Degree Programs at Harvard Kennedy School


The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University is the premiere professional school in the world for government officials, from senators to ambassadors. Located on the Cambridge shore of the Charles River in Boston, across the bridge from Harvard Business School, Harvard Kennedy School (or HKS) offers a number of degree programs designed to cater to the interests of the students.

  • Master of Public Policy (MPP) - The standard, 2-year, work-horse degree of the school. Year One is spent in the Core Curriculum learning skills from negotiations to econometrics; Year Two is spent on electives and a capstone thesis-like Policy Analysis Exercise. One of two options for the HBS/HKS program.
  • Master of Public Administration (MPA) - A 2-year free-for-all where you skip the core curriculum and feast on all the fascinating electives that HKS has to offer. The vast majority in this program are enrolled in Dual-MBA programs at T-10 Business Schools and the rest have already taken a substantial body of graduate school credits.
  • Master of Public Administration in International Development (MPA-ID) - The most rigorous 2-year master's degree at HKS for hard-core quants who want to work in international development, at a central bank, the IMF or the World Bank.
  • Mid-Career Master of Public Administration (MC-MPA) - 1-year program for those who want to take a pause in their career once they are more advanced in it. They add rich experiences to elective class discussions.
  • Joint & Dual MBA Programs (MPP/MBA or MPA/MBA or MPA-ID/MBA) - The best of both worlds - all the hard skills and prestige of an MBA with the global outlook and idealism of HKS. You can come for the integrated 3-year MPP/MBA or MPA-ID/MBA with Harvard Business School joining a growing network of alumni congressmen and CEOs, or a dual program at a different business school, coming to HKS in order to round out your resume with that golden Harvard Brand.

Harvard Kennedy School only has one application deadline each year. This year the application deadline is December 4, 2017. By that day you'll have to submit:

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  • Online application
  • $100 application fee
  • Essays, which vary by program:
    • Essay 1 (JFK Essay): The Harvard Kennedy School motto, echoing the President for whom the School is named, is “Ask what you can do.” Please share with the Admissions Committee your plans to create positive change through your public leadership and service. (600 word limit)
    • Essay 2 (MPP Essay): Describe a professional or academic episode that gave you a chance to use personal strengths, and/or revealed personal weaknesses. Then explain specifically how the MPP curriculum at HKS would leverage your distinctive abilities and/or fill gaps in your skill set as you equip yourself for your career goals. (600 word limit)
  • Additional analytic resume/statement, which vary by program
  • Three strong letters of recommendation from individuals in academia or other professional sectors who know you well and can tell us about your qualifications for our programs
  • Academic transcripts that include your institution's name, course names, grades you received and proof of your degree (if received)
  • Standardized test scores (GRE, GMAT, TOEFL, and/or IELTS)

HKS is much more interested in discovering "what you can do" than admitting those with sterling credentials so the essays are much more important to building a successful application. Also, when there is no interview, this is your only chance to communicate your unique narrative.

Tuck November Round Deadline in 5 Days!


The Tuck School of Business was the first modern business school founded in the United States (in 1900). Named for one of the founders of the Republican Party, Tuck boasts one of the robust old-school career networks that make business schools famous. Tuckies routinely score great jobs as established firms like McKinsey and BCG through the loyal Tuck network, and the larger, more fanatical Dartmouth College network.

Given its small class size and bucolic location, Tuck offers one of the most intimate MBA experience in the Top-10. Students are intensely social -- traveling around the world together on treks and and participate in intramural sports in record numbers (about 90% of the students play on one of the school's many Hockey teams -- it's a way of life!). To thrive in this environment, Tuckies pride themselves on their collaborative and social culture and are looking for applicants who can fit in and are equally fanatical about Tuck as they are.

Ivy Admissions Group has intensely deep roots at Dartmouth and can help you easily navigate the applicant-initiated interview. Our Ace the Interview service will provide you with a custom dossier of questions that you can expect based on your unique background, two complete student-style interviews with interactive debriefs, media coaching to come off as more likable, and even help with reflection feedback. It's everything you need to Ace the Interview!

JFK's Harvard Essay

When future President John F. Kennedy applied to Harvard College in 1935, he faced the following essay question, which he answered in the following way:

Why do you wish to come to Harvard?

The reasons that I have for wishing to go to Harvard are several. I feel that Harvard can give me a better background and a better liberal education than any other university. I have always wanted to go there, as I have felt that it is not just another college, but is a university with something definite to offer. Then too, I would like to go to the same college as my father. To be a "Harvard man" is an enviable distinction, and one that I sincerely hope I shall attain.

April 23, 1935
John F. Kennedy

JFK Harvard Essay

What did JFK do in his essay?

  • He establishes his interest in getting a liberal education, and established Harvard as the school strongest position to deliver this service.
  • He flatters Harvard and differentiates it by saying that it's not "just another college".
  • He states his long held desire to go to Harvard.
  • He mentions his legacy status.

How do we at Ivy Admissions Group evaluate his essay.

  • The writing is crafted, but the story is bad.
  • He does establish the uniqueness of Harvard, which is key to arguing that he should be admitted here, but he never explains why that point of differentiation is important to his future journey.
  • His family connection and desire to attend (which are the heart of his essay) are esoteric; third parties like the Adcom don't really care about personal desires. Afterall, if the Adcom ran a hardware store with a limited inventory, why would would they deny someone aching to drive a nail by giving their last hammer to another who just really likes hammers? (but my dad had the same hammer brand!)
  • JFK never talks about what he wants to do with his Harvard education or what journey he is on. When you offer a "quest" in your application, the Adcom's offer of admission is a vote for that cause, not just for you as a person. If you want to argue why they should just choose you as a person, you better be one compelling person!
  • He never explains how he will give back to the school (unless it is implied by his wealthy father).

What lessons can we draw from this essay?

  • When you have a rich famous father, make sure you mention him in your essay.
  • Harvard's admissions have gotten a LOT more rigorous over the past century.


Fascinating MBA Talk of the Week: 3 tips to boost your confidence

Nothing is more attractive in the interviewing room than confidence. The question is how do you get it?


  • The keys to confidence: genetics, how you're treated, and the choices you make (specifically how you take risks and respond to setbacks)
  • Picture your success when beginning a task, say by listening to music with a deep bass (which makes you feel powerful) or by giving yourself a pep talk
  • Practice failure. Those who fail often learn how to ask others for advice and persevere.

I Received an MBA Interview Invite...Now What?

Round 1 interview offers are starting to trickle out in the next few weeks. If you're one of the lucky applicants to get an offer to interview, how can you optimize the interview scheduling process?


1. Be ready to jump on the time you want

The interview sign-up portal usually opens day or so after you receive your interview invite email. Mark the day and exact time on your calendar! Most sign-ups are first come first serve, and your fellow applicants are fierce competitors for the best slot. Have a list of your preferred dates and times written out in rank order, so if your first choice is taken, you can quickly jump on your second choice. 

2. Know your long-range schedule ahead of time

The interviews usually run for a few weeks, so you have many dates to choose from. For most people Friday is the best day to interview, since you'll miss the least amount of work. Consider arriving the night before your interview so that you get plenty of time to settle in and relax. Map out how long it will take to get to the interview location. If you're there early enough the day before, consider visiting the interview location ahead of time so you know your route. The last thing you want to do is dash from the train station to your interview, arriving frazzled and not in peak condition.

3. Avoid interviews right before lunch, or at the end of the day

A study featured in the NYTimes showed that, "experienced parole judges in Israel granted freedom about 65% of the time to the first prisoner who appeared before them on a given day. By the end of a morning session, the chance of release had dropped almost to zero. After the same judge returned from a lunch break, the first prisoner once again had about a 65% chance at freedom. And once again the odds declined steadily."

What does this mean for you? Schedule your interview for early morning or early afternoon, when the interviewers are at their freshest. Mental capacity for decision-making can deteriorate throughout the day, and you want the interviewers to be in peak condition when they talk with you.

