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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

To ensure a smooth start in our program, 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.)

Visiting Duke and Sanford

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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

Personal interviews are not part of the application process, but we are always happy to meet with prospective students and welcome them to our campus. Learn more about our location. 

Before Applying

Before applying, we encourage potential students to visit our campus to make an informed choice about whether the Sanford School is the right place for their graduate study. To schedule a meeting with the MPP Program, complete the online Visit Request Form at least two weeks prior to your projected arrival date. We suggest planning four to five hours for your visit. A typical itinerary usually includes a meeting with Admissions staff and tour of the Sanford School. You can observe classes and meet with faculty, based on their availability and your policy interests. If you would like to observe a particular class while you are here, please look over our course schedules. Disregard courses numbered in the "100" series as these are undergraduate courses.

 The best time to visit is when classes are in session in the fall or spring semesters. Please note that we cannot schedule visitations on Saturdays, Sundays or Duke holidays, breaks, or recesses. Class attendance during scheduled visits ends on December 1 and resumes on January 12 (or week two in January). Due to winter break and application processing, visits are not scheduled during the period December 15 through January 11. Summer visits (mid-May through mid-August) are available on a limited basis based on faculty and staff availability.  

After Applying

After applying to the MPP program, we defer visits until after you have received our admission decision. We generally make decisions by mid-March. If you are admitted, we highly encourage your attendance at our Open House for admitted MPP candidates in late March or early April. The Open House is invaluable in helping you make the right decision about graduate school.  Many of our alumni note that they began their relationships with future classmates and professors at the Open House event.

U.S. and International Recruiting

We attend a number of prospective student recruiting events throughout the United States and abroad. To see if we will be present at an event near you, view our online schedule. Prospective students located near these events may speak to a representative about the MPP program at one of the graduate and professional school fairs listed. You can also sign up to be on our recruiting email list.