How to Apply for a Ph.D. in Public Policy

Applications Open: Sept. 1
Final Deadline: Dec. 1

Admissions Considerations

A number of considerations (in no particular order) consistently prove to be highly desirable in making positive admissions decisions: 

  • Interdisciplinary research abilities
  • Demonstrated intellectual curiosity
  • Strong background in the social sciences
  • Training in research methods and statistics
  • A coherent research plan and clear vision of how the resources available at The University of Texas and the LBJ School, including its faculty, are particularly suited to realizing that research plan
  • Proficiency in written and oral expression in English

We welcome applications from individuals with superior academic records and a demonstrated commitment to public policy research. Professional work experience is recommended. A master’s degree is not required for admissions. Only candidates who are judged to have the motivation and intellectual potential for sustained and sophisticated policy research will be admitted to the program. An applicant's record must also show significant likelihood that he or she will complete the Ph.D. program within four to five years. 

The PhD admissions process involves two stages. During the first stage, the admissions committee reviews each applicant to assess their qualifications and suitability for the program. For applicants that move forward from this first stage, the second stage involves review by faculty members whose research interests align with those of the applicant. For admission to the program, two of these faculty members must agree to serve as the applicant’s mentors during the first two years of the program. If you haven’t done so already, you might explore the faculty bios to make sure there are sufficient faculty at the LBJ School with research interests that align with your own. View the LBJ School Faculty.

Please note that the LBJ School's doctoral admissions process does NOT include pre-acceptance by any individual faculty. Thus, faculty at the LBJ School cannot tell applicants in advance whether they will be able to accept them as a student. While you are welcome to contact faculty to inquire about their research programs and future work, contacting faculty is not necessary prior to applying for the PhD program, and typically does not affect admissions decisions. 

For questions about the admissions process, you are welcome to contact OSAA's designated admissions officer for the PhD program, Stuart Bone at  


Application Process

The ApplyTexas application opens in early September. Please review the online application instructions for more details and fee information. Some U.S. or permanent resident applicants may be eligible for a UT application fee waiver on the basis of documented financial need.

Additionally, the LBJ School offers application fee waivers based on need. These waivers are not guaranteed and will be reviewed and considered as funds remain available. Click here to review requirements and submit an LBJ application fee waiver request.

Application Requirements 


Please review The University of Texas' instructions for submitting your transcripts.

Test Scores 

The GRE is optional but strongly encouraged, and the TOEFL is required of international applicants. We do not accept the IELTS. Visit UT's website for more information about test scores.

Letters of Recommendation

Three letters of recommendation are required as part of your application. For the Ph.D. program application, we require three academic references. Please review the departmental requirements section for more information about electronic submission of letters of recommendation.

Résumé or CV

After submitting your ApplyTexas application, you will receive access to your MyStatus page. You can upload your résumé or CV directly onto your MyStatus page once you receive access. Please note that it will take at least one to two business days for you to receive access to your MyStatus page after submitting your ApplyTexas application.

Proposal of Study

After submitting your ApplyTexas application, you will receive access to your MyStatus page. You can upload your Proposal of Study directly onto your MyStatus page once you receive access. Please upload a Proposal of Study that describes your interest and motivation for pursuing a research-focused doctoral degree in public policy. Your Proposal of Study should address the following: 

  1. Discuss the research questions that you are potentially interested in exploring for your dissertation research. 
  2. Identify at least two LBJ faculty members with whom you would like to work on this research. **Please note that you do not have to contact these faculty before applying. 
  3. To the best of your ability indicate the discipline area from the program website that you intend to pursue and briefly explain why your background is well matched to pursuing that area. If you have a preference for an interdisciplinary area, please indicate a set of core theoretical and methodological skills you hope to master and utilize in your future research.   

Writing Sample

After submitting your ApplyTexas application, you will receive access to your MyStatus page. You can upload your writing sample directly onto your MyStatus page. The writing sample (up to 25 pages) can be in the form of an essay, academic or professional report, or published article. 

Statement of Purpose

  • FOR ALL PROGRAMS: Please ensure your Statement of Purpose addresses the following prompts. Suggested length is two pages, single-spaced. 
  • What are the most important things the LBJ School Admissions Committee should know about you (e.g., personal history and background, unique experiences and perspectives)? In other words, what led you to your interest in public policy?
  • What are your professional and career goals? Ten years from now, what type of work do you hope to be doing in the field of public affairs?
  • How would a degree from the LBJ School (as opposed to any other public policy school) help you achieve your professional goals?
  • Please address any information that you believe your application would be incomplete without and that sheds more light on your unique potential to succeed in PhD program and contribute to the University community and the field or profession.


What to submit:

  • Complete ApplyTexas application
  • Application fee
  • Official transcripts from undergraduate and graduate institutions
  • GRE scores- optional but strongly recommended
  • TOEFL scores (for international applicants)
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Current résumé or CV
  • Statement of Purpose
  • Proposal of study
  • Writing sample

How to Verify Submission

Verify your application submission by visiting your MyStatus page to ensure we have received all of your materials, and check for additional steps to take after you've applied. The UT Graduate and International Admissions Center can assist with technical issues in submitting your application materials.