MPA/MPP programs are looking for individuals who can demonstrate a commitment to public service and have appropriate preparation to succeed. Specific requirements and expectations vary from program to program, but the following are likely to increase the chances of being admitted:
MPA/MPP students have a wide variety of undergraduate degrees, including majors in political science, economics, sociology, social work, environmental science, foreign languages, biological sciences, English, health, criminal justice, psychology, history, information technology, art, and many others. Undergraduate students definitely should consider taking at least one economics course and one empirical methods/statistics course if they are interested in the MPA/MPP.
The competitiveness of admission varies greatly across MPA/MPP programs. The Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management has data on admissions for the larger, comprehensive schools that shows that, on average, such programs are receiving about four applications for every position in the entering class.
Almost all full-time MPA/MPP programs require that applicants take standardized exams such as the GRE or GMAT, and for non-native English speakers, the TOEFL. Degree programs for mid-career professionals may waive standardized exams based on prior work experience and demonstrated expertise.
In contrast to other professional degrees such as the MBA, JD or MD, most MPA/MPP programs do offer significant financial aid. At the same time, any professional degree program expects that the students will contribute financial resources toward paying for the degree. Tuition is the single largest component of the cost of a degree and ranges from a low of just several thousand dollars at some public universities to more than $30,000 at some private universities. MPA/MPP programs provide financial assistance through scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study for students who are eligible. Each institution will provide students with preliminary information about financial aid and applications for financial aid must usually be submitted no later than March. Students should follow-up their institutional applications with searches for other individualized financial aid details, scholarships, and funding opportunities. Many MPA/MPP program base financial aid awards on merit rather than need, meaning that applicants that appear to be the best fit to the program and have the strongest preparation may receive the most aid.