Prospective students frequently share questions with our team about essay statements. 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. Here is some helpful guidance on approaching and starting your motivational statement and essays.

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 Harris? Why Public Policy? (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. 

Required Statement

All students applying to the MPP, MA, MSCAPP, and MACRM programs must submit the required essay statement: Describe briefly the biggest challenge you have ever faced. How did you tackle it and what did you learn? (300 words maximum). Some notes as you are thinking about your answer to this question: 

  • 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.  

  Optional Essay Questions

All students applying to the MPP, MA, MSCAPP, and MACRM programs can also complete the optional essay questions. 

Students applying to the MPP program may pick any of the three questions below. Completing questions two or three will allow you to be considered for Pearson and Center for Effective Government (CEG) fellowships open only to MPP students. Students applying to the MA, MSCAPP, and MACRM can complete optional essay one.

  1. 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. (300 words maximum, optional) 

  1. Pearson Fellowship – 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. 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). (500 words maximum, MPP only, optional) 

    Questions about the Pearson Fellowship? Learn more here.

  2. Center for Effective Government (CEG) Fellowship – CEG was founded to strengthen democratic institutions and improve the capacity of government to solve public problems. To be considered for the CEG Fellowship, please provide a short answer that analyzes a specific institutional reform that will lead to more effective governance, keeping in mind CEG’s mission. (500 words maximum, MPP only, optional)
    Questions about the Center for Effective Government? Learn more here.

Some notes on optional essay questions: 

  • If you are answering essay one, please make sure to speak specifically to Harris or UChicago. 

  • For essay questions two and three, we aren’t just interested in the “right answer,” but how you are thinking about and approaching these complex questions.  

  Don’t forget to take a moment to read this student post on essay tips