M.A. Admissions

Application Requirements

Admissions F.A.Q.'s

The M.A. program is designed to be flexible according to students’ interests. Students in the M.A. program pursue a variety of careers, and the program gives students the opportunity for exposure in some of these fields. Our graduates have advanced to graduate schools and careers in journalism, law, business, public service, and government and to Ph.D. programs in political science and other fields of study. Students in the M.A. program who wish to continue their political science studies toward a Ph.D. at Columbia must formally apply to the Ph.D. program.

Application to the Department of Political Science should be made through the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS).

Questions regarding the admissions process should be directed to the GSAS Office of Admissions at 212-854-8903 or gsas-admissions@columbia.edu.

Please visit the FAQ section of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Admissions web page for more information on submitting the application.

Application Requirements

Application deadline: April 7, 2017

Applications are submitted online.

  • Bachelor's degree or equivalent
  • Online Application
  • Application fee: $105.
  • Tuition deposit: A $750 tuition deposit is required for M.A. students, which must be paid via credit card upon acceptance of the offer of admission.
  • Resume or Curriculum Vitae
  • Writing Sample no longer than 20 pages
  • Statement of Purpose
  • Three letters of recommendation; Reapplicants may, through SLATE, elect to reuse letters of recommendation from the previous year’s application. (Note: This option is only available to reapplicants who applied in the immediately preceding year; reapplicants who applied in an earlier year will have to submit new letters.)
  • Transcripts of all post-secondary (after high school) education
  • GRE exam (required of all applicants including those with graduate degrees)
  • TOEFL exam (required of international applicants, see GSAS policy here for more information)

Applicants may submit letters of evaluation online or as hard copies. Transcripts and standardized test scores should be submitted online.

All materials should be sent to the Office of Admissions:

GSAS Office of Admissions
Columbia University
107 Low Library, MC 4303
535 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10027

Applicants should not send any materials to the department.


ETS code for GRE and TOEFL: 2162

Admissions F.A.Q.'s

Q. What is the deadline to submit an application?

A. The application deadline is April 7, 2017 for the Fall 2017 M.A. class.

Although the application deadline is April 7, prospective students should submit their applications at the earliest possible date. The M.A. admission committee will begin reviewing applications as early as the first week in March, and may begin admitting students whose files are complete and have been reviewed.

Q. How many people apply to the program each year? What percentage are admitted?

A. There are approximately one hundred prospective students who apply directly to the M.A. program each year. In addition to this number, some students who are not offered admission to the Ph.D. program for that year are given the option of being considered for the M.A. program. Thus, the number of students being considered for the M.A. program can vary from year to you from only seventy-five to two hundred or more.

The department's target class size varies slightly from year to year. Normally, the target class size is between fifteen and twenty. Because both the target class size and the number of applications vary, there is no average percentage that would accurately reflect the likelihood that an application will be successful in a given year.

Q. When are decision notices sent?

A. Admission notices:

Admission to the M.A. program is made on a rolling basis. Beginning as early as mid to late May, students who have been admitted to the program will be notified of their acceptance. The department continues to admit students until the desired class size is attained.

Decline notices:

Given the application deadline of April 2 (when most applications are submitted) and the rolling nature of the M.A. admissions process, notifications to students who are declined admission usually are not sent until the early summer. Although the department recognizes that this is less than ideal for most candidates who may be weighing other options, the department cannot respond to applicant inquiries until the admission process is complete.

Decisions notices are not conveyed by telephone or e-mail. Applicants who have not received a decision letter by July 1 should contact the Graduate Program Coordinator, but not before July 1.

Q. What kind of financial aid is available?

A. There is no fellowship support available for the M.A. program.

The departement has compiled a list of potential outside funding resources. To receive this document, please contact the Graduate Program Coordinator.

Q. What is the minimum required GRE score?

A. The department has no required minimum GRE score, and since its applicants come from all over the world, actual GRE scores vary quite a bit. In general, persons offered admission to the Ph.D. program receive GRE scores in the ninetieth percentile, and students admitted to the M.A. program perform slightly less well. Verbal scores are sometimes lower for applicants whose first language is not English.

Q. What is the minimum GPA that you require?

A. As with the Ph.D. program, there is no required minimum GPA. Applicants come from all over the world, and not every institution uses a 4-point grade scale.  Hence, applicant GPA’s vary quite a bit. In general, persons offered admission to the Ph.D. program achieve GPA’s that are high for the institutions they come from-usually in the top five to ten percent of their class and 3.6 and above at U.S. institutions. The averages are slightly lower for students admitted to the M.A. program.

Q. What is the minimum TOEFL that you require?

A. The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences requires a minimum of 600 on the paper-based exam and 100 on the internet-based exam. Applicants whose scores are below these levels should not apply. See GSAS information for international students here.

Q. What is the difference between the programs of the School of International and Public Affairs and the programs of the Department of Political Science?

A. The Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in Political Science are offered through the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) offers a two-year Master of International Affairs degree and a two-year Master of Public Affairs degree. Although the subject areas of the degree programs of SIPA and the Political Science Department overlap, and students in each program can and do take classes in the other program, the two institutions and their respective programs are wholly separate.

Generally speaking, the M.I.A., M.P.A., and certificate programs at SIPA are professional degree programs for people who intend to work on policy for the U.S. or foreign governments, inter-governmental organizations, non-government organizations, think tanks, or other entities engaged in policy. The courses taken by M.A. students in the political science department focus on theoretical and research approaches in the discipline, and the program is oriented toward training students for research and teaching.

Many students who complete the M.A. in political science pursue fields and careers similar to those pursued by students who complete the M.I.A. and M.P.A. However, the M.A. program in political science is similar to a first-year Ph.D. course of study, and many of the students enroll in the M.A. program in political science in order to assess their interest in completing a Ph.D. program in political science.

Although it is possible to submit applications both to SIPA and to GSAS, students considering the M.A. and the M.I.A. or M.P.A. programs should carefully review the information available on both programs before submitting an application.