Commonly asked questions

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

Application procedure

  • Yes.

    If you are interested in a research career in think tanks or government, or if you are interested in a research and teaching career as a faculty member in a social science department or professional school, you should apply for the PhD. If you are primarily interested in working in the public sector as a manager, running government programs, or evaluating government programs, you should apply for the MPP.

    No. We accept applications for fall admission only.

    No. The joint doctoral program is a full-time program.

    No. The joint doctoral program requires a full-time presence on the Ann Arbor campus through at least the end of the third year. The program requires continuous enrollment for fall/winter terms.

    The firm application deadline is December 1. In order to review your application, we must have access to all of your materials, letters of recommendation, and test scores by the beginning of the deadline day. Please submit all materials on or before the December 1 deadline (online for new prospective students and for current Rackham students who wish to transfer to the Joint PhD Program).

    Read through all of the program information for both the Ford School joint doctoral program and the social science department of your choice (economics, political science, or sociology). If you begin with the information on the Ford School program you will be able to link to each department from our site.

    Finally, there is an excellent website that addresses the issues surrounding the process of applying to a doctoral program: Questions to Ask When Thinking About Pursuing a PhD.

    You should apply online through the Rackham Graduate School. Please check your online application status to ensure materials were uploaded properly.

    Note: It is important to wait until January 15 before inquiring about missing application materials. It takes time (over the winter holiday break) to process and post all the applicant materials received by the joint PhD program office.

    No. New prospective applicants and transfer applicants must apply online. Additional materials, such as writing samples, should be uploaded electronically with the online application.

    It is highly recommended that you check electronically via your online College Net application.

    Please note: the Ford School does not contact applicants automatically. It is your responsibility to check your status and contact the Joint PhD Program Office after January 15 regarding missing application materials.

    Applicants will be notified of admission decisions by early April. Please check your admission status via the online Rackham Friend Account.

    All applicants will be notified of decisions via email.

    No. Interviews are not required. Read through the section on this topic in Questions to Ask When Thinking About Pursuing a PhD.

    Yes. You are welcome to visit the U-M campus at any time. As a prospective student you are responsible for arranging your visit; the Ford School does not arrange individual visits. The Ford School invites prospective applicants who have been offered admission to the program to visit the campus during the spring recruiting season.

Admissions criteria

  • Every part of the application is important and is considered. 

Admission statistics

  • On average we receive about 230 applications for our three programs.

    We aim to enroll 6 students across our three joint programs each fall. Our acceptance rate is around 5%.


  • All accepted students receive a five-year funding package.

    Your application will be considered equally regardless of whether you have funding.

    Students will be supported by a combination of fellowships, research assistantships, and teaching stipends. Students are encouraged to seek both teaching and research experience. All students who apply to the joint program are considered for financial aid from the Ford School. Students are strongly encouraged to seek out fellowships from external sources.

    The Rackham Fellowships office provides an exhaustive list of university and non-university sources for graduate students. Applicants can access this information on Rackham’s website by following links for prospective students, fellowships, and recruitment.

    Students receive a full fellowship their first and fifth years in the program, which covers tuition and fees, pays a monthly stipend during the academic year (September 1 through April 30), and offers health insurance.

    Students work as a Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) in their social science department during their second and third years (earning full tuition and fees, monthly stipend, and health insurance), and as a Graduate Student Research Assistant (GSRA) or GSI during their 4th year.

    All students in good standing (including achieving candidacy by the end of year three) receive fourth and fifth year funding.

Post admissions

  • While time to degree varies, students typically take 5-7 years to complete the program. Students spend most of their first two years in a department taking the same sequence of theory and methods courses as departmental students. In year three, students finish up the course requirements and write an original policy research paper. In years four and beyond, students complete a dissertation under the supervision of Ford School and departmental faculty.

    Yes. For more information on requesting a leave of absence, please visit the Rackham site.

    Students are assigned a departmental faculty advisor and a Ford School faculty advisor in their first year.

    Dissertation committees must have at least four faculty members, three of whom are regular faculty members of the graduate faculty. Two of these advisors must be from the doctoral candidate’s home program and one must be from the Ford School.

Post graduation

We maintain a list of first and current job placements for all graduates.

Have any questions?