Ep.3: Archana Atmakuri
and Akshaya Jose Devasia

University Selection: 

Multiple factors come into play while selecting a university:

  1. Cost of education and living;

  2. Purpose and area of focus in IR: different universities offer different schools of thought and perspectives in the field of IR; some IR schools are more academic-oriented and focus on historical theories in analysis; other schools focus on policy-oriented and focus more on countries policies in the framework;

  3. Orientation and focus of the curriculum; Sciences Po for instance has a professional orientation developed for working in the field of IR as opposed to in academia;

  4. Availability of scholarships- independent and within the institution affects the feasibility and cost of education.


Importance of GPA:

The significance of GPA varies from university to university; it acts as an important threshold of the level of engagement and seriousness of a candidate with their coursework. However, the GPA can be substantiated through attaining writing, analytical and other skills important in research; and also through internships to show the level of interest as a candidate in the field. Ultimately, it all boils down to positioning one’s academic journey and justifying the GPA one gets.


Drafting an Effective CV:

An effective CV is a cogent and coherent presentation of oneself as a candidate for the organization one is applying for. This involves being clear about the purpose, stream of research one wants to adopt and the interests developed through the coursework, internships, and academic initiatives are taken so far. Templates of CVs of Universities like Harvard, Princeton, etc. are available online and they provide effective insights into structuring one’s own CV. A major objective of all this is to align and fit oneself with the roles and objectives of the organization/ university one is applying for. It is therefore beneficial to amending CVs when applying to multiple organizations so as to align one’s interests and skills with different roles of different organizations one has applied for.


Statement of Purpose:

  • Writing an effective Statement of Purpose is essentially the “Art of Storytelling”; it is about how to position oneself in one’s academic journey by crafting all of the aspects of one’s journey into a bigger picture and connecting them to an overarching purpose. Even if one does not have the clarity of what exactly is that overarching theme, it is very useful to emphasize how one has made the best use of those opportunities in terms of learning, exploring, and gaining experience in the new frontiers which were hitherto unexplored. 

  • It is always beneficial to consult and show your SoPs to your known ones and seniors who can provide better and new perspectives which can be incorporated into the SoP.

  • Also, it is very important to deeply research the various programs offered in graduate schools of one’s interest; reading about the program, about the professors, and what specifically the school offers which interests you. This knowledge is of vital importance because generic SoPs don’t go far. What the Statement of Purpose asks for is also a justification of why you have chosen that specific school, why the curricula fit into your academic purpose and how you are the best person matching the institution’s objectives.


Scholarship Attributes:

Better grades are a decisive factor to meet the threshold since there exist applications with equally high grades. But more important is to position yourself in your story by emphasizing the best possible use one makes of the given opportunities.

Awareness of scholarship opportunities in advance such as scholarship cycles, deadlines, the knowledge and purpose of the organizations offering the scholarships; is necessary to taler one’s CV, SoP in accordance with the goals and objectives of the organization and how you can contribute and make the best use of the scholarship furtherance of the Organisation's objectives. 


Publications and Internships:

Publications add value to the application. The majority of the universities require writing samples from the candidates which may or may not be published, so writing is definitely an add-on benefit to the application. Getting one’s Writings published is tedious and difficult and thus may sometimes lead to self-doubt on one’s ability and credentials. The best way to begin is to collaborate with different people, incorporate their writing styles and ideas; which eventually help build the confidence to write independently in the future. It is always great to approach your professors, seniors to proofread and advise in respect of improvements and perspectives as it significantly improves the chance for the sample to be published.


A similar positive mindset has to be kept while applying for an internship in a big organization like the UN. Applying to the UN can be extremely tedious and time-consuming with a high probability of rejection due to the sheer large number of applications. The key is to ask oneself the reason for applying, appreciating the goals and objectives for which the UN stand,s and consistently challenging oneself to push beyond one’s own limits by not getting discouraged with the rejections. Reaching out to the people who have worked/ interned is very useful to get their insights into the process.