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FAQ for Prospective Ph.D. Students

Ph.D. Students Discussing Idea


Financial Support


Preparing for Admission

Application Procedures



Letters of Recommendation


International Students


Master's degree for doctoral students


What is your department's philosophy?

The Department of Political Science does not embrace any particular philosophy or approach to the study of political science. We offer courses and research opportunities in a wide variety of fields in the discipline (see Research Areas below). Our principal goal is the training of scholars. The small size of our student body allows more individual work with members of the faculty than most graduate programs. It also makes possible financial assistance in one form or another to most students admitted to the Ph.D. program.

Our graduate program is built around small seminars that analyze critically the literature of a field or focus on a research problem. These courses prepare students for the Ph.D. comprehensive exam requirement within a two-year period and for work on the doctoral dissertation.

How long is your program?

The Ph.D. program is designed to be completed in five years of full-time study. Actual time depends on students' progress, research and travel requirements, and fields of study. The minimum residence requirement for the Ph.D. degree is 135 units of completed coursework, which takes approximately four years.  The fifth year is typically spent writing the dissertation.

What are the requirements for the Ph.D. degree?

Requirements vary depending on which fields a student elects to study. The minimum residence requirement for the Ph.D. degree is 135 units of completed coursework, which takes approximately four years.  The fifth year is typically spent writing the dissertation. All students must complete five units of graduate instruction in Political Theory unless previously taken as an undergraduate, and take a two-quarter sequence in quantitative methods. A language might also be required if the student and advisor think it appropriate for dissertation research. Beginning in their second year, students serve as teaching assistants in undergraduate courses for a minimum of three quarters, but most will serve as many as five quarters.

Students are required to satisfy the Ph.D. comprehensive examination requirements in one field as well as take coursework and fulfill any additional requirements in a second and third field and write at least one research paper. Upon completion of these three requirements, the student is eligible to be recommended for Ph.D. candidacy. It is expected that students will attain candidacy by the end of the second year. In their third year, students are asked to submit a formal dissertation proposal for approval. Doctoral candidates form a Dissertation Reading Committee in the fourth year and take the University Oral Examination after they have made substantial progress on their dissertations. Students must finish all requirements and file a thesis to receive their Ph.D. degree.

See the requirements page for more details.

How is your placement record?

Most students who receive doctorates in the program do research and teach at colleges or universities. In recent years, they have obtained positions in political science departments at such institutions as the University of California at Berkeley, Harvard, NYU, M.I.T., Princeton, Yale, Southern California, Virginia, and Wellesley. One graduate joined the faculty at Harvard Business School. Others have positions in research organizations like RAND, and still others have positions in university administration and government. Click to see the list of recent placements.

Where can I get more information on life at Stanford, housing, financial aid or being an international student?

Visit the Graduate Student Gateway.

Can I complete the program via distance learning, online or on a part time basis?


Financial Support

What is the annual cost of attending your program?

The costs of pursuing graduate study at Stanford depend on various factors, including student's housing preferences and family circumstances, among other factors. Information about financing graduate study and typical expenses for graduate students can be found through Graduate Admissions. Information about our financial support, which usually covers tuition and living expenses, follows below.

What type of financial support do you offer?

The Department intends that all graduate students (both domestic and international) should have adequate support to enable them to complete their studies while enrolled full-time.  The standard financial package offered to admitted students covers the full cost of tuition and an additional amount for living expenses during the academic year. The latter amount comes in the form of a stipend during the first year and a combination of teaching and research assistantships during years 2-5.  The Department also provides students with annual funds for professional development, health insurance fees, and a living stipend for the first two summers. The Department provides five years of support for Ph.D. students who are making sufficient progress towards degree.  Current information regarding tuition, fees, and living expenses.

Do you offer support for the summer months?

The department currently offers financial support for two summers during a student's tenure. There are, additionally, opportunities for graduate students to hold research assistantships with department faculty. The terms of research assistantship appointments may vary from case to case but provide, in most cases, a stipend that covers summer living expenses.

Is there support available for field work?

In addition to providing the standard package described above, the Department will provide each student $1,000 in discretionary funds every year in year 1-5.  Most students use this money to fund professional development expenses, including language study, faculty guided research and field work. In addition, the department offers students up to two summers of funding, which provides students with the possibility of conducting field work during the summer. It is also possible to use pre-doc fellowship funds to support field work during the later years of the program.

How do I apply to the Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program?

Knight-Hennessy Scholars develops a community of future global leaders to address complex challenges through collaboration and innovation. This year, the program will award up to 75 high-achieving students with full funding to pursue a graduate education at Stanford, including Master's and PhD's in Political Science. To be considered, you must apply to Knight-Hennessy Scholars by September 12, 2018, and separately apply to the Political Science department by November 14, 2018. 

Read more about eligibility requirements and the application process on the Knight-Hennessy Scholars website.


What are your research areas?

The department offers teaching and research opportunities in five major research areas: American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, Political Methodology, and Political Theory. In addition, there are ample opportunities for graduate study in related departments at the university. 

How can I find out if your faculty does research in my area of interest?

You can access more specific information about particular faculty members by going to the faculty page.

Preparing for Admission

Am I required to secure an advisor before applying to your graduate program?

No. It is not necessary or possible to secure an advisor before admission to the program. Offers of admission are made to the program, not to work with particular advisors. Applicants are encouraged to read the Admissions FAQ's and contact Jennifer Radley with any general admissions questions before contacting faculty.

Is Political Science a required major to apply to your graduate program?

No, the department does not require that prospective students be political science majors. On the other hand, the department does expect that prospective students have had sufficient exposure to the field for them to develop a clear statement of purpose for attending our graduate program. In addition, as part of the application materials, applicants are required to submit a written sample that will certainly justify students having previously studied political science.

Is a master’s degree required for admission?

No, a master’s degree is not required for admission, although roughly one-third of our applicants have completed a graduate degree prior to application to the PhD program.

Are applicants expected to have taken advanced coursework in mathematics and statistics?

No, students are not required to have taken advanced courses in quantitative methods as a prerequisite for admission. In fact, the department offers a four quarter sequence in quantitative methods that introduces first-year students to methodological tools that they can later use in their chosen fields of study. This sequence does not assume that students have had prior exposure to statistics or advanced mathematics. In addition to the sequence, the department offers a math refresher course for three weeks prior to the start of classes in the fall for all students. Note, however, that there are certain areas of study (such as American politics and political behavior) that will require more training in quantitative methods beyond the first-year sequence. Opportunities to pursue advanced work in quantitative methods exist both within and outside the department (e.g., taking courses in the economics and statistics departments).

If admitted, can I obtain credit for previous work?

The Department rarely accepts the transfer of previous graduate work toward fulfilling degree requirements. However, students with previous graduate work may be able to count some of their previous course credits toward the university residency requirement, thus reducing the time required for the Ph.D. degree. The university may allow a maximum of 45 units for work done elsewhere in another graduate program. Transfer credit is subject to the approval of the Office of the University Registrar, and there is no guarantee that transfer credit will be awarded. Students cannot apply for transfer credit until they have completed at least one quarter of study. 

Can you provide some guidelines for preparation?

Admission to our program is highly competitive. The selection of PhD students admitted to the Department of Political Science is based on an individualized, holistic review of each application, including (but not limited to) the applicant’s academic record, the letters of recommendation, the scores on the General GRE (Graduate Record Examination), the statement of purpose, and the writing sample. About 12-15 students, chosen from a large pool of applicants, enter the program every year. These students are chosen on the basis of a strong academic background as evidenced by previous study, test results, writing sample, and letters of recommendation.  Although we have no official score requirement, admitted students typically have GRE scores of 166+ verbal, 163+ quantitative, and a score of 5.5 in the analytical section.  Admitted students typically have a GPA of at least 3.8 in their previous studies.  Please be assured that the department reviews each application very carefully and makes decisions on an individual basis.

What are the admissions committee's expectations of prospective students?

