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Admissions FAQs

Below are the answers to many common questions regarding our admissions process. If your question is not answered below please contact

Admissions Requirements

I'm interested in a Master's Degree. Can I apply to your program?
No. The Department does not enroll students who seek a Master’s degree as a terminal degree.

Do I need to already have a Master's Degree to apply to the Ph.D. program?
No. To apply to our Ph.D. program, you must present official evidence that a baccalaureate degree has been received from an accredited institution or the equivalent, with training comparable to that provided by the University of California. A master's degree is not required.

I already have a Master's Degree. Can I transfer graduate work credits towards the Ph.D.?
No. A student who has already completed work towards a graduate degree prior to enrollment in our Ph.D. in Political Science program is subject to all degree requirements.

I am still in my last year of my bachelor's program but will graduate in the coming spring. Can I still apply for the Ph.D. program? 
Yes, you may still apply if your baccalaureate degree is still in progress as long as you will have graduated prior to the start of the Ph.D. program in late September. Proof of graduation (e.g. final transcript, degree copy, etc.) will need to be submitted to the Graduate Admissions office once available. 

Can I study part time?
No. The Ph.D. program is a full time program. Students are required to enroll in a minimum of 3 classes per quarter; classes all meet in-person and during the day.

I'm interested in applying to the Ph.D. in Political Science program and one other program at UCSD. Can I apply to two programs?
Yes, however, applicants must pay an application fee for each application. For full instructions, see Applying for Graduate Admissions.

Can I begin my first year in winter or spring?
Students are only admitted into the program Fall Quarter. The school year typically begins the third week of September.

How long does your program typically take to complete?
Please review the typical action plan.

What’s the first year like?
Please review the first year curriculum.

Do I need to contact a potential advisor prior to applying for the program? Do I need to have a faculty advisor already before I apply?
No - you may apply without first having contacted a potential advisor. The Director of Graduate Studies assigns a temporary first year faculty advisor for admitted students who accept the offer of admission. Students may change advisors after the first year. 

Can I receive a fee waiver for the graduate application, if I am applying to the Political Science PhD program?Students who have financial need and would like to request a fee waiver can send an email to Note, the Department has limited fee waivers and are not able to grant one to every student who makes a request.

We encourage students to check out the GEPA (Division of Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs) website to check if they are eligible to receive fee waivers through GEPA.
Fall 2023 Prospectives: All Political Science Department graduate application fee waiver spots have been allocated. Please read the following application fee questions on GEPA website for additional information .

Foreign Language Requirement

Is a foreign language competency a requirement of the program?
There is no foreign language competency requirement. Students that need a foreign language(s) for their research are expected to attain such competency on their own.


Is the GRE required?
The admissions committee will not require GRE scores for Fall 2023 admission. Please note that the GRE requirement may be reinstated for future admissions cycles.

How is the GRE used in the admissions process?
GRE scores are not required to be considered for admission into the Ph.D. program, but some students might find it helpful to use the GRE scores as an informative complement. GRE scores provide some information about math background, analytic skills, and overall academic skills. Applicants may have other types of evidence that demonstrate their aptitude in these areas (e.g., grades in college math courses; college GPA; ranking or percentile in college or major cohort, etc.), in which case the GRE scores do not weigh heavily in the admissions committee's decisions. The admissions committee typically considers the GRE when students do not have other evidence, or when it is difficult to interpret what this evidence means. For example, a student from a university that relies on grading scales and norms that diverge significantly from those of the traditional 4-year US higher educational system may want to include GRE scores as a way to complement their application material. Similarly, a student from a country where recommendation letters are not the norm may want to include GRE scores to contextualize their application material. Students whose academic transcripts do not provide evidence of a strong quantitative background may also find it beneficial to submit GRE scores.

How do I send my GRE scores to your department?
Our institution code is 4836. A department code is not necessary. 

I took my GRE exam well before the application deadline and have received my scores, but the official copies from ETS might arrive past the deadline, what should I do?
As long as you are able to self-report your GRE scores on your application, and submit them by the application deadline, your application will be reviewed. You still need to have ETS send your official scores to UCSD. If the official scores arrive past the application deadline, they will be matched with your self-reported scores for accuracy.

I have taken the GRE more than once, can my best scores be combined from each testing session?
If you have taken your GRE more than once and reported all your scores, the admissions committee will review all scores as presented from each testing session. You cannot select and combine scores from various exams. Please note that all scores provided will be visible and may be considered.

