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Want to Pursue a Degree in Public Affairs? Here's How to Get Started

DEC 10, 2020

10 December is International Human Rights Day, and with many public issues in the global spotlight, there’s no better time to share how students aspiring to change the world can do so with an education in Public Affairs.

At the tail end of a year consumed by the largest worldwide health crisis in generations, it’s only natural to reflect on the value of human rights and the importance of being a global citizen. In the words of the United Nations, this year, “10 December is an opportunity to reaffirm the importance of human rights in re-building the world we want, the need for global solidarity as well as our interconnectedness and shared humanity.” But for students with ambitions to make a lasting impact in this realm, the journey doesn’t stop there — in fact, that’s only the beginning.

“Human Rights” encompasses a broad range of topics, from economic, social and cultural equality to civil and political justice and everything in between. For students hoping to pursue a career in human rights, getting a degree in Public Affairs is a great starting point. Public Affairs courses are typically offered at the graduate level and consist of an interdisciplinary approach to civic engagement, equipping students with the skills to understand and respond to current issues that affect communities on a global scale.

But what does it take to get there? Being passionate about social justice is one thing, but getting into a top university and graduating with a relevant undergraduate degree takes more than passion alone. That’s why we’ve put together a step-by-step guide to help students get started on their journey to change the world.

Step 1: Identify the right course of study. While degrees in Public Affairs are more common at the graduate level, there are a variety of reputable undergrad programs that serve as a springboard to a grad school degree and, eventually, a career. From the Public Policy program at Stanford to the Global Affairs program at Yale, there are a multitude of pathways available for students hoping to study Public Affairs as grad students.

Step 2: Get involved with your community. With a program in mind, it’s important to find extracurricular activities that nurture your passion and illustrate why you’re a great candidate for this type of degree. Beyond participating in pertinent clubs or organizations, it’s critical to find leadership roles that enable you to take initiative and demonstrate the type of community member you’d be on the campus of a top university.

Step 3: Start your college applications. The application process can seem daunting with tests, essays, interviews, extracurriculars and more. That’s why you must dedicate adequate time and utilize the best resources to plan and execute each component in a way that makes you shine. Craft your application around a theme that shows consistency and commitment, and proves that you deserve a spot in the undergraduate program you’ve chosen.

Step 4: Build your portfolio. This is where extracurricular engagement goes beyond the list of organizations on your application. Have you taken on projects or assumed leadership positions that set you apart? Are there achievements related to your educational or career goals that you’re proud of? These will serve as subject matter for your essays and interviews, so it’s important to develop a well-rounded, meaningful portfolio.

Step 5: Off to undergrad! After submitting applications to your universities of choice, admissions decisions will be just around the corner — then it’s time to decide where to enroll. You’ll weigh your options and choose an undergrad program that excites you, then off you go! With the path to a Public Affairs degree ahead, you’ll be headed in the right direction to the meaningful career of your dreams.

Wondering what comes next? Check out our latest Instagram post to see which US graduate school programs are best for students pursuing Public Affairs!

Crafting a college application with a portfolio that shines isn’t easy, but with the proper resources, it can be done. For students passionate about human rights, Crimson can help identify a roadmap and put together a stand-out application complete with essays, extracurriculars and projects that illustrate the right theme to appeal to top universities. And the journey doesn’t end there — Crimson can continue providing support throughout your undergraduate career to set you up for success in your graduate endeavors and beyond.

To learn how Crimson can help you get where you want to go, click the link below and schedule a free one hour consultation with one of our Academic Advisors.

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