Frequently Asked Questions for BA Students

Click on the questions below to see the answers to a list of the frequently asked questions about the Ford School of Public Policy’s Bachelor of Arts program.


What can I do with a BA in public policy?

You can do almost anything you could do with a liberal arts degree in the social sciences. Students contemplating pursuit of a graduate professional degree (in public policy, law, business, public health, etc.) should find the BA in public policy a particularly useful foundation for their future academic work. The U-M Career Center makes available a career guide for students considering a degree in public policy.

Students in the first two cohorts to graduate from the program have gone on to the Peace Corps, Teach for America, AmeriCorps, teaching English abroad, jobs as legislative assistants (in Lansing and Washington, DC), consulting, and graduate school in law, public health, medicine, and education.

Exactly what is involved in applying to the Ford School?

Enrolling in the Ford School means transferring from the school or college in which you are currently enrolled into the Ford School. You can apply online by following this link. The application requires you to submit two short essays and a resume and to upload an unofficial copy of your University of Michigan transcript.
Additionally, if you completed any college-level coursework outside of the University of Michigan, you are required to upload an unofficial copy of your transcript for those courses.

How many applications do you receive? What is the size of the entering class?

We receive 100–150 applications each year. We want to end up with 50–60 students entering the program each Fall.

Is the BA program open to incoming first year students?

No, the BA program is designed for junior and senior level students, who apply during their sophomore year.

Do you accept applications from students enrolled at other universities?

At this time, we accept applications only from students who already enrolled at U-M’s Ann Arbor campus.

How many credits do I need to apply (i.e., what is sophomore standing)?

You will need to have junior standing to enter the program, which means 55 credit hours by the beginning of the Fall Term when you enter the program.

Do I have to complete the required classes by the time of my application?

The prerequisites must be taken by the time you enter the program. You may take prerequisites during the winter term of your sophomore year, but your application will be stronger if you complete them earlier. This is particularly true for Econ 101.

When is the application deadline?

Applications for the BA program are due by February 1 each year. We must receive all application materials by this deadline. We do not do rolling admissions. We aim to make admissions decisions by the end of March.

Is my AP credit acceptable for the prerequisites?

Yes, but for each prerequisite fulfilled by AP credit, we expect applicants to take an additional social science course at Michigan during their first two years.

What counts as an introductory social science course for the prerequisites?

Any course with a social science designation in LSA that is an entry point into that unit’s curriculum will be considered. Many applicants take more than one such course (in addition to Econ 101 and 102).

Can I take prerequisite courses on a pass/fail basis?

While there is no rule against taking prerequisite courses on a pass/fail basis, we recommend that you take these courses for a grade. It will provide the Admissions Committee with more evidence about your academic preparation for the program.

Are letters of recommendation required as part of the application?

No. Admissions decisions are made on the basis of an applicant’s transcript, the two required essays, and a resume that summarizes the applicant’s engagement with the world outside of class.

What is the Ford School looking for in its applicants?

We seek students with strong transcripts (grades, course selection, and progress toward meeting the distribution requirements) who are also engaged in serious ways with campus organizations, community service, political activity; who have international experience; and who have demonstrated leadership in activities since high school. We seek to recruit a group of students who are diverse on many dimensions and who will be successful members of a learning community.

What is the average GPA of incoming students in the public policy program?

The average cumulative GPA of entering students for the first three years of the program was between 3.5 and 3.6. It is important to remember that this is an average, and that there is no minimum GPA requirement.

If there are additional things about me that I’d like the admissions committee to consider, may I attach other materials to my application?

We prefer that applicants find ways to communicate information they believe the Admissions Committee should know through their essays and resume.

Will my financial aid/scholarship transfer with me into the Ford School?

Most financial aid administered by the Office of Financial Aid is contingent on your enrollment as a full-time student at the University of Michigan so it will be available to you as a Ford School student assuming you meet all appropriate deadlines and criteria. Review your award notice or contact the Office of Financial Aid with any financial aid questions.

Scholarships from other Schools/Colleges are typically effective only during your enrollment in that School/College and most likely will not transfer. More information can be obtained from your current School/College and your award offer letter. Students receiving private scholarships should check with the funding source with questions about criteria and eligibility.

Any student concerned about funding implications due to a cross-campus transfer to the Ford School is encouraged to see an advisor in Student and Academic Services.

What is the average class size in the Ford School?

