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How to Apply to Our Program

In order to apply to the program, prospective students complete two parts of the application: one part is for admission to SDSU graduate studies via the university’s Graduate Admissions (steps 1-3 below), and the second part is for our departmental admissions committee through Interfolio (step 4 below). Both parts are necessary.

We have one admission cycle per year.  Applications for Fall 2024 will open on October 1, 2023.

Deadlines for Fall 2024:

  • February 1, 2024: Cal State Apply Deadline. The university-wide Cal State Apply link for Political Science will close on February 1. Late applicants may be approved to apply on a case-by-case basis. Contact [email protected] if you would like to ask whether a late application would be possible.

  • February 1, 2024: Priority Deadline for File Completion and Scholarship / Fellowship Support. The Political Science Graduate Committee will begin reviewing completed files on this date. Applicants who wish to be nominated for campus fellowships or who would like to be considered for Terhune scholarship support should complete their applications by this date, including all four steps listed below. International students are also advised to complete files by this date.

  • March 1, 2024: Regular Deadline for File Completion. Supporting documents required by Graduate Admissions and the Interfolio file for the Political Science Department should be received by this date.  

General Requirements:

  • Minimum 3.0 grade point average (GPA) for the last 60 semester (90 quarter) units of academic work
  • Official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Statement of purpose
  • Writing sample(s)
  • For international applicants: proof of English proficiency such as TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo
  • Upper-division coursework in Political Science or closely related disciplines (strongly preferred)
  • GRE Test is NOT required.

Steps to Apply

Fill out an application with Cal State Apply by February 1.

Create an my.SDSU account with the RedID number emailed to you after you complete step 1.

Send official documents to SDSU Graduate Admissions by March 1.

  • See the above links for the specific list of documents required and how to submit them. You can expect to be asked for official copies of all educational transcripts, as well as proof of proficiency in English if you have not previously studied in an English-language institution.

Create an Interfolio file, including a statement of purpose, letters of recommendation, and writing sample by February 1 for priority deadline applications, or March 1 for the regular deadline. 

This qualitative portion of the application is solely for the use of the Political Science department’s Graduate Admissions Committee. It is important that you use the link above to ensure that the documents you upload to Interfolio are linked to your SDSU application and accessible to the committee.

Please use the same name and email address used for your Cal State Apply application. 

  • Statement of Purpose:  We look for statements of about 1000 words, or up to 2 pages double-spaced. These statements are a chance for you to tell us a bit of your story, what kinds of issues or questions you are most interested in, and why you would like to pursue an MA in Political Science. 

  • Two Letters of Recommendation:  Ideally, we like to see letters from professors or instructors who know your academic skills, such as your writing and analytic abilities, and who can evaluate these objectively in the letter. Professors from upper-division or other graduate courses are preferable to those who taught you in introductory or lower-division courses. If you cannot supply any academic references, you can request letters from others such as supervisors at work who can speak to the kinds of qualities that would be relevant to your success in graduate school.  You may submit more than two letters if you like. Directions: As you create your Interfolio account, there is a link for inviting letters of recommendation. After you enter the email addresses for your letter writers, Interfolio will email each of them with a link to upload a recommendation letter directly to your file.

  • Writing Sample: Please include at least one writing sample that demonstrates your written and analytic skills.  

For assistance with Interfolio, refer to the applicant guide and/or call their help desk at 877-997-8807. 

The department will make our admissions decisions based on the entire package of materials. We review only complete files, so please make sure that you send everything early enough that your file is ready by the application deadline.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

February 1st is the priority deadline for our first round of admission. Having a complete file by this deadline will give applicants the best possible chance for admission and eligibility for several scholarship and fellowship opportunities, including nominations for campus-wide Masters Research Fellowships and Presidential Graduate Research Fellowships, as well as departmental Terhune Scholarship support. The regular deadline (March 1) is for our second round of admissions. 

