While it’s one of our favorite parts of the application reading experience, we know that writing essay components can be anxiety-inducing for applicants. As you start or continue your application, we hope you find this guidance on the motivational statement and essays helpful.

Motivational Statement

All students applying to the Master of Public Policy (MPP), MA in Public Policy (MA), MS in Computational Analysis and Public Policy (MSCAPP), and MA in Public Policy with Certificate in Research Methods (MACRM) programs are required to submit a 300-word motivational statement answering the questions: Why policy? Why Harris? (Or a version of these questions more specific to your program).

Some suggestions as you are thinking about your answers to these questions:

  • Answer the prompt. Don’t worry about using precious space to introduce yourself—jump right into answering the question. 

  • Write first, edit later. Get your ideas onto the page—whether that means bullet points, idea webs, or a journal entry. Don’t worry about crafting the perfect opener, meeting the word count, or checking grammar when you are first getting started.  

  • Reflect. Think about the professional, personal, or academic experience that has inspired you. 

  • Be specific. When answering Why Harris?, be specific to the University of Chicago and Harris. Analyze why certain programs, centers, classes, or professors made you want to apply here. 

Optional Essay Questions

Although the Motivation Statement is required, the essay questions are optional. For all optional essay questions, we aren’t just interested in the “right answer,” but how you are thinking about and approaching these complex questions.

Students applying to the Master of Public Policy (MPP) program may pick any of the three questions below. Completing question three will allow you to be considered for Pearson fellowships open only to MPP students.

Students applying to the MA in Public Policy (MA), MS in Computational Analysis and Public Policy (MSCAPP), and MA in Public Policy with Certificate in Research Methods (MACRM) programs may choose to complete optional essays 1 and

Option 1: Challenge—Describe briefly the biggest challenge you have ever faced. How did you tackle it and what did you learn? (max 300 words)

Tip: In essay one, you may write about a personal, professional, or academic challenge when answering this question. Perhaps more than the challenge itself, we are interested in how you tackled the challenge, and what you learned in the process.

Option 2: Community—Where do you see yourself getting involved in the community during your time at Harris—either at the University of Chicago or in the city of Chicago? (max 300 words)

Tip: If you are answering essay two, please make sure to speak specifically to Harris or UChicago.

Option 3: Pearson—If you would like to be considered for The Pearson Fellowship, please answer the following: In reflecting on the complexities of past and present protracted global conflicts, please analyze what singular global conflict most puzzles you personally, and discuss why.

Tip: Please note that “global conflict” can refer to a range of conflicts (i.e. inter/intra state; those involving non-state actors, etc.) and a range of issues associated (i.e. refugee crises, religious conflict, gang violence, drug wars, domestic violence, etc.). Remember to consider: Is the conflict actually puzzling? For example, does it involve actors acting against their own best interest, or operating irrationally?​ And finally, for the purposes of this essay, you will not need to cite sources.

We hope you find these tips helpful as you move your application forward.