Our application for the Fall of 2022 is now open! As you’re working through your application or beginning your graduate search process you may be wondering which program is the best fit for you. We’ve shared some frequently asked questions with two of our Directors, Jenny Erickson and Devon Reber Drehmer.

Which programs at Harris receive the most applications?

The Master of Public Policy (MPP) receives the most applications. Do not let the number of applications deter you, however, because the MPP is also our largest program at Harris and students come from very diverse academic backgrounds and succeed in this program. Check out some of our student profiles to learn more:

  • Deqa Aden, MPP Class of 2023 - Aden plans to use the quantitative toolkit at Harris to help formulate bottom-up policy she feels is desperately needed in international contexts.
  • Yuan Huang, MPP Class of 2023  - Huang intends to apply his experiences at Harris and in Chicago to public affairs work in China.
  • Rana Khalil, MPP Class of 2022 - Khalil wants to use the skills she gains at Harris to start her own organization that facilitates public-private partnerships.

I’m interested in the MS in Computational Analysis and Public Policy (MSCAPP) but I don’t have a background in computer science. Can I still apply?

You do not need a background in computer science or any other particular degree to apply to the MS in Computational Analysis and Public Policy (MSCAPP) program. The program does look for students who have strong quantitative backgrounds and usually a few years of work experience. You can learn more about current students from some of the profiles listed below:

  • Idalina Sachango, MSCAPP Class of 2023 - Sachango's experience seeking her American citizenship greatly influenced her interest in public policy. Sachango plans to view policy through the lens of women’s lives in a way that improves outcomes for children and families, especially immigrants.
  • Caton Brewster, MSCAPP Class of 2022 - Brewster plans to use her MSCAPP degree to build tech-based policy tools to improve domestic government service delivery.

I’d like to eventually do a PhD. Can I do that with the MPP, or only the MA in Public Policy with Certificate in Research Methods (MACRM)?

Students can pursue a PhD after completing an MPP program, however the MA in Public Policy with Certificate in Research Methods (MACRM) degree is designed to prepare students for PhD programs and careers in research. In fact, a number of students have been admitted to the Harris PhD program through MACRM. You can learn more about MARCM program outcomes in this blog post. We also encourage you to read some of our MACRM student profiles:

  • Alex Gordon, MACRM Class of 2022 - Gordon seeks to use the tools he gains from his Harris MACRM to better understand and address the substitute teacher shortage.
  • John Spence, MACRM Class of 2022 - A Financial Markets Analyst at the Fed, Spence pursued the MACRM program to gain advanced research experience in economics, opening doors to future PhD programs or research careers.

What level of math do I need for the MPP?

Students do not have any required prerequisite coursework for the MPP. Students come from a variety of academic backgrounds and years of experience. For example, former English major Katy Koon, MPP'20, combined her background in storytelling with the quantitative skills learned at Harris to shape environmental policy that serves vulnerable populations.  She said, “My background in English taught me to think critically, build strong arguments, and understand the limits of your own point of view. The one thing I didn’t have was the ability to analyze data sets to approach policy with precision and use evidence to solve them. I want my MPP to help me understand data, and Harris has already begun to equip me with the data and analysis skill sets I need to impact environmental policy.”

I’m interested in the MA in Public Policy with Certificate in Research Methods (MACRM) program. What level of quantitative skills do successful applicants have?

While students applying to the MPP program have a variety of academic backgrounds, applicants to the MACRM program should exhibit strong quantitative backgrounds (including exposure to mathematical probability and statistics, multivariate calculus, and matrix algebra).

I’m not sure what type of work I want to do after completing graduate school, but I know I want to work in a specific policy area. Which degree is the best fit for me?

Typically the MPP program will be the best fit. After completing the core you will have the opportunity to choose from a wide range of elective courses. The elective coursework in the MPP can help you to explore policy areas and solutions from different perspectives. Additionally, you can take up to six electives outside of Harris to gain a well-rounded perspective in your policy area.

I’m interested in a PhD. What type of profile are you looking for?

PhD candidates typically have GRE scores in the top percentile, and a strong background in research with coursework that includes exposure to mathematical probability and statistics, multivariate calculus, and matrix algebra. The PhD program is highly competitive. We receive several hundred submitted applications and typically only offer admission to 15-20 students.

When applying to the PhD program you can indicate on your application that you would like to be considered for a graduate degree program. This will not harm your chances of being accepted to the PhD program, but will flag to our team that you would like to be considered for other programs.

I’m interested in more than one program, should I start two applications?

Please do not start more than one application. If you would like to be considered for more than one program please apply to the program you are most interested in pursuing, and indicate on your application the other programs for which you would like to be considered.

When students start multiple applications, they receive additional communications that often create confusion and can lead to challenges during the review process. For example, if students have both an MPP and MSCAPP application started, and they submit one and not the other, you will receive communications that your application has not been submitted.

We hope this post is helpful in selecting the program that best fits your needs.