Heller School Admissions

The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University

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MA in Sustainable International Development Application Requirements

The Master of Arts in Sustainable International Development is a rigorous academic program that is also deeply committed to experiential learning. Our goal is to equip students with the hard skills and substantive knowledge needed to make a difference in the world. Our class, typically comprised of 60% international students and 40% American students, is a vibrant worldwide community where students share their diverse experiences and aspirations, and learn from one another.

The admissions committee highly values a strong academic record in development and related fields (e.g. economics, anthropology, women’s studies), practical development experience, and demonstrated leadership—from grassroots entrepreneurship to volunteer work. Participation in U.S. national service programs such as Peace Corps and AmeriCorps, or local and international NGOs is also highly regarded. Applicants with questions about their level of experience are encouraged to contact admissions to learn more.

Visit the MA in Sustainable International Development program page for more information about the curriculum, careers, and further details.

If you have questions, feel free to contact our team at HellerAdmissions@brandeis.edu. We look forward to connecting with you!

Application Deadlines

All full-time degree programs officially begin in the fall semester (end of August) each year. Review the application deadlines here.

Application Form

Applicants are strongly encouraged to submit an online application form. The Heller School strives to reduce waste by minimizing the amount of paper used in the application process.  Applying online ensures that your application will be processed quickly and efficiently.

Applicants should have the following information close at hand or saved on your computer when completing the form.

  • Names and email addresses of those who will write your letters of recommendation
  • Names of undergraduate and graduate colleges/universities and the dates of attendance
  • Statement of Purpose, Resume/CV and other required writing samples saved on the computer on which you are working (preferred)

Applicants who are unable to apply online  may submit a paper application to the Heller School. The paper application form can be downloaded here. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view this material.  If you are mailing the application form, we encourage you to submit the Application Form with other relevant application materials in a single application bundle. Applications sent by mail may take 10-15 business days to process.

Some points to remember:

  • Do not write in CAPS only. Please use upper and lower case lettering.
  • “First Name” refers to your given name. “Last Name” or “Family Name” refers to your surname. Please be sure to write the correct names in the correct spaces to avoid confusion, even if it seems you are writing your name in the wrong order.
  • “Undergraduate schools attended” refers to university, not secondary, study. Please note that you should include only universities from which you have earned a degree. Do not include certificate schools, transfer school information, or non-degree coursework.
  • Please note the question asking if you wish to apply for financial assistance.  Indicate yes, and tell us your other sources of possible funding if you are requesting financial assistance. No other financial aid form is required.
  • A paper application must be signed and dated.
  • If you are mailing the application form, we encourage you to submit the application form with all other required application materials in a single package.

All credentials not submitted electronically may be sent in a complete package to:
Brandeis University
The Heller School for Social Policy and Management
415 South Street, MS 035
Waltham, MA  02454-9110

Application Fee

The Application Fee is US $55.00. This fee is waived for applicants from developing nations and current or returned Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, City Year, and other service organization volunteers.  For a complete list of the nations for which the application fee is waived, please refer hereContact the admissions office at HellerAdmissions@Brandeis.edu if you are unsure if you are required to pay the application fee. Applications will not enter the review process until the application fee is received.

Statement of Purpose

The statement of purpose is the most important aspect of the application.  Use the statement of purpose as an opportunity to discuss professional goals and how this program will contribute to the fulfillment of these goals.  Refer to your own experience (professional and/or voluntary) and discuss how it relates to a commitment to development. 

The statement of purpose must be your own original work, and should be between 2-3 pages in length, double-spaced. The statement should be submitted in paragraph format, not as a bulleted list. Be sure to include your name and proposed program on each page of your statement of purpose.

The statement of purpose must be submitted electronically when you complete the application.  Documents should be saved on your computer and uploaded in PDF format. If you are unable to upload documents in PDF format, you may also use .doc, .docx, and .rtf. Other file types will be unreadable. Please do not email us or mail to us a copy of your uploaded documents. Doing so will delay the processing of your application.

Research Proposal for Applicants to the Accelerated MA-SID Program

Within the two-year MA-SID degree program, the Accelerated Program is an option available only for development professionals with at least five years' mid-level management experience. This intensive one-year academic program waives the required second year practicum or advanced studies, based on the applicant’s prior experience.

In order for us to review applications for this accelerated MA-SID program, the application must include a short research proposal in addition to the personal statement.  The research proposal should identify a topic for the master's paper or thesis, present its relevance for development, and include key references and data to be used for the research paper.  The research proposal should be two to three typed pages in length.  This proposal will be used to assess an applicant's potential fit for the accelerated program and to identify a suitable academic advisor within the SID faculty.

Please note that the research proposal is not required for applicants to the regular two-year degree program.  It is required only for applicants to the accelerated one-year program.

Resume/Curriculum Vitae

The resume or curriculum vitae should detail your professional and academic background as well as highlight relevant skills and accomplishments. The Heller School does not place limits on the length of your resume/CV, but applicants should make every effort to present relevant information neatly and succinctly.

For tips on constructing a resume or curriculum vitae for graduate school, please visit the Brandeis University Career Center website.

The resume or CV must be submitted electronically when you complete the application.  Documents should be saved on your computer and uploaded in PDF format. This is preferable for the admission committee.  If you are unable to upload documents in PDF format, you may also use .doc, .docx, and .rtf. Other file types will be unreadable. Please do not email us or mail to us a copy of your uploaded documents. Doing so will delay the processing of your application.

If you are completing a paper application, please include the resume/CV when you mail your application credentials.

University Transcripts

A bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution in the United States or a comparable degree from a foreign academic institution is required.

We must receive transcripts from every university, college, or graduate institution you have attended. Transcripts should show the name of each course and the grade received, as well as the year/term in which it was taken. We encourage you to submit scanned, electronic copies of your transcript with your online application to ensure the quickest review. 

Transcripts must be electronic copies of the official transcript issued by the institution and include one or more of the following features: the registrar signature, the registrar's seal, an institutional watermark, or be printed on official institutional paper. Please do not mail paper-based transcripts to us until you have been offered admission and you have accepted that offer, or we have specifically requested them.

  • International applicants whose transcripts are not in English must have transcripts translated by a certified translation agency, and both the original and translated transcripts must accompany the application. Applicants may not translate their own transcripts.
  • We realize that it can be difficult for international students to obtain more than one official copy of their university transcript. To assist you, we can accept certified true copies of your transcripts. A certified true copy is one which is certified as an exact replica of the original by either school officials or legal authorities such as embassies or a notary public.

If you are unable to upload your transcript, we will also accept mailed transcripts sent by your institution to the Heller School in a sealed envelope. Transcripts sent by mail may take up to 10-15 business days to be matched with your application.

If your college or university does not use a traditional 4.0 grading scale, please provide an explanation of the grading system, including systems of designation for honors and distinction.

Letters of Recommendation

Three letters of recommendation are required.  The first letter should be a professional assessment from a supervisor at the institution where you are employed or were recently employed.  The second letter should be an academic assessment from a former professor or advisor.  The third letter may be either academic or professional.  An academic letter, however, is not required if you last attended university more than ten years ago.

  • On your application, you will be asked to provide the e-mail addresses of your recommenders. We will contact your recommenders with instructions on how to submit the recommendation. Online recommendations are instantly attached to your application as soon as they are submitted. You may change your recommenders at any time through the online application. All letters of recommendation must be on official letterhead from the recommender's organization and must include the recommender's complete contact information: name, professional title, name and address of the organization, and telephone. If the recommender is unable to upload a document on official letterhead, then the recommender must mail a hard copy of the letter. (See below.)
  • If your recommenders prefer to submit a hard copy letter, we ask they use this recommendation form so that we know if you have waived your right to read the recommendation. We will, however, accept letters without the form. All letters of recommendation sent by post should be printed on official letterhead or include the recommender’s official business card. All letters of recommendation should be submitted in signed, sealed envelopes.

Standardized Test Scores

The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is not required for admission to the master of arts in Sustainable International Development. Because so many of our successful students come from developing nations, we do not use standardized test scores as an assessment tool for applicants to the MA program.

If you have taken the GRE, you may wish to submit your test scores as a supplemental application credential. Test scores will be sent directly by ETS, Educational Testing Service. The GRE code is 3097.

English Language Proficiency

International applicants whose native language is not English or who have not completed a degree program in an English-speaking program must submit proof of their English language proficiency.  Typically, applicants will submit results of the Test of English Language (TOEFL) or of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS.)


Official TOEFL scores must be sent directly through ETS to our institution code 3097 at the time that you apply.


In order to fulfill your application requirements, you may submit a scanned copy of your official IELTS score report. Admitted students who accept the offer of admission will be expected to send hard copies of official score reports, or bring the report during orientation.

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