For each of our graduate degrees, our application review process is robust and time-intensive. We read every file individually and on its own merits. We want to learn about your story. We seek to understand your goals. We look at your professional trajectory. In doing so, we consider all aspects of your background, focusing on your strengths.
We intentionally put together admission committees comprised of faculty, administrators and alumni from across our community. We want wide-ranging perspectives and backgrounds. We seek different areas of expertise. We demand an open mind.
We take great care to work through a comprehensive approach, and have always avoided an over-reliance on any one aspect. We are cognizant that letters of recommendation can sometimes reveal unconscious bias. Our holistic approach considers multiple indicators of success beyond those measured on a transcript, to include creativity, tenacity and perseverance. We are keen on people who have persisted and succeeded in their careers in spite of personal challenges, professional setbacks or financial barriers. We seek those who will contribute to our intellectual diversity. We know that the best applicants do not all come from the same place. We care about the composition of our community.
To be sure, we look for a commitment to public service, and we will do a dive deep into your work history and volunteer pursuits to better understand your commitment. We want leaders. We desire people who will make a difference in the world. We look at academic accomplishment and promise, and for evidence that applicants can survive and profit from our challenging curriculum.
- Our MPA has a quantitative core curriculum. As a result, we are looking for applicants to demonstrate their quantitative preparation. Some demonstrate this through undergraduate coursework in statistics, math or economics. Others show this through their professional pursuits. Each year, there are a number of applicants who did not have the chance to take quantitative coursework in college. Some didn’t know they needed to take foundational courses for policy school, while others did not have room in their course schedules. Whatever the reason, for those without the expected quantitative coursework, the GRE can serve as evidence of quantitative reasoning experience not otherwise apparent in the file. In some cases, there is no other evidence a student has the background in basic math that would allow them to get through the core curriculum. Without the GRE, we may not admit some students who could succeed in our MPA program. We more often use the GRE score to pull candidates into the class, not to “weed them out.”
- Our MPP program does not have a core curriculum and MPP applicants must have a minimum of seven years of full-time professional work experience to apply (most students have more). As a result, we are less focused on quantitative reasoning and more on leadership and professional trajectory in our application review. With more time from the individual undergraduate experience, there is a rich history of professional accomplishment and action to assess.
- Ph.D. students will specialize in Security Studies or STEP at Princeton. Most competitive applicants will have sufficient coursework in the specific topic-area they wish to pursue. Faculty readers can readily discern whether there is sufficient academic preparation for engagement with the respective coursework, and if there is overlap with a Princeton SPIA faculty member or members that might serve as advisors. Research and writing skills as well as undergraduate GPA and professional work will all be important components in the Ph.D. review.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created many challenges across the world. Our systems of healthcare, employment, government services, and education have all been severely affected by this global pandemic. We understand some students are having difficulty scheduling exams as testing centers are closed, while others are taking the GRE at home. It is through this lens, and many others, that we have revisited our GRE requirements. For the 2020/21 application and admissions cycle, with an application deadline of December 1, 2020, the following will hold:
- All applicants to our two-year Master in Public Affairs (MPA) *must* take the GRE. Scores will be reviewed as part of the holistic admission review process. Required GRE scores cannot be waived. If the cost of the test poses an issue, please review the GRE fee reduction program.
- Applicants to our one-year mid-career Master in Public Policy (MPP) do not have to take the GRE. GRE scores will not be considered during the admission review process.
- Applicants to our five-year Ph.D. in Public Affairs do not have to take the GRE. GRE scores will not be considered during the admission review process.
In the end, the GRE is but one aspect of a file. It is neither determinative in granting admission nor discounting in our process. If you’re a strong test taker, great. If you struggle with timed tests, don’t fret. We look at all the ways you excel. We evaluate all your coursework—quantitative and otherwise. We weigh your professional work and impact toward creating change. We discuss all candidates for admission in admissions committee meetings.
As you begin preparing for the fall 2020 application cycle, we wish you all the best. We are excited to learn about your passion for public service and thank you for your interest in our community. During these challenging times, we wish you good health and safety.
Photo credit: Princeton University, Office of Communications, Danielle Alio, 2020