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Ph.D. Admissions

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Introduction From The Chair

Thank you for your interest in the Political Science Ph.D. program at the University of Washington!

Before applying, think carefully about the "fit" between your interests and our graduate program:

  • We admit students only to our Ph.D. degree program, and we admit new students only for autumn quarter. We do not offer a terminal M.A. degree. 
  • The primary focus of our Ph.D. program is to develop academic researchers who typically work and teach at institutions of higher learning. However, an increasing number of our graduates also accept positions in the public or private sectors where the skills they acquire in our program are highly valued. Go to our placement page to see where our graduates have accepted positions.
  • We strive for a graduate program that includes a wide diversity of personal backgrounds and intellectual experiences.
  • It typically takes students 5-6 years to complete our program requirements and defend their dissertations.
  • Faculty in our program treat graduate students as intellectual peers. Research collaborations leading to publications are common between faculty and gradate students as well as between graduate students.
  • Every political science department has specific areas of strength. We encourage prospective students to use our website to explore the research interests of our faculty, the graduate classes in the course catalog, our different research centers and seminars. You are also welcome to contact individual faculty to discuss shared research interests.
  • Teaching is an important part of our program and a strength of our graduates. All of our Ph.D. students serve as teaching assistants and have opportunities to teach their own courses once they have moved to the dissertation writing stage

Important details about the application process:

  • Our admissions committee reads the Statements of Purpose to assess not only the applicant’s qualifications but also their “fit” with what we offer as a department. Please use the statement to share your academic interests, prospective fields of study, relevant experience, and methodological training. We do not expect you to know exactly what you intend to study.
  • The committee is also interested in who you are and your experiences beyond academia. The Personal Statement is an opportunity to share information about the personal experiences that have shaped your intellectual development, such as exceptional educational opportunities or disadvantages you have faced and overcome.
  • Scores for the GRE and English proficiency exams (if required) must be sent directly by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) or other testing agency to the University of Washington. It is your responsibility to confirm that we have received your scores. 
  • You are responsible for ensuring that all of your application materials are submitted on time. Your materials must be uploaded to the Graduate School's application website by December 15th, no later than 5pm Pacific. Be sure to leave time in case there are complications with completing your application. Due to the volume of applications we receive, we will not review incomplete or late applications.
  • The Admissions Committee admits the applicants who it believes are a good fit for our program. No formulas are applied. You will be notified by email when a final decision has been reached on your application, usually by the beginning of March. 

We look forward to reading your application! If you require further information or assistance, please contact the department’s Graduate Program Assistant at or (206) 543-1898.

The Ph.D. degree

The department offers the Ph.D. degree. All entering students, with or without an MA/MS degree, earn a UW MA in Political Science as partial fulfillment of the Ph.D. degree requirements.

We do not offer a separate terminal Master’s degree. 

Profile of Admitted Applicants

Completing a Ph.D. program is a major undertaking that requires extraordinary dedication and initiative. We seek students who are motivated and likely to succeed as Ph.D. students. Although there are no specific course prerequisites for our graduate program, applicants must have completed at least a bachelor's degree by the time they start our program. While admitted students usually majored in political science or another social science as undergraduates, the department also admits applicants from other disciplines who have demonstrated, through relevant interests and experience, the capability to do advanced work in political science. Fit between an applicant’s expressed interests and the research expertise of our faculty is also an important consideration in the admissions process. We typically admit 8-10 Ph.D. students per year.


The Political Science Department seeks to fund all admitted students through teaching assistantships, research assistantships and fellowships. There is no separate application for departmental funding. All applicants admitted to the graduate program are considered for financial aid awards.

Admitted students are typically funded for five consecutive years, and funding in subsequent years is usually available. Funding includes a stipend, tuition waiver (see current UW tuition rates), and health insurance for each quarter of the academic year (autumn, winter, spring). Limited summer funding is often available. Health insurance coverage continues through the summer for students who were funded for all three quarters of the previous academic year. 

 For more information on funding for new students and funding beyond the first year, please see our Graduate Funding page. 

We also encourage applicants to pursue outside funding opportunities. The Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship (FLAS) is administered by the Jackson School of International Studies.

For information about federal financial aid, visit UW’s Student Financial Aid Office. Note Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) deadlines.

Applying to Our Program



Applications are submitted through the Graduate School’s website. The Graduate School also has commonly asked questions on their Admissions FAQs page. The maximum file size for most components of the application is 500 KB per document. Transcripts cannot be larger than 2 MB each. 

Application Fee and Fee Waiver Requests

The Graduate School charges a nonrefundable application fee of $90.00 (USD). See their Application Fee Waivers page for information about waivers, including eligibility information and how to request a waiver. 

Statement of Purpose - Required

Write about your

  • academic background, including any research experience and methodological skills;
  • plans and goals for study, including intellectual interests and areas of specialization;
  • how admission to the Political Science Ph.D. Program at the University of Washington will help you realize your goals;
  • how your academic interests fit with the research interests of our faculty.
Personal History Statement - Optional
  • You are invited to submit an optional statement, no more than two pages in length.
  • Write about your personal history, family background, and other influences on your intellectual development. The statement should address educational, cultural, and economic opportunities and disadvantages that you have experienced, and ways those experiences have affected the development of your special interests, career plans, and future goals. 
Writing Sample - Required

Submit a relatively short paper (not to exceed 40 pages) or excerpts from a larger work (e.g., honors thesis) demonstrating your writing and analytic abilities. Your writing sample must be written in English, not in another language with an abstract in English. 

