What are the basic requirements for admission to the NPL program?

  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university anywhere in the world with an overall GPA of 3.0 or higher;
  • TOEFL scores above 100 for international applicants (international applicants are eligible for the on-campus, full-time program). We will also accept IELTS scores of 7.5 or higher;
  • Three strong letters of recommendation including at least one professional and one academic recommendation;
  • A clear and concise personal statement discussing your interest in nonprofit leadership and what you would bring to the program; and
  • Experience volunteering or working in the nonprofit or social impact space.

When is the application deadline?

Applications are reviewed when they are complete. Priority will be given to those applications completed and ready for review by December 15th; the regular application deadline is January 15th. It is strongly recommended that applicants interested in the Nonprofit Leadership Program submit their applications as early as possible to ensure full consideration for the full-time and part-time options. The application is available on-line beginning in late September each year.

Applications will be accepted and considered after January 15th only if slots remain to be filled in the program. Accepted students must pay a nonrefundable deposit of $300.00 to secure a seat in the incoming class. There is an advantage in applying early in the cycle.

Is there an application fee, and if so, how much is it?

The application fee is $65.00 and is made through the online system at the time of application submission. All online applications received before December 1st will have a reduced fee of $25.00. Payment of the application fee should be made through a major credit card.

What information is required for an application to be considered complete?

In order for an application to be considered complete, the following must be received:

  • Completion of a formal application for admission including the application essay;
  • Proof of bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university anywhere in the world;
  • Submit official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended, including community colleges, transfer colleges, and study abroad programs (We are looking for an overall GPA of 3.0 or higher);
  • For international applicants whose first language is not English, we require you to take the TOEFL exam. TOEFL scores must be at a level appropriate for advanced graduate work (international applicants are eligible for the on-campus, full-time program);
  • Three strong letters of recommendation, including at least one professional and one academic reference;
  • Payment of a nonrefundable application fee.

Please Note: Transcripts reflecting more than two semesters of study at institutions based outside of the United States must be evaluated on a course-by-course basis by a third-party evaluation service such as WES or Educational Perspectives. This applies even if the studies were conducted in English and even if the transcript is printed in English. Applicants with these international transcripts should upload their university-issued transcripts into the online application and order their official, third-party evaluations sent to the School of Social Policy & Practice. Please note that these international transcripts cannot be considered official until they have been evaluated and that their respective applications cannot be reviewed until the evaluations have arrived in the Admissions Office.

Do you accept test scores other than the GREs?

Applicants are not required to submit GRE scores, but we will still consider test scores if an applicant chooses to submit them. While our preference is for applicants to take the GRE, we will accept GMAT and LSAT scores in lieu of the GRE testIn order to be considered, all test scores (e.g. GMAT, GRE, LSAT) must be within five (5) years.

Do I have to take the TOEFL exam?

We require official TOEFL scores for all students whose first language is not English. We are looking for scores in the range of 100 or higher. If the applicant is an international student who has received either a BA or BS degree at an accredited college/university within the United States (does not include any online degree programs or colleges with a branch in a foreign country), you may request a waiver of the TOEFL requirement.

Do you ever waive the TOEFL test requirements?

We will consider waiving the TOEFL requirement if the applicant can establish they have a thorough understanding and comprehension of the English language. The decision to waive the TOEFL requirement rests with the Associate Dean of Enrollment Management and the Director of the NPL program.

Can you clarify the requirements for letters of recommendation?

Applicants are required to submit three strong letters of recommendation from professional and academic references. These letters of recommendation should speak to the applicant’s academic abilities and/or work skills and leadership potential. Letters cannot be from a family member or someone you directly supervise. Use your discretion in selecting recommenders. Remember, these should be individuals who know you and can speak to your relevant strengths.

Does the fact that I need financial assistance negatively affect my chances for acceptance into the program?

Acceptance is based solely on suitability for our program. Whether or not you need financial assistance does not affect your acceptance or rejection.

Other Funding Options include:

For specific questions on financial aid, university based grants/scholarships, tuition and tuition assistance, you may contact:

What is the structure of the on-campus program?

Students take a total of 10 CUs to complete the NPL degree. Four CUs come from the NPL Core Courses, four CUs come from the NPL Elective Courses, and 2 CUs can be Penn Electives.

What is the structure of the online program?

Students take a total of 10 CUs to complete the NPL degree. There is an optional, recommended cohort building experience in August. Five CUs are completed in the fall semester online and five CUs are completed in the spring semester online. Online students may also take on-campus or SP2 global courses if they are able.  Students are welcome to join SP2’s Commencement Exercises in May. Penn does not issue international student visas for the online program.

The online program is designed so that working professionals can complete the program in 10 months fully online.

Is there a part-time component to the NPL program?

The on-campus program includes a part-time option. Part-time students begin their study in the fall semester and must take a minimum of two courses a semester (maximum of three courses a semester). It is anticipated that the part-time degree will be awarded within 2½ years of starting the program, although some students may complete the degree before this time. The program is structured so that all part-time students MUST complete the program in no more than five academic years.

How many courses do you take each semester?

Full-time on-campus students take 5 credit units (CUs) each semester to complete the program in May, although there is an option to take 4 CUs each semester and two in the final summer.

Part-time students take 2 to 3 CUs each semester, although they can also take 1 CU some semesters with approval from their advisor.

Online students take 5 CUs online in the fall semester and 5 CUs online in the spring semester.

Can students take their electives at other schools within the university?

On-campus students may take graduate level courses at one of the other graduate and professional schools with the consent of the Administrative Director of the NPL Program as well as permission from the course instructor and/or the school. Elective courses must be at least a 500 level course. Students also have the option of taking all ten of their courses within the NPL Program as we offer a wide range of diverse and compelling courses that are open not only to our students, but to the broader Penn community. Online students can take online courses in other schools within the University as long as they are 500-level or above and the student received permission from both their academic advisor and the department where the course is housed.

How many students are in a class?

Our classes are seminar style classes, averaging 25 students. This is a plan to promote the valuable classroom interaction and exchange between faculty and students. In other words, be prepared to participate, raise critical questions, and share your ideas and learning.

What is the size of your incoming NPL cohorts?

In recent years, the incoming class has averaged 20 to 25 full-time students, 15 to 20 part-time students, and 20 to 25 online students.

What is the difference between this degree in Nonprofit Leadership and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration?

Typically, public administration examines the creation and implementation of government policy, and how it can be applied in public service positions.  The NPL program invites our students to see themselves in leadership positions in a variety of sectors with primary focus on leadership, management, and social impact. We examine the intersection between and among the sectors, look at social entrepreneurship and the theory and practice of nonprofits, as well as financial management, budgeting, fundraising and philanthropy, ethics, and governance in a world that needs new leadership to continue to provide services and solutions to many issues that desire positive social outcomes and social impact.

Is the NPL program accredited?

The University of Pennsylvania is accredited, but there is no separate accreditation for nonprofit masters programs.

What is the grading system at SP2?

SP2 uses the system of letter grade evaluation that is used by other MA and PhD programs at the University. A cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or above is required for NPL graduation.

Does the School provide academic advising?

Yes. Each student is assigned an academic advisor who helps the student make the maximum use of the School and University’s resources for a rich academic experience.

What is the practicum?

The Leadership Practicum is an integral part of the experiential learning for all full-time on-campus NPL students, which builds upon core competencies and principles of leadership developed in the classroom. It consists of a supervised mentoring and leadership development experience: a partnership with the goal of learning about the organization and providing student support on various levels that can include strategic planning, succession planning, branding or marketing, development and philanthropy, or other targeted projects.

How is the practicum arranged?

The practicum is arranged through a matching process that includes practicum info sessions, interviews, and matching by the program coordinators and the administrative director.

How much time is spent in the practicum?

Students complete 180 to 225 hours with their host organization.

Do part-time and online students complete a practicum?

Part-time students are not required to complete the work hours for a practicum if they are currently working for a nonprofit or social impact organization, but they are encouraged to work with a mentor either within their organization or arranged with the program staff.

Online students complete a modified practicum that incorporates their current work with nonprofits or social impact organizations and a mentor relationship coordinated with the help of their advisor.

When does the practicum begin and end?

The placement process begins at the start of the academic year with the placement itself beginning in October. The practicum ends in late April, but can be extended through the summer through mutual agreement of the student and organization.

Can I arrange my own practicum?

In some circumstances a student may arrange their own practicum, but the placement must be approved by the Administrative Director of NPL.

When do submatriculate students complete the practicum?

Submatriculate students can complete their practicum during the summer between when they earn their undergraduate degree and the fall semester of their master’s degree or during their senior year as undergraduates as long as they have taken at least two NPL Core Courses prior to the practicum.

Will I receive a grade for the practicum?

No, the practicum does not include a grade, but it is a required portion of the program and includes reflection meetings and evaluations.

Who is my mentor for the practicum?

Your mentor is a leader within your organization. Some students have multiple mentors within an organization and some have both a work supervisor and a mentor.

Does the school offer financial aid?

SP2 offers financial aid to students admited to the NPL Program. We recognize the high cost of quality education and willingly help applicants with financial planning. Financial aid is given to the vast majority of our incoming students. In order to be considered for scholarships, students should complete the Financial Aid Supplement as part of the application for admission. We award financial aid as an investment in your professional future, and we invite applicants to be prepared to make a financial investment in their education. The return on this investment often is realized over the arc of your professional career.

What is the procedure for obtaining financial aid?

Financial Aid Process and Procedures

  • Step 1: All students applying for financial aid must first indicate their request on the Financial Plan Form, which is a part of the online application for admission.
  • Step 2: After you are admitted to the NPL Program, our Director of Financial Aid will review your information to determine your award.
  • Step 3: Complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (for U.S. citizens and permanent residents only) at www.fafsa.ed.gov.
  • Step 4: Students will be notified in late spring regarding their eligibility for federal aid and will be notified of further actions needed to accept federal aid.

Almost all American citizens or residents admitted to the program will use federal loan programs to finance their graduate education. To be eligible for a Guaranteed Student Loan you must complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Please click here for a complete explanation.

I already have undergraduate loans. Will I be approved for graduate student loans?

Yes. The required payment on your federal undergraduate loans will be deferred while you are a graduate student. Of course, you will have to resume payment of the undergraduate loans and begin payment of your graduate loans once you complete the program. A person who has previously defaulted on an undergraduate loan will not be eligible for graduate loans.

Many students will qualify for flexible loan repayment and forgiveness programs. Nearly all students are able to obtain additional funding through federal loan programs which qualify for Income Based Payment, a repayment plan that caps monthly loan payments based on income, making the cost of financing a Penn education affordable.  Depending on your career choices, some students will qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. This is for students who secure jobs in public service fields such as social work or social policy. Depending on the position, they may be able to have a significant portion of their educational debt cancelled tax free. More information on Income Based Repayment and Public Service Loan Forgiveness can be found at www.ibrinfo.org.

What do you consider in determining financial aid?

We consider your household income, number of dependents, savings, assets, and outstanding undergraduate loan indebtedness, among other things. We focus on merit and look at your strengths (what you bring to the NPL Program and what talents and diverse background you bring to the class of students) when determining financial aid. Just about all of our students apply for financial aid (e.g. scholarship), and we aim to provide as much financial investment as we can, understanding the high cost of obtaining a master’s degree from Penn.

When will I be notified of your decisions on my financial aid request?

After we have reached a decision on your acceptance, we then pass you on to the Director of Financial Aid. This is the step where a determination on how much scholarship will be awarded is made. Once a financial investment decision is made, the Admissions Office will issue an acceptance letter. The acceptance letter will inform you of any scholarship monies awarded by the School of Social Policy & Practice.

Questions about the program? Contact Administrative Director of the NPL Program Adam Roth-Saks at 215.573.2390 or infonpl@sp2.upenn.edu.

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