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 Application Process

Am I required to specify specific policy areas on the application?

No, but we do like to know what policy areas interest you. There is an exception, however. If you are interested in applying to become a Ladd Fellow in Education Policy, you must indicate your interest in education policy.

What if I have never taken any microeconomics or statistics courses? 

We require all applicants to complete coursework in microeconomics and statistics at an accredited institution (with a grade of “B” or higher) prior to enrollment. Alternatively, applicants may obtain a Certificate of Completion through this microeconomics course and this statistics course to satisfy the prerequisite coursework. Official transcripts and/or Certificates of Completion must be submitted by August 1st.

What is the transcript requirement for Study Abroad Coursework?

The important factor is whether the grades received from courses taken at such institutions are listed on the degree-granting institution's transcript. We require an official transcript from a study abroad/non-degree granting institution if the name of the course, credits transferred, and the grade from the courses taken at these institutions are not listed on the degree-granting institution's transcript.

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  • MPP or MPA?

    MPP or MPA?

    Due to the internationalization of public administration and public policy curricula, in recent years the MPA and MPP core curricula look increasingly similar. Generally, the MPA core curriculum emphasizes management courses and explores public organizations and budgeting, while the MPP often includes economics and quantitative courses, with policy analysis at the heart of its curriculum. But there are many exceptions to this general rule. Our advice is to carefully examine each program's core curriculum. More information on MPA and MPP degrees.

Is the “prior study” section intended only for degrees obtained, or should I list institutions where I studied abroad during one semester/year of undergrad?

You should include all components of your educational background, including undergraduate, graduate, and any individual courses taken outside of a degree granting program. Your study abroad course names and grades should appear on your official undergraduate transcript; if not, you must submit the international transcript(s) as well. 

What should I do with transcripts that are not in English?

If your transcripts are not in English, you must submit the original transcript along with an English translation.

How do I calculate my undergraduate GPA?

We require all applicants to provide an undergraduate grade point average (UGPA) on their applications. You must use these guidelines when determining your UGPA.

May I submit a resume with my application?

Yes, we require a 1-2 page resume with the online application.

What should be in my Statement of Purpose?

Please describe why you are interested in a masters degree in public policy; how your professional, academic, or personal experiences have contributed to your interest; and your professional goals upon graduation.  Stories and anecdotes are welcome, as well as anything that helps us to get to know you better.  Your statement should be no longer than 1,500 words.

How do I give you my evaluation/recommendation forms?

We require all evaluation forms and recommendation letters to be uploaded and completed online. We will not process applications until we have received all of your recommendations. Applicants should ensure that all three recommendations have been submitted online by January 5.

Do you grant deferrals?

As we do not grant deferrals, admission is valid only for the year specified in the offer letter. Prospective students should submit their application by January 5 of the calendar year in which they wish to attend. If you decide not to enroll, you must decline the offer of admission by completing the online enrollment decision form. Should you change your mind, you must complete a new application to re-apply for a subsequent year, and previous financial aid awards no longer apply. Awards change each year as a function of budgets and the applicant pool. Those re-applying to our program will compete with a new applicant pool for merit-based financial aid.

What is the procedure to re-apply?

We can retrieve and use some previous application materials for two years. If wish to reapply to the Duke MPP Program, please email the MPP Admissions staff and let us know the year you previously applied. We can obtain your GRE and TOEFL scores and transcripts, which may be used again for a re-application. We recommend revising your resume and providing updated information.

How does the MPP Admissions Committee look upon an applicant who applies to more than one program or department at Duke?

Applying to multiple programs may indicate indecision or a lack of clear goals. It may not hurt your chances of being accepted, but it does appear that you’re “shopping” for a program. Applicants should not apply to both the Duke MPP and Duke Public Policy PhD programs at the same time, as the goals of each degree are significantly different. For questions related to the PhD program, contact the PhD admissions staff.

When will I learn of the admission decision?

