Frequently Asked Questions for Master's 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 MPP and MPA programs.


What degree programs does the Ford School offer?

We offer four degree programs: a BA in public policy (Junior/Senior degree program), a two-year Master of Public Policy (48 credits), a one-year Master of Public Administration (30 credits), and a PhD in Public Policy combined with Economics or Political Science or Sociology. Our MPP program is the largest of the four admitting ~90 students per year; 6-12 students enroll in the MPA each year; and the PhD program enrolls between four and six students annually. The BA program admits 50 students per year.

What is the difference between the MPP and the MPA?

The MPA is a one-year degree for mid-career professionals with at least five years of work experience. The core courses are the same as those required for the MPP but students pursuing the MPA are often interested in electives in management, program evaluation, and assessment.

How many students attend the Ford School?

There are approximately 400 students in residence at the Ford School (which includes ~250 MPP/MPA students and continuing dual degree students; 100 BA students; and 50 PhD students).

How big are the classes?

Class size varies depending on the particular course. Our core courses can be as large as 80 students while our seminars can be as small as 10 students.

What is the demographic makeup of the classes?

The student body at the Ford School is a rich mix of people from different backgrounds, different parts of the world, and with different kinds of experiences. The commonalities among our students are a deep desire to make a difference in the world and a commitment to develop the skills needed to do so. The 2011incoming MPP/MPA class was typical in the extent of its diversity across age, country of origin, and race/ethnicity:

  • Incoming class size: 110
  • Average age: 27
  • Age range: 21-41
  • Non-U.S.: 23%
  • Students of color (U.S. only): 30%
  • Female: 55%
  • Male: 45%
  • Countries of Origin: 13

What can I study at the Ford School?

The Ford School offers a balanced curriculum that exposes students to domestic and international policy, quantitative and qualitative policy analysis, management and evaluation. We offer courses in the following areas: Social, Welfare & Labor Market Policy, Quantitative Analysis, International Policy, Economic Policy, and Public Management. In addition, we offer joint and dual degree programs with many other schools on campus like the Schools of Business, Law, Architecture & Urban Planning, Social Work, Public Health, Education, and Information.

Do you have an international affairs program?

The Ford School offers students training in both domestic and international policy. Students with interests in international policy receive training in quantitative analysis, economic policy, program evaluation, and management. They also have a wealth of electives from which to choose—both inside and outside the Ford School—that will enhance their knowledge of international policy. There is an active international policy student group and a core group of faculty members whose work focuses on international policy.

Our students also take advantage of a wide variety of international resources available to students at the University of Michigan including outstanding area studies programs—Asian Studies, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and Russian and Eastern European Studies to name a few—and institutes and centers at the University that house scholars, conferences, and programs that deal with a range of international issues.

Do you offer any part-time programs?

Our classes are taught primarily during the day, making it difficult to pursue a degree while working. While we have occasional part-time students, pursuing the program this way is uncommon. Decisions about whether a student can pursue the program part-time are made on a case-by-case basis.

Do you offer dual degrees?

We offer 14 dual and joint degree programs. We also offer students the choice of pursuing and individually designed/student initiated dual degree if a program does not exist that fits your interests. Students applying to dual degree programs must apply and be admitted to both units separately. Consequently dual degree applicants need to be attentive to the deadline dates and application procedures for both programs as these will vary according to the unit.

Application Procedure

What is your application deadline date?

The deadline for the BA program is February 1.

The deadline for all master's degree programs is January 15. (This includes dual degree applications.)

The deadline date for the PhD programs is December 15; the PhD application process is completely independent of the master's application process.

Do you have an Early Decision Program?

No, we do not. We start reviewing completed applications in early January and continue through the end of March.

If I am denied admission, can I reapply?

You are welcome to reapply to the program for the following year after a conversation with an admissions representative. A member of our admissions staff can recommend ways for you to strengthen your application. Applicants who reapply to the program are at no particular advantage or disadvantage the second time around. The Admissions Committee will be notified that you are reapplying to the program. We can reuse your transcripts and test scores (if they are no older than five years) but recommend that you submit a revised personal statement, resume, and letters of recommendation.

Do you having rolling admissions?

