Tips for Postgraduate MPP Applicants

To our prospective applicants for the Batten School’s MPP Class of 2026: Welcome! You are on this page because you are at least considering whether to apply to our program. It’s an exciting pursuit, though I understand how daunting it can feel at times, particularly when you are considering multiple programs and balancing the other needs of work, school, and life in general. My hope is that this post will provide some clarity and a few useful tips as you begin the application process. And as always, we are here to provide whatever additional support is needed as you go forward.  

One of the questions I most often receive is some version of What do you look for in an applicant? or What can I do to make my application as strong as possible? It’s a good and important question. And you may have heard a variety of answers. My best response to these questions can be distilled into three points:  

  • First, get to know the school and the program, then tell them why you’d be a valuable member of that community. Even within the network of policy schools, every program is unique in its own way. Ours is certainly different. Notice that I didn’t say it’s better – that’s up to you to decide. I’m here at Batten because I sincerely believe in its mission. But you have to find the program (or programs) that speak to you. Our mission is to teach and train the next generation of consequential policy leaders. We are the only school that explicitly integrates leadership with policy, and policy with leadership. For us, this isn’t just a two-year program. We’re looking to build a lifelong community of individuals who will change the world. So when we review an application, we’re looking for people who understand what it is we’re trying to do and desire to be a part of it. 

  • Second, answer the essay questions as they’re written. This may seem self-evident, but it’s not uncommon to see applicants cut and paste the same essay from a different application….and forget to change the school’s name! I get it – essays take a lot of time and mental energy. But schools ask questions specifically because they are trying to draw out evidence of things that matter to their program. If you answer essay questions directly – even if not perfectly – schools will have the best chance to consider your contribution to their community. 

  • Finally, remember that you are the asset, not the school. While I appreciate the question of how to build the strongest possible application for Batten, I think the better question to ask is What’s the best program for me and my future aspirations? There are so many outstanding programs out there. Find the one that is best for you. If it’s Batten, we will humbly accept the application. But you’ve worked very hard to get to the position to apply to graduate school, and chances are you have much to offer to these programs. Please don’t forget that – you’ve earned it! 

Between now and whatever application deadline you choose (November 15, January 19, or March 29), we are here to help. So if you have any additional questions on the application, or need more information and insights about our program, our school, and our university, please do not hesitate to ask. I offer daily virtual appointments, and we are offering an in-person MPP Open House in Charlottesville on Saturday, October 28 that might help guide your graduate school search. Registration for our Open House will open soon. I wish you the very best on your search, and hope to see many of you here at UVA next fall!