We deliver admission decisions via online notification in mid-March. For Duke/UNC Round 1 MBA/MPP applicants, please contact us if you need your decision earlier. If you are admitted, we highly encourage you to attend our Open House in late March or early April.

What about Three-Year Undergraduate Degrees for international applicants?

We require all applicants to possess the equivalent of a four-year U.S. bachelor's degree. However, we will review three-year degrees based on the European Ministers of Education, Bologna Declaration.

Will Spring 2020 transcript grades be evaluated differently due to the impacts of COVID-19?

Because the COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted the lives of students around the world, the Sanford School of Public Policy is adopting the following approach in considering applicants to its graduate and professional programs so that we take into account the effects of the disruption. Many institutions have adopted Pass/No Pass grading policies for the Spring 2020 semester. Duke will not penalize applicants whose transcripts show Pass/No Pass or other similar grading options from Spring 2020, regardless of whether it was the individual student or the institution that chose a particular option. When examining academic records such as transcripts, Sanford will focus primarily on an applicant’s performance before and after Spring 2020 rather than during this time of unprecedented disruption. Sanford’s review of academic records focuses on whether applicants pursued a rigorous curriculum that was relevant to their graduate or professional school plans. More than ever, we are interested in the potential of our graduate students to make significant, real world policy contributions, which is often not reflected in grades, and certainly not in one semester’s achievements. Accordingly, Sanford takes a holistic approach in evaluating applicants, one that examines a combination of many factors. Academic records are only one of these factors and are considered alongside letters of recommendation, personal accomplishments, personal statements, and test scores, among others.

Testing Requirements

Should I retake the GRE?

Some applicants may decide to retake the GRE in order to improve their scores. Once you have received your second set of scores, you may self-report the highest scores from each of the two GRE's within the online application, using Institution Code 5156 to report your GRE scores via ETS.  They will automatically provide us both sets of GRE scores for review. We will use the highest test scores from each exam.

When reporting GRE score on my application, there is room only for one date, and I would like to record the highest marks of the two exams which I took on two different dates. May I do this, or do all scores need to correspond to the same date?

When your GRE scores are sent from ETS, we will receive all test information but will use the highest scores in each area when considering your application.

Are GRE test scores required?

No. Beginning with the Fall 2021 application, GRE score submission will be optional. Students may, if they choose, submit GRE scores for consideration in the application process, but it is not required.

Do you accept the LSAT in lieu of the GRE?

Yes, if you’re applying for the MPP/JD dual degree program with Duke or UNC- Chapel Hill Law Schools, we accept the LSAT. You submit applications separately to both the Duke or UNC-Chapel Hill Law School and the MPP program. If you have taken the GRE within the past five years, you can report your GRE scores via ETS to us even though you are applying as a dual degree JD/MPP applicant.

Do you accept the GMAT or MCAT in lieu of the GRE?

Because the MCAT is primarily designed for medical programs, we are unable to accept it for dual degree applicants. We do accept the GMAT for applicants applying to either the Duke Fuqua School of Business (MBA) or the UNC - Chapel Hill Kenan-Flagler School of Business (MBA) dual degree programs (MBA/MPP). If you have taken the GRE within the past five years, you can report both your GRE scores and either your LSAT or GMAT scores if applicable.

Program Details

Do you have a part-time MPP program?

No. The program's curriculum and course sequence requires full-time study.

Do you allow spring admission or spring matriculation?

Due to the structure of our curriculum, our program does not offer spring admission.

How big are the class sizes?

We target an enrolling class of 65-80 students each fall. Core courses contain 40-45 students; elective courses range from 15-30 students per class.

What affiliations does Sanford have? 

We are affiliated with the following organizations:

  • Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA)
  • Association for Public Policy and Management (APPAM)
  • Idealist - Action Without Borders (Idealist.org)
  • National Association of Graduate Admissions Professionals (NAGAP)
  • National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA)

What if I have other questions for you? 

If our website or the MPP Student Handbook doesn't answer your questions, please email the MPP Admissions staff or call us at 919-613-9205.