We do not have rolling admissions. All applications should be completed by January 15; we notify applicants of their admission status by the end of March.

Do you ever consider late applications?

Late applications will be considered if space is available in our incoming class. Please contact the Student Services office for information: (734) 764-0453.

Do you have interviews?

Formal interviews are not a part of the admissions process. A member of the admissions staff would be happy to meet with you to address questions or concerns you have about applying to the program.

Do you admit students in the Winter term?

Because course work is sequential and the courses that are taught in the Winter build on what has been taught in the Fall, admission for Winter term is extremely unusual.

Can I visit the Ford School?

Yes. You can sign up online for a campus visit. During your visit you may meet with students and sit in on a class. You'll also have a chance to speak with an admissions representative. Our faculty prefers to meet with students once they have been admitted to the Ford School. Campus tours are offered by the U-M Undergraduate Admissions Office located in the Huetwell Visitors Center. Click here for more information about campus tours.

How can I best prepare for applying to the Ford School?

A broad undergraduate education with courses that emphasize not only quantitative skills but also writing, analysis, and critical thinking is the best way to prepare. Post-graduate work experience is also very important and will help you in the admissions process.

What are your tuition rates?

The University of Michigan is a public institution and, therefore, has different tuition rates for in-state and out-of-state students. Visit the Registrar’s Office website for current tuition rates. (Note that these tuition rates are listed by semester not by year.)

Can I get in-state residency after my first year?

The University's residency requirements are complex. Generally, a student who moves to Michigan for the sole purpose of attending school will not be granted in-state classification after his/her first year. We strongly recommend, however, that if you have any question about your classification, that you visit or speak with the Residency Classification Office.

Admissions Criteria

What are you looking for in a prospective student?

The Ford School values many different things about an applicant, and considers all the candidates' credentials in making decisions about who to admit. We strongly encourage students to gain work experience before applying. Students tell us that they find classroom discussions livelier and more productive when there is an exchange, not only of theoretical ideas, but examples from their peers' real-life experiences. Furthermore, work experience makes it easier to see the value of your public policy degree.

What kind of work experience should I have?

We are always happy to see applicants with policy relevant work experience. However we receive applications from students who've done a variety of interesting things before deciding to do policy. For instance, we have students who have practiced law, worked as investment bankers, and who've taught public school. Others have served in the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps. Still others have worked as policy analysts on Capitol Hill or done development work for large and small non-profit organizations. While the work you do prior to applying does not have to be in the field of public policy, we would like to see your commitment to public service and policy demonstrated in some way. Involvement in extracurricular activities, volunteer work, and summer internships are some ways for you to demonstrate this commitment. The Admissions Committee is concerned with the evolution of your interest in policy and how your previous work experiences have led you to consider a career in public service.

Can I get in without work experience?

Work experience is one of the categories evaluated for admission to the program and although we do not have a minimum work experience requirement, we have found that as our program has become increasingly selective, our percentage of students entering the class without work experience has declined sharply.

What is the average GRE score?

In general, the incoming class has GRE scores in and above the 75th percentile. The GRE will not determine whether you are admitted to or rejected from our school. It is used in conjunction with other aspects of your application to determine whether you are equipped to perform well in Ford School classes. There are no minimum scores below which candidates will not be considered for admission.

How do you handle multiple GRE scores?

The Admissions Committee will be given all of the applicants' scores. We do not average them nor do we take the higher or lower scores. Improvement in scores will be taken into consideration.

When should I submit my GRE scores?

GRE scores should be available by the application deadline—January 15. You should request that your scores be submitted electronically to the University. The institution code number is 1839.

We strongly recommend taking the GRE test before January 1 in order for your official scores to arrive by the application deadline (January 15).

Is there a minimum GPA?

The median GPA for last year's incoming class was a 3.4. Nevertheless, we consider students with a range of GPAs. Students applying to the Ford School have generally distinguished themselves academically at the undergraduate level. We also consider whether there are factors, outside of school, that affected an applicant's grade point average. If you feel that your GPA does not reflect your abilities, you should include a supplemental essay with your personal statement that explains any special circumstances affecting your undergraduate education.

Will you accept the LSAT in lieu of the GRE?

