Thanks to our Director of Recruitment, Jenny Erickson, for providing her application tips for this admissions cycle! 

We frequently receive this question from eager students searching for opportunities to strengthen their application, as well as those who are concerned about specific aspects of their application. Actually, we probably receive this question in some way, shape, or form from almost all incoming students, with a slight turn on the phrasing:

  • What can make my application stand out?
  • What are the specific things you look for right away?
  • What are some of the mistakes students make on their application?
  • What is the most important thing I can do to make my application strong?

So, what do we look for? Your application will tell us a story, and each area of the application shares a part of that story. Reviewing your transcripts will show us your academic strengths and interests during undergrad, and the GRE scores will show us your strength in those particular test areas. Your resume, essay statements, and letters of recommendations are an opportunity for you to really own the rest of your application story. If you have concerns about one area of your application in particular, I would encourage you to attend one of our General Admissions Webinars. You might be surprised at the number of students who share your same concerns.

Most of our students are aware of the reputation of the University of Chicago as highly quantitative. Some students are attracted to this reputation, while other students fear they do not have the quantitative skills to be successful. In reviewing your application, we will carefully evaluate your quantitative experience, but this does not mean we look for one specific GRE score or a set list of undergraduate majors. We take into consideration your scores and academic experience, of course, but we will also review your current work experience. For those who do have highly quantitative backgrounds, we offer an advanced track of our core curriculum.

We also look for academic diversity in the applicant pool. Often liberal arts students may believe they do not have the academic background for a policy program, but at Harris we understand that some of our most passionate and enthusiastic students pursued competitive liberal arts programs— and completed those programs with the strong critical thinking and writing skills required of Harris students. If we stopped reading applications when we didn’t see a calculus course, we would miss out on some incredible students.

Additionally, we want to see applicants who are excited to dive into both the curriculum at Harris as well as the opportunities available in the surrounding community at the University of Chicago. We are seeking students who feel passionate about pursuing real-world opportunities to impact policy and who would pursue experiential opportunities such as our Policy Labs courses. If you have doubts about the impact the surrounding community can have on your policy studies, take a listen to episode one of The Axe Files (also available on iTunes) the podcast hosted by David Axelrod through the Institute of Politics here at Uof C. During Episode One, Uof C alums David Axelrod and Bernie Sanders discuss, among many other things, the opportunities they pursued outside the classroom.

Finally, we at Harris value the public service dedication we see in so many of our applicants. So much so that we will match the Segel award for those who have participated in AmeriCorps. If you are an AmeriCorp alum we highly encourage you to visit – and schedule a time to speak with a member of our staff by emailing