4. Don't put anything on your schedule right before the interview

You want to be at your best and any anxiety you may have about missing a connection or arriving late will likely impede your sleep, give you jitters, and hurt your verbal fluency. Plus you'll likely be thinking about little else than your interview earlier in the day. Do yourself a favor -- keep your calendar free before the interview. You can backload your day with meetings once all the pressure is off.

5. Consider MBA activities happening the rest of the day

Many schools have activities scheduled throughout the day for interviewees. For example, at HBS there are multiple opportunities to sit in on classes and various formal sessions led by the AdCom. If you've never visited the campus before, it may be worth spending the morning attending class or talking to students, so if anything relevant comes up you can sound like you know more about the school during your interview. Personally, I had visited campus before my interview and had a good understanding of the school's culture, so I much preferred doing the interview first thing in the morning and enjoying the rest of my day. Do whatever is best for you.

How to Ace the MBA Interview

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So you've submitted your application and now you finally have time to start thinking about interview prep. If you've applied to Harvard Business School you're anxiously awaiting the hear back from the Admissions Committee October 2nd and 5th to see if you received an interview invite. How can you best prepare for the interview?

1. Start now

Don't make the mistake of thinking that you should wait to see if you receive an interview invite before you start preparing. Sometimes the earliest turnaround between receiving an interview and the actual interview date is two weeks! Instead, use some of the downtime now to start preparing and rehearsing for the interview. Understand which kind of interview you will have (student, alumni, or Admissions Committee) and do you research on what to expect.

2. Know your application inside and out

Your entire application is fair game. The Admissions Committee may end up spending five minutes on one of the interests you listed on your resume, or the project you completed junior year of college. Make sure you can talk intelligently about what you did, what you learned, and what the impact was. More than anything, the Admissions Committee is going to want to know why. Why did you do what you did?

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You’ve been invited to interview – this is everything you need to have the knowledge and confidence required to succeed. We'll help figure out what the interviewer is going to ask in your particular interview, run through two full video interviews complete with feedback, and share best practices informed by our own interviewer experience and media training. Then -- we help you nail the post-interview reflection or follow-up email.

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    3. Be concise

    What the Admissions Committee is really testing for is to see if you will be a good contributor to the case method in a classroom setting. Will you be able to clearly and concisely communicate your thoughts in a way that is easily understood by your fellow classmates? if you haven't practiced for the interview, you're more likely to start rambling and not getting to the point. Since the entire interview is only 30 minutes, it's to your best advantage to get across as much information about yourself in the time allotted.

    4. Rehearse out loud

    Continuing the theme of being concise, you won't really know how good your answers are until you practice them out out loud, preferably in front of a friend. Sometimes what we say in our head or have written down comes across poorly or stilted when we actually try to say it. Also, practicing out loud will make you feel more comfortable and relaxed the day of. Interviewing is a skill that can be practiced.

    5. Film yourself

    If you know your application inside and out, know what points you want to get across, and have rehearsed out loud, the next step is to film yourself. This process is unpleasant for most people, but is often where you can gain the most. Film yourself either conducting a mock interview with a friend, or just saying your answers into the camera. When you re-watch the film, pay attention to a few things -- how do you look? Nervous? Listen to your tone -- do you have up-speak? Do you sound confident? Are you fidgeting? What are you doing with your hands? When we're so focused on what we're saying, we often lose track of these things, but they can have a big impact on the impression you make on the interviewer.

    Does it help to network with current students? If so, what should I ask?

    When I first started researching MBA programs, I reached out to everyone in my network who was at that school to chat about their experiences. I’m not sure why I did it – perhaps I thought that the admissions committee would somehow find out all the effort I was making and take it as a sign of my commitment. Boy was that wrong. Now that I’m a student at Harvard Business School who is constantly bombarded by requests from strangers to “pick my brain” about MBA programs, I understand just how annoying and pointless such conversations can be.

    School research is a critical step on your admissions path and students can be great resources. But recognize that arranging phone calls with MBA students and alumni will not in and of itself improve your odds of admission or reveal to you what you should put in your application. Instead you should have specific goals that you want to accomplish by reaching out, which I outline below.

    Okay to reach out:


    To get a feel for the school culture

    Admissions websites are full of hard information about the school: graduation requirements, curricular opportunities, and admissions criteria. What they often can’t capture is the soft information of the school – those elusive hard-to-define experiential aspects we call culture. Culture is an incredibly important part of any matriculation decision and it is something that current students feel constantly. Not only are current students most attuned to the school’s culture, they are often the ones most interested in talking about it.

    To plug into an affinity group

    Affinity groups for veterans and ethnic minorities are often plugged into the admissions department. They help with outreach in the community to broaden the applicant base, and they host special events for prospective students on campus. Using official channels to connect with these clubs and their “admissions ambassadors” can be a great way to get on the club’s email distribution list for admission events, access to any official club admission advice, and see what support resources exist at the school of someone in your community.

    To make sure your application “speaks the school’s language”

    MBA programs have unique vocabularies. Admissions committees and students alike can easily identify outsiders by the odd and foreign way they talk. For example, no one at HBS call it the “first year curriculum” – it’s the “required curriculum” or “RC”. Being able to talk about a school using its own language is essential to presenting yourself as a credible candidate.

    To know what you get out of specific classes

    Many applicants try to show off their knowledge of a school by talking about what unique benefit they seek to get out of specific required and elective coursework. I thought about it when I was applying, but there was only so much I could tell about what I would learn from a class by its title. Looking back, my intuition was WAY off and I’m glad I didn’t say anything about those classes. Anyone who has taken them would have immediately seen just how little I knew. Conversations with current students can help close this knowledge gap.

    To verify likelihood of career transitions

    Everyone goes to business school to make some change in their career. But is the transition you seek to make common or likely at the school in question? For example, if you want to work at an elite Venture Capital firm and are thinking of applying to a less competitive school, does that firm even recruit there? If you want to pursue a really non-traditional job, is that even one that an MBA will help you get? Having realistic career goals is an absolutely essential part of any application and current students (usually second-year students) will know best what career transitions are feasible – and at that school in particular.

    To find compelling ways of giving back to the school

    The best applications will argue why the candidate will actually improve the school. What clubs will you seek leadership positions in? Which positions are even available? Current students can be very useful in helping you find the best place for you to leave your mark.


    Don’t reach out:


    To have them lobby the admissions department on your behalf

    Individual students do not carry much sway with the admission committee. Unless they know you extremely well, they also would find it extremely awkward to vouch to the committee on your behalf. Paradoxically, the admissions committees will see such endorsements of close friends as biased anyway and discount what they say. Either way, it is a lose-lose except that by asking them to lobby, you spend up any social capital you may have.

    To get them to read your essays

    MBAs are busy and reading someone’s essay is a huge favor. If you box them into reading yours, they will likely give you short shrift without much actionable improvements. Furthermore, they may have made it through the process, but they are probably not experts at the admissions essay writing process. Finally, a stranger may be able to tell that an essay is bad or even why they dislike it, but unless they work with you closely and understand your narrative intimately, they won’t know what the range of options are for you to improve your story.

    To chit chat / “pick their brain”

    Again, MBAs are busy. They barely have enough time to hang-out with their friends at school let alone random people who want something from them. If you are going to ask for their time, make sure you respect them enough to have a definite purpose in mind. Send good questions in advance to show the MBA that you have done your research and are asking questions that only someone like them could answer

    To collect names to drop in the application

    This is probably the biggest abuse of informational chats. First of all, if this is your motivation you are using someone as a means to an end and will likely not even listen to what they say. Second, Elite MBA programs do not care how many people you spoke with before applying. Talk is cheap and there are better ways to show commitment. Third, if namedropping in conversation gets annoying, the same is true for your essays. Keep the focus on you and your story.

    Fascinating MBA Talk of the Week: The benefits of good posture - Murat Dalkilinç

    So much of life is how you show up. How you carry yourself also determines much of how you feel and the clarity of how you think. Sure this applies when you're studying, writing your application, and interviewing, but also to your life at business school, whether navigating recruiting events or in the MBA classroom.


    • Stand with all your vertebrae stacked upon one another, with two curves in it, this will put your center of gravity between your legs and maximize the efficiency of your movement.