The policy seminars (PUBPOL 495) are restricted to Ford School BA students and have approximately 25 students. Most other classes will have up to 70 students. They usually have a GSI in addition to the faculty member teaching the class.

What are the degree requirements for the BA in public policy?

Information about requirements can be found here.

What is a focus area?

A focus area is an area of specialization that provides valuable insight into a given policy area. Students choose a combination of 12 credits related to their focus area. These can be LSA courses, Ford School electives (separate from the electives used to meet core requirements), or courses taken during study abroad or study away.

Can I pursue a minor?

Yes. Courses that fulfill an LSA minor can also be included in the focus area requirement for the public policy degree.

Can I pursue a dual degree?

No. This policy allows us to keep the BA program small and allows students to focus their academic work during their two years in the program.

I have quite a few credit hours already because of AP credit and study during the summer. Can I complete the BA in one year?

No. We expect students to be enrolled in the program for at least three terms so that they can take a policy seminar in each of two years.

What are my study abroad options?

We encourage students to think about study abroad (or a term in the Michigan in Washington program or in the Semester in Detroit). We will work with students to fit this into their academic programs. Approximately 30% of the students in the program spent at least one term in an off-campus program. We require students to be enrolled in Ann Arbor their first and last terms in the program, which means that students should plan their off-campus study for the winter term of the junior year, the fall term of their senior year or the summer between their junior and senior years.

Information about study abroad options can be found at the Center for Global and Intercultural Study (CGIS). Information about the Michigan in Washington Program and Semester in Detroit is also available online.

Are internships required?

No.

What if I would like to do an internship?

The Public Service Intern Program, administered by the U-M Career Center, is one prominent option. The Ford School does not arrange for undergraduate internships, but information about a variety of internships is available on the CTools site for Ford School undergraduates. The school also works with the U-M Career Center to provide additional resources and opportunities for students.

Can I get credit for a summer internship?

We do not give academic credit for internships unless they are part of a formal academic program (e.g., Michigan in Washington).

Do you offer an honors thesis option?

No. The projects students will pursue in the policy seminars (one each year) will provide an alternative to the traditional honors thesis.

What are the language requirements?

Fourth term proficiency, the same as LSA.

Are there student organizations in the Ford School?

Yes. The elected Undergraduate Council and the professional development organization Gamma Rho Phi organize activities for students in the BA program. There are also a large number of other student organizations at the Ford School open to graduate and undergraduate students.

Do you offer night or online classes?

We do not offer online courses. Courses are offered in the evening only if that is the only time a faculty member is available to teach the course.

Can transfer credit be used to fulfill program requirements?

Yes, transfer credit, including study abroad credit, may be used to fulfill program requirements.

First, you must check if the course is transferable to U-M. Information can be obtained at the Undergraduate Admissions Office (1220 SAB) or by visiting LSA’s helpful transfer credit website. Please also be aware that a maximum of 60 transfer credits are allowed to count toward your degree, and that once you reach junior status at U-M (55 or more credits), you may not transfer credit from a community or junior college.

Can I take major courses on a pass/fail basis?

No. All courses counted toward your major should be taken on a graded basis. The only exception to this rule is for independent study courses offered through other departments, which may be offered only on a credit/no credit or a satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis. These may be counted toward the major if approval from an advisor is received in advance.

If I am admitted to the Ford School BA program, can I defer my enrollment for a year?

Except under exceptional circumstances, no.

I’m considering applying to the public policy BA program and I’ve read through the information on the website. What is the best way to obtain further information?

We typically hold an information session each fall for interested students. If you’d like to be notified when we will be holding the next session, please complete our Information Request Form. Attending this session will allow you to meet program faculty, staff, and students; hear a presentation about the program and the admissions process; and participate in a question and answer session.

Please contact Student Services to make an advising appointment or call call (734) 764-0453. A Ford School advisor is also available at the Newnan LSA Academic Advising Center on Wednesdays from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Appointments at the Newnan LSA Academic Advising Center can be made online.

Can I take courses in the Ford School even if I’m not in the BA program?

Yes, we welcome students from across campus to take our classes. With the exception of the policy seminars (PUBPOL 495) and an occasional special case, Ford School undergraduate classes are open to all undergraduate students at U-M.

How often do you offer PUBPOL 201: Systematic Thinking About Problems of the Day?

Once a year, in the Fall term.