MPP Admissions Timeline

The MPP admission cycle begins in early September, when the MPP application for the upcoming August intake becomes available. Between early September and the January 5th deadline, applicants should engage with our admissions team, complete and compile the mandatory application materials, and proactively contact their 3 recommendation writers so as to give them sufficient time to write their letters of recommendation.

  • The MPP application deadline is January 5th at 5 pm EST.
  • The program distributes admission decisions in mid-March, via the application system.
  • Enrollment confirmations are due April 15th at 5 pm EST.

A Completed Application Includes:

Your personal statement should have a clear narrative and should be “more” than just a reiteration of your transcripts and resume. In your personal statement, please describe:

  • how your professional, academic, personal, and lived experiences have shaped you and inspired your interest in public policy
  • why you are interested in obtaining a master’s degree in public policy
  • what your professional goals are upon graduation 
  • how the Sanford School of Public Policy and Duke fit into those goals

Your personal statement should not exceed 1500 words.

Resumes should not exceed two printed pages. In addition to your professional and academic experiences, applicants should highlight relevant skills, accomplishments, awards, and honors.

Applicants must have the equivalent of a four-year U.S. bachelor's degree (we will review three-year international degrees based on the European Ministers of Education, Bologna Declaration). As part of the application, you will upload your undergraduate transcript(s) with the degree posted, along with all other transcripts from other colleges and universities previously attended.

Note: transcripts uploaded t0 the MPP application are considered "unofficial", as applicants are uploading their own copies; unofficial transcripts are sufficient for application review. If admitted to the MPP program, enrolling students will be required to submit official transcripts as part of the summer onboarding process. For a transcript to be considered official, it must come directly from the issuing institution directly to the Sanford MPP Program.

As part of the online application, applicants will provide the names and email addresses of three recommenders. The application system will email recommenders with instructions for completing and uploading their letters of recommendation online.

Good letters of recommendation show that the writer knows the applicant, their ability, and their character well. Note: first-hand knowledge of the applicant supersedes the letter-writer’s title. For applicants with fewer than two years of work experience, we recommend two academic and one professional recommendation. For applicants with three or more years of work 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.

Applicants should ensure that all three recommendations have been submitted by the January 5th deadline. We encourage applicants to proactively ask their recommenders at least two months before the January 5th deadline. This will give recommenders sufficient time to craft and submit their letters of recommendation.

We will not process applications until we have received all three recommendations.

GRE (optional): As of Fall 2020, the GRE is optional. Applicants may choose to submit GRE scores for consideration, but they are not required.

To submit optional GRE scores, please use the Duke University Institution code – 5156.

English Proficiency Test: For applicants whose native language is not English, proof of English proficiency must be submitted as part of their MPP application. For proof of English proficiency, our applicants have the option of submitting scores from the following tests:

  • Duolingo (minimum score of 130; scores of 140 or higher preferred)
  • TOEFL (minimum score of 100; scores of 110 or higher preferred)
  • IELTS (minimum score of 7; scores of 7.5 and higher preferred)

To submit TOEFL scores, please use the Duke University Institution code – 5156.

English Proficiency Testing Waiver: Applicants qualify for an exemption from the proof of English proficiency requirement if they satisfy any of the following:

  • Applicants who hold citizenship/permanent residency in a country where English is the sole, official language of the nation, and who have resided within that nation for at least 10 years.
  • Applicants who have received/will receive a four-year, undergraduate degree from an accredited university in the United States.
  • Applicants who have received/will receive a four-year, undergraduate degree from an accredited university where English is the sole language of instruction. The program retains the right to request additional documentation from the institution to confirm that English is the sole language of instruction.

Our application software will automatically recognize countries where English is the sole, official language of the nation and will not ask for further material. For applicants in the remaining two categories, please contact our admission office ( after submitting your application, and our office will manually waive the requirement on your application.

Dual Degree Applicants: For applicants applying to a dual degree program, if the partner program requires standardized test scores (LSAT or GMAT), applicants may also upload these scores to their MPP application as supplemental material, if so desired.

Our application will provide applicants with a question to be answered in real time. Applicants will have the opportunity to test their computer equipment, to make sure they are able to record the video introduction using a webcam. Once applicants have confirmed they are ready, a prompt/question will be shown. Applicants will have 60 seconds of preparation time, and then will have up to 3 minutes to record their answer. Applicants do not have to use the entire 3 minutes. The questions range in topics, but are general in nature. The system allows for up to three re-recordings, but new questions will be provided each time.

Please note, this video introduction is required, and is a separate application component from the optional curated video essay.

Please prepare a short video (one-minute maximum) to inform the admissions committee who you are as person. 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 lived experience, or an aspect of your personality that is not captured by standard application questions, or your unique perspective on a policy topic.

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.

The application fee is $80 USD. We accept Visa or Mastercard (debit/credit). We do not review applications until we have processed the application fee. We offer application fee waivers to applicants from four specific partnerships: Pickering Fellows, Rangel Fellows, PPIA Fellows, and Truman Scholars. Contact prior to submission to request your fee waiver. Barring these four partnerships, we do not offer application fee waivers.

Deadline: January 5th

The application deadline is January 5th at 5 pm EST. This deadline includes receipt of all application materials, all 3 letters of recommendation, and the $80 application fee. 

Applications open in September.

  1. Enter the application portal
  2. Click on "Start New Application"
  3. Select Sanford School of Public Policy 2025.

For additional information, please visit our FAQ section.

Additional Information

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 Coverdell Program, you need to have completed your Peace Corps service satisfactorily:

  • 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, or
  • 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.

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, 2024 to start in August 2024).

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.

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:


Policy & Equality - Antonio's story

Before grad school, Antonio Butler MPP'23 was working for a faith-based organization helping disadvantaged students apply to college. But he soon began to think that, as a country, "we can't educate our way out of all issues." That realization led him to pursue a policy degree. "My goal is to see at least one day in the U.S. where racism—and sexism, homophobia, etc.—doesn’t exist. If I only get one day, that’s worth fighting for," he says.

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Policy & Environment - Matthew's story

Matthew Vining MPP'23 chose Sanford because he is passionate about environmental issues, especially issues linked to social and human health outcomes. He completed an internship at the Environmental Protection Agency in Research Triangle Park. He said pairing his classroom studies with an internship at the EPA was invaluable. "At the end of the day you're designing solutions that will be used by the community - by humans. I'm excited to be a part of that," he says.  After graduation Matthew took a position as a policy analyst at Atlas Public Policy.

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