While tips on applying to grad school from the Admissions team can be helpful to prospective students as they work through their application, we know many prospective students are also eager to hear more from current students. We interviewed two incoming MPP students Nina Levine and Noah Fischer, to share their application experience, challenges, and advice

What is the biggest piece of advice you would give a prospect who is about to apply?

Noah Fischer: Many people may feel pressured when applying to graduate school to have the perfect application. You may feel tempted to write your motivation statement to make you come across as some heroic person that the school can't live without. But after I got in and people from all these different backgrounds told me their stories, I realized that there's not one right answer or background that the Admissions team is looking for.

Nina Levine: Yes, although I would add that I looked at the website a lot to see what Harris prides itself in so that I could address that in my application. Because I thought Admissions may want to see that I chose Harris to pursue those things that are unique to them.

Out of all the facets of the application—the resume, letters recommendation, short essays, and motivation statements—how did you approach working through your application?

Nina Levine: I think the first thing I did was the motivation statement, and brushing up my resume. I did all that before I asked for my recommendations because I gave my recommenders my motivation statement as a guideline to write their letters. I also looked a lot at the Harris website, and that was really helpful for me to gather logistical information about the application.

Noah Fischer: I agree—I tried to get them my motivation statement as early as possible. I got in touch with my professors in August to make sure to give them enough time. After that I worked through the short essay questions.

I feel like one of the most important things when you're doing a college application is timing, especially if you want to hit the Early Action deadline on October 5.

How did you choose the people to write your letters of recommendation?

Nina Levine: I chose professors whose classes I enjoyed that also had some sort of relation to policy. One class, for instance, was about the Chicago linguistic landscape, which showed social outcomes that result from policy in the city. I had a good experience in their class, and I felt comfortable to email them and ask them.

Noah Fischer: I agree—they don't necessarily have to be policy people, but something related helps. When you're picking your recommenders, I’d also say to select individuals with whom you have a good working relationship. My recommenders were both senior thesis advisors I had done research for. We had a very close working relationship, so they knew me as a person and could write more personal letters.

About how much time, total, would you say you spent on your application process?

Noah Fischer: From when I opened the application the first time to when I submitted, was about two and a half weeks to make sure everything I wrote was correct, including financial information.

Nina Levine: I think total it took around a maximum of 10 hours, including essay writing.