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.

The last day for international students to submit an application is June 1. 

Application steps and requirements

We are currently accepting applications to start at the La Follette School in Fall 2024. Please read all the admission requirements before proceeding.  A $75 application fee is required to apply.  A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page for international students can be found here 

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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. Fee waivers are currently available to U.S. citizens, permanent resident applicants and students with DACA status.

Application Fee Waiver Form

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1. Meet Minimum Requirements for Admission to the UW-Madison Graduate School

  • Minimum requirements found here and below.
  • A bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution or a comparable degree from an international institution
  • A minimum undergraduate grade-point average (GPA) of 3.00 on the equivalent of the last 60 semester hours (approximately two years of work), or a master’s degree with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00
  • English proficiency for every applicant whose native language is not English, or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English, must provide an English proficiency score.
  • International financial information is required of international applicants to ensure they have adequate financial resources to cover expenses for the duration of their studies at UW-Madison.

2. 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.

3. Include a resume in the online application.

Please upload a current resume to the online application. If you completed a Junior Summer Institute through the Public Policy and International Affairs Program (PPIA), please include that on our resume.

4. Provide a Statement of Purpose

The statement of purpose provides you with 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. Your clear and concise narrative need not reiterate information we can gather from your transcripts and resume. This statement should be uploaded to the online application. In 250 words or less (1 page double spaced), respond to the questions below:

How have your background and life experiences, including cultural, geographical, financial, educational, or other opportunities or challenges motivated your decision to pursue a graduate degree at the Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs? How would this academic preparation help you progress toward your personal and/or professional goals and further the Wisconsin Idea?

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 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 if you do not include this section on extenuating circumstances.

We require you to certify that the essays you submit are entirely your own original work and have not been created using Artificial Intelligence (AI). Please be aware that if it is discovered that the submitted essays do not meet this requirement, we retain the right to revoke your admission.

5. Provide two letters of recommendation

The admissions committee prefers at least one letter of recommendation from a previous professor who can speak to your potential as a graduate student. The additional letter of recommendation can be from an employer, volunteer supervisor, 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.

6. Provide your transcripts

Applicants must submit undergraduate transcripts 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.

7. Complete the supplemental application

The supplemental application is included in the online application linked in Step 1 and you will be asked to provide the following information:

  • A prerequisite check to provide the admissions committee with information about courses you completed and preparation you have done that satisfies La Follette School prerequisites.
  • Quantitative essay: Write a 150-word statement (approximately half a page double spaced) about current or past professional work requiring quantitative or analytic skill or experience and how it has prepared you for graduate study in public affairs. If you do not have this background, please leave the essay blank.
  • Additional information about your application such as if you participated in certain public policy preparation programs, if you plan to apply for any dual-degrees, and acknowledging certain aspects of the program such as the fact that part-time students are not eligible for funding from the La Follette School.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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)

What if I am missing one or more of the prerequisite courses?

Completing the prerequisite courses is one of the best ways to improve your chances of admission and ensure success in our programs. Prerequisites cannot be completed after starting the program. Steps you can take to complete the prerequisites and improve your chances of admission are outlined in this document (pdf).

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 students and alumni about thier experience

  • Portrait of Al Schultz

    Al Schultz, MPA

    Contact Al Hometown Sussex, WI Undergraduate education Bachelor’s degree in philosophy and political science with a minor in integrated liberal studies, UW–Madison Professional/research interests Rulemaking, administrative processes, budgeting Expected graduation date May 2025 Why an …

  • Portrait of Alivia Lindorfer

    Alivia Lindorfer, MPA

    "Central to my career goals is the desire to effect positive change and empower individuals through the formulation and implementation of impactful public policies."

  • Minjung Jun takes a selfie in front of a canyon vista

    Minjung Jun, MIPA

    "My goal is to serve as a consultant for trade and economic policies of developing countries."

  • Portrait of Brelynn Billie

    Brelynn Bille, MPA

    "The accelerated MPA program drew me to the La Follette School."

  • Portrait of Francie Fink

    Francie Fink, MPA, EAP

    "It became clear that I could attend an excellent, renowned policy school while at the same time living in a fun, mid-sized city."

  • 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 2023 class:

Students: 43

Number of women: 28

Number of men: 15

Wisconsin residents: 42%

States represented: AZ, CA, IL, IN, MN, MO, NC, NY, OH, TX, UT, VA, WI, and Washington DC

Countries Represented: Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Syria, Thailand, and the United States

Average age: 25

Total (First year and Continuing) Students: 105

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.

Frequently asked questions for international students

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Am I qualified to apply for the Master of Public Affairs (MPA) or Master of International Public Affairs (MIPA) program?

You must meet the Graduate School’s requirements for admission as well as the admissions requirements for the La Follette School. The La Follette School’s admissions requirements can be found in the “application steps and requirements” section of this webpage. The last day for international students to submit an application is June 1. 

Should I apply to the MPA or to the MIPA program?

  • The Masters of Public Affairs program prepares students to take up positions as managers and analysts in government at all levels, in the rapidly growing nonprofit sector, and in private firms across the United States and has a primary focus on U.S. policy and management.
  • The Masters of International Public Affairs program prepares students from the United States and around the world to engage in governance in ways that meet the challenges of globalization. If you wish to work outside of the United States after completing your masters degree, the MIPA is the best option.
  • International students may apply for admission into the MIPA or the 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.

Do I need a supervising advisor or faculty member to agree to work with me before I apply?

No, this is not necessary. However, if you wish to learn more about our faculty members, you can do so here.

Do you provide funding or scholarships?

Yes, all applicants whose applications are submitted and complete including letters of recommendation by January 1 are automatically considered for limited funding including fellowships, assistantships, and scholarships. Other students regularly find funding from other campus units as well. You can learn about all that and more here: https://lafollette.wisc.edu/admissions/funding-financial/

The last day for international students to submit an application is June 1. 

Do you provide application fee waivers for international students?

Fee waivers are currently available to U.S. citizens, permanent resident applicants and students with DACA status.

How can I learn more about the program

 

Do I need to submit a TOEFL or IELTS score to prove my English proficiency?

Please consult the Graduate School’s requirements for admission. Scroll down to “English proficiency.” This information can also be found in the “application steps and requirements” section of this webpage.

If I am admitted and decide to attend the La Follette School, what next steps should I take?

Will I need to provide proof of funding to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison?

  • Yes, International students are required by the U.S. government to show proof of adequate funding to receive the proper immigration document and to apply for a U.S. student visa.
  • Estimated Expenses: Tuition Rates and Living expenses
  • The La Follette School has limited funding and is not able to provide funding to all students. You can learn more about funding opportunities at the La Follette School and across campus here. Funding is not guaranteed. However, many students are able to secure positions across campus and in In academic year 2022-23, 74% of La Follette School students held an assistantship or fellowship with tuition remission.
  • Other sources of funding outside of La Follette School or UW-Madison funds include work income, savings, private loans, military benefits, external fellowships, or scholarships from your home country.

Who should I email if I can’t make one of the information sessions and I have questions not answered on this webpage?