The university Graduate Admissions office always needs more time to evaluate international transcripts. For that reason, international students are advised to complete Cal State Apply and transcript submission early, to help ensure that their application is not held up. Also, Presidential Graduate Research Fellowships waive non-resident tuition, which is a particularly valuable award for international and other applicants without California residency. Departmental nominations for the PGRF are due in February, so early applications are the only ones that will be eligible.
Letters of recommendation should be submitted through the department’s Interfolio link in "Step 4" above. Once applicants begin an Interfolio profile by clicking on the link in step 4 above, they can send invitations to those who have agreed to write letters on their behalf through the Interfolio system. Letter-writers will be sent a link that would permit them to upload their letters directly to the applicant’s Interfolio profile. 
As we no longer require GRE test scores, other portions of the application have become more important as a means of demonstrating analytic and writing skills. Letters from former professors who can speak to academic skills are valuable tools for admission, as are transcripts that show high grades in upper-division coursework most similar to graduate study. It is an advantage to have a writing sample that demonstrates strong writing and analytic skills, and ideally also proficiency with a bibliographic and citation system. Although we ask for a 3.0 minimum GPA, the average among students admitted for the past several years was in the 3.5-3.6 range. In other words, a strong GPA helps. Students who have GPAs closer to the minimum can demonstrate their academic skills with more than one writing sample. One bottom line for our Graduate Committee is that we admit only students whom we believe will be successful. The personal statement (“statement of purpose”) is also an important part of the application that demonstrates your communication/writing skills as well as the kinds of things that interest you and why. We always look for a good fit between what an applicant wants from an MA and our strengths as a program. In general, our admissions process is holistic rather than formulaic. We prefer graduate cohorts with a diverse range of life experiences that enrich the dialogue in seminars.

The graduate committee in Political Science highly values academic letters of recommendation as a means to evaluate whether students possess the academic skills necessary to succeed in the program. We thus have a strong preference for letters from former professors that can speak specifically to your academic skills and potential. Even if you are not in contact with former professors, it might be worth your time to try to contact or meet with them to remind them who you are and get some kind of support from them. 

Alternatively, you may want to take a graduate course from a local university and get a new letter for your file. If you live in the San Diego area, you can do this through Open University. If neither of these options is available to you, and nonacademic letters are necessary, try to give us other indicators of your academic abilities in other parts of your application.

Yes. In fact, SDSU has a parallel enrollment system through its Open University program that permits anyone with at least a B.S. or B.A. to enroll in graduate courses here, with the instructor’s permission. If you were to be admitted into the program later, these courses would be treated as transfer units, of which you may have nine total. Since SDSU grad courses are 3 units each, this means that you could feasibly take up to three courses prior to admission in the program and have them count toward your program of study.

Yes. In fact, many of our students work at least 20 hours per week in addition to taking courses. To accommodate these work schedules nearly all of our courses occur in the evening between 4:00 pm and 9:40 pm. Students who work can decide how many courses they can handle at once. Full-time study would be three courses, or 9 units. Part-time study can be either one or two courses per semester. The only restriction upon taking the program at your own pace is that all degree requirements must be completed within six years.

The length of time it takes to finish the program depends in large part on how much time you have to give to your studies, and how well you are already prepared to select topics for your thesis or exams. Students who take three courses per semester can complete the program within two years (or sometimes two years plus a summer), while part-time students take longer.

You may. SDSU accepts up to 9 units of transfer coursework, if it has not already been used toward a different degree and if the Graduate Advisor finds the content to be comparable to that in our own graduate program. Generally, such determinations would be made after you are admitted and you have supplied the Grad Advisor with syllabi and written materials from these courses.

Yes. Departmental fellowship awards are offered to outstanding applicants. Each complete application received by the February 1 deadline is automatically considered for Terhune Scholarships that typically range from $1000-$4000. The exact amount and number of the awards, however, varies each year depending upon the pool of applicants and funds available. 

Many of our graduate students work part-time as Graduate Assistants or Instructional Student Assistants during their degree program, and this is another form of financial support.

There are a few highly competitive campus-wide fellowships that highly qualified students may receive if they are selected by the department admissions committee for nomination, and then selected by the campus-wide committee thereafter. Department nominations must be submitted in February, and students are generally notified by April if they have been awarded a campus-wide fellowship.  

