PhD in Public Affairs Application Requirements

Upcoming PhD in Public Affairs application deadline: December 1.

Fee waivers may be available for applicants with financial need who preliminarily show good fit within our program. Apply by November 20 for consideration.

The Management and Governance track of the PhD program is closed to applications for fall 2023.

The Humphrey School Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Public Affairs program prepares researchers to enter academia or join highly respected institutions involved in cutting edge research in public affairs, policy, planning, and management/governance.

Successful applicants are clear about their research interests and why the Humphrey School is the best place to do that research. Students are expected to make original theoretical, methodological, or substantive contributions in one of four specialization areas: Public Policy; Urban Planning; Management and Governance; or Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy.


  • Four-year bachelor's degree from an accredited US university or foreign equivalent
  • English language proficiency (see below for more information)

PhD in Public Affairs Application Checklist

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1. Personal statement: Statement of purpose and research interests

Your personal statement should focus on the research questions and topics you would like to pursue during your PhD study, and the faculty with whom you think your interests most closely match. We highly recommend that applicants reach out to more than one Humphrey School faculty member for potential advising interests. One of our main goals for admission is being able to assign multiple advising faculty to each admitted student.

You do not need to prepare a separate Description of Research, though you may if you want to share more about your previous research experience.

2. Diversity statement

The diversity statement is optional yet recommended for all applicants. The statement should discuss how your background, experiences, and achievements will contribute to the University's goal of promoting excellence through diversity. If applicable, applicants should mention hardships or obstacles that they have overcome to complete their undergraduate education (e.g. low-income and first-generation college applicants).

3. Resume or CV

A resume or CV is required of all applicants. Please include information about awards, leadership, and service or volunteer activities in your resume.

4. Writing sample

Upload a writing sample where indicated on the application. Appropriate samples would include journal articles, master’s thesis, or other professional writings that demonstrate research capability.

5. Letters of recommendation

Three letters of recommendation are required. Please request your letters of recommendation through the Graduate School application system. If your recommender cannot upload his/her recommendation online, s/he may send it in a sealed envelope signed across the back flap to the Humphrey School. Faxed and emailed copies are not accepted.

Letters should address your capacity for advanced study, motivation and purpose, and strengths and weaknesses that might affect performance as a graduate student.

6. GRE scores (temporarily suspended)

The Humphrey School will temporarily suspend the GRE requirement for Fall 2024 applicants to the PhD program. 

The temporary suspension of the GRE requirement for Fall 2024 applicants is due to continuing difficulty in some places in completing the GRE due to pandemic conditions. While many places have resumed normal testing, we recognize that this is not universally true. Students who do not submit GRE scores will not be disadvantaged in the admission process.

Students who already have valid GRE scores are allowed to include the scores in their applications for consideration, but they will not be automatically available to reviewers. They will only be used if there is more information needed to make a decision, and then only if they will positively influence the admissions decision. 

7. Transcripts

Transcripts are required of all applicants. Unofficial transcripts or academic records of all post secondary institutions attended should be uploaded directly to the online application. Please do not mail in paper copies of your transcripts (there is no need for official transcripts or academic records for initial review). If you are admitted, the University will then request official copies of this material. You will also need to manually enter the GPA information for each institution listed.

8. English language requirement

The University of Minnesota and the Humphrey School requires international applicants to submit scores from either the TOEFL, IELTS, or MELAB examination to assess English language proficiency. Visit the Graduate School website for more information on the English language requirement and minimum scores for admission.

  • TOEFL: Required minimum scores are 600 (paper test), 250 (computer test), or 100 (internet test). When submitting official TOEFL scores, use the University of Minnesota school code 6874.
  • Duolingo: Required minimum overall score is 115. Required minimum literacy subscore is 115. Visit the Graduate School website for more information on how to submit your scores. 
  • IELTS: Required minimum score is 7.0. Official IELTS scores must be sent directly from the test center to the office of Graduate Admissions, 309 Johnston Hall, 101 Pleasant Street SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455.

9. Application fee

The application fee is $75 for domestic applications and $95 for international applications. Fee waivers may be available for applicants with financial need who preliminarily show good fit within our program. Apply by November 20 for consideration.

10. Start an application

All Humphrey School applicants must complete the Graduate School application.

Apply today