Do I have a shot at Harvard’s MPA/ID?

That’s not my question, but one of my blog’s readers from a country in Latin America. She wrote:

“I’m seriously planning to apply for the MPA/ID program at HKS this year, but I’m doubting about my work experience and profile. Would you mind–only if you have the time, if not, don’t worry–to tell me your opinion about it? 

  • BS Hons Economics in a top 3 University in my country
  • Worked for a year (part-time) with a professor to develop the Human Development Index of the biggest State in my country for the UNDP. He is well recognized, on a National level, in terms of public policy.
  • Internship at the Ministry of economy.
  • Currently work for a small political consultancy. I specialize in public policy there. My boss was the governor (in the 90’s) of one of the most important cities in the world (also in my country) (do you think that could help, even a bit, for my HKS application?)
  • I have gained important scholarships in my country to study high school and college.
  • I was recently accepted at LSE and Imperial to study a masters. I’m rejecting them but I though I could post it to give you some sense of my profile.
  • I write for a national circulation newspaper about economic-related stuff (analysis)

I don’t know what do you think? I’m sure I will have a strong GRE, and I cover the academic background the MPA/ID asks for.The thing is that they say they prefer 2-3 years of work experience (I currently have one, two by 2013–in case that I get in), and I know that they want proven leadership and management skills.

The LSE and Imperial acceptances gave me confidence (especially because both were asking for “appropiate work experience”) but those programs are different from what Harvard asks for.

What do you think?”

Here is what I think, and wrote to her in reply via email:

Hola Latina, 

It’s a pleasant surprise to read your email. I can’t exactly remember my reply to your question on my blog, but you’re welcome!

To be honest I am not an authority when it comes to college admissions (or anything for that matter), especially here in the US, more so the MPA/ID at Harvard. From what I’ve read, MPA/ID offers first-year econ-PhD level course work. Also try to read Chris Blattman’s related blog post but you might have probably read that. I suggest you post your stats and read online forums like gradcafe, college confidential, etc. to seek further opinion and also see the stats of other applicants and those who have been accepted. I’ve been lurking some of these forums and find some threads useful and even quite entertaining. I’ve thought of doing another graduate degree (MPP or MPA) but I’m not yet so convinced.

Keep in touch and let me know how your applications go.





  1. Hi

    I have just completed my undergraduation in Bachelor’s of Management Studies with Finance as my major. Throughout my bachelor’s, I did not study Calculus as a course. But I wish to apply for the MPA/ID or the MPA program which requires calculus as a pre-requisite. I am worried and wanted to know if taking courses online from Coursera etc would suffice that requirement? And if not how can I suffice that requirement?


    1. Hi! I wish I could answer your question! Personally I find it difficult to study technical subjects such as calculus online. Better check with Harvard first, and Coursera course provider if you can get a school credit for it. Good luck!


  2. You should be competitive but more work exp. is better. – from another 2008 MPAID grad
    BTW, the program itself is BRUTAL – expect to be on the top floor of the kschool day after day.


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