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Social Enterprise M.A. Admissions

What Are We Looking For?

The Social Enterprise Program is built around the idea that innovation and creativity are best fostered by a diverse group of minds working together. Our goal in seeking students is to assemble an entering cohort that will both benefit individually from the program and will contribute to others’ learning. In your application, help us see what that contribution could be.

To achieve this goal we don’t have a rigid mold we expect every applicant to fit in. We want to admit a class with a variety of types and levels of experience. The program can benefit – and be benefited by – students with half a decade or more of organizational experience. It can also gain from students just completing an undergraduate degree who may have started their first NGO while in high school.

There isn’t any one educational background most appropriate for a career in social enterprise. A history major can bring as much to the field as a student of business. We do look for indicators of an “enterprising mindset” – an orientation toward thoughtful action, an ability to pick apart the pieces of a situation and reassemble them in a more beneficial way.

Being an international relations school, we naturally look for people with an interest and experience in several cultures and countries. We feel this contributes to your ability to understand a situation from multiple perspectives, a hallmark of out-of-the-box thinkers.

In the midst of all this diversity, there is a characteristic we expect of all of our students: initiative-taking.

They need the skill and inclination necessary to make things happen, to create something new. They need to be comfortable taking action in ambigious situations. They need to be better at building structure than needing it.

When we read your statements of purpose we will be looking closely for evidence of this characteristic. It’s the best marker we’ve found to tell us who will thrive in our program, one which expects students to be partners with us in designing their own education, rather than consumers of courses.

How Will We Know When We've Found It?

We will, of course, carefully examine your transcripts and test scores to be certain you can thrive in an academically demanding program. Then we will give attention to your resume and letters of recommendation to get a sense of what you have accomplished and how your best supporters identify the characteristics behind these accomplishments. Finally we will give special attention to your Statement of Purpose and the SE Supplement to the Statement of Purpose that all students applying to this program are asked to complete.

You have a lot of latitude in how you write your Statement of Purpose. Below are some questions we encourage you to respond to. You certainly do not need to address all. Work in those that you feel will give us the best sense of how good a fit this program can be with your experiences and ways of approaching situations.

Tell us about yourself. These questions are about you and your experiences – there are no right or wrong answers. Select one or two from the following for your statement of purpose.

  • What is your greatest strength? How have you deployed it?
  • If someone wanted to quickly get to know you, how would you respond so your answer was something that person would easily remember?
  • What’s the hardest thing you have ever done?
  • Have you ever taken what you felt was a great risk? What was it? How did things turn out?
  • Have you ever failed at an endeavor? What was it? How did you rebound? What did you learn?
  • How have you enlisted others to work with you to achieve a result? What was the hardest part of getting them to share your commitment?

Your SE Supplement to the Statement of Purpose

Your Statement of Purpose tells us who you are. The SE Supplement gives us an idea of what you want to do.

Social entrepreneurs are people who tackle some of the world’s most difficult and intractable problems. Please give us an idea of how you think about a specific issue that you would like to address at some point in your career using the skills and knowledge you would acquire in the Social Enterprise Program.

  • Provide a tightly focused definition of a specific problem you are most interested in tackling. What are the consequences of the problem for the people it affects?
  • What is its root cause? What “feeds” it? Why is it so difficult to remedy?
  • How did you come to be interested in this issue? What experience have you already had addressing it? How would you know you were making progress on it?
  • Who else is trying to ameliorate it? What approaches have they used to solve this issue? How successful have they been? Have you seen approaches that have successfully dealt with other, possibly unrelated, issues that can be applied to your problem?
  • How, specifically, will you make use of the curricular resources of the Social Enterprise MA program to sharpen your ability to deal with this problem?

Your response to these SE Supplement questions should be limited to 1-2 pages of single-spaced text, and it should directly follow your Statement of Purpose when you submit your application electronically. Be as concise as possible. Make it as easy to follow as possible; use paragraph headings (examples: “Problem Definition:” “Consequences:” “Root Cause:” etc. )

And notice we are not asking for your solution to the problem you are describing. Please do not describe what you hope to do about the problem (you will have two years of graduate study to work that out). Too often social entrepreneurs become so excited about their proposed remedy that they don’t think hard enough about the nature of the problem they want to address.

Talk to us

An interview with the Program Director is strongly recommended for all applicants. It will give you an opportunity to better understand the program, and allow us to better know you.

This can be arranged during a campus visit or by telephone/Skype. Schedule your interview with Robert Tomasko.


Learn how to apply by visiting the SIS Graduate Admissions Homepage.