Resume or CV - Required

A description of your professional experience, including accomplishments and awards. 

Letters of Recommendation - 3 Required

The most effective letters of recommendation will come from faculty who can comment in detail on your intellectual ability and potential for success as a graduate student and scholar. We require three letters, and you may if you wish, include a fourth letter for consideration by the committee. Create your application to access instructions on how to designate your recommenders. They will be notified of your request for a recommendation and will submit their letters directly to the department. 

Transcripts - Required

Submit an unofficial transcript for each degree earned (AA, undergraduate, and graduate degrees) as well as for any graduate level work completed even if no degree was awarded. We evaluate course performance within the context of the curriculum, school, and time period. We are sensitive to improvement over one's academic career and performance in graduate course work. 2 MG limit for each transcript.

For additional information about transcripts, see the Graduate School's Admissions FAQs.

Note: We reserve the right to request official copies of transcripts from each applicant accepting an offer of admission.

GRE General Test - Required

GRE General Test scores are required and must be sent directly to the university by the Educational Testing Service (ETS).We will not review applications that do not include GRE scores. It is essential that you complete the GRE exam in time for the scores to reach the university by our December 15th deadline or very soon after this date.

See ETS's website for testing information, including the option for At Home Testing. Our Institution code is 4854, and our Department code is 1902. We do not accept scores that are more than five (5) years old. The ETS Political Science test is not required.

GRE MINIMUM SCORES: GRE scores provide the Admissions Committee with an additional gauge of competitiveness for the specific abilities that are measured by the test. We do not set minimum scores, but most applicants who are admitted to the program have combined verbal and quantitative scores substantially higher than 315 and a cumulative college grade point average greater than 3.4 (B+). As noted above, the Admissions Committee examines the complete set of materials for each applicant in order to identify promising individuals whose scores or grades might not fully represent their potential.

International Applicant Information

International applicants must meet additional requirements. See the Graduate School's International Applicant Information page, especially UW's financial ability requirement (note that all applicants admitted to our program are considered for our funding package), and their Admissions FAQs.

English Language Proficiency Requirements

English language proficiency (ELP) is required for graduate study at the University of Washington. Therefore, every applicant whose native language is not English must demonstrate BOTH English language proficiency (see the Graduate School's Memo 8, Graduate School English Language Proficiency Requirements) AND spoken English proficiency (see the additional requirements listed in Memo 15, Conditions of Appointment for TAs who are not Native Speakers of English).

These are the minimum proficiency scores for admission to our program, but most international applicants who are admitted to our program have significantly higher scores:


All non-native speakers of English must submit the TOEFL iBT or IELTS score even if they hold a B.A. from a program in an English-speaking country

92 or higher

26 on the speaking section

7.0 or higher

7.0 or higher on the speaking section

125 or higher

See Policy 3.2 for additional ways to satisfy this requirement.

English proficiency test scores must be sent directly to the university by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) or other agencies. Photocopied score reports are unacceptable. For TOEFL, our Institution code is 4854, and our Department code is 89.

Official scores should be sent to the university by the deadline (December 15th) or very soon after. Only completed applications will be reviewed.

Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Our department strongly believes that a diverse graduate student community strengthens our program, benefiting both faculty, fellow graduate students, and undergraduates.  In 2004, we made a collective decision to build in the field of Race and Ethnicity Politics (REP). We now have one of the strongest (and growing) REP faculties in the United States and are the host department of the Washington Institute for the Study of Inequality and Race (WISIR), a research center dedicated to the study of political inequality.

Optional personal statement for admission: Because varied cultural experiences, education and economic backgrounds contribute to the intellectual and social richness of our program, we encourage applicants to provide an optional personal statement. This statement might include information about family background, influences on your intellectual development, social and economic disadvantages that you have had to overcome, and the ways in which these experiences helped to shape you. See the Personal History Statement for more information.

Graduate student commitment. In 2015, the department’s graduate students created the the Equality Initiative in Political Science (EIPS) which is committed to supporting graduate students of all backgrounds and identities while also foregrounding the voices of marginalized students. Recent activities include:

  • An event centered on teaching during election times, where experienced TAs shared tips, resources, and ideas for teaching during contentious political times.
  • A mental health survey to gauge how the pandemic was affecting graduate students and to gather information on how the department and EIPS could provide support.
  • Virtual socials during the pandemic to bring students together and promote solidarity.
  • Brown bag lunch events for graduate students to discuss classism and racism in academia.
  • How to navigate aspects of the profession for first-generation students, including the job market, conferences, and developing a professional network.

University Initiatives. The Office of Graduate Student Excellence and Equity (GSEE) provides leadership and advocacy to achieve equitable representation, access and success for graduate students of color at the University of Washington. Additional information about the UW’s many commitments to diversity in teaching, research and the broader community can be found at  Diversity at the UW.

Graduate Life Resources

UW Graduate Student Housing
Child Care at UW
Graduate Appointee Insurance Program (GAIP)
U-PASS for regional transit- most graduate students qualify for a subsidized pass
Graduate and Professional Student Senate