Admissions

Eligibility

The Sanford School seeks applicants from a variety of academic, professional, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds. The selection committee considers the applicant’s academic performance as an undergraduate, range of courses taken, Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, English and writing skills, personal statement, relevant work experience, and faculty and employer evaluations.

Although a limited number of outstanding students are admitted directly from undergraduate programs, students who have two or more years of practical work experience after completion of the undergraduate degree are preferred. As prerequisites, the Sanford School requires the completion of basic statistics and microeconomics courses from an accredited institution prior to enrollment. Sanford students’ first year goes much more smoothly when they have completed this coursework. Students must submit transcripts with the course name(s) and grade(s) along with their applications (or, for courses taken during the summer immediately preceding program enrollment, prior to the start of the fall semester at Sanford).

Personal interviews are not a requirement of the admissions process; however, faculty and staff are happy to meet with prospective students or talk with them about the program. Additional admissions and enrollment data are available online at sanford.duke.edu/admissions/mpp. Applicants are encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to submit a short video with their online application.

Application

Applications are submitted online through the MPP admissions website. The application deadline for the Duke MPP Program is January 5 (5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time). The deadline includes receipt of all application materials via the online application system: GRE and TOEFL or IELTS scores, three letters of recommendation, résumé, and uploaded transcripts from all universities and/or colleges attended. Since all application materials are uploaded within the online application, please do not mail or email application documents unless they are requested by the Duke MPP Admissions Office. A completed application includes: 

  • Electronic application

  • Transcript(s): An uploaded undergraduate transcript with degree posted and other official transcripts for all colleges and universities attended.

  • Test Scores:

    • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) (Optional). Official scores of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) taken within five years of application. The GRE must be taken before December 1 for scores to be received by the January 5 application deadline; it takes about three to four weeks to obtain GRE scores via the Educational Testing Service (ETS).

    • LSAT or GMAT (Dual-Degree Applicants). The LSAT or GMAT scores (in lieu of the GRE) may be submitted if the student is applying to either the MPP/JD or MPP/MBA dual-degree program.

    • If applying to Duke or UNC Law School, upload a copy of the LSAT score report and further indicate both the score and percentile on the “Grades and Tests” section of the online application and the résumé. If the GRE has been taken within the past five years, both the GRE scores and either the LSAT or GMAT scores are applicable.

    • MPP/MD (Duke Medicine) dual-degree applicants may submit GRE scores; MCAT scores are not acceptable due to the testing differences.

    • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Those submitting IELTS scores should have an official report mailed to the address listed below prior to the January 5 deadline. All non-US applicants whose native language is not English must submit TOEFL or IELTS scores regardless of whether or not they have attended US academic institutions or participated in ESL programs. TOEFL or IELTS waivers are not provided. US citizens or US permanent residents do not need to submit a TOEFL score. The TOEFL or IELTS must be taken before December 1 for Sanford to receive the scores by the January 5 application deadline; it takes approximately four weeks to obtain scores—please plan accordingly. The TOEFL institution code number for Duke is 5156 (a departmental code is not required). Applications missing language testing scores may not be reviewed. The score must not be more than two years old and an official record must be sent electronically via ETS. Personal copies are not acceptable, nor are “attested” or notarized copies. The desired score range for the TOEFL Internet-based Test (TOEFL iBT) is 110-120.

  • Three Letters of Recommendation. The online electronic letter of recommendation and evaluation form provided are required in lieu of either mailed or placement office prepositioned recommendations. Individual, personalized letters of recommendation (provided in addition to the Duke Evaluation Form) from academic and professional references, who can speak directly about the applicant’s accomplishments and potential during and after completion of the MPP Program, are encouraged. Applicants who recently completed their undergraduate degree (one to two years prior to application to Duke’s MPP Program), may wish to submit two recommendations from academic professors/instructors and one professional recommendation from a work-related reference. For applicants with significant post-undergraduate work experience (such as four or more years), it would be appropriate to obtain all three recommendations from work-related professionals.

  • Statement of Purpose. Three to four typewritten pages, single- or double-spaced, uploaded with the online electronic application.

  • Résumé. Not to exceed two printed pages, uploaded with the online electronic application.

  • Short Video. Optional but highly recommended; one minute maximum

  • Application Fee. Applicants pay the fee by credit card (this option is available only at the time of submission of the electronic application). Applications are not processed until the application fee has been received. The application fee is not required from applicants who are qualified Pickering Fellows, Rangel Fellows, PPIA Fellows, or Truman Scholars. These applicants should view our online Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for specific fee-waiver instructions before submitting the online application.

Deadline

All online application materials must be received by the January 5 deadline. This deadline date includes (but is not limited to) receipt of online recommendations, transcripts, and test scores.

Please do not mail application materials unless the school requests them; instead, application materials are required to be uploaded with the online application. If the school requests mailed documents, application materials should be mailed to the below address; the school accepts weekday (Monday through Friday) deliveries via US Postal Service, FedEx, and UPS*:

Duke MPP Admissions Office
171B Rubenstein Hall, Box 90243
Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0243
(919) 613-9205
*For FedEx or UPS service: Delete “Box 90243” and add the area code/telephone number above to the shipping document.

Deferrals

Deferrals (to defer an offer of admission to a subsequent academic term or year) are rarely granted—for exceptions, please contact the director of admissions. An admission offer is for only the semester specified in the letter of admission. Prospective students should submit their application during the year prior to the desired year of attendance.

Dual-degree applicants for JD, MEM, and MBA begin the MPP Program in the first year of academic study. Prospective candidates must coordinate in advance with the JD, MEM, or MBA program to ensure those programs will permit the student to start the MPP curriculum in the first year of study. Dual-degree Duke MD/MPP and MDiv/MPP students begin the MPP Program in the third academic year at Duke (after completion of the first two years in the Duke MD or MDiv programs).

Visiting Duke and the MPP Program

To schedule a meeting with the MPP Program, please complete the visit request form at sanford.duke.edu/admissions/mpp-admissions. Visits are encouraged during the fall or spring semesters, when classes are in session and prospective applicants can get a more complete experience of the school. The itinerary may include a meeting with the director of admissions, the director of the MPP Program, director of career services, current MPP students, and faculty (based on individual policy interests and faculty availability). Students may request to observe classes in session.

To allow time to plan an agenda, complete the online visit request form at least two weeks in advance of the projected arrival date. The school will also be pleased to put prospective students in contact with current students and faculty. Please note visits cannot be scheduled on weekends (Saturday or Sunday) or on designated Duke holidays, breaks, or recesses. Due to winter break and application processing, visits are not scheduled during the period between December 15 through January 11.

Please note: Once an MPP application has been submitted online, visits are deferred until after the student has received the admission decision. There is a visit day scheduled in the spring for admitted students.

Recruiting Events

The Sanford School attends student recruiting events throughout the United States. The recruiting schedule is available online at sanford.duke.edu/admissions/recruiting-events.

The MPP Program is a member of or partner with the following organizations and programs:

  • Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM)

  • Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA)

  • Idealist (Action without Borders)

  • National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA)

Dual-Degree Applications during the MPP Program

Current two-year MPP students may decide to apply to a dual-degree program during the fall semester of their first year of MPP study. By November 1, students submit to the director of MPP student services the signed Dual-Degree Application Intent Form available on the MPP Sakai organization site. In considering whether or not to apply to a dual-degree program, students should note that changing to dual degree status affects the student’s MPP curriculum and financial aid package, including forfeiture of Sanford teaching/research assistantship assignments.

Upon acceptance into a dual-degree program, students provide a copy of the dual degree admission offer letter to the MPP director of student services for inclusion in the student’s academic record and discuss financial aid adjustments with the director of financial aid.