How competitive is admission to MAPSS at the University of Chicago?

Very. This past year, we read 815 direct and 968 referred applications to fill 250 places in our 2020 MAPSS cohort. The direct applicants applied for our January 4 and April 30 deadlines. The referred applicants came to our admission committee after initially applying to Chicago doctoral programs and receiving strong reviews from Divisional faculty.

When will I find out if I was admitted?

Applicants who applied for our January 4 deadline will be notified in early March. Persons applying after January 4 for our April 30 deadline will be notified once all materials are received and the file has been reviewed by our faculty committee. Anyone applying before April 30 will receive full consideration for admission and funding.

Is there an advantage to applying directly to MAPSS?

We strongly encourage direct applications. Direct applicants often know our program best. Many are encouraged to apply by MAPSS alumni who are now faculty at their undergraduate institutions.

Referred candidates may not realize how different we are from other MA programs, how selective we are for admission, what placement outcomes we achieve, or how warmly our students are met by faculty across the Division of the Social Sciences. Their faculty advisers are likely to be surprised by the amount of merit aid we furnish, from partial to full tuition.

We read both direct and referred applicants on an equal footing.

What is the difference between your January 4 and April 30 deadlines?

Persons applying for January 4 are read first and most generously. Anyone applying before April 30 will receive full consideration for admission and funding. We encourage anyone applying after January 4 to submit their materials as soon as they are able.

What elements of the application are most important?

We read all applications holistically, looking for evidence that students have the resilience and the ability to thrive at UChicago. We normally begin with the statement of purpose, then move to the transcript, the letters of recommendation, and the writing sample before making final decisions.

How much merit aid do you provide?

97% of a typical cohort receives substantial merit aid, from partial to full tuition grants. See the section on financing your degree for other sources of funding.

How important are the GRE scores?

Please see this page for current GRE policy in the Division.

For those disciplines that require them, GRE scores are important but play a small role in our review. There are wide variations in the students we admit, and we are much more forgiving than the typical PhD program.

Yikes! I have been out of school a few years and this sounds much more competitive than anticipated. Is it worth applying?

We welcome all applications and know that resilience and upward trajectories are highly predictive of graduate success. Do not be put off by the competition. We take pride in identifying candidates who took a little longer to find their feet but are now seeing serious upward momentum.

We are also happy to recruit students from institutions far outside the more conventional pipelines. Many of those persons go on to become our best students. We encourage you to contact us if you have any questions about your candidacy.

If I am accepted to the MAPSS program, who will my classmates be?

Our 2020 cohort has 250 students from 157 different undergraduate institutions. 56% are women. 51% are international, from 28 different countries. 38% of our American students self-identify as Black, Hispanic/LatinX, Middle Eastern, South Asian, East Asian, or as persons of mixed racial or ethnic identification. 19% are first generation college students. The average age is 24.4.

We hope to recruit the most talented and diverse cohort we can. We particularly welcome applications from students who identify as racial or ethnic minorities, are LGBTQ or gender non-conforming, or who come from unconventional backgrounds.

Our students have interests distributed across the Division. Most concentrate in Anthropology, Economics, History, Political Science, Psychology, or Sociology.

Others participate in one of our seven interdisciplinary concentrations, including Computational Social Science, Education and Society, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Geographic Information Science (GIS), Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Quantitative Methods & Social Analysis (QMSA), and SIFK: Formation of Knowledge.

Finally, a small number specialize in Comparative Human Development, the Committee on Social Thought, or Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science.

In addition to graduate courses in the Division of Social Sciences, our students also take classes from the Harris School of Public Policy, the Divinity School, the Law School, the School of Social Service Administration, the Booth School of Business, and across the Division of Humanities.

Is everyone on the PhD track?

Not at all. Many students come into our program with significant work experience, and many aspire to take their UChicago training into professional careers after they graduate.

A recent cohort, for example, had Teach for America, Americorps, and Peace Corps veterans; a medical doctor; several former psychology lab managers; persons with NGO experience in Mexico, Japan, Guatemala, Tanzania, Brazil, Jordan, Honduras, Portugal, Egypt, Belize, India, Costa Rica, Zambia, Nepal, the Philippines, Burkina Faso, China, Bangladesh, the Gambia, and Lebanon; a CFO from a financial consulting firm; former Fulbright scholars in Ireland and Russia; a former NSF researcher in Iceland; former nursery school and high school teachers; a technology analyst for Deloitte India; a former archaeological technician at Carlsbad National Park; an NCAA diver and campus/community organizer; a former intern at Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education; a recording artist with 4 album releases; a former Marine and volunteer zoo archaeologist; a journalist and magazine editor in Israel; researchers from several think tanks and policy institutes; two or three actors and directors with professional theaters; some who had entrepreneurial experience with start-ups in e-commerce; a former public information officer with the UN Food Program; a Chicago pastor; former interns at the White House and various congressional offices; and a former Luce scholar in Cambodia.

MAPSS gives you the opportunity to decide whether the PhD or a professional career is the better choice for you.

We count both outcomes a success, allowing our graduates to make informed choices as they move forward in their careers. We have an outstanding career service team, and each year we achieve some of the highest PhD placement rates in all of higher education.

When do I have to decide whether I am on the PhD or professional track?

You have the entire MAPSS year to make that decision. Indeed, some of our alumni only decide to pursue the PhD several years after graduating.

We support all students equally. While in MAPSS, students are not differently tracked in their course selections or the MA thesis. We hold everyone to the same standards.

The same professional-grade research and writing skills that make our graduates impressive to PhD selection committees make them extremely attractive to professional employers.

Our Career Service team and our PhD advisors will support you, no matter if you are a current graduate student or a MAPSS alum who graduated several years earlier.

See our section on careers and placement for the resources we provide and the outcomes we achieve.

Can admitted students start early, say in summer quarter?

The University offers some optional summer courses that may be of interest, including immersive language training through our Summer Language Institute and intensive ESL programming in Academic English. Each offers significant scholarship aid for our MA students.

In addition, many of our Psychology concentrators arrive early to begin work in a lab. Admitted students should contact Samantha Fan, our Assistant Instructional Professor in Psychology, on how best to approach UChicago faculty for placement.

Finally, there are several math camps that are offered in late August/early September, before the Fall quarter begins. They include the Econ math camp, the Computational Social Science math camp, and the more introductory graduate math camp.

More information on summer opportunities will be included in your letter of admission to MAPSS.