When To Go

If you are currently an undergraduate and keenly interested in earning an MPP/MPA, it would behoove you to consider carefully the two options before you: entering policy school right out of college or working 3-5 years before applying. If you are an older undergraduate with years of full-time work behind you, you’ll want to pursue the first option.

Entering policy school just after securing your undergraduate degree — while not a very common practice —is a growing one. This is the case, in part, because the better policy schools compete so vociferously for top students that they are willing to adjust their curricula to meet the needs of strong students who have not yet worked full-time other than during the summers.

Policy schools are generally more flexible than other professional schools in that they sometimes admit college seniors with an understanding that after working for a few years, the school will hold a seat for her/him in a future incoming class. Your work experience should demonstrate consistently strong (or improving) performance, and contain promotions (where possible) with an attendant set of increased responsibilities.

Policy schools look for students with leadership potential; that is to say, people who know when it’s time to be assertive and take the lead, and know when it’s time to fall back and allow someone else to chart a course. Those attributes are found in most of our best policy professionals leaders, not to mention those in other fields.

Indeed, your policy training can be utilized in classrooms, religious institutions, law firms, colleges and universities, urban planning, development firms, hospitals, museums, political campaigns, home economics studies, utility companies, newsrooms and, of course, the traditional think tanks, such as the Institute For Democracy And Economic Affairs (Malaysia), the Environmental Protection Agency (USA), the National Education Policy Center (USA), The Institute for Democratic Governance (Ghana), the Institute for Security and Development (Sweden), and the Foundation for the Advancement of Economics (Serbia).