The October 5 Early Action deadline will be here faster than we know it—start your application if you haven't done so already! We frequently receive questions from eager students on how they can strengthen their application. Ahead of the deadline, we wanted to give you some tips on how you can make your application stand out—read more to hear our Directors, Jenny Erickson and Devon Reber Drehmer's thoughts on these frequently asked 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 optional 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?

This year, the GRE test is optional. Harris Public Policy's full time master's programs will extend the optional GRE policy to 2022 for all applicants—domestic and international. The policy is open to students who do not wish to share their scores and to students who are unable to take the GRE or GMAT.
Our test-optional policy applies to the four programs listed below.

Although this year is test-optional, we will accept and consider GRE or GMAT scores from students who have previously taken these exams. If you think the scores are reflective of your ability and potential, you may share the scores as part of your application for consideration. If you choose to provide GRE/GMAT scores as part of your application, you may submit self-reported (unofficial) scores for admission review. Please note, official scores must be provided upon accepting an offer of admission.

In addition to your academic experience, we also take into consideration 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, 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 harrisadmissions@uchicago.edu to get to know us!