Ph.D. Admissions FAQ

How competitive are admissions?
How many students receive funding?
Where can I get information on the mechanics of admissions?
What is the timing of the admissions process?
How do I visit before applying
Then how can I learn more about the program?
What are the admissions criteria?
How important are grades?
How important are GRE scores?
How important is the writing sample?
How important are the letters of recommendation?
Do I need a degree beyond a BA or BS?
Do I need to take the GRE?
Do I need to take the IELTS or TOEFL?
What sort of academic background is required?
How much math should I know?
Can I move from the MA program to the PhD program?
Can I transfer from another PhD program?
Can I transfer credit from my previous MA degree?
Where can I get more information?


How competitive are admissions?
We typically receive over 350 applicants, and make offers of admission to about 30-35 students.

How many students receive funding?
All students admitted receive full funding. Currently our funding includes a waiver of all tuition, and a stipend of approximately $26,000 a year for five years.

Where can I get information on the mechanics of admissions?
To find out about how to apply, go to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) Website http://gsas.nyu.edu/page/grad.admissions

What is the timing of the admissions process?
The application period runs through approximately mid-august to mid-december of each year, for fall admissions for the following year. Applications for fall 2016 must be received no later than December 18, 2015.  Admissions offers are typically made by mid-February, and your decision to accept or not is expected by mid-April.

How do I visit before applying?
Because we have so many requests to visit, the DGS is NOT available to meet with applicants or potential applicants.

You may of course see if individual faculty members you would like to work with are willing to meet with you prior to applying, or prior to being notified of the admissions decision.

Then how can I learn more about the program?
A great way to learn about the program is thru the description on the main PhD page or the Questions about PhD page. You can also look online at our course schedules and read associated syllabi. Also, some of our current (and now former) PhD students have provided excellent descriptions of what it is like to be an NYU Politics PhD student.

What are the admissions criteria?
We look for students who have demonstrated academic excellence, and who we think are a good fit for the program. We measure academic excellence based on your grades as an undergraduate, as well as your GRE scores, your letters of recommendation, your statement of academic purpose, and your writing sample.

  • Grades: If your GPA is less than 3.5, we would be looking for other measures to indicate likely success in the program.
  • GRE Scores: If your GRE scores are not in the 90th percentile we would be looking for other indicators of likely success in the program. We make allowances for lower verbal GRE scores for non-native speakers of English.
  • The Writing Sample: A writing sample demonstrating academic work in social science is required.  This would most likely be a paper or chapters of a thesis from your undergraduate career.  It should be between 30 and 50 pages, double-spaced.  It should demonstrate your ability to think analytically about some social science question and communicate it clearly.  The best writing sample is a completed paper that lays out a  hypothesis and presents evidence.
  • Letters of Recommendation: We are looking for three letters from people who can evaluate your ability to do social science, or can comment on your academic performance. Letters from people you have worked for outside an academic or research setting generally have little value to us. The letters are very important, so getting letters from people familiar with your academic work is extremely valuable.


Do I need a degree beyond a BA or BS?

No, you do not need any degree beyond a BA or BS.

Do I need to take the GRE?
Yes.  The GRE is required of all applicants and will not be waived under any circumstances. 

Do I need to take the IELTS or TOEFL?
If you are not a native English speaker, you must submit an official IELTS or TOEFL score. This is waived if you have a BA or MA (or will upon admission) from an institution where instruction was in English.

What sort of academic background is required?
It is helpful if you should have majored in political science, or some related social science discipline (such as economics or sociology). But at a minimum, you should have completed course work in social science, where the work has an emphasis on studying political problems. But there is no specific set of requirements.

How much math should I know?
We have no set minimum math background. But we have a very analytical program, the more math you know, the better off you are. If you have not had calculus or statistics (recently!), we will suggest you do some work over the summer prior to matriculation if we offer you admission. [Since we do make such suggestions - you should assume that not knowing how to take a derivative would not disqualify you from admission.] And if you are reading this early enough -- take a math course your senior year.

Can I move from the MA program to the PhD program?
The MA in Politics is a terminal master’s degree program and does not lead into the PhD program. The two programs are separate and students cannot transfer from the master’s program to the PhD program. However, students can apply to the PhD program while enrolled in the MA program. Our MA program lays the groundwork for students wishing to pursue a PhD, as it provides methodological training, the opportunity to work with faculty and develop research interests, and advisement on the application process. A number of our alumni have been successful in gaining admission to competitive PhD programs.

Can I transfer from another PhD program?
We do (rarely) take transfers from other PhD programs. In such cases we expect a very clear statement from the student, confirmed in the letters, that there is a particular academic reason for the transfer.

Can I transfer credit from my previous MA degree?
Students entering with an M.A. degree from an equivalent institution may petition for a waiver of up to one year of course requirements (equivalent of 24 points). For this purpose, a copy of the M.A. thesis must be submitted to the director of graduate studies (DGS) when the student enters the program. The DGS appoints two faculty members as readers to decide whether the thesis is equivalent in standards and quality to the department’s requirements. If the M.A. thesis is approved, the student submits the waiver petition to the DGS at the end of the first year of residence. In consultation with the readers, the DGS decides whether or not to waive residence requirements on the basis of the M.A. thesis and the grade record of the student during the first year at New York University. Please note that if a student is granted a waiver of 24 points, he or she is required to waive one year of academic funding.

Where can I get more information?
The Graduate School of Arts and Science (GSAS) Admissions FAQ
The Graduate School of Arts and Science (GSAS) Application Resource Center