Admission committees follow guidelines established by the university and the department to ensure a fair review of application materials and the selection of a high quality pool of incoming students. An overview of graduate admission and study at Stanford is available.

Do you have a minimum GRE score or GPA Requirement?

No. However, admission to our program is highly competitive. Admitted students typically have very high GRE scores (approximately 166+ verbal, 163+ quantitative, and a score of 5.5 in the Analytical section).  Admitted students typically have a GPA of at least 3.8 in their previous studies.

Application Procedures


How do I apply?

You must apply online via the Graduate Admissions web site. Note that online applications require the use of a credit card.

What is the application deadline?

The deadline to apply for admission for the academic year 2019-20 is 11:59pm (Pacific time) on December 4, 2018. No late applications will be accepted. The application for admission for the academic year 2019-20 will open in September 2018. 

Knight-Hennessy Scholars deadlines: Apply to the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program by September 12, 2018 and to the Political Science graduate program by November 14, 2018. Read more about the Knight-Hennessy Scholars eligibility requirements and the application process on the Knight-Hennessy Scholars website.

Are applications reviewed and admissions decisions made on a rolling basis?

No. We begin reviewing all applications after the application deadline and make all admissions decisions in mid-February. There is no advantage to applying early.

Can you tell me if you received my application/transcripts/test scores/letters of recommendation?

We will begin updating all applicant application status pages online and notifying applicants if any materials, including transcripts, test scores and letters of recommendation, are missing during the week of December 11th. We can’t confirm receipt of anything before then due to the number of applications that we receive. Please check your Application Activity Status page if you have any questions about whether your application is complete. If your application status is incomplete, please read the rest of the FAQ’s in this section before contacting the department.

When and how will admission decisions be announced?

Offers of admission will be made in mid-February. Admissions decisions will be annouced on the Application Activity Status Page. Admitted applicants will be invited to attend our Ph.D. Admit Visit to be held in early April 2019.

When will the application for the 2019-20 academic year be available?

It will be available in September 2018. The application for the 2018-19 academic year is closed and we cannot accept late applications. 

Can I apply for winter, spring, or summer quarter admission?

No, students may only enter the program during the fall quarter.

What are the application requirements?

A complete application consists of the following documentation:

  1. Stanford online application including statement of purpose.
  2. At least three letters of recommendation
  3. Two official transcripts from each institution you attended for at least one year
  4. GRE and TOEFL scores reported directly to Stanford (code 4704) - Learn more about these test requirements
  5. Recent scholarly or critical paper (20-35 pages, double-spaced). Applicants may submit two or three shorter samples if they do not have a long one.
  6. CV/resume (optional but recommended)
  7. Application fee of $125

Please refer to the FAQ's for Prospective Students and the Office of Graduate Admissions Frequently Asked Questions for additional information on the application process and requirements.

Are there any additional application documents or materials I need to provide in order to be considered for a funding package?

No. All you need to do is answer 'yes' to the question in the online application that asks "Are you applying for financial aid such as fellowships or assistantships from Stanford University?"

What is a Statement of Purpose?

The Statement of Purpose should describe succinctly your reasons for applying to the proposed program at Stanford, your preparation for this field of study, research interests, future career plans, and other aspects of your background and interests which may aid the admissions committee in evaluating your aptitude and motivation for graduate study. The Statement of Purpose should not exceed two single spaced pages.

Can I submit a CV as part of my application?

Applications may upload a CV under "Additional Information" after uploading the statement of purpose and writing sample.

Can I apply for an application fee waiver?

Do not contact the Department to request a fee waiver. Applicants who are citizens or permanent residents of the U.S. may be eligible for a waiver of the $125 application fee if they can obtain a GRE Fee Reduction Certificate for the current academic year.  Please visit Graduate Admissions for information on applying for an Application Fee Waiver.

How do I apply to the Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program?

Information on applying to the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program is available here.

Can I update my application materials (CV, writing sample, statement of purpose or unofficial transcripts) after I submit my application?

Yes. You may email Jennifer Radley ( with your updated documents at any point before December 15th. Please ensure that the document is saved using the following format: Last Name.First Name.Document Title (example: Radley.Jennifer.CV). No changes to applications can be made after December 15th.

Does Stanford want an updated transcript with my fall quarter/semester grades?

We do not require an updated transcript. If you receive your fall transcript before December 15th you may email Jennifer Radley ( with your updated documents. Please ensure that the document is saved using the following format: Last Name.First Name.Document Title (example: Radley.Jennifer.CV). No changes to applications can be made after December 15th so if you do not receive your fall quarter/semester grades until after then we cannot include them in your application so it is unnecessary to send them.


Are GRE scores required for the Political Science PhD program?

Yes, general GRE scores are required of all applicants. We do not require scores from any GRE subject tests.

Do I have to submit GRE scores if I already have a Master's degree?

Yes, all applicants must submit GRE scores, even if they have completed an advanced degree.

I sent my official GRE or TOEFL scores but it still says they haven’t been received on my application status page. Should I resend them?

It will take two weeks from the date you submit your application for GRE and TOEFL scores to merge with your application and appear as "Official" on your application status page.  For example, if you submit your application on December 1st, you can expect them to appear as Official on your application status page on December 15th. Please do not request that ETS send scores again if it has been less than 2 weeks since you submitted your application. If you submitted your application more than two weeks ago and your GRE or TOEFL scores are still unofficial, please check that the name you took the test under and the name you applied to Stanford under are exactly the same. Please also check that your date of birth is exactly the same in both places. If either your name or date of birth differs, please email

What happens if my official GRE/TOEFL scores arrive after the application deadline?

Your unofficial GRE scores for all sections of the test (including the analytical writing section) must be included in your application by the application deadline (December 4th for all applicants or November 14th for Knight-Hennessy Scholars applicants). 

If we haven't received official scores by the time the admissions committee begins review, we will consider your application with the unofficial scores submitted in your online application. However, we will need to receive official scores from ETS before making an official offer of admission. It takes approximately 5 weeks from the date you take the computer based GRE and TOEFL for ETS to send your scores to Stanford and for them to merge with your official application. Therefore, we recommend that applicants take the GRE and TOEFL no later than early November to ensure that your scores are received before the Admissions Committee begins making admissions decisions. Applicants to the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program should plan to take the GRE and TOEFL at least 5 weeks before the November 12th application deadline. Please note that this is an approximate timeframe and can be much longer, particularly if you take a paper based test or take the tests from outside the United States. 

I asked ETS to send my GRE scores in a previous year. Do I need to resubmit my GRE or TOEFL scores?

Maybe. Test scores received by Graduate Admissions prior to September 1, 2016 are no longer retained on file or valid so you will need to resubmit them. You will also need to request that ETS resend scores if you had them sent to Stanford but you did NOT submit an application.

My GRE/TOEFL scores are not recent. Will you accept them?

GRE scores are valid for approximately five years from the date taken. TOEFL scores submitted to Stanford must be from a test taken within the last 18 months. No scores are valid beyond the date ETS will send or resend them to schools.

Letters of Recommendation

Some of my letters of recommendation might arrive after the deadline. Is this ok?

Please ask your letter writers to upload their letters no later than December 15th. If you do not have three letters of recommendation by then, your file will still be passed to the faculty committee for consideration.  While recommenders may upload outstanding letters after December 15th, there's no guarantee they will be read as the committee will have already begun its work. Applicants to the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program should ask their recommenders to upload their letters no later than November 12th. 

One of my letter writers is having technical issues submitting their letters of recommendation. Who should I contact?

Please instruct your letter writer to email CollegeNet Technical Support at

Can my letters of recommendation writers submit their letters through Interfolio?

No. Letters of recommendation must be submitted through the online application system.

I'd like to make changes to my letters of recommendation writers after I submitted my application or sent the letter of recommendation request. How can I do that?

If you’d like to make changes before your letter writer has accepted the letter of recommendation request, you may do so from your Application Status Activity Page. If your letter of recommendation writer has already accepted the application, you are no longer able to make changes. Email CollegeNet Technical Support at for additional assistance.


Where should I send my official transcripts?