Am I required to take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System)? What’s the minimum TOEFL/IELTS score I need to apply?
The TOEFL or IELTS is required of all international applicants whose native language is not English or who were not enrolled in an institution that meets all of the following criteria: 

  • University-level accredited institution
  • Language of instruction is English
  • In a country where English is the dominant language (list of countries provided by the UC San Diego Graduate Division)
  • Studied at the institution full-time for at least one uninterrupted year and received at least a B (3.0 GPA) average

The minimum scores are as below:

    • Paper based test score 600 minimum
    • Computer based test score 250 minimum
    • Internet based test score 100 minimum
    • Band Score 7 minimum

Holistic Review

What is a holistic application review?
Admission into the graduate program in political science at UCSD is highly selective. About fifteen students, chosen from a large pool of applicants, enter the program each year. The admission committee uses a holistic approach to reviewing the application and focuses on evidence or potential for research skills, writing and communication skills, analytical thinking skills, contributions to diversity, and academic effort and preparation. In doing so, the admissions committee considers all submitted materials. Applicants are encouraged to demonstrate their potential in those areas throughout the application material.

Admissions Statistics

How many students do you accept into your Ph.D. program each year?
In general, we receive between 200 and 250 applications per year, and admit about one-quarter of applicants. Our incoming classes are on average 12-18 students. Click here for our admission statistics.

Student Statistics

What percentage of students complete the PhD program?
On average, about 75% of admitted students complete the program with a PhD. The completion rate varies by year but seems to be trending higher in recent years. For example, our current 5th year class has 76% of its original members on track to complete their dissertations.

Why do students leave the program? Where do they go?
Students that leave the program do so for many reasons: personal and family issues, career changes, etc. They take jobs in government, private industry, and consulting, among other areas.

Financial Aid

If I were admitted, what are my chances of getting financial aid?
The department is committed to supporting almost all incoming students, including international students, with full financial aid for at least five years (12 quarters). The financial support provided to graduate students is one of the key advantages of this program over similar programs across the country. By guaranteeing funding for almost the entire doctoral program, the department allows students to focus exclusively on their intellectual and professional development. The department's noncompetitive funding system encourages students to view academic life as a collaborative effort in which sharing and communicating ideas is essential to fruitful development. The primary types of funding come in the form of guaranteed teaching assistantships, guaranteed graduate researcher positions, and/or stipends. 

Letters of Recommendation

Who should I ask to write a letter of recommendation?
Our program requires 3 letters of recommendation. The best letters are those from people who know you well and can provide an accurate evaluation of your ability to perform and succeed at the graduate level. As your letters may be sent directly to the department without you ever seeing them, it is important to select those who know you and your work closely. 

I am a non-traditional student - do I have to have three letters of recommendation from old professors? 
Not necessarily - while academic letters of recommendation are helpful, we recognize that applicants may not be in touch with faculty from their alma maters. In cases like this, we recommend obtaining letters of recommendation from current or former supervisors at work that can evaluate your ability to perform and succeed in a rigorous graduate program. 

Can I use Interfolio to submit my letter(s) of recommendation?
Yes, you can use Interfolio. You will be required to enter the recommenders' information in your application and use the email address provided by Interfolio.

Do I have to wait to submit my application until I have all three letters of recommendation? What is the deadline for letters of recommendation?
You can submit your application if it is otherwise complete, and you do not need to wait for all three letters of recommendation to be uploaded to submit your application. The deadline for letters of recommendation is the same as the application deadline. 

Can I submit more than three letters of recommendation?
Yes; however, we recommend that you do not submit superfluous letters that are not directly relevant to your application (i.e. keep the letter writers limited to faculty members or current/former supervisors that can evaluate your ability to succeed in a rigorous graduate program).

Ph.D. in Political Science and International Affairs

I am interested in applying to the interdisciplinary Political Science International Affairs Ph.D. program. What should I do?
Students wishing to apply should contact GPS and submit their applications there. Applications will be approved by an Admissions Committee and the Department’s Admissions Committee. It is anticipated that one or two students per year will enter the program in its initial years, perhaps rising to three or more in future years, contingent upon availability of funding. Read further information on the joint doctoral program.

Can I apply to both the Ph.D. program in Political Science and the joint Ph.D. in Political Science and International Affairs?
Yes, you may apply to both programs. Please note that you will have to pay the application fee for both applications. 

I am interested in a Masters of International Affairs (MIA). Is this also an interdisciplinary program?
No, the Department of Political Science does not offer an interdisciplinary Masters program. Students interested in a MIA should contact the School of Global Policy and Strategy directly.

Supplementary Materials

Does the department accept academic writing samples included with the supporting materials required for admission?
Yes. Applicants have the option of submitting a writing sample with their online application. 

How short or long should my optional writing sample be?
There is no specific length for the optional writing piece. The admissions committee highly encourages research papers, but you may submit any piece that you believe would further strengthen your application.

I want to include my CV/resume/some other non-required document.  Where do I upload it?
You may upload your CV/resume in the section specifically titled "CV/Resume," located after the Statement of Purpose section, although there is no guarantee that additional items will be reviewed or considered by the admissions committee.

Job Market Placement

What jobs have Ph.D. graduates gone on to?
Please review our placement history webpage.