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Master of Public Policy Admissions

At Duke University, interdisciplinary problem solving is highly valued. And at the Sanford School, the extraordinary resources of this world-class institution converge.

Our two-year, professional Master of Public Policy (MPP) program offers students outstanding preparation for dynamic careers as analysts, leaders and managers at various levels of government, nonprofits and corporations – both domestically and internationally.

Sanford alums are changing the world. Holding influential positions in many countries, our graduates are addressing the most pressing issues faced around the globe. They share a spirit of optimism and a confidence that allows them to be creative, think big, and solve problems.

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 (optional)
  • writing skills
  • video essay (strongly recommended)

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

Under an agreement with AmeriCorps, City Year, Peace Corps, Teach for America, and Yellow Ribbon programs, students who are accepted into the Duke MPP Program are guaranteed a tuition fellowship.

Benefit from a Close Community

  • Class sizes are small. With 70-80 students enrolling each year, you will know everyone and be known.
  • We offer individualized career counseling. Typically, 75 percent of graduates are employed within three months of beginning their job search and 95 percent within one year.
  • Full-time professors teach all core courses, and provide one-on-one mentoring.
  • Classmates often become friends for life. The Sanford School emphasizes collaboration over competition. 
  • Graduates join an active network of alumni.

Matt LanzaIt is my passion to put lived experiences at the center of policy decisions and being at Sanford allowed me to develop the skills and experience to do that professionally. Using Human Centered Design, I was able to plan design sprints for the Wellbeing Economy Alliance, make recommendations to Ivy+ schools on how to better serve undergraduate veterans, and advise the City of Durham on improving homeless services. - Matt Lanza, MPP'20

Gain Practical Policy Experience

  • Students get hands-on, practical experiences starting in their first year of study.
  • Projects are carefully constructed to build skills over time and give you real-world experience.
  • Opportunities abound to make an immediate impact through Duke Interdisciplinary Social Innovators, the Sanford Board Leadership Initiative, the Sanford Journal, and more.
  • Internships are required. About half our students go to Washington, D.C., and the rest go around the globe to make valuable career connections and see how policy works in action. 
  • Faculty members share with you what they have learned through years of professional policy experience.

Learn more about the practical experience you gain through Sanford's MPP program.

Live in a Terrific Location

  • Durham, N.C. is a short flight from major East Coast cities.
  • Students enjoy a low cost of living and high quality of life.
  • North Carolina has nice weather year round, as well as beaches and mountains.
  • The Triangle Region has diverse people from around the world and flourishing entrepreneurial, research and creative sectors.
  • Duke and Durham offer a wide range of cultural experiences such as the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, the Durham Performing Arts Center, the Durham Bulls Baseball Club, Duke Athletics and more.
  • Local non-profits welcome Duke students to volunteer and make a positive impact in the community.

Durham: a best place to live  |  Take Durham Virtual Tour

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 (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. Students must submit official transcripts with the course name(s) and grade(s) and/or the approved Certificates of Completion along with their application (or by August 1st for courses taken during the summer prior to enrollment).

Before Applying

Due to the impacts of COVID-19, we are currently offering virtual visits in lieu of campus visits. Complete our Visit Request Form at least two weeks prior to your proposed virtual visit date. We suggest planning four to five hours for your visit. The itinerary usually includes a meeting with Admissions staff. 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). PLEASE NOTE: Fall 2020 classes have now ended, and virtual class visits will resume in February.

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. 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.

2021 Best gRad Schools rankingsRecruiting

We look forward to meeting prospective students at an upcoming recruiting event! You can also sign up to be on our prospective student email list.

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