Jennifer Radley, Encina Hall West, Room 100, 616 Serra Mall, Stanford, CA USA 94305-6044

My university provides a secure electronic certified transcript service. Will you accept official transcripts sent via that service in lieu of paper copies?

Yes. The use of secure electronic delivered transcript(s) is encouraged. It's eco-friendly and the document's certified digital signature ensures us that it has been prepared by the college/university and that the document is original and unaltered. If you submit a secure electronic transcript, you will not need to provide the paper transcript(s). Please have your university send the transcript to Becca Hall ( If you are submitting the official transcript via a secure electronic certified transcript service, you only need to submit it once.

Do I need to have transcripts sent for every college-level class I have taken?

No. We only require transcripts (academic records) from postsecondary institutions you have attended as a full-time student for one year (i.e. three quarters or two semesters) or longer.

What happens if my official transcripts arrive after the application deadline?

If we haven't received official transcripts by the time the committee begins review, we will consider your application with the unofficial transcripts you uploaded in your application. However, we will need to receive official transcripts before making an offer of admission.

International Students

Are there any special application requirements for international applicants? Do I need to submit TOEFL scores?

Information for international applicants is available from Graduate Admissions.  

TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) scores are required of all applicants whose first language is not English.  Stanford does not accept IELTS scores.  The department no longer requires the Test of Spoken English for admission.  Applicants must score at least 100 on the Internet-based TOEFL in order to be eligible for admission, though admitted applicants typically score at least 115.  Exemptions are granted to applicants who have earned a U.S. bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree from a college or university accredited by a regional accrediting association in the United States, or the international equivalent degree from a university of recognized standing in a country in which all instruction is provided in English. Therefore, applicants with degrees from the U.S., Australia, Canada (except Quebec), New Zealand, Singapore, and the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales) are exempt from taking the TOEFL and do not need to submit the TOEFL Waiver Request form. Applicants with degrees from institutions in countries other than those listed above and in which English was the only language of instruction must submit the TOEFL Waiver Request form in order to be evaluated for a waiver to the TOEFL requirement.

My school's grading system does not use a 1-4 scale. How do I enter my grade point average in the online application?

If your school has not converted your GPA for you, enter 0.00 in the GPA fields of the online application. Your GPA will be calculated from your transcripts. Please do not try to calculate it yourself.

My undergraduate degree is not from the U.S. Am I eligible to apply for graduate study at Stanford University?

To be eligible for admission to graduate programs at Stanford, applicants must complete an international degree that is equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s degree from a college or university of recognized standing. Please see the minimum international education requirements and contact Stanford’s Office of Graduate Admissions (not the department of Political Science) with any further questions.

As an international student, am I eligible for funding?

Yes, both international and domestic students receive the same funding package from the department. See here for further information.


Can I contact the admissions committee to inquire about my preparation in advance of my application?

No, the admissions committee is not available for consultation.

Should I contact Stanford faculty to discuss my interest in the program?

Applicants are welcome to contact faculty before applying to discuss their interest in the PhD program, though it is not required nor expected. It is not necessary or possible to secure an advisor before admission to the program. If you have not spoken directly to faculty at the time of application, simply leave that particular application question blank. Applicants are encouraged to read the Admissions FAQ's and contact Jennifer Radley with any admissions questions. Schedule a meeting with Jennifer here

Will I have a chance to talk to someone before I decide to accept an offer of admission?

Yes. The department organizes a special activity every Spring to invite admitted students to campus. This event is an excellent opportunity to talk to faculty and students about specific concerns or questions a prospective student may have.

Master's degree for doctoral students

Can I get a master’s degree from the Department of Political Science?

The Department does not offer a master’s degree for external applicants. Applicants interested in a master’s degree should look into the Fred Dorsey Program in International Policy Studies. Current doctoral students from within the Stanford Political Science department or in another Stanford University department may apply for an Master of Arts in Political Science during the course of their Ph.D. program. Master's candidates must take 45 units of course work, and 25 of those units must be in graduate seminars. There is no examination or thesis requirement.