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Master of Public Policy Admissions

We welcome applicants from a variety of academic and professional—as well as ethnic and cultural—backgrounds. In choosing our students, our selection committee carefully considers:

  • relevant work experience
  • statement of purpose
  • academic performance
  • faculty and employer evaluations
  • GRE scores
  • writing skills
  • video essay (strongly recommended)

We prefer students with two or more years of post-undergraduate work experience but admit a limited number of outstanding students directly from undergraduate programs.

COVID-19: Important Note for MPP Admitted Students

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.

For questions or clarification, please contact the program director:


MPP Student Profile

Post-undergraduate work experience 2-6 years
Age Range 24-32 years
Undergraduate GPA 3.4-3.8
GRE Top 25% 
TOEFL (iBT) 110-115 (preferred)
GMAT Median (Dual-degree MBA students) 80th percentile/ 640-760
LSAT (Dual-degree JD students) 165-168

Statistics and Microeconomics Requirement

We require the completion of basic statistics and microeconomics courses from an accredited institution prior to enrollment. Students must submit transcripts with the course name(s) and grade(s) along with their application (or prior to enrollment for courses taken during the summer.)

Before Applying

We encourage potential students to visit campus. Complete the online Visit Request Form at least two weeks prior to your arrival date. We suggest planning four to five hours for your visit. The itinerary usually includes a meeting with Admissions staff and a tour. You can observe classes and meet with faculty, too. Please look over our course schedule to decide which class you'd like to see. (Disregard courses numbered in the "100" series as these are undergraduate courses.)

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    Selecting Sanford

    My relationships with Sanford faculty have been crucial in kickstarting my career in the world of public policy. Professors Doug Brook and Tom Taylor helped me navigate my path towards a career in defense budgeting. From lessons learned in their classrooms, to guidance on my masters project, to advice on jobs and personal recommendations, I was able to find my way into the niche community of the Department of Defense’s financial managers. I would not have known that a career in defense budgeting was an opportunity for me to pursue were it not for my relationships with these two individuals. The knowledge, advice, and connections that Sanford faculty have empower students to reach their full potential and set them on a path towards longer-term success. – Abigail Zofchak, MPP’19

We cannot schedule visitations on Saturdays, Sundays or Duke holidays, breaks, or recesses. Visits are not scheduled December 15 - January 11. Summer visits (mid-May through mid-August) are available on a limited basis.  

After Applying

We generally make decisions by mid-March. If you are admitted, we highly encourage you to attend our Open House in late March or early April.

U.S. and International Recruiting

We attend a number of prospective student recruiting events throughout the United States and abroad - view our online schedule. You can also sign up to be on our recruiting email list.