Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts

Application Process

Application Process

To apply to the Ph.D. Program in Political Science:  (1) read these instructions from Penn State’s Graduate School and (2) complete the online application.

Application Deadline: December 10

Application Requirements

The following materials are required for a complete application:

  • Letters of recommendation: Your three letters of recommendation should be written by individuals qualified to judge your potential as a researcher, scholar, or teacher.  Generally speaking, letters from those in business, the military, or public service do not provide us with information that is useful in evaluating an applicant’s potential for graduate work in political science. References will be contacted only after your application has been submitted.
  • Official Transcripts: Applicants are required to electronically upload copies of transcripts (or equivalent documents for institutions outside the U.S., e.g., degree/study certificates, diplomas, etc.) for all post-secondary institutions attended, in the language of instructions (and copies of an official English translation if English is not the language of instruction). See below for more information on this.
  • Statement of goals: This two-page statement should include: (1) a brief description of your educational background, with specific emphasis on political science and related fields; (2) a discussion of the major fields and specialties in political science that interest you the most; (3) why you wish to study political science at Penn State; and (4) your current career plans and aspirations.
  • Writing sample: We encourage students to submit short, analytical papers or excerpts from longer papers (such as those written as senior honors theses). If a senior thesis is in progress, please consider submitting a thesis proposal or a 2–5 page introduction or summary of the planned thesis. The writing sample should demonstrate research and/or analytical skills. Applicants currently holding, or completing, a master’s degree in political science or a related field will want to use as a writing sample their best seminar paper, master’s thesis, conference paper, or other professional work.

Additional Application Information

Please send the following information to the address below. The Political Science Graduate program, does not require GREs be submitted as part of an application. The program, however, is largely (though not exclusively) quantitative in orientation. Admissions decisions consider, among other things, a student’s aptitude in handling and learning quantitative reasoning and techniques. In a strong application, the student will demonstrate such aptitude. To provide examples, this can be done by submitting transcripts that include courses where quantitative reasoning was stressed, letters that speak to the student’s abilities in this regard, or GRE scores.

  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores: Please have ETS send official copies directly to “Penn State” (2660).
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores: International students are required to submit TOEFL scores. Please have ETS send official copies directly to “Penn State”. Generally speaking, we look for a minimum combined score of 630 (paper) / 109 (iBT) score.

IELTS and MAT scores should be mailed to:

The Pennsylvania State University
Graduate Enrollment Services
114 Kern Building
University Park, PA  16802

Important: Applicants recommended for admission who accept an offer through the online graduate admission system will be notified (via email) by the Graduate School that official/original transcripts/documents must be sent from the originating institutions in the official language of the institution(s) attended (and if the language of instruction is not English, an official English translation must also be sent). For applicants whose degree conferral is in progress at the time of uploading copies, the deadline specified for receipt of official/original documents will allow for the passage of the reported date of degree conferral, and that conferral must be confirmed on the official/original documents received by the Graduate School, in order for the offer of admission to be finalized.

For International Applicants

  • After you have been offered admission by the Penn State Graduate School, you will be contacted by the Directorate of International Student and Scholar Advising (DISSA) regarding what is needed so that you can be cleared to register for classes and if needed, issued an I-20 or DS-2019.  During peak periods (March-June) it may take four weeks for DISSA to review your file and clear you to register/issue your I-20 or DS-2019.

PLEASE NOTE: There is no separate MA program.  All applicants will be considered for admission to the Ph.D. program.