Apply to the MS in Nonprofit Leadership Program

Admissions Requirements

Applicants for admission to the MS in Nonprofit Leadership Program at the School of Social Policy & Practice must meet all of the following criteria:

  • Hold at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university anywhere in the world;
  • Have a grade point average (GPA) that reflects strong academic ability;
  • For international applicants whose first language is not English, TOEFL score (Institutional Code D698) of 100 or higher or IELTS score of 7.5 or higher taken within the last two years.

Application Deadline

The application to the MS in Nonprofit Leadership Program has been extended until April 1st, 2024.

The priority application deadline is December 1st.

Select priority application applicants who are not admitted to the program early may be considered in the final application pool instead of being rejected. Applications will be accepted and considered after February 1st only if slots remain to be filled in the program.

Application Components

Online Application

Online Application


You must submit a resume as part of your online application.

Application Essay




Letters of Recommendation

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of Recommendation

Each application requires three letters of recommendation. Letters of recommendation should be submitted directly to the online application.

Applicants are required to have one academic reference and one employment or volunteer reference. The third letter can be an academic, an employment, or a volunteer reference. Students who graduated 4+ years ago may submit an employment or volunteer reference in place of the academic reference.

Applicants to the accelerated program must include a reference from the Executive Program they completed.


Test Scores

Admissions Interview

Admissions Interview

Video Interview

Additional Interviews

On occasion, applicants will be asked to interview after application submission. Although there is little preparation needed for the interview, you may want to consider the following:

  • Review your responses to the video interview prompts;
  • Be on time (sign into Zoom a few minutes early);
  • Dress professionally (wear what you feel is appropriate for a job interview);
  • Relax and be yourself.


Upon notification of acceptance for admission to the University, you are required to submit a nonrefundable $300 to reserve your spot in the class. The deposit due date is provided with the offer of admission. The deposit will be credited to your account upon matriculation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the structure of the on-campus program?

Students take a total of 10 course units (CUs) either full or part time 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. On-campus students may take some online courses.

What is the structure of the online program?

Students take a total of 10 course units (CUs) either full or part time to complete the NPL degree. Four CUs come from the NPL core courses, four CUs come from the NPL elective courses, and two CUs can be Penn Electives. Online students may take some on-campus courses.

There is an optional, recommended cohort building experience in August. Students are welcome to join SP2’s Commencement Exercises in May. Penn does not issue international student visas for the online program.

How many courses do you take each semester?

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

Part time students take two to two and a half CUs each semester, although they can also take one CU some semesters with approval from their advisor.

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

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 on-campus and online classes have averaged 20 to 30 students each.

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.

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 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.

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

Full-time students complete 180 to 225 hours with their host organization. Part-time students count their work with their nonprofit or social impact organization as the hours requirement.

The practicum ends in late April but can be extended through the summer through mutual agreement of the student and organization.

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?

The Leadership Practicum is a zero-credit course (NPLD 7010) that students must enroll in for two semesters. Students will attend monthly class meetings in addition to their work with a host organization or mentor. The Leadership Practicum is a requirement for successful completion of the program.

Who is my mentor for the practicum?

Your mentor is a leader within a nonprofit or social impact organization. Some students have multiple mentors within an organization and some have both a work supervisor and a mentor.

Is the NPL program accredited?

The Master of Science in Nonprofit Leadership degree program is offered by the University of Pennsylvania, an institution of higher education authorized to confer degrees and certificates conferring academic credit under applicable laws of the United States.

Students who are interested in participating in the program from countries other than the United States are advised that each jurisdiction may have its own laws and regulations governing online educational programs, and some jurisdictions may not recognize course credit or an online degree awarded by the University as satisfying local requirements for professional licensure, employment qualification, or other purposes. Before enrolling in this program, prospective students should investigate their jurisdiction’s treatment of foreign online programs to ensure that participation in this program will meet their objectives.