Cornell University


How to Apply and What to Expect

Admissions Process

  • CIPA has a rolling admissions program, admitting qualified students throughout the year. As numbers of applicants have been increasing, admissions may be closed at any point when the class is full. Candidates are urged to apply between November and January.
  • A faculty committee evaluates individual applications. If you submit your application for fall semester by the end of January, you can expect to receive notification of our decision by early March.
  • You will need to submit all of the following before your application is complete:

Official Application

  • Complete Cornell's Online Graduate School Application. If you have questions, you may contact the Cornell Graduate School office at 607-255-4884.

Overall academic record; transcript

  • Submit copies of transcripts from all colleges and universities previously attended.
  • Admitted students who accept the admissions offer are required to submit an official paper transcript prior to matriculation.

GRE scores

  • Scores must be sent to: Cornell University Code: 2098 Public Affairs Department Code: 2204
  • CIPA does NOT accept GMAT or LSAT scores in lieu of GRE scores.

Three (3) letters of recommendation

Current resume

English Language Proficiency Requirement

  • All international students must demonstrate proficiency in the English language.  Official test scores from a TOEFL or IELTS exam must be submitted.
  • The following minimum scores must be met on the new (2005) Internet-based test version of the TOEFL: writing 20, listening 15, reading 20, speaking 22.
  •  The Cornell Graduate School requires an overall band score of a 7.0 or higher on the IELTS.

An extensive written Statement of Purpose (500 words maximum)

Applicants should address the following points:

  • Why you are applying to the program
  • Personal and/or professional experience that have led to your interest in Cornell's MPA program
  • Your future goals--how you would put an MPA graduate education to use
  • Examples of volunteer work, positions of responsibility, and any other life experiences that have contributed to your interest in public affairs

Essay (1,000 words maximum)

  • Briefly describe an area of public affairs to which you would like to make a contribution
  • Discuss what you would like to see accomplished in this area
  • Explain how you would go about initiating, supporting, and sustaining changes in this area so as to enhance public well-being and public services.

Online Interview:

  • Once ALL application material has been received, you will be asked to complete an online interview. You will receive an e-mail containing login information and detailed instructions. 

Meeting You in Person

It would be ideal to meet all our applicants before we complete our admissions process, but since about half our students come from outside North America, that is impractical. We do encourage you to meet our admissions staff at the recruiting events listed on our schedule online. You may also attend the MPA Open House, held each spring, or arrange a personal visit to campus.

Qualifications for Admission

Because our pool of applicants is large, and has been increasing in numbers and qualifications in the recent years, our admission process is very selective. We offer places in our incoming classes to persons who present clear evidence of ability to succeed in a rigorous graduate program and the most demonstrated ability and/or potential to contribute to the broad domain of public affairs.

We look for persons with potential for leadership in this domain, as evidenced by professional work experience and by community, extracurricular or other relevant engagement. We appreciate good academic preparation in the social sciences and economics, plus analytical methods; however, applicants with strong background in some area of public affairs and who are prepared to gain such knowledge and skills will be considered. Public affairs can include careers in the public, private or CIPA sectors, in applied work such as journalism and philanthropy, and can range from community to international organizations.

Financial Aid

We provide some funding to more than 80 percent of our Fellows. CIPA itself, however, is unable to provide anyone with full support. We begin notifying applicants of financial support decisions in early March.

We encourage you to explore all available sources of external funding, including grants provided by your current employer. Many of our CIPA Fellows have won fellowships from CIPA, Truman, World Bank, and other programs. You can also view more information about fellowship funding from the Cornell Graduate School.

Integrity of Application

Cornell University expects all applicants to complete their application materials without the use of paid agents, credentials services, or other paid professional assistance. The use of such services violates University policy, and may lead to the rejection of application materials, the revocation of an admissions offer, cancellation of admission, or involuntary withdrawal from the University.