Frequently Asked Questions

What graduate degrees are offered by the Political Science Department at MIT?

Master of Science in Political Science or PhD in Political Science.

How do I apply to MIT's Political Science Graduate Program?

Apply online via GradApply at

Do I need a master's degree before applying for a PhD?

No. All applicants interested in a PhD in Political Science should apply directly to the PhD program whether or not they have a master's degree. Students who are accepted into the master's program in Political Science at MIT typically do not continue on for a PhD. Many of our PhD students do not have prior master's degrees.

How much is the application fee?

$75.00 US dollars. The Admissions Committee will not review applications received without a fee.

Can the application fee be waived?

The Office of Graduate Education (OGE) is pleased to offer fee waivers for US citizens and US permanent residents who demonstrate financial hardship, are current or former members of the United States Armed Forces, or who have participated in special fellowship programs, including MIT-sponsored diversity programs and recruitment events. International students attending US colleges and universities, who have participated in MIT sponsored programs, such as CONVERGE or the MSRP, are also eligible to apply for a fee waiver. Read more here.

When is the application deadline?

The application deadline is December 15th for admission the following September.  Admission is for the fall semester only.

Is the GRE General Exam required?

The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is required. For those taking the GRE, please check with ETS to allow sufficient time for the scores to reach us. The institution code is 3514. The department code is 1902.

Are TOEFL's required?

All applicants whose first language is not English are required to take the TOEFL, including students who have received degrees from English speaking institutions. In a limited number of cases a TOEFL waiver may be granted. Applicants must apply separately for a TOEFL waiver. The institution code is 3514. The department code is 92. We now also accept IELTs.

Are there minimum scores required on the GRE, TOEFL, and IELTS tests?

There is no minimum score for the GRE, but admission is very competitive and low GRE scores may weaken an application. The minimum score for the TOEFL is 600 paper based/100 internet based. The minimum score for IELTS is 7. If an applicant has not met the TOEFL/IELTS requirement the application will not be reviewed.

Do you accept GMAT or LSAT scores in place of the GRE?


If my GRE or TOEFL scores are old and ETS will not send them will they still fulfill the application requirement?

No. We require official ETS scores. An application is not considered complete unless we receive official ETS scores. The Admissions Committee may choose not to review incomplete applications.

Is a minimum GPA required to apply?

No, since many schools do not calculate GPAs we do not impose a set minimum. Although we do not have a minimum GPA requirement the applicant pool is academically strong and very competitive.

Does Political Science have a supplemental application?

Please submit two other documents, both in .pdf format: a copy of your resume and a writing sample. The writing sample should be no more than 50 pages in length and is used to assess an applicant’s conceptual thinking and analytical skills. Therefore, please submit a writing sample that best represents your potential to conduct PhD-level research, such as a research paper or a portion of an undergraduate or master’s thesis. Writing samples are welcome from any discipline and do not need to be from a political science course.

Can I visit the Political Science department prior to applying?

We do not require interviews of our applicants and it is not necessary to contact faculty members directly about your application. Prospective applicants are welcome to schedule an appointment with the graduate administrator for information about the program/admissions process, but we are not able to arrange meetings with faculty or current students nor can we accommodate classroom visits. For further information regarding campus tours visit the main MIT website. All applicants accepted into the program will be invited to visit at the department's Open House in March.

Are applications reviewed as they are received?

Applications are not reviewed until after the December 15th deadline. Admission decisions will be made in late February.

Are all applications treated equally in the admissions process?

Yes. MIT has a non-discrimination policy. The only applications which are reviewed separately are masters and PhD.

What is the average age of applicants?

Applicant ages vary. Some applicants are applying straight out of college, others from the work force or another masters program.

What component of the application holds the most weight during the decision process?

The admissions committee weighs all parts of the application in an effort to get as complete a picture of the applicant as possible. The committee looks for applicants whose intellectual interests, skills, aptitude and experience best matches the department's teaching and research programs.

When will I receive a decision from Political Science at MIT?

Decisions will be made in late February.

Is an accepted student allowed to defer?

Deferrals are handled on an individual basis and generally discouraged.

Are new graduate students assigned faculty advisors?

Yes. When a student enrolls, the department assigns a faculty advisor. The advisor and student are typically matched according to their field of interest. Faculty advisors may be changed during the academic year if fields of interest change.

Can I transfer credits from another SM or PhD program I have attended?

We do not require a set number of credits to complete our PhD program, but certain prescribed course work must be completed. Previous course work may, in limited cases, fulfill some of our requirements. A student's previous course work is reviewed by the student's advisor and the chair of the Graduate Program Committee to determine whether it fulfills a specific requirement.

Does the Political Science department fund all graduate students?

We do not fund master's students. Our aim is to fund all incoming PhD students. Funding is based on merit not need. The funding package is for 5 consecutive years with full tuition, health insurance and a 9-month stipend, provided students remain in good academic standing.

Can an applicant who was not accepted into the program request information as to why they were not accepted?

Due to the large volume of qualified applicants to the Political Science graduate program and the small number of students accepted into the program we are unable to give specifics as to why an application was denied.

How many years does it take to complete the SM program?

The SM program is typically a full calendar year or 3 semesters (fall, spring, summer).

How many years does it take to complete the PhD program?

It varies depending on the individual. Required course work and general examinations should be completed by a student's 5th semester. At that time, field research and dissertation writing begin. Typically, it takes at least 5 years to complete the PhD.

What do Political Science Master's and PhD graduates do after obtaining their degrees?

Graduates of the Political Science Master's and PhD program are engaged in a wide range of careers in academia, government and industry. See Job Placement.