Duke University Political Science


Applications for admission are welcomed from candidates for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. The Department also considers applications for candidates for the two-year Master of Arts degree, though students pursuing only the Master of Arts degree are not eligible for departmental financial awards. Applicants are considered without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, political affiliation, sex, age, or physical handicaps. Competition for admission is very strong and admissions decisions are made by a committee of the Department, in consultation with the Graduate School, on merit and promise and with a view to diversity of interests and backgrounds. Duke University does not accept applications for transfer into the PhD program from other programs.

Applicants must offer verbal, quantitative and writing aptitude scores on the Graduate Record Examination. Ordinarily, applicants will have earned the BA or BS degree with at least twelve undergraduate semester hours in political science. Three letters of recommendation and an undergraduate transcript are also required. A 10-20 page writing sample is requested.

Priority deadline for PhD applications: applications must be submitted online no later than December 8th of the calendar year prior to admission. Priority deadline for MA applications: applications must be submitted online no later than January 30th of the calendar year of admission. Otherwise they will not be processed until all on-time applications have been handled. Application fee is $80. Applicants seeking financial aid should submit applications as early as possible. Applications for Spring semester are only considered in exceptional cases.

Further information about the Graduate School requirements may be obtained at http://www.gradschool.duke.edu/admissions/requirements.htm.

To apply, go to http://www.gradschool.duke.edu/admissions/ to complete the application.

All of the Duke University Graduate School 's information about policies, practices, procedures, and financial aid is online at http://www.gradschool.duke.edu/.

Writing Samples.

While The Graduate School does not require a writing sample, the Political Science Department finds them very helpful. We strongly encourage students to submit a 10-20 page double-spaced writing sample. This is generally a seminar paper written for a political science class. If you have been out of school and have written/co-written and/or published/co-published an article, you may submit that article, too.

  • The writing sample should go directly to the Graduate School with all other supporting documents. You can upload the sample under  "Additional Information".

The most important items to remember are:

1. DEADLINE FOR RECEIPT OF APPLICATIONS AND SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS is December 8th for the PhD and January 30th for the MA. Supporting documents include transcripts, letters of recommendation, GRE scores, English language scores, and writing sample.

  • The PhD Admissions Committee will begin the review process as soon after the first of January as is possible. The MA Admissions Committee will begin the review process in early February. Incomplete applications will not be considered until all supporting documents are received.
  • Our orientation begins in early August—two weeks before classes begin. It is mandatory for all new students to attend the Orientation Session.

2. Our program is primarily a doctoral program. To that end, all students to whom we offer admission as Ph.D. students are considered for financial assistance. Departmental funding includes tuition, fees, and a stipend.

  • While the department offers the M.A. degree, it does not fund, fully or in part, the terminal MA degree.

3. After entering Political Science in the “Proposed Department,” the application offers a menu of sub-fields in the "Special Field" area. Our department has six sub-fields within political science: political institutions, political economy, political behavior and identity, methodology, and political theory. Please enter which sub-field best describes your area of interest.

4. If you are a current undergraduate, your letters of recommendation should come from faculty members, especially political science faculty.

  • If you are not a current undergraduate, not only do we want letters of recommendation from faculty who know you, we also want a letter from your current employer if applicable.

5. Successful applicants generally have GPA's of 3.5 or above, but are expected to have a minimum of 3.2. The combined Verbal and Quantitative GRE score should be at least 308 and the Writing, a 3.5 or higher. Exceptions to these thresholds are sometimes made. The code number for Duke University Graduate School is 5156. Because you are applying for admission to the Graduate School at Duke University, you do not need a department code.

6. No one factor determines whether an applicant is admitted or not. It is our practice to review all of the information included in admissions files before reaching a final decision. Our Admissions Committee screens each application for several factors:

  • Does the applicant's academic background indicate the applicant's ability to successfully complete the PhD degree (type/number/grade of courses taken as undergraduate, and where applicable, as master's student)?
  • Does the applicant's statement of purpose indicate the applicant's ability and desire to successfully complete the PhD degree (background/field of interest/goals and/or ideas/theories/literature)?
  • Do the applicant's letters of recommendation indicate that the applicant has an outstanding aptