Admissions requirements for graduate students

Things graduate students need in order to be considered for admission to the La Follette School of Public Affairs including deadlines, application steps, requirements, and more.


The University of Wisconsin–Madison’s La Follette School of Public Affairs seeks candidates who demonstrate the ability and experience to engage in a rigorous public affairs graduate program.

The faculty Admissions Committee looks for evidence of strong academic achievement, relevant experience, potential for success in the public affairs graduate programs, commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion, and capacity to do well in a public service career, through a holistic review of each student’s application, transcripts, references, optional GRE scores, resume, and statement of purpose.

Deadlines

Cohorts start each fall term. The La Follette School offers admission for the fall semester only, not spring or summer.

All complete applications received by January 1 will be given priority consideration for admission and funding. Applications will be considered after that date on a rolling admissions basis, provided there is space in the class.

Application steps and requirements

Please read all the admission requirements before proceeding.  A $75 application fee is required to apply.

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Application fee

A $75 non-refundable application fee is required when you apply. It can be paid by credit card (Mastercard or Visa) or by debit or ATM card. Non-U.S. citizens must pay an additional $6 international document processing fee.

The La Follette School has a limited number of application fee waivers available which you can apply for.

Application Fee Waiver Form

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1. Complete the online application

Use the online application for fall admission to the UW-Madison Graduate School. Please note: Current UW-Madison students will need to create a user name and password; your current NetID and password will not grant access. Major codes for La Follette School programs are 837 for the Master of Public Affairs and 577 for the Master of International Public Affairs. Applicants may apply to a total of three programs with one application.

2. Include a resume in the online application

Please upload a current resume to the online application.

3. Provide at Statement of Purpose

The statement of purpose provides you the opportunity to demonstrate your motivation to pursue a Master of Public Affairs (MPA) or Master of International Public Affairs (MIPA) degree and your commitment to a career dedicated to public service. Reflect on the experiences shaping your decision to apply and how a degree from the La Follette School of Public Affairs will help you make progress toward your personal and/or professional goals. You also can use this opportunity to share what or how you will contribute to the diversity of the La Follette School community. The essay, no more than two double-spaced pages, should be uploaded to the online application.

If you have faced unusual or extenuating circumstances that may impact your application to the La Follette School, you may choose to describe how they have impacted your academic record on a separate page but in the same document as your statement of purpose. You can also use this area to address any gaps in your application, i.e., you do not have grades for all of the prerequisites yet because you are planning to complete one of them in the spring semester after you’ve submitted your application. This section should not exceed 150 words. It will not negatively impact your application whether you include this section or not.

4. Provide three letters of recommendation

The admissions committee prefers at least two references from previous professors who can speak to your potential as a graduate student. The additional reference can be from an employer, volunteer supervisor, PI, etc. Personal references from family or friends should be avoided. Recommenders will receive an email from UW-Madison after you enter their name and email address into the online application and they should submit letters electronically by following the directions in the email. Applicants are responsible for checking the status of requested letters through the application portal and reaching out to letter writers if needed. Letters must be received by January 1 in order to you to be considered for priority admission and funding.

5. Provide your transcripts

Applicants must submit undergraduate transcripts in pdf format as part of the graduate school application. Unofficial transcripts are acceptable. If you are accepted to the La Follette School and decide to attend, you will then be required to submit official transcripts to the UW-Madison Graduate School. However, to be considered for priority admission and funding, you only need to provide unofficial transcripts by January 1. Applicants must submit undergraduate transcripts in pdf format as part of the graduate school application. Unofficial transcripts are acceptable. If the La Follette School recommends you for admission, and you decide to enroll, you will then be required to submit official transcripts to the UW-Madison Graduate School. However, to be considered for priority admission and funding, you only need to provide unofficial transcripts by January 1.

6. Complete the supplemental application

The supplemental application is included in the online application linked in Step 1. Please review your transcripts and provide the information requested in the supplemental application about the prerequisite courses you have completed. Definitions of all prerequisite courses are linked in the supplemental application to help you determine whether or not your course will fulfill the prerequisite. If you have not complete one or more of the prerequisites please write “None”. You will also be asked to identify your participation in the PPIA program and to complete acknowledgements of your intentions regarding your educational plans.

7. Include GRE scores (optional)

Submission of GRE scores is optional. If you believe your GRE scores are a fair representation of your ability and potential, you can choose to share GRE scores as part of your application. Applications with and without GRE scores will be treated equally. If you have questions, please email La Follette School Admissions at admissions@lafollette.wisc.edu. Note that for applicants who do submit GRE scores, we do not utilize a strict GRE cut-off. If you take the computer-delivered GRE General Test, your official scores will be available in your ETS Account and sent to the institutions you designated approximately 10–15 days after your test date. If you take the paper-delivered test, your official scores will be available in your ETS Account and sent to the institutions you designated within five weeks after your test date. The UW–Madison institution code is 1846. Tests should be completed by mid-November to ensure scores are received by January 1.

8. Test of English as a Foreign Language (if applicable)

Every applicant whose native language is not English, or whose entire undergraduate instruction was not in English, must provide official scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). TOEFL information can be found at www.ets.org.  The La Follette School requires a TOEFL paper-based test score of 580 or above, TOEFL computer-based test score of 237 or above, TOEFL Internet-based test score of 92 or above, or an IELTS score of 7 or above. The UW-Madison institution code is 1846. Tests should be completed to ensure scores are received by January 1.

The admissions committee may ask a student regardless of their English test results to take a University of Wisconsin–Madison English assessment test upon arrival, and the student must register for any recommended English-as-a-second-language course(s) in the first semester of graduate study.

9. Review the UW-Madison Graduate School application steps

Applicants are encouraged to review all of the information on the UW-Madison Graduate School admissions page, especially the FAQ which address many common applicant questions and provide important information for international applicants regarding financial documentation, English proficiency, and Visa information.

Prerequisite courses

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MPA prerequisite courses

(A strong MPA applicant has taken these courses or their equivalents and earned a B or above.)

Introduction to microeconomics or course equivalent to Microeconomics 101 or Agricultural and Applied Economics 215
Introduction to statistics or calculus or course equivalent to Statistics 301 or Math 211 or Math 221 or Sociology 360 or Psychology 210
Introduction to American government or course equivalent to Political Science 104

MIPA prerequisite courses

(A strong MIPA applicant has taken these courses or their equivalents and earned a B or above.)
Introduction to microeconomics or course equivalent to Microeconomics 101 or Agricultural and Applied Economics 215
Introduction to macroeconomics or course equivalent to Macroeconomics 102
Introduction to statistics or calculus or course equivalent to Statistics 301 or Math 211 or Math 221 or Sociology 360 or Psychology 210
Comparative politics or international relations or course equivalent to Political Science 120 or Political Science 140
Three semesters of language study (or a year or more experience of living abroad)

Accelerated Program applicants

The Accelerated Program has a different application process.

Application for admission to the accelerated program for MPA or MIPA is only open to undergraduates currently enrolled at UW-Madison and must be made directly to La Follette after five semesters of undergraduate study.

Accelerated Admissions

Reapplicants and Deferred Applicants

Requirements for Reapplicants

Students who began the program and take a semester or more off (not including summer terms) must resubmit the online application and email the admissions@lafollette.wisc.edu with notification of reentry, a resume, and an updated statement of purpose.

Requirements for Deferred Applicants

If you were offered admission for the previous year and deferred your enrollment for the allowed one year, you must contact admissions@lafollette.wisc.edu directly to inform us of your intent to enroll. To be considered for funding, you must complete the online application, pay the fee, and submit an updated resume and statement of purpose by January 1.

Contact admissions staff

Email: admissions@lafollette.wisc.edu
Phone: 608-262-9163

Contact students and alumni about thier experience

  • Profile photo of Mitchell Wenzel

    Mitchell Wenzel, MPA

    "Madison has a plethora of opportunities for government agencies and nonprofits as the state’s hub of those sectors."

  • Profile photo of Sukhvir Singh

    Sukhvir Singh, MPA, MPH

    "The MPA program allows me to supplement my public health knowledge with analytical tools."

  • Profile photo of Gillian Giglierano

    Gillian Giglierano, MPA

    "The access to resources and connections you receive when you’re a La Follette student is incredible!"

  • Profile photo of Samuel Landowski

    Samuel Landowski, MPA

    "I am continuously inspired by my peers’ expertise and passion and am happy to call many of them close friends."

  • Photo of Master of International Public Affairs student Ben Vargas

    Ben Vargas, MIPA

    "I was drawn to the Accelerated MIPA program when I learned that I could gain skills and earn a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in five years by the age of 22."

  • More student and alumni contacts

Frequently asked questions

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What is the master's degree program application deadline? Is it a postmarked deadline?

Applications must be submitted and complete on or before January 1 to have priority consideration for admission, and for applicants eligible for funding, a La Follette School Fellowship and other scholarships. This means all letters of recommendation must also be submitted by January 1 so be sure to reach out to your recommenders well in advance of the January 1 deadline to request your letters. All other applications are reviewed on a rolling admissions basis; if there is room in the class, applications will continue to be reviewed.

What is the profile of a typical La Follette entering class?

This is the profile of the 2022 class:

Students: 53

Number of women: 28

Number of men: 25

Wisconsin residents: 55%

States represented: CA, GA, IL, IN, KS, MO, MN, NE, NJ, TN, WA, WI

Countries Represented: Brazil, China, Kenya, Korea, Mali, Pakistan, Singapore, and the United States

Average age: 25

Total (First year and Continuing) Students: 114

Is work experience required for admission?

It is preferred; however, we also admit students directly from undergraduate programs. Our students have diverse backgrounds and an average of three years of experience in government, nonprofit organizations, and private business. The different expertise and backgrounds that La Follette students bring to the school contribute to the unique public affairs curriculum.

What are the prerequisite courses for admission?

For the MPA, recommended preparatory courses are introductory microeconomics, upper level algebra OR calculus and an American government course. For the MIPA recommended preparation courses are introductory microeconomics and macroeconomics, upper level algebra or calculus, equivelent of three semesters of a of a second language or study/work abroad experience, and a course in comparative politics or international relations. For both programs, students who have not taken a microeconomics course but have strong quantitative skills, may be able to waive the microeconomics prerequisite course.

Can I apply without having completed the prerequisite coursework?

A student can apply without completing prerequisites coursework. If the application is strong in other ways the admissions committee may decide to admit the student based on other evidence of ability to do well in the program.

For which degree programs are international applicants eligible?

International students may apply for admission into the Master of International Public Affairs (MIPA) or the Master of Public Affairs (MPA) program. However, international applicants should be aware that their background will be an asset when applying to the MIPA program. Those applicants interested in the MPA program are advised that the MPA program assumes a good knowledge of U.S. government and that MPA graduates generally intend to apply their learning in a U.S. setting. International students are encouraged to apply to the MPA program if they so choose. Students also may apply to both the MIPA and the MPA programs.

When will I receive an admissions decision?

The admissions office will begin sending admission emails and fellowship/scholarship letters in late February. If a letter does not mention a fellowship offer, the applicant should look to outside sources for funding.

Does the La Follette School have a visit day for accepted students?

Yes. The La Follette School will provide prospective students with information about Visit Day shortly after they are accepted. Visit Day is in March, and all accepted students are encouraged to attend. Accepted applicants may visit at any time; however, Visit Day provides more opportunities for meeting with faculty members and speaking with current students. In the past, the La Follette School Student Association has helped ensure that interested students are not precluded from visiting due to financial limitations. Limited funds will be available to assist with travel costs, and current students have hosted prospective visitors in the past.

Can I transfer credits that I've taken in other graduate programs?

Yes, up to nine credits can transfer from other graduate programs. The associate director reviews the course syllabi and determines how many elective credits will be applied toward the program’s 42 credits. Transfer credits do not show up on the University of Wisconsin–Madison graduate transcript.

Are there additional resources on the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus that would be helpful to a prospective graduate student?

The University of Wisconsin–Madison Graduate School website has information and resources that are helpful for prospective students. The current students page includes a link to the Guide to Graduate Student Life and information about living in Madison and how to get involved on campus.