Goldman School of Public Policy - University of California, Berkeley

Frequently Asked Questions

Applying for the MPP

General Admissions FAQ

Admissions Procedures FAQ

General Admissions FAQ

What is Policy Analysis?

Public policy analysis aids problem solving in the public and non-profit sectors. People have analyzed policies for centuries, while policy analysis as a systematic, formal undertaking is still a fairly new field of endeavor and thoughtful people differ about exactly what it is. In their standard text book Policy Analysis Concepts and Practice (third edition), Professor David Weimer (MPP '75/PhD ’78) and Professor Aidan Vining (MPP '78/PhD '80) offer a good definition: public policy analysis is “client-oriented advice relevant to public decisions and informed by social values."

Policy analysts provide information and advice to public officials, the press, policy advocates, nonprofit and private sector decision-makers, and citizens generally to help them choose, design and implement better as against worse public policies. To do this well requires a series of skills: skills that constitute the core curriculum of GSPP.

How do public policy and public administration programs differ?

Public administration, developed in the early 1900s, is a special field of study within the academic discipline of political science. It emphasizes the structure and operation of bureaucracies and organizations, including budgeting, personnel, and formal and informal internal controls. Some public administration programs include study of the special management skills required in governmental (as distinct from private) organizations.

Public policy is a newer field, developed in the late 1960s, whose theories and methods draw upon a variety of disciplines, such as economics, political science, statistics, and other social sciences. Its central focus is on the environment, substance, and effects of policies. Within that context, bureaucracies and organizations are examined as major sites for policy formulation, advocacy and implementation. Both public policy and public administration programs are relevant to the broad profession known generally as public management.

More information about career opportunities and employers of GSPP graduates is available in Career Services.

Does the GSPP program train generalists or specialists?

The School first aims to train generalists, in the sense of providing basic policy skills needed in a variety of policy positions and across a wide range of policy issues. Having learned and applied the basic skills in the School’s program, graduates are able to familiarize themselves rapidly with the details of a specific policy area relevant to their particular job. It would not be easy, however, for policy area specialists who lacked these technical skills to develop them once on the job. Feedback from alumni and employers confirms the soundness of providing an education for generalists.

The variety of positions reflects the multidisciplinary skills possessed by MPP graduates and the different types of policy roles sought by individual graduates.

Can a GSPP student give special attention to a specific policy area?

All first-year students take the core curriculum, which provides basic analytical approaches and skills. In contrast the second year consists mostly of electives, with students able to choose from among the rich offerings of the academic disciplines and professional programs on the Berkeley campus as well as from those at GSPP.

Depending on individual preferences, students elect courses to deepen or extend their analytical skills and/or to familiarize themselves with the substance of a specific policy area (energy, health, income redistribution, international affairs, environmental protection, education, racial or gender policy, etc.). In addition, the student’s major project during the second year treats a policy problem of the student’s own preference. Similarly, a student may concentrate his or her efforts to secure a summer internship in specific policy areas of personal choice.

Is a master’s thesis required?

In the second year, each student completes an Advanced Policy Analysis (APA) project, which is an intensive study of a significant policy issue of his or her choice. The APA study, which is typically done for a real client, provides students with the opportunity to apply concepts and skills learned in the School’s program. Students often develop their APA projects from the recent experience of their summer policy internships. Sometimes students receive pay from their client for undertaking and completing the APA project. An APA study is performed under the close supervision of a GSPP faculty member, and its satisfactory completion meets one of the requirements for award of the MPP degree.

How does the GSPP program treat the political dimensions of public policy?

The School believes that to be effective in the policy world, the evaluation of policy choices should take closely into account the political setting for the making and implementation of policy. To have significant impact, an analyst of policy options often must go beyond technical competence and include sensitivity to the political environment of the policy issue and of the client. Hence the GSPP program stresses such concerns as the political feasibility of policy alternatives, value and ideological conflicts, and the dynamics of organizational behavior as they affect policy implementation. Useful preparation for GSPP’s core curriculum would include some familiarity with microeconomics, the American political process, statistics, and computers. One of the core courses is a full year’s work in economics which assumes some knowledge of calculus. Entering students without that knowledge or who want to refresh their applied mathematical skills are urged to take an intensive brush-up course given by the School just before the fall term.

Have a question?

If you have specific questions about the adequacy of your academic preparation for the program, please contact the GSPP Admissions Office at (510) 642-7888 / (510) 642-1940 or via at mppadm@berkeley.edu.

Admission Procedures FAQ

GPA Calculation Questions

Q: How do I calculate my Major GPA?

This GPA calculation is not required by the Goldman School of Public Policy. Please leave this field blank.

Q: Should I include grades earned from other institutions in my GPA calculations?

All graded courses that count towards the fulfillment of your undergraduate degree should be calculated in your GPA.

Q: How do I calculate my advanced GPA?

If you received your undergraduate degree at a US university or college then calculate your Undergraduate Advanced GPA using all coursework towards the degree after the first two years.

Essay Questions

Q: How many statements are required for the MPP Application?

Two. (1) Policy Statement of Purpose and (1) Personal History Statement. 

Q: What is the page length requirement for the Personal History Statement?

There is no page length requirement for the Personal History Statement. However, this essay is generally 1-2 pages, double-spaced.

Q: What is the difference between the Policy Statement of Purpose and Personal History Statement? 

The Policy Statement of Purpose and Personal History Statement have two distinct set of guidelines (see below). It is expected that the two essays may overlap.

Statement of Purpose:

The Goldman School of Public Policy welcomes applicants from a wide variety of backgrounds and with a variety of career aspirations. Some of our students have had prior experience in the realm of public policy; others have not. It is helpful to us to know more about your background, your motivation, and your long-term goals than can be inferred from your records and references. We would appreciate your helping us by supplying a brief statement of 3-5 pages, double-spaced. Please address some of these areas:

The present: Why do you want to take an educational program in the analysis and management of public policy?

The past: What experiences or activities bear on your qualifications for this program, e.g., research papers, study groups, job responsibilities, policy or political projects? How do these experiences relate to your decision to undertake the study of public policy analysis and management? If you have been out of school for a year or more, please indicate the positions you have held and your major activities. A vita or resume is strongly recommended.

The future: What kinds of work and activity would you like to engage in following graduation, and what are your long-range career objectives? Please supply whatever information you think may help us to understand your candidacy more fully.

Personal History Statement:

Required of all applicants. Please note that the Personal History Statement should not duplicate the Statement of Purpose.

Please describe how your personal background informs your decision to pursue a graduate degree. Please include information on how you have overcome barriers to access in higher education, evidence of how you have come to understand the barriers faced by others, evidence of your academic service to advance equitable access to higher education for women, racial minorities, and individuals from other groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education, evidence of your research focusing on underserved populations or related issues of inequality, or evidence of your leadership among such groups.

Q: Should I include my resume with the Statement of Purpose?

Your resume should not be submitted with your Statement of Purpose. Your resume should be submitted in the space provided on the Public Policy Supplemental Application.

Transcripts Questions

Q: Am I required to submit my study abroad transcripts?

It is not necessary to submit the transcript from the abroad university if the courses, credits, and grades appear on your degree-awarding university transcript.

GRE Questions

Q: What is latest date I can take the GRE and still be considered for admission?

In order for your scores to arrive by the application deadline, the Goldman School recommends that you take the GRE no later than November 6, 2017. If the exam is taken after this date we can not guarantee that your application will be considered for admission.

Q: I did not list the correct department code. What should I do?

As long as you listed the correct institution code for Berkeley (4833), the Goldman School will be able to retrieve your scores.

Q: I submitted my application and on the "status" page it reads that my GRE scores have not arrived. I ordered my scores a while ago, should I be concerned?

It can take approximately 2.5 weeks for Berkeley to receive GRE scores. You can check the GRE status on your application by using the login you created for your online graduate application. If more than 2.5 weeks have passed since you have submitted your GRE scores and they are not showing up as received, please feel free to contact us at gsppadm-socrates@berkeley.edu and we can check for your scores manually. Be sure that ETS sent your scores to the correct institution (Berkeley’s institution code is 4833). 

Q: Can I submit my GMAT or LSAT in lieu of the GRE?

The GRE is required by all applicants applying to the MPP program. No exceptions. No substitutions.

Q: What are the average GRE scores?

You can view the latest set of admissions statistics here.

TOEFL Questions (for international students)

Q: If I’ve attended a university in the United States, am I required to take the TOEFL?

All applicants from countries in which the official language is not English are required to submit official evidence of English language proficiency. This requirement applies to applicants from Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Latin America, the Middle East,  Israel, the Peoples Republic of China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, most European countries, and non-English-speaking countries in Africa.

To qualify for a TOEFL exemption you must:

  • Have a basic degree from a recognized institution in a country where the official language is English.
  • Have completed a basic or advanced degree at an institution, in the United States or abroad, where the language of instruction is English and the institution is accredited by one of the United States’ regional accrediting* agencies.

NOTE: The Graduate Division includes a third exemption for those who have completed at least one year of full-time academic course work with a grade B or better at a regionally accredited institution within the United States. GSPP does not accommodate this exemption.

There are two standardized tests you may take: the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

Q: Which version OF the TOEFL is required?

Both the computer-based and internet-based version of the TOEFL is acceptable.

Q: What is the minimum TOEFL Score?

Applicants to the MPP must have a minimum cumulative TOEFL or IELTS score of:

  • 100 on the Internet-Based TOEFL Test (IBT) OR a 600 on the Paper-Based TOEFL Test (PBT)
  • 7 overall band score on the IELTS

NOTE: GSPP's minimum scores exceed the minimums required by the Graduate Division.

Letter of Recommendation Questions

Q: How do recommenders submit their letter electronically?

Once you have started the on-line application, the instructions for how to submit letters of recommendation can be found in the main menu under “Recommendations”.

Q: Can I submit more than 3 letters of recommendation?

Yes, you may submit up to 4 letters of recommendation.

Application Fee Questions

Q: Am I eligible for an application fee waiver?

U.S. citizens or permanent residents who can demonstrate financial need are eligible to apply for a waiver of the application fee. See guidelines for waivers.

Q: Where do I mail my application payment?

For non-credit card payments please mail your check or money order to the Graduate Admissions Office. Please remember to include your Document ID number on your check/money order.

Graduate Admissions Office
318 Sproul Hall #5900
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720-5900

Mailing Questions:

Q: What address should I send hard copy application materials?

When absolutely necessary, recommenders can mail in a hard copy letter to the following address:

MPP Admissions Office
Goldman School of Public Policy
2607 Hearst Avenue
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720-7320

Miscellaneous Questions:

Q: When will admission decisions be made?

All admissions decision letters will be emailed in early-March or shortly thereafter.

Q: When is the application deadline?

The application deadline for admission and fellowship consideration is in December of each year.  This year, the application deadline is Friday, December 1, 2017. Other pieces of your application (i.e. transcripts, letters of recommendation - including electronic letters of recommendation, GRE scores etc) must also arrive by the December 1, 2017 deadline. See Application Deadlines.

Q: Who should I contact if I am having technical difficulties with the online application?

Applicants should report any technical difficulties to the Graduate Office of Admissions. Email: gradadm@berkeley.edu. Phone: (510) 642-7405. The Graduate Division recommends applicants use the Firefox Browser when completing the online application.