FAQs for Master's applicants

Frequently Asked Questions

Click on the topics below to see answers to a list of the frequently asked questions about the Ford School's master's of public policy and master's of public affairs programs. 

Application Procedure

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

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

    You are welcome to reapply to the program for a future year. 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.

    No, we do not have rolling admissions. All applications must be completed by January 15; we notify applicants of their admission status by the end of March.

    Late applications will be considered if space is available in our incoming class. Please contact the Student Services office for information: fspp-admissions@umich.edu.

    Formal interviews are not a part of the admissions process; however, 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.

    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.

    Yes. During your visit you will have a chance to speak with an admissions representative, and you may also meet with students and/or sit in on a class. Our faculty prefers to meet with students once they have been admitted to the Ford School. If you'd like to arrange a visit, please e-mail Student Services, or call us at 734-764-0453.

    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-undergraduate work experience is also very important and will help you in the admissions process.

Admissions criteria

  • The Ford School values many different things about an applicant, and considers all candidate credentials in making decisions about whom 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.

    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 in public schools. 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.

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

    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.

    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.

    GRE scores should be submitted by the application deadline—January 15. You should request that your scores be submitted electronically to the University of Michigan. 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).

    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.

    We will only accept the LSAT for candidates who are applying to the University of Michigan’s dual JD/MPP degree program, or students who are already enrolled in the Law School and are applying to the Ford School for dual-degree consideration. 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.

    We will only accept the GMAT for candidates who are also applying to the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business MBA program or students who are already enrolled in the MBA program and are applying to the Ford School for dual-degree consideration. 

    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 Statistics and Microeconomics course. Exposure to these subjects will ease your transition to the Ford School's quantitative curriculum.

Academics

  • We offer six degree programs: a BA in public policy (for upper-level undergraduate students), a two-year Master of Public Policy (48 credits), a one-year (9-month) Master of Public Affairs (33 credits), and three joint PhD programs in Public Policy and Economics, Political Science, or Sociology. Our MPP program is the largest of these programs, admitting about 100 students per year. Twenty students enroll in the MPA each year; the PhD program enrolls between four and six students annually.

    The MPA is a one-year degree for mid-career professionals with at least five years of full-time professional experience in government, military, government affairs in the private sector, or the nonprofit sector - in the U.S. or abroad.

    There are approximately 450 students in residence at the Ford School (which includes roughly 250 MPP/MPA students, 150 BA students, and 50 PhD students).

    Some of the large core courses may have 80-85 students in the lecture, but the majority of the seminar and elective courses are between 25 and 40 students. The larger courses typically have two faculty led lectures, and one GSI led discussion section per week, as well as weekly office hours with both the faculty and GSI.

    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 2018 incoming MPP/MPA class was typical in the extent of its diversity across age, country of origin, and race/ethnicity:

    Incoming class size: 117

    Average age: 27.3

    Age range: 21–53

    Average work experience: 4 years

    Non-U.S.: 16.2%

    Students of color (U.S. only): 35.8%

    Female: 50.4%

    Male: 49.6%

    Countries of Origin: 10

    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.

    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.

    MPP students can take 25 elective credits, and MPA students have 12 elective credits.

    Yes. MPP students are required to take a minimum of 4 credits, up to 12, in another department. MPA students may take up to 9 credits outside of the Ford School.

    The Ford School offers a certificate in Science, Technology, and Public Policy (STPP). A full list of certificate programs available can be found here.

    Yes, students are able to work directly with a faculty member through independent study.

    There are several opportunities to study or apply learning abroad, in Detroit, and elsewhere. A good place to start is the Program for Practical Policy Engagement, the International Policy Center, and the Weiser Diplomacy Center.

    Both the MPP and MPA are designed to be full-time programs, and 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.

Dual degrees

  • We offer 14 formal dual and joint degree programs. We also offer students the choice of pursuing an individually designed/student initiated dual degree if a program does not exist that fits their 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.

    You have the option to either apply to both programs at the same time, or you can apply to the second program in your first semester at U-M.

    Roughly one-third of master’s students pursue a dual degree.

Tuition

  • 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.)

    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.

    The list of available health insurance options for graduate students can be found here.

Funding & financial aid

  • All Ford School applicants are considered for merit-based funding upon application, and roughly 60 percent of admitted students receive some kind of fellowship funding from the Ford School. In addition, the University of Michigan and the Ford School offer a variety of teaching and research opportunities. Our students have served as graduate student instructors in economics, political science, history, law, and many other areas. 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 Rackham Graduate School offers a number of fellowship 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.

    Graduate Career Services has funding available to help students defray some of the basic costs of pursuing an unpaid or low-paid internship. Students may request up to $3,000 from the Ford School unpaid internship fund.

Career services

  • Because 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. 

    Ford School graduates find employment around the US and world across sectors, for examples check out:

    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, the office 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, alumni mentoring and career coaching, instruction for students interested in opportunities like the Presidential Management Fellowship program, and off-campus employer visits in Washington, DC, and other cities. 

    Graduate Career Services offers many different ways to explore possible policy pathways. One on one advising, information sessions with employers, career conversations with Ford School alums, leadership conversations with leading policy experts, career workshops to focus on your specific strengths/interests, career exploration trips to Detroit, Washington, DC, and more.

    Yes, the Ford School actively hosts employers on campus for information sessions, interviews, and virtual information sessions (for employers on the West Coast and abroad). Employers will also host resume collections specific to Ford School students for internships and full time jobs.

    Variety of ways to network with employers. The Ford School actively hosts employers on campus/virtually for networking opportunities through information sessions, office hours and career conversations. Students also network with alum/employers through career exploration trips to Detroit/DC.

    Graduate Career Services collaborates with UM’s International Center on resources for international students, in addition to meeting with international students one on one for career related guidance, and internship/job opportunities.

    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, has a national and international reach. 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.

    Ford School alumni are actively engaged with the school and working in policy around the US and world. Many alums will actively hire current students for internships and full time jobs, in addition to connecting informally through office hours and career conversations. Take a look at the Ford School Alumni Career Map for examples.

    Our admissions staff can address many of the questions you have about careers in public policy. If you would 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 only work with admitted students.

The Ford School and Ann Arbor

  • 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, kayak, 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.

    There are several student housing resources. The current masters students are also a great resource, and we encourage you to connect with them.

    The Ford School faculty are incredibly accessible to students, whether a student is interested in talking about a class they are taking, learning more about the research faculty are doing, or professional and career recommendations. Many of the faculty also have joint appointments in other departments and can be a tremendous resource for students.

    We have one master’s academic advisor who works with all MPP and MPA students. Students are not assigned a faculty advisor, but our faculty are more than happy to be a resource to students.

    The Ford School faculty are great resources if you have questions about pursuing a PhD. If you are interested in the Ford School’s joint PhD and social science program, our PhD Coordinator would be happy to speak with you.