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How to Apply

The application deadline is January 5th at 5 pm EST. This deadline includes receipt of the $80 application fee and all application materials. PLEASE NOTE: The application will be available in September. After entering the application portal, click on "Start New Application" and select Sanford School of Public Policy 2021.

For additional information, please visit our FAQ section.

A Completed Application Includes:

1. Transcripts

You must upload your "unofficial" undergraduate transcript(s) with your degree posted, along with all other transcripts from colleges and universities, to our online application. We require official transcripts after the applicant is admitted into the program. Applicants must have the equivalent of a four-year U.S. bachelor's degree; however, we will review three-year international degrees based on the European Ministers of Education, Bologna Declaration.

Guidelines for calculating your undergraduate GPA and information on study abroad coursework and transcripts may be found here.

The International Transcript Evaluation Form may be found here.

2. Required Tests

  • GRE: Beginning with the Fall 2021 application, GRE score submission will be optional. Applicants may, if they choose, submit GRE scores for consideration in the application process, but it is not required
  • TOEFL: We ask all non-U.S. applicants whose native language is not English to submit scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) even if they have attended a U.S. academic institution or participated in an ESL program. Note that we do not require a TOEFL score for U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents. You must send official TOEFL scores electronically; we do not accept photocopies, faxes, “attested” copies, or notarized copies, and we accept only TOEFL scores taken within two years of the application. For applicants unable to access in-person exam dates, please contact mppadmit@duke.edu to discuss alternatives. 

Report all test (GRE/LSAT/TOEFL/GMAT) scores, via ETS, using the Duke University Institution code – 5156.

Dual Degree Applicants: You may submit LSAT or GMAT scores if you are applying to either our dual MPP/JD or MPP/MBA programs, or if you are currently enrolled in the Duke or UNC Law (JD) or Duke or UNC Business (MBA) programs. While we accept the GRE for MPP/MD (Duke Medicine) applicants, we do not accept the MCAT. Duke or UNC Law School applicants: You can upload a copy of your LSAT score report and indicate score and percentile on the "Grades and Tests" section of the online application. 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. Learn more about dual degrees at Sanford.

3. Three Letters of Recommendation

We require an evaluation form and letter of reference from three references. Each of your three references must fill out the form and write a personal letter that addresses your accomplishments and potential. Your references should upload and complete these online.

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  • Dr. Judith Kelley holding flags

    Meet Sanford's Dean

    Dr. Judith Kelley studies how international actors influence domestic politics. “What can we do to get countries to stop mistreating people?” she asks. “Professors know very well that grades affect behavior. Nations that care about their reputations can also be influenced through ratings and rankings in what I call ‘scorecard diplomacy.’"

    Judith Kelley grew up in Denmark, and was the first of her family to graduate high school. She joined a nonprofit theater troupe and spent five years traveling internationally, using art to try to change the world.

    “I realized how naive I was, as a young person, thinking I could help. I needed better tools to think about and understand the problems and figure out what the heck I might be able to contribute,” she said. She eventually graduated from Stanford University with honors. She earned her MPP and PhD from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and joined Duke’s faculty in 2002. She became Dean in 2018.

For applicants with fewer than two years of work experience, we recommend two academic and one professional recommendation. For those with three or more years of experience, we suggest one academic recommendation and two from work-related professionals. Applicants with four or more years of work experience may include three work-related references.

4. Statement of Purpose

In your personal statement, please describe:

  • why you are interested in obtaining a masters degree in public policy
  • how aspects of your professional, academic and personal experiences have shaped you
  • what your professional goals are upon graduation 

Please limit yourself to 1500 words.

5. Resume

Please upload a resume, not exceeding two printed pages, with your online electronic application. 

6. Application Fee

The application fee is $80. We accept Visa or Mastercard (debit/credit). We do not review applications until we have processed the application fee. We do not require application fees from qualified Pickering, PPIA or IIPP fellows. Contact MPPadmit@duke.edu prior to submission to request your fee waiver. 

7. Video Essay (optional but strongly recommended)

Please prepare a short video (one-minute maximum) to inform the admissions committee who you are and what you are looking to achieve at Sanford. The video must be of the applicant (if there is more than one person in the video, please clarify which person is the applicant). You might consider sharing a unique perspective or life experience and describe how it would benefit classroom discussions at Sanford.

Upload the video to a website such as YouTube and provide the URL within the application. If using YouTube, we suggest using the “Unlisted Video” setting so only individuals who have the URL can view it. We are unable to watch videos that come in any form other than a URL link and do not accept videos sent by email or DVD.

Application Directions for Peace Corp Fellows

If you are a Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program Applicant, you must:

  • Indicate your Peace Corps service dates, country, and description of service on your resume.
  • Upload a copy of your Description of Service (DOS) within the online application. If you have not received the DOS, you should submit it no later than 14 business days after it is available.

To be eligible for the Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program, volunteers need to have completed their Peace Corps service satisfactorily. Satisfactory completion means:

  • You have completed the full two-year tour of Peace Corps service or the full tour minus up to 90 days if you returned home on emergency leave;
  • You were granted an “Early Close of Service” or an “Interrupted Service” due to circumstances beyond your control; or
  • You were medically separated.

We do not offer application fee waivers for Paul D. Coverdell Fellows applicants but do offer guaranteed tuition fellowships for accepted Peace Corps alumni.

Deferrals

Our admission offer is only for the year specified in the letter of admission.  We do not allow applicants to defer an offer of admission to a subsequent academic term or year. You should submit your application during the academic year before your desired year of attendance (i.e. by January 5, 2021 to start in August 2021).

Dual degree applicants (JD, MEM, and MBA) begin the MPP program in the first year of academic study. Prospective candidates should coordinate in advance with their JD, MEM or MBA program to ensure that they may begin the MPP program in that first year.

Annual Security and Safety Report

The Annual Security Report and Annual Fire Safety Report include institutional policies concerning campus safety and security, as well as statistics for the previous three years concerning reported crimes that occurred on Duke University property and on public property adjacent to campus and fires that have occurred in residence halls. A copy of this Report can be obtained by contacting the Duke Police Department at 684-4602 or writing to 502 Oregon Street, Durham, NC 27708 or by accessing: https://police.duke.edu/news-stats/clery