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We frequently receive this question from eager applicants searching for opportunities to strengthen their application, as well as students who are concerned about specific aspects of their application. Actually, we probably receive this question from almost all incoming students.

So, what do we look for? Most of our students are aware of the reputation of the University of Chicago as an extremely rigorous institution, particularly in the quantitate coursework. Some students are attracted to this reputation, while other students fear they do not have the quantitative skills to be successful. In reviewing your application, we will carefully evaluate the quantitative experience, but this does not mean we look for one specific GRE score or a set list of undergraduate majors. We take into consideration your scores and academic background of course, but we will also review your current work experience and evaluate whether or not your essays address any particular areas of weakness.

Outside of the quantitative background, we look for academic diversity in the applicant pool. Often liberal arts students may believe they do not have the academic background for a policy program, but we at Harris understand that some of our most passionate and enthusiastic students pursued competitive liberal arts programs, and completed those programs with the strong critical thinking and writing skills required of Harris students. See our section on essays below to learn more about expressing fit.

Additionally, we want to see applicants who are excited to dive into both the curriculum at Harris as well as the opportunities available in the surrounding community at the University of Chicago. Many of our courses contain experiential learning opportunities, and we are seeking students who feel passionate about pursuing real-world opportunities to impact policy. If you have doubts about the impact the surrounding community can have on your policy studies, take a listen to episode one of The Axe Files (also available on iTunes) the podcast hosted by David Axelrod through the Institute of Politics here at UofC. During Episode One, UofC alums David Axelrod and Bernie Sanders discuss, among many other things, the opportunities they pursued outside the classroom.

Finally, we at Harris value the public service dedication we see in so many of our applicants. So much so that we will match the Segel award for those who have participated in AmeriCorps. If you are an AmeriCorp alum we highly encourage you to visit – and schedule a time to speak with a member of our staff by emailing harrisadmissions@uchicago.edu