We will accept the LSAT for students applying to the dual JD/MPP degree program. Keep in mind, however, that the LSAT does not evaluate a candidate's quantitative skills. The Admissions Committee will want some evidence that you can handle the rigorous quantitative curriculum at the Ford School. Consequently, the Admissions Committee will be looking closely at your undergraduate transcripts or any other record of quantitative courses taken.

Will you accept the GMAT in lieu of the GRE?

We will accept the GMAT but only for candidates who are also applying to the Michigan Business School MBA program OR students who are already enrolled in the MBA program and are applying to the Ford School.

Do you need Math, Statistics, and Economics classes in order to qualify for admission?

While you do not need these classes to qualify for admission, it would be helpful to you and to our Admissions Committee to have some idea of your skills in these areas. We recommend that you take an introductory Calculus, Statistics, and Micro Economics course. Exposure to these subjects will ease your transition to the Ford School's quantitative curriculum.

Financial Aid

What kind of funding is available for students?

The Ford School offers merit-based funding to the top admitted students.

The University of Michigan and the Ford School offer a variety of teaching and research opportunities. Our students have taught in the departments such as Economics, Political Science, History, and American Culture. A full-tuition waiver, stipend, and health insurance accompany teaching assistantships. Compensation for research assistantships varies. Grader positions are also available in some departments and compensation rates for these vary as well. The Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies offers a number of fellowships opportunities to incoming and current graduate students.

Need-based aid is available through the Office of Financial Aid. All students are encouraged to complete the FAFSA and to apply for funding outside of the Ford School. Most students at the Ford School are supported by some combination of fellowship and loans.


What can I do with a policy degree?

Since a public policy degree provides a set of research, analytical, and management skills that are transferable across sectors, and often across issue areas, graduates have a lot of flexibility in choosing their career paths. Public policy graduates often move back and forth between the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, or between international and domestic work. For more information visit the Graduate Career Services section of our website for detailed information and statistics on where our graduates go. This will give you an idea of the kinds of institutions that are interested in the skill set that the Ford School's curriculum helps you to build.

Do you have your own Career Services office?

Yes. The Graduate Career Services office works closely with first-year students to find internships and with second-year students to find jobs after graduation.

In addition, Graduate Career Services also has an extensive reference library, eRecruiting (an online job information resource), and workshops and presentations on job searching as it relates specifically to the policy arena. The office also arranges employer visits and on-campus interviews, coaching for students interested in opportunities like the Presidential Management Fellowship program, and arranges off-campus employer visits in Washington, DC and other cities.

Am I at a disadvantage going to policy school in Ann Arbor? Shouldn't I be in Washington where I have more opportunities for internships and work after I graduate?

The Ford School has a national and international reputation as a place that trains strong policy analysts and public managers. Most of our students leave Ann Arbor in the summer to pursue opportunities in major metropolitan areas and overseas. Our Graduate Career Services office, which has established connections with alumni, and a large number of agencies and institutions, is international in its scope. Our graduates do not seem to face any disadvantages in securing internships or full-time post-graduate employment as a result of the school's location.

I have some questions about job prospects in public policy. Can I meet with someone in Graduate Career Services?

Our admissions staff can address many of the questions you have about careers in public policy. If you'd like to arrange a meeting, please e-mail Student Services, or call us at (734) 764-0453. If you have more detailed questions, you may want to send an email to our Graduate Career Services Office. Please note that Graduate Career Services will speak with admitted students only.

What is Ann Arbor like?

Ann Arbor is small enough to bike across in an afternoon (28 square miles), yet diverse enough to attract top performing artists and entertainment for every season of the year. Ann Arbor has the advantages of big-city living—museums, theater, restaurants, parks, and shopping—with the advantages of small town friendliness and accessibility.

There are many ways to enjoy the area—

Visit a museum or browse some of the finest bookstores in the world. Shop in unique art galleries and boutiques, or listen to an impromptu jazz concert. Recreational opportunities abound throughout the area. If you like to be physically active, you can golf, hike, jog, canoe, or bike. Ann Arbor is also known for its four-day Art Fair in July—when more than 1,000 artists and craftspeople from around the nation sell their creations. For more information visit the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau