Thanks to our Directors of Recruitment, Jenny Erickson and Devon Reber Drehmer, for this post!

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. Read more to hear our thoughts on these questions! 

What can make my application stand out?

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, we 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.

Are you looking for specific GRE scores or academic coursework?

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.

In addition to transcripts and test scores, we also look for academic diversity in our applicants. 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.

What are specific mistakes students make on the application?

While writing your motivational statement or asking for a letter of recommendation can seem daunting, don’t put it off! We always recommend that students start writing their essays early, to give themselves time to edit and review. Make sure to give your recommenders plenty of time to write their letters, and check in with them before our deadlines to ensure they submit on time. To consider your application, we will need all materials, so don’t delay on these important items! 

What is the most important thing I can do to make my application strong?

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, and who are engaged throughout the application process. Applicants can indicate this in many ways: attending admissions events like alumni panels or a webinar, setting up a phone appointment with a member of our team, or visiting our campus in Chicago. You can also write in your application about what you’re excited about joining here at the University of Chicago: student organizations like Minorities in Public Policy Studies (MiPPS), courses like Policy Labs, or campus institutions like David Axelrod’s Institute of Politics.

Overall, we are seeking students who feel passionate about pursuing real-world opportunities to impact policy, and there are many ways to show us your story throughout the application process. We can’t wait to get to know you – reach out to [email protected] to get to know us!