For more information on scholarships and non-resident tuition waivers, see the Financial Aid and Scholarships page.

Everyone is required to take the Seminar in Research Design (Pol S 615), so that is always a safe bet for registration. 

Otherwise, you are encouraged to enroll in seminars that will fulfill core requirements, especially 675, 655, 605, and 603.

Beyond these courses, you can select any other 600-level seminars. You may also include up to three electives in your program of study, which might include courses at the 500- or 700-levels, or graduate courses from other departments.  

If you plan to complete an Advanced Certificate in Public Policy and/or the Advanced Certificate in Global Politics, you might prioritize courses that will fulfill these requirements, as well. You may count these courses toward both the certificate and the general M.A. degree. 

Admission to the graduate program on a conditional basis means that you are eligible to enroll in graduate level coursework but that your status in the program is dependent upon some requirement. For students who apply before completing their BA/BS, conditional status is lifted as soon as they provide evidence of their graduation. For others, the condition requires a minimum GPA for the first semester. Until the condition is lifted, you will lack “Classified Student Standing,” and thus not be eligible to apply for Graduate Assistant teaching positions in the department. For more specific information about the conditions of your enrollment, refer to your admission RDR (Request for Departmental Recommendation). Once you have met the conditions for classified status, you need to complete a Change in Status Form and attain the Graduate Advisor’s signature in order to register for your second semester.

International Students

We are committed to making our program welcoming to students from different parts of the world. Our recent cohorts have included students from Mexico, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Pakistan, Somalia, Colombia, Sweden, Brazil, Germany, South Korea, Japan, and France.

We are aware of the challenges faced by international students as they transition to a graduate program in the United States and strive to smooth their path as much as possible. In addition to helping international students negotiate various bureaucratic hurdles as they apply and register to the program, we also strive to provide them financial support in various forms.

For further information on the application process, financial aid and international student services, please see the following links.

AndreaAndrea Arango, Colombia

Studying a masters program in a foreign language is challenging and for the first month it was overwhelming. Yet, it is amazing to see how fast my reading, writing and speaking skills have improved. I found a warm environment with faculty members and my classmates, who never saw my language limitations as signs of inferiority or as a lack of knowledge. The support I have found for my ideas and my academic projects has been unique, and I think is related to the human quality of the faculty members, and to the diverse and flexible nature of the program, that allow you to explore the discipline in its variety and also to focus on your field of interest.

Dong JoonDong Joon Yoon, South Korea

As a foreign graduate student in political science department, I have enjoyed several advantages in the last two years. First, I had the opportunity to participate in intellectual discussions on current socio-political issues in U.S., such as inequality and constitutional rights. Second, the dedicated faculty was impressive in terms of their own research, and also their willingness to offer advice on all kinds matters ranging from bureaucratic to academic. Third, my class mates were open-minded without an exception. Sometimes we organized study groups to study abstruse subjects together like statistics, and the scores in the subjects were amazing.

Jil PiaJil Pia Rudolf, Germany

My experience at SDSU introduced me to wonderful people, provided me with enormous knowledge, changed my understanding of the world and let me believe in a better future. I think there exists no other program with such amazing, committed and helpful professors, truly unique classes and work opportunities. Besides the great program, there is no better place to live than San Diego. I love being active and San Diego gives you the possibility to be at the beach and in the mountains at almost the same timeThe fact that it’s a border city also gives you the chance to go to another country just for a day, twenty minutes from campus. Because of that proximity and its weather appeal, the city has a great mix of cultures. Also, people are very friendly and as you know it never rains in Southern California. Well it rains a little bit. But not very much!

Need Help?

You are welcome to address any questions about the application process or program to the faculty graduate advisor ([email protected]).

Regarding university admission processes (steps 1-3 above), applicants may also contact staff members at In-State Admissions, Out-of-State Admissions , or International Admissions.


Graduate Advisor

Professor Kristen Maher
Office: Nasatir Hall (NH) 121
Email: [email protected]

Advising Hours (Spring 2024)

In-person office hours (NH 121): TH 2:30-4 p.m.
Please email to to make zoom appointments on other days/times.

Important Links