Ready to change the world?

We’re looking for people from around the world who are already making a difference – in civil society, in government, in the private sector, or as entrepreneurs. We want people who are ready to take the next step forward in expanding their horizons and advancing their work, and who have a commitment to giving back to their community.

Our application for Fall 2019 is closed.  Applications for Fall 2020 will open later this summer.  


We’re seeking emerging leaders from around the world who meet the following criteria:

  • Significant work experience (typically 3-5 years or more) and professional accomplishments with a clear trajectory of increasing impact.

  • Demonstrated record of community service or working for the public good, either through a full-time professional role or significant engagement outside of primary employment.

  • Possess a clear focus on a global challenge or policy issue.

  • A clear commitment to return to and reinvest your new skills in your community after the program concludes.

If that sounds like you, then you have the opportunity to participate in the Obama Foundation Scholars Program. You'll earn a Master of Arts in International Development and Policy (MAIDP) at Harris Public Policy and receive a full scholarship that includes access to exceptional programming outside of the classroom.

Application Process

Applicants will submit a single application for the Harris MAIDP and the Obama Foundation Scholarship.


There will be two application deadlines for the Fall 2019 admissions cycle – a Priority Deadline and a Secondary Deadline.

Applicants who apply by the Priority Deadline will receive priority for review and have a better opportunity to be considered for other Harris degree programs should they not meet the acceptance criteria for the Obama Foundation Scholars Program.

Specific deadlines are still being finalized. If you submit a Request for Information, you will receive notification of the final deadlines.

  • November 1, 2018: Priority Deadline for applications

  • January 1, 2019: Secondary Deadline for applications

  • March 2019: Notifications of admission and scholarship decisions to be released

  • Spring 2019: Deadline for candidates to accept their admission

  • August 2019: Arrive in Chicago for the Obama Foundation Scholars Program Orientation

  • Late Summer 2019: Obama Foundation Leadership Week (for scholarship recipients)

  • September 2019: Harris Orientation and Welcome Week

  • Tuesday, October 1, 2019: Classes begin


All applicants must complete the online application and include the following, which are required to apply for the Harris MAIDP and participation in Obama Foundation Scholars Program:

  • Transcripts

    • You may submit unofficial transcripts through the electronic application process; however, official transcripts will be required upon admission for enrolling students. Please submit transcripts for all prior academic work from any institution of higher education.

  • Test Scores

    • The GRE is not required, but you have the option of submitting a GRE or other test scores (e.g., GMAT or LSAT) as supplemental material.

    • Scores from either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) are required for international students.

      • The Harris institution codes for the TOEFL are 1849 or 1832. (Both codes will be accepted.)

      • You should make your reservations to take the TOEFL or IELTS directly.

  • Work Experience

    • Please include current and prior positions, preferably demonstrating 3–5 years or more of work experience, the nature of your job, and responsibilities. You may upload a current resume reflecting this information along with your education, community service, professional honors, and any other relevant information.

  • 3 ­ Letters of Recommendation

    • We prefer to have at least one reference from a previous professor who can speak to your academic background and preparedness for graduate studies.

    • Those making a recommendation should submit letters through the electronic application—hard copy letters will be accepted but are not preferred. (Your references will receive an email requesting a recommendation.)

  • Motivation Statement

    • Prepare a brief and well-articulated response to a prompted question regarding your motivation to pursue graduate studies in public policy (300 words).

  • 2 Short Essay Responses

    • Tell us about your current work (which may be your paid employment or your significant volunteer activity). In answering, please describe the concrete impact – however you define impact – your current work is having. Why have you chosen this work? What are the challenges you have faced in this work and how have you sought to overcome them? (400 words or fewer)

    • What impact do you want to have on the world? How would becoming an Obama Foundation Scholar help you achieve this? What do you plan to do after the Obama Foundation Scholars Program? What will you do if you are not selected? (300 words or fewer)