Frequently Asked Questions
Graduate Program Admissions
How many students are admitted to the Ph.D. program annually?
Typically, between two and five.
How many applied last year?
Does the department fund all admitted students?
Yes, the department offers full fellowships to all incoming Ph.D. students regardless of financial need or nationality. The funding is for five years, contingent upon satisfactory academic performance. In return, students serve as teaching fellows in the department for six semesters, generally one course per semester starting in the spring of the first year.
Most of our master’s students receive generous scholarships in the form of merit- and need-based aid. Often awarded at the time of admission, these scholarships do not require a separate application unless noted for a particular program. These awards are made to both international students and U.S. citizens. Scholarships usually provide partial tuition and may be supplemented by low-interest government loans for U.S. citizens and permanent residents via the FAFSA form. More information can be found at the GSAS Master's Student Aid page.
What does PhD funding consist of?
The funding consists of a full tuition waiver, a stipend of about $20,000 for the nine-month school year and health insurance.
What are the main criteria for admission? What is the relative weight assigned to applicants' academic experience, test scores and work experience?
The Admissions Committee will not consider incomplete files. The writing sample, GRE
scores (for students whose first language is not English) and three letters of recommendations are required for all candidates. The admissions committee attaches roughly equal weight to these factors, to your recommendations — preferably from academics familiar with your scholarly work — and the writing sample.
If I already have an M.A. from another university, do I have to submit a GRE score?
If I have a J.D., can I submit my LSAT score instead?
What are the average GRE scores of applicants?
We do not retain these numbers. Scores below the 60th percentile generally lessen a candidate's chances. Above that, there is great variation.
May I send my test scores and GPA to faculty so that you can gauge the likelihood of my admission?
We do not offer opinions about admission before considering your full file.
If I have low test scores and grades, am I automatically denied admission?
No. The admissions committee considers all of the information in your file. If your GRE scores are low, the committee will look at other materials that are reliable indicators of academic potential.
How are multiple GRE scores considered?
We consider all scores, and note all trends.
Do I have to choose a major field of study when applying?
Yes. Please describe your specific area of interest, and indicate whether you plan to concentrate on international relations, comparative politics, political theory, or American political development. You are not permanently committed to this choice of course, and you may change your major field of study after beginning the program.
Are there any particular areas around which students' interests revolve?
They generally reflect the faculty's research interests; see the faculty
page. Please also check the page describing current graduate students.
What written work must applicants submit?
A personal statement and a writing sample. Please follow the application instructions provided by the Graduate Admissions Office
How long should the personal statement be?
We recommend limiting your personal statement to approximately 1,000 words, which should be sufficient to explain your academic background, current motivation and future research interests.
How long should the writing sample be?
Your writing sample should be a 5,000 -7,000-word scholarly essay that addresses your research interests.
Who should write my letters of recommendation?
The admissions committee strongly prefers to see letters from those who can assess your likelihood of academic success in graduate school. Letters from non-academic employers carry much less weight than letters from academics and scholars who are familiar with your work.
Will the department consider incomplete applications?
Can I submit my application before I take the GRE?
Should I submit my application to the department?
No. Please send your complete application to the Graduate Admissions Office.
Is an interview required?
No, nor, given the number of applicants and potential visitors, is it encouraged.
Is political science a required undergraduate major for applicants?
No, though the department does expect that prospective students will have had sufficient exposure to the field for them to develop a clear statement of purpose.
Are applicants expected to have had advanced course work in mathematics and statistics?
Where did your students study as undergraduates?
Our students come from a variety of programs and countries. Some of our recent Ph.D. students joined us from the University of Chicago
, the University of Maryland
, Mount Holyoke
, Michigan State University
, L'Institut d'Etudes Politiques
in Strasbourg, France and the London School of Economics and Political Science
. Our Master’s students come from an even more diverse list of colleges and universities.
Can I begin the program in the spring term?
May I contact faculty members whose interests coincide with my research interests?
That would be premature. Let us have a look at your application first.
How and when will I receive notification of the decision on my application?
Generally, we contact admitted students by mail between March and the end of April.
How much time do I have to consider an offer of admission?
Generally until April 15, although we will always give you 4 weeks or so from the date of your receipt of the decision letter. We appreciate hearing from you as soon as possible, since your slot may then become available to another applicant.
Will I have a chance to talk to someone before I decide to accept an offer of admission?
Yes, we will be in touch with you and we will be happy to discuss the program in detail with you.
Can I defer my offer of admission?
Under certain circumstances, yes.
When will I receive information about registration?
In the early summer.
How long does it normally take to complete a Ph.D. in politics at Brandeis?
Between four-and-a-half and seven years. It takes two years to complete course work, it takes a semester to prepare for and pass comprehensive and language exams, it takes an average of one-and-a-half to two years to do research and it takes one to three years to write the dissertation.
Can I attend part time?
Do I still have to complete course work if I have an M.A. from another university?
Yes. However, at the beginning of your second full year of study you can request credit for graduate course work completed elsewhere. Students generally can receive a maximum of two class credits for work elsewhere, but exceptions are possible.
If I do not enter the program as a fellow, is there any chance of receiving funding later on, or working as a teaching or research assistant for a professor in the department?
The fees for Brandeis are quite high. We do not recommend entering the Ph.D. program without funding, although students may choose to pursue a M.A. under these circumstances, since the department offers reduced tuition rates for M.A. students.
How long does it normally take to complete a Master’s in politics at Brandeis?
The program is designed to be completed in three semesters or less. Some students finish in two terms of coursework and then one summer semester of thesis writing; others finish their coursework and thesis writing in two terms.
Can I attend part time?
We do not admit part time M.A. students.
What are the opportunities for acquiring teaching experience?
This program takes teaching very seriously. Graduate students take a pedagogy course in their second year. All students receiving departmental fellowships begin serving as teaching assistants in their second semester and continue serving as teaching assistants for one course in each of six subsequent semesters. Some of our students also choose to teach part time at area colleges and universities.
Do you offer support for the summer months?
Small grants are generally available for summer work. Also, faculty members may employ graduate students to do research. Students sometimes find employment teaching in other departments, or working in the library, for example.
Is support available for fieldwork?
Yes, summers and part of the fifth year of funding may be spent doing fieldwork. Other arrangements and funding sources are possible as well.
What about academic resources outside the department?
Within Brandeis, students attend seminars and lectures at the Center for German and European Studies
, the Crown Center for Middle East Studies
, the Departments of Near Eastern and Judaic studies
, among others. There are also countless other academic opportunities in the Boston-Cambridge area.
What goes on in the department outside the classroom?
A lot! Many social gatherings, happy hours, movie evenings, the chair's sherry hour and outings.
How much contact do graduate students have with professors?
This is a relatively small department that prides itself on the quality and extent of interaction between faculty and students.
What kinds of jobs are students getting after completing the program?
Most of our graduates pursue and land tenure-track appointments. Some of our graduates have been placed at the following schools: The University of British Columbia
(Vancouver), Catholic University
, the University of Michigan
, New York University
, George Washington University
and Rutgers University
What if I want to work outside academia? What are Master’s students pursuing after they complete their degree?
Some of our recent MAs and Ph.D.s have decided to go into public service or work for NGOs. Placements include the Liberty Fund, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the U.S. Institute of Peace.
Are fellowships awarded to international students?
Yes. Fellowships go to the strongest applicants regardless of nation of origin.
Is there a limited number of slots available for international students?
No. The admissions committee bases its decisions solely on the application and the applicant's academic credentials. Our class of 2006 contained five international students out of six and more recent cohorts have included international students as well.
Where do your graduate students come from?
Around the world. In the last three or four years we have had students from Egypt, Poland, France, South Korea, Turkey, Israel, the Czech Republic, Germany and India.
If I am from overseas but received a degree from an American college or university, do I still have to submit a TOEFL score?
If English is not your native language, we require that you submit a TOEFL score, since the program is writing intensive.
I earned a law degree overseas and received two graduate degrees from American universities. Should I submit a TOEFL score?
Please submit a TOEFL score.