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Graduate Admission

The master’s program generally attracts students with an undergraduate degree in political science, but is open to students with a wide variety of disciplinary backgrounds. Some of our best students have entered with degrees from another social science discipline or the humanities.  Students come from all over the United States as well as internationally.

How do I apply?

Portland State University requires that an applicant submit two different application packets, one to the PSU Office of Admissions and the other directly to the Department of Political Science. Application instructions, including the online application, can be accessed at

These pages provide detailed information about what is required by the university to apply. However, the Department requires that applicants provide some additional documents, as explained below.

What are the application deadlines?

Although the University admits students for post-baccalaureate study four times per year, the Political Science Department admits new students into its masters degree program only twice per year, Fall and Spring. For Fall admission, application packets are due to both the Office of Admissions and to the Political Science Department by April 30. There is a late application deadline for candidates with compelling reasons. Those contemplating a late application should contact Chris Shortell, the Graduate Committee Chair, before undertaking the effort. For Spring admission, the due date is November 1

It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure that all application materials are received by the deadline, including transcripts, test scores, and letters of recommendation. The Department of Political Science does not review application files until they are complete. If an application file is incomplete and the deadline passes, the applicant may request that the file be reactivated and considered for the next admission term. Unless such a request is made, the application will receive no further attention.

Application Process

 The following materials should be submitted here.

  • Non-refundable $65 application fee (no cash)
  • One transcript from each post-secondary institution attended (both sides need to be uploaded)
  • Measles Vaccine Form
  • Statement of Financial Support and Declaration of Finances (if International)
  • International Applicants who currently reside in the United States with an F-1 or J-1 visa must fill out the SEVIS form
  • Official TOEFL scores if the applicant does not speak English as a native language and has not received a graduate or undergraduate degree in an English-speaking territory
  • A 500 word statement of intent. The statement should address the following: 1) Professional goals; 2) Planned area of study; 3) Desired employment sector; 4) How the degree furthers achievement of your professional goals
  • Two recommendation letters from individuals familiar with the applicant's academic and/or professional capabilities. Preferably, the letters should be from former instructors or from individuals with knowledge of your professional performance and potential.
  • The scores of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Please note that you should make arrangements to take the GRE well in advance of the application deadline.

What does the Department consider when reviewing applications?

The Political Science Graduate Committee considers a mix of criteria for admission, in no particular order of importance: academic achievement, as indicated by the applicant’s transcripts, test scores, and letters of recommendation; the likelihood of timely completion of degree requirements; extracurricular experiences and achievements; educational and career goals, especially as expressed in the applicant’s statement of purpose; and the availability of Political Science faculty who can help the student achieve those goals.

There are certain minimum requirements that applicants normally must meet:

  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. The degree need not be complete at the time of application, but there must be evidence that it will be complete before the first term of enrollment.
  • A GPA of at least 3.0 during the junior and senior years, or a GPA of at least 3.1 for a minimum of three 4-credit graduate-level courses.
  • A score of at least 90 (TOEFL iBT) or 550 (TOEFL PBT) on the TOEFL for applicants required to submit those scores.

Students who meet the minimum requirements in these three areas are not, however, guaranteed admission into the program.

When will I know if I have been accepted?

The Department tries to inform applicants for Fall admission by late May and applicants for Spring admission by early December. A letter from the Department Chair will inform the applicant of the Graduate Committee’s recommendation for admission, but the final decision to admit is contingent on the receipt and verification of application materials by the university’s Office of Admissions.

Can I transfer course credits from other programs?

Two types of previous course credit can be considered for transfer. “Pre-admission credits” are those received for coursework taken prior to admission. Some of these may be for courses taken at another institution (known as “transfer credits”). The limit on pre-admission credits (including transfer credits) is 16, which is normally four courses.

Students may also receive credit for courses taken at another institution after they have been admitted, although this is rare in the Political Science program. The limit on transfer credits (pre- and post-admission) is also 16.

Receiving pre-admission and transfer credits requires the submission of Form GO-21, available online at

Are there any special considerations for international applicants?

We welcome applications from international students.  As noted above, all international applicants must submit TOEFL scores in addition to the rest of the required application materials.  Please note that we have substantially higher standards for mastery of the English language than the basic university minimums because of the complexity of the material that our students are expected to read.  Successful applicants will demonstrate their mastery of English through their test scores and personal statement.