.K and Canada. 

Photo by: Rebecca Castillo 

Describe the financial aid available to international students.

We have a $4.5-million-dollar financial scholarship budget. In American higher education you are talking about two things scholarship aid and financial aid. Scholarship is what the school can give you, while financial aid includes loans, grants from the federal government and other student financial assistance programs.

"At the journalism school, we have a $4.5 million scholarship budget so we offer scholarships to students who demonstrate merit, financial need and show great promise."

At the journalism school we have a $4.5 million scholarship budget so we offer scholarships to students who demonstrate merit, financial need and show great promise. We have scholarships which are a few thousand dollars to some that are $50,000. In one particular program, the M.A in science, health and environmental journalism, we offer generous tuition support and also cover some of the costs of thesis reporting.

M.S. and M.A. applicants, both domestic and international, who wish to be considered for scholarship assistance, must submit The Graduate School of Journalism Scholarship Aid Application. On the other hand, Ph.D. candidates are automatically considered for scholarship aid.

You also have prestigious fellowships like the Knight-Bagehot fellowship which are open to international applicants.

Yes, they take a couple of experienced international business journalists but overall the program accepts only nine students each year. Fellows receive free tuition plus a stipend of up to $50,000 to offset living expenses in New York City.

Despite the steep tuition costs do the returns come in the form of high-caliber media job placements? What can journalism students expect from the career services center and annual spring Career Expo?

It is a lot of money obviously but you have to look at it as a career investment rather than a one-time sale. It can help you with your next job; it can also help you as you proceed in your career. Several well-known Indian journalists including Inderjit Badhwar, N. Ram, Malini Parthasarathy, Dina Vakil of the Times of India and Ashok Mahadevan of the Reader’s Digest and Barkha Dutt of NDTV are from our school. We have literally had hundreds of Indian students over the years and India remains one of largest applicant pools along with China, U.K, and Canada.  We really want and like having Indian students here.

"It is a lot of money (steep tuition fees), obviously, but you have to look at it as a career investment rather than a one-time sale. It can help you with your next job; it can also help you as you proceed in your career."

In terms of getting a job in the United States things have changed dramatically since 9/11 and the economic slowdown. It is much harder now for international students to work in the US beyond the one year Optional Practical Training. They get to work for a year anyway but for longer-term jobs they have to show they have skills beyond what Americans have. If you are really good and outstanding you might have a shot. At the same time, American journalism is undergoing so many issues that it is often much more exciting to get the training here and work around the world. We certainly have a lot of our students do that not just because of visa issues but because they want to do that.

Having said that our annual spring Career Expo is one of the biggest journalism job fairs in the country, with more than 150 recruiters and editors attending. Students can also meet with a Career Services counselor for one-on-one consultations.

Is the GRE required for admission? Do admission requirements for international students also include TOEFL or IELTS scores?

“It is much harder now for international students to work in the US beyond the one year Optional Practical Training.”

The GRE is required for admission only if you are applying to the Ph.D. in Communication. The dual degree program with the Master of Science in journalism and computer science also requires the GRE exam.

All international students must submit TOEFL scores or IELTS when submitting their applications. On occasion, depending on your educational background, they do offer waivers of this requirement but selectively.

Does the admissions committee prefer recommendation letters from editors and media professionals rather than academics?

Some applicants make the mistake of thinking this is all about having the most famous person I know write a recommendation that is not the case. What you should do is find a person who can speak best to your experience, your strengths and your talent. It should be someone who knows you well and has really supervised your work.

What tips do you have for writing the essays?

“Professors read all the applications and we ask ourselves: “Is this person interesting? Do I want this person in my class?”

The essays should reflect who you are in a way that is appealing yet not too creative. Professors read all the applications and we ask ourselves: “Is this person interesting? Do I want this person in my class?” Be direct, be clear why you are coming, why you want this course, indicate that you have studied the materials and talk about what you will bring to the program. Obviously we want students that will contribute, will learn a lot and who we can shape. We are looking to shape the next generation of leaders in the industry so you have to convey that in your application.

If a visa is denied would your school defer admission and hold the international student’s spot until the visa is obtained?

We would do our best to do that. We would certainly understand if someone had an issue and work with them.

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