We have enjoyed meeting so many of you—on the road, on campus and virtually. It is great to have the chance to chat and respond to your individual questions. Thank you for your curiosity and for your interest in the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs.
In this blog, we seek to bring some of the broad themes together, grouped around some of the most common questions we are asked.
Whether you are interested in the Master in Public Affairs, the Master in Public Policy, or our Doctor of Philosophy in Public Affairs it is best to start preparing your application and all supplemental materials as soon as you can. Our application deadline is December 1, 2019 at 11:59 p.m.
Tests—do I have to take them?
Yes, Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs still requires the GRE. Princeton has eliminated the GRE test requirement for 14 graduate programs, but we are not one of them. The GRE is only one factor in our individual and holistic application review process. Click here for more information about the GRE. Our viewbook has more information, separated by degree, on GRE scores for admitted students over a three year time horizon. The charts in the viewbook are illustrative; we have no minimum score or cut-off, and you will see that we have a range of scores among our student population. Spend a bit of time practicing and preparing for the GRE. Then, do your best!
What about an English test?
Please see here for more information about English language tests. The TOEFL or IELTS language test is required for all non-native English-speaking applicants unless they have studied a minimum of three years towards a bachelor's degree or a Ph.D. in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand or Anglophone Canada. We do not have any minimum scores for the GRE, but we do have minimum scores for English language tests - 100 on the TOEFL and 7 on IELTS.
Walk me through what you’re looking for in the personal statement, please.
The prompt is purposely broad; we want to give you sufficient space to craft your narrative in a way that captures your personal and professional background in as much detail as you feel the admissions committee should have. The prompt reads: "Your personal statement should showcase your strengths and provide an overview of your background, goals, academic and professional aspirations, and a commitment to public service. The personal statement should be approximately two to four pages, double-spaced. If you wish to address any weaknesses in your application, it is better to write a separate, succinct, fact-based explanation as an addendum."
Tell us how your policy and public service interests developed. How does the School fit into that? Why is now the appropriate time to come to the School? What do you want to do after graduation? Help us understand your leadership trajectory - are you a leader on campus, in your community, at work, internationally?
Please also pay attention to some of the smaller things. Our name is Princeton University or the School of Public and International Affairs; please get our name right! Our MPA is short for Master in Public Affairs. Certainly we understand individuals apply to multiple programs. Please proofread your application to make sure what you submit to us was meant for us. Need more? See here.
Please check this out.
I don’t know what a policy memo is. How do I write one? Do I have to write about something I am working on? Help!
The policy memo is a required part of your application and is one that we get many questions about. Don’t know where to start? Check out this link to our blog on the policy memo. The best memos are usually about something you are interested in or have spent some time working on or thinking about. You'll write with greater focus and a higher degree of authority. Make sure to offer some recommendations, and when you can clearly articulate a counterargument, please do. It shows us you're able to entertain both sides of the issue - or at least more than one.
Can I send in more than three letters of recommendation?
No. Please pick your strongest three advocates. Educate them on why you're thinking about the School, and give them plenty of time to write and submit their letter on your behalf. You can register them as soon as you log-on to our application system; don't wait until the last minute.
What are you doing about diversity? What DEI initiatives do you have?
We are doing quite a lot, actually, and certainly more with respect of diversity, equity and inclusion if you contrast today with basically any point in our history. We have also written about it quite a bit. Please see this blog on diversity as our foundation. Here is an article on a national award for an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion. This page is School-specific on DEI. You will see our diversity, equity and inclusion report from 2017-2019 here. We have a diversity and inclusion standing committee, we are committed to strengthening our curriculum and spearheading efforts to incorporate issues of diversity and inclusion into our curriculum. We offer diversity workshops and host diversity dinners. Annually, for three decades, we host the Students and Alumni of Color Symposium. We support a number of student groups—first. SEED, GPN. Here is a link about the Double Sights installation.
How can I meet you?
First of all, it’s not required to meet with the Graduate Admissions Office or any member of the larger administration for the School to be a competitive candidate for admission. That said, many people find this extra touch point beneficial, and we similarly enjoy meeting with prospective students to speak about the School and Princeton. Meet with us in Princeton. Meet with us on the road. We offer information sessions on Monday and Tuesday on campus, and Princeton University conducts Orange Key Tours throughout the year. We have an open door policy on visiting classes if you do decide to visit us in Princeton. If you cannot come to Princeton and won’t have the chance to meet us on the road, please check us out online November 21, just before our application deadline, for our virtual session. We enjoy meeting with prospective applicants—it’s a good way for us to help you understand our process, and for you to ask questions.
Why should I apply to the School? What's so special about the School? How is the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs different from other programs?
This is always one of the most challenging questions we get, because frankly, we want people as members of our community who want to be a part of our tight-knit and inclusive group. The goal of this blog, our information sessions—on campus and on the road, our email responses and phone call follow-up, our website, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook feeds and every other way we put information out, is to do just that: give prospective students as much information about what this community is like so that each of you are able to make an informed decision about our strengths.
There are so many things that make the School unique. An obvious high point is our generous financial aid; it democratizes the class, so when people are here, all one need do is focus on studying and engaging in everything that goes on here. Other institutions ask you to invest in your education. At the School, WE invest in YOU. The tight-knit feeling you feel on campus today transcends class years and cohorts. It’s remarkable to see this “Once a Woo, always a Woo” in action—inside and outside of the classroom specifically and Princeton more generally.
What if I am undocumented or do not have U.S. citizenship? Can I apply? What financial aid do I qualify for?
Yes. Please apply. You receive the same funding package. Everyone at the School is treated the same. We fully fund tuition and required fees for all of our students regardless of external aid and irrespective of where one might be from or live. If you are accepted in to one of our programs, then you are eligible for financial support for tuition and required fees + a need-based living stipend. It is available in equal measure to U.S. citizens, U.S. permanent residents, international students, as well as undocumented and DACA students. See here. Also, check the following out to learn more about how Princeton has served as a leading voice among higher education institutions regarding immigration issues.
Your website says I need work experience to apply? How much? What does that mean? Do my summer internships count?
We highly recommend full-time professional work experience after completion of a Bachelor’s degree for all of our programs. We believe you will get more out of our graduate programs. You will also add more to the community after serving in the workforce for a few years. There are always exceptions, but for the vast majority of you PLEASE take some time between your undergraduate and graduate degrees to explore your public service passions. The MPP degree requires a minimum of seven years full-time professional work experience (after graduating college). Many come with more. Check out the viewbook for the exact statistics. MPP candidates should be rising leaders within their field, organizations or issue areas. The MPA degree is typically for individuals earlier in their professional careers; however, the vast majority of our students come to us with prior full-time professional work experience. Please see the viewbook for the averages. Internships and volunteer experience is important, and we do consider these efforts as a part of our application review. Help us understand your impact in all your professional and volunteer pursuits.