Apply to the Pardee RAND Graduate School

Thank you for your interest in applying to the Ph.D. program at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. The application for the entering cohort of Fall 2019 will open on September 1, 2018. Feel free to review this page and others in this section of the site to learn more about the process.

Additionally, if you have not already done so, please consider submitting a pre-application. We encourage all prospective candidates to complete an online pre-application, as we can then advise you whether you have the appropriate qualifications for Pardee RAND ... before you invest your time into the admissions process.

The Application Process

The Pardee RAND application consists of seven parts:

  1. The online application
  2. Résumé or curriculum vitae (CV)
  3. Three essays
  4. Test scores
  5. Three letters of recommendation
  6. School transcripts
  7. Application fee of $50

The sections below detail the materials you are required to submit for each part. Contact our admissions office at if you have questions.

If you have applied to Pardee RAND in the past and would like to reapply for admission, please see our instructions for reapplying.

All applications are carefully reviewed by the Admissions Committee.


The Online Application

The Pardee RAND Graduate School requires that candidates apply online. You will not need to submit any hard copy materials.

The online application is part of an online software system called Populi (POP-yu-lee). You will create an online profile which will allow you to save and work on your application over multiple sessions. The online application consists of your contact information, academic background, coursework, self-reported test scores, activities and honors, professional background, and policy areas of interest.

You will also upload additional components of the application to Populi including your essays, unofficial undergraduate and graduate transcripts, and your résumé or CV.

Your Populi account is your main way of submitting your application components. Your information is saved as you go through the application and you can stop and return to the application at any time. Once you have finished uploading and filling out the entire application, please click “submit”. Additionally, you will be able to check on the status of your letters of recommendation, official test scores, and payment receipt.

The Fall 2019 application season will open September 1, 2018. All application materials must be received by January 8, 2019.


Résumé or CV

Please upload to Populi a résumé or curriculum vitae (CV) highlighting the following components:

  • Your academic background, including your major, degree and field of study for all institutions you have attended since finishing high school.
  • Your work history, including your title, organization, dates of employment, principal responsibilities and reason for leaving for all full-time and relevant part-time jobs you have held.
  • Any publications, reports, presentations, honors and awards, professional affiliations, languages, and other skills.


Three Essays

To help the Admissions Committee become acquainted with you as an individual and understand your interest in pursuing a Ph.D. at the Pardee RAND Graduate School, please consider carefully and respond to the following three essay questions.

Your writing and essays are an important piece of the application process and should help us understand your motivations to work in the field of public policy and to learn about you as an authentic individual beyond your transcripts and resume. Please limit each essay response to a maximum of 750 words.

  1. Personal Statement: Why did you choose to apply to the Pardee RAND Graduate School and a Ph.D. in Policy Analysis? How did where or how you grew up influence your interest in public policy (if applicable)? How do you see this program fitting in to your long-term personal and professional goals?
  2. Please tell us about the types of policy problems that interest you and how your current skills and the skillsets you hope to gain fit into those policy areas. You may want to review the RAND website to see the kinds of projects RAND researchers are currently working on. Explain which RAND policy areas are most interesting to you and how you will utilize your skills and experience to benefit the research teams and your on-the-job training.
  3. Please describe a situation in which you needed to be creative in addressing a social problem, thoughtfully took a stand on a controversial issue, or recognized and recovered from a mistake you have made.

Please include your full name, question number, and question text with each essay and submit them to the Populi online system.

For those interested in being considered for the Diversity Scholarship, please include in your essays your interest in policy issues most affecting historically underserved communities, and how you have and hope to demonstrate your commitment to working on these issues in the future. More information on the Diversity Scholarship is available here.

Test Scores

GRE or GMAT Exam

All applicants must submit valid test scores from either the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) General Test or the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT). To be valid for the 2019 application, the test must have been taken after September 1, 2013 (within the past 5 years). Official score reports should be sent directly from the administering testing agencies for the GRE (Pardee RAND [PRGS] institution code 4648) and GMAT (Pardee RAND [PRGS] institution code M9X-GD-45). Original score reports are required.

TOEFL (if applicable)

English language test scores on the TOEFL exam are required for all international applicants whose native language is not English. To be valid for the 2019 application, the test must have been taken after September 1, 2016 (within the past 2 years). Official score reports should be sent directly from the administering testing agency (Pardee RAND [PRGS] institution code 4648). Original score reports are required.

International applicants are exempted from the TOEFL requirement if they hold a bachelor's or higher degree from a university located in the United States or in another country in which English is the spoken language and the medium of instruction, or if they have completed at least two years of full-time study at an English-language instruction institution.

Pardee RAND requires applicants to receive a score of at least 100 on the TOEFL Internet-based test.


Three Letters of Recommendation

Each applicant is asked to submit three letters of recommendation, which may be from either academic or professional sources, and should address the following topics, to the extent to which the recommender has been able to observe the candidate's:

  • Interest in policy analysis as a career/field of advanced study
  • Prospects for success as a policy analyst
  • Intellectual ability and potential for future intellectual growth
  • Quantitative preparation and aptitude
  • Ability to handle the demands of a highly rigorous doctoral program

The letter of recommendation process is entirely online. Within the Populi application, you will be asked to provide the name, job title, organization/company, and work email address for three individuals. Once you submit this information, our online system will immediately generate a request to each of your recommenders by email, instructing them how to submit their letter of recommendation. Please note it is the applicant's responsibility to notify the recommenders in advance that they will be contacted by the Pardee RAND Graduate School and to ask them to complete their letter well in advance of the application deadline.

You can check the status of your letters of recommendation by logging in to the Populi application system. Your application will not be reviewed until we have received all three letters of recommendation.


Unofficial Undergraduate and Graduate School Transcripts

Please submit unofficial undergraduate and graduate school transcripts from all institutions you have attended since completing high school. Transcripts should show a record of all courses currently enrolled in and completed, along with degree confirmation.

Please upload your unofficial transcripts to the Populi application system. You may simply scan a hard copy of your transcript and upload to Populi or download your unofficial transcript from your university website, save, and upload to Populi. Please upload transcripts for each school as separate files. Lastly, please fill out the Academic Background section of the application before uploading transcripts.

If you are offered admission and accept our offer, you will be required to mail final, official transcripts to our office before starting the program.


$50 Application Fee

The application fee is $50 and must be paid by the application deadline, via our secure online payment system.

Please enter applicant's name:

Note: You do not need a PayPal account to use our online payment system, but you will need a credit card (or a debit card linked to an account with sufficient funds). We ask you to enter the applicant's name so we can match payments to applicants, in the event a different person's credit card is used.

If you have a U.S. checking account and would prefer to pay by check, please make your check out to Pardee RAND Graduate School and send your payment to:

Pardee RAND Graduate School
Admissions Officer
1776 Main Street
Box 2138
Santa Monica, CA 90407-2138

Application fees are not required for PPIA alumni, McNair scholars, or Peace Corps volunteers. Please send an email to to indicate your qualification for this waiver.

Background Check of Successful Applicants

Students who are accepted into the program will be required to complete a background check that is required for all RAND employees. Upon successfully being accepted for admission and invited to join Pardee RAND, our Human Resources department will contact accepted students to initiate the background check. A conviction will not necessarily be a bar to employment; all circumstances will be considered. For more information or additional questions contact RAND Human Resources at


Application Requirements for Reapplicants

For those candidates who wish to reapply to the program*, please do the following:

  • Send an email to indicating you would like to reapply to the program. A new application will be added to your file and you will receive an email from Populi indicating your new login instructions.
  • Fill out the online Populi application and complete all of the components, including an updated resumé or CV.
  • If you would like to reuse some application components such as your transcripts, test scores, or letters of recommendation, please send an email indicating this information to and we will pull this information from your previous file.
  • Lastly, please upload in your Populi application a cover letter explaining what is different about your application since the last time you applied and what you have been doing to become a more competitive applicant.

* Reapplicants who applied before 2014 will need to begin a new application.