Apply for the Ph.D. in Policy Analysis
Applications are open for fall 2023. All components are due on January 5, 2023.
To receive preliminary feedback on your candidacy prior to investing your time into the admissions process, please consider submitting a pre-application.
We seek to enroll a diverse, talented, and engaged entering cohort each fall. We encourage an equitable and inclusive environment—one that is rich in different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives—in our graduate program and in the public policy field. Each application is comprehensively and holistically reviewed. All majors and disciplines are welcome.
All admitted Ph.D. students will receive a combination of a scholarship and a research fellowship; a separate application is not required.
Are you reapplying? Please review the information for reapplying below.
Visit our Admissions FAQs page for more information.
Ph.D. Application Components
On the main application form, you will be asked to select which policy engagement stream you are interested in pursuing:
- Research, Analysis, and Design
- Community-Partnered Policy and Action
- Technology Applications and Implications
After you submit your initial application form, within one business day you will receive an email notification that your Admissions Checklist is ready and you may proceed with the rest of the application.
Note: you can save your work and return to the application later; you do not have to complete it in one sitting.
Letters of Recommendation
We require three letters of recommendation from either academic or professional sources.
On the initial application form, you will be asked to complete the Recommender Confidentiality Waiver which asks whether you waive your right to access your recommendation letters if you are admitted to Pardee RAND. This pertains to the U.S. Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
As soon as you submit a letter of recommendation form, your recommenders will receive an email with instructions on how to submit their letter. Please contact recommenders in advance to confirm that they are willing to write a letter, and please follow up to confirm they received an email request from us and ask them to complete their letter well before the application deadline.
Each recommendation should address the following topics:
- Interest in policy analysis as a career/field of advanced study
- Prospects for success as a policy analyst
- Intellectual ability and potential for future intellectual growth
- Quantitative preparation and aptitude
- Ability to handle the demands of a highly rigorous doctoral program
You can check the status of your letters in the Admissions Portal.
School Transcripts and Quantitative Coursework
You will be asked for information about all academic institutions you attended since high school and you will need to upload unofficial transcripts from each of those institutions.
Transcripts must show a record of all courses taken, grades received, and degrees conferred. If you are enrolled in a fall term course, please wait until you have received your final grade(s) before submitting your transcript.
If a school’s transcript does not include degree conferral information, please provide separate official documentation or a photograph/photocopy of your diploma. Please upload transcripts for each school as separate files.
For transcripts in a language other than English, please provide an exact translation into English of each transcript (that includes courses, grades, and degree conferral). Please combine the transcript and the translation into one document and upload where indicated in the online application. You do not need to provide certified translations at the time of application.
If you are admitted and accept our offer, you will be required to send final, official transcripts for all institutions from which you earned a degree, as well as certified translations for any original documents that are not in English.
Additionally, you will be asked to indicate the quantitative coursework you have taken and the grades you received. You are not required to have completed all of these courses for admission.
- Univariable Calculus - Differential
- Univariable Calculus - Integral
- Multivariable Calculus
- Linear Matrix Algebra
- Other quantitative coursework
Please upload a resume or curriculum vitae (CV) that highlights your
- Academic background
- Work experience, including dates of employment and principal responsibilities
- Research, technical, computer, and other skillsets
- Honors and awards, publications, languages, and professional affiliations
We read each application comprehensively and holistically, and we consider the combination of personal accomplishments, academic background, work experience, essays, test scores, letters of recommendation, and other materials in a thoughtful review of each application file.
Standardized Test Scores (GRE or GMAT)
Applicants are suggested, but not required, to submit scores from either the GRE or GMAT. If you choose not to submit a GRE or GMAT score, the admissions committee will review the rest of your application for quantitative and writing preparation.
To be valid for the 2023 application, you must have taken the test after July 1, 2017 (GRE) or September 1, 2017 (GMAT). Home editions of the tests are valid. If you took the test more than once, include the highest score you received for each section, even if from different test dates.
We ask that you upload your unofficial score report, which can be a downloaded PDF of your test taker score report or a scanned personal copy of the official score report. If you are admitted and accept our offer, you will be required to submit your official score report.
English Language Proficiency Exam Results
For international students whose native language is not English and who have not studied at least two years at a higher education institution where courses are taught in English, we require an English language proficiency exam.
Scores are required from one of the following approved English language proficiency tests*:
- TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)
- IELTS (International English Language Test System)
- PTE Academic (Pearson English Language Test)
*The TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition, TOEFL ITP for China, or IELTS Indicator may be used to fulfill the English requirement.
Pardee RAND requires non-native English speaking applicants to receive an overall score of at least 100 on the TOEFL, 7.0 on the IELTS, or 68 on the PTE Academic. Sub scores indicated must be from the same test administration.
To be valid for the 2023 application, you must have taken the test after September 1, 2020.
As with the other exam results, we ask that you upload your unofficial score report. This can be a downloaded PDF of your test taker score report or a scanned personal copy of the official score report. If you are admitted and accept our offer, you will be required to submit your official score report if you had not done so already.
English language exemption
If you are an international applicant, you are exempted from the English language proficiency requirement if either of the following applies:
- You hold a bachelor's or higher degree from a university located in the United States or other English-speaking country where courses are taught in English, or
- You have completed at least two years of full-time study at a higher education institution where courses are taught in English.
The information you provide in the application will make it clear that you have the requisite language skills; you do not need to request an exemption.
Essays and Optional Statement
Your writing and essays are an important piece of the application process. They should help us understand your motivations to work in the field of public policy and to learn about you as an authentic individual beyond your transcripts and resume.
Please respond to the following three essay prompts (maximum 750 words each).
- Personal Statement: Tell us about yourself. What has motivated your interest in pursuing a Ph.D. in Policy Analysis and to apply to the Pardee RAND Graduate School? What are your long-term personal and professional goals and how do you see this program helping you to achieve that? As you write your statement, tell us how your unique background, experiences, and/or perspective contribute to the diversity of Pardee RAND Graduate School and to the diversity of the public policy field?
- Policy and Stream Interests: Please indicate the policy engagement stream to which you are applying and why. What makes you a good fit for this stream (both past experience and future intentions)? Please include the types of policy problems that interest you and how your current skills and the skillsets you hope to gain fit into those policy and stream areas. You may want to review the RAND website to see examples of the kinds of projects RAND researchers currently work. Explain which policy areas are most interesting to you and how you will utilize your skills and experience to benefit the research teams and your on-the-job training.
- Situational Question: Please describe a situation in which you needed to be creative in addressing a social problem, thoughtfully took a stand on a controversial issue, or recognized and recovered from a mistake you have made.
You will need to upload each essay individually. Please include your full name and question number with each essay.
If there is any information about your background that you were not able to provide elsewhere, please include it here. This might include additional comments about academic coursework, quantitative preparation, test scores, letters of recommendation, or hardships or other circumstances that impacted your work or education that would be helpful for the admissions committee to understand. These circumstances may include COVID-19, if applicable. Your response does not have to be in the form of a formal essay. Brief explanations on multiple topics are okay. (Maximum 300 words)
An $85 application fee will be due by the application deadline, payable by credit card within the Admissions Portal.
Application Fee Waiver
Applicants may request a fee waiver in the payment section of the application in the Admissions Portal. To be considered, applicants need to click on the waiver request form and upload required supporting documents. Fee waivers are offered based on:
Financial or other hardship
Fee waivers for financial hardship are open to U.S. citizens or permanent residents only. Upload one of the three below documents (with social security numbers redacted).
- A statement of need from a financial aid officer at the college or university that you are currently attending. This statement must include your Estimated Family Contribution (EFC), the financial aid officer’s signature, and your signature verifying that the information reported is correct. EFC cannot exceed $3,069.
- A copy of your 2022-2023 Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR is generated from the information that you provide on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) (http://www.fafsa.ed.gov) form and includes your Estimated Family Contribution (EFC). Do not submit a copy of your FAFSA. EFC cannot exceed $3,069.
- A copy of your 2021 Federal Income Tax return. Provide either your Form 1040, if listed as an independent, or a copy of your parent’s or guardian’s 2021 Federal Income Tax return, if listed as a dependent. Annual family income cannot exceed the maximum AGI. Family Income of $23,828 (family size=1), $32,227 (2), $40,626 (3), $49,025 (4), $57,424 (5); add $8,399 for each additional family member.
Participation in any of the below programs
Programs similar to those listed below will also be considered. Upload a letter or other documentation with your name and the program logo or letterhead indicating your participation.
- American Economic Association Summer Training and Scholarship Program
- American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES)
- Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Fellows
- Bill and Melinda Gates Millennium Scholars Program
- California Pre-Doc Program (Sally Casanova Scholars)
- Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP)
- Congressional Black Caucus Fellows
- Congressional Hispanic Caucus Fellows
- Coro Fellows
- Eisenhower Fellows
- Ford Fellows
- Former Foster Youth
- Fulbright/IIE Scholars
- GEM Fellows
- GRE Fee Reduction Program
- Hispanic Serving Institutions
- Hispanic Serving Institutions-Pathways Program (HSI)
- Historically Black Colleges and Universities
- Humphrey Fellows
- Institute for International Public Policy
- Laureates & Leaders (MIT)
- Leadership Alliance Summer Research Early Identification Program (SR-EIP)
- Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP)
- McNair Scholars Program
- Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program
- Meyerhoff Scholars Program – University of Maryland, Baltimore County
- Muskie Fellows
- National Association of African American Honors Programs (NAAAHP)
- National Name Exchange
- National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE)
- National Society of Black Physicists
- National Society of Hispanic Physicists
- NIH Blueprint Program for Enhancing Neuroscience Diversity through Undergraduate Research Education Experiences (BP-ENDURE)
- NIH Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) Initiative
- NIH Postbaccalaureate Research Training Program (PREP)
- NIH Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement Program (RISE)
- NIH/NIGMS Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC)
- NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF-REU)
- NYC Urban Fellows
- National Association of African American Honors Programs (NAAAHP)
- QuestBridge Scholars
- Peace Corps
- PPIA Fellows
- Ralph Bunche Summer Institute (RBSI)
- Rangel Graduate Fellowship Program
- Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS)
- Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE)
- Teach for America
- The PhD Project
- The Policy Academies
- Tribal Colleges
- Truman Scholars
- U.S. Military
- Upward Bound Math and Science
- Yellow Ribbon Program
Background Check (for Successful Applicants)
Students who are accepted into the program will be contacted by RAND to complete a background check required of all RAND employees. A conviction is not necessarily a bar to employment and all circumstances are considered. For more information or additional questions contact RAND Human Resources at email@example.com.
Information for Reapplying
We welcome reapplicants. If you applied to Pardee RAND in the previous five years (2017 or later), you are welcome to reuse some or all of the uploaded documents that you previously submitted.
- Start a 2023 application in our Admissions Portal. Blackbaud has upgraded its security, so please email us if you have problems logging in. Where indicated, provide the year of your previous application, and upload a cover letter explaining what is different about your application since the last time you applied and why you are a more competitive applicant. In addition to the Application Form, please complete the Academic and Quantitative Background and upload an updated CV or resume.
- Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and indicate which components, if any, you would like us to upload from your previous application:
- Transcripts (indicate all or specify which ones)
- GRE or GMAT score report
- TOEFL/IELTS/PTE Academic score report (if applicable)
- Letters of recommendation (indicate all or specify which ones)
- Essays (indicate all or specify which ones)
- After you receive a confirmation email from the admissions office that we have updated your application, please complete and submit the online application and all remaining components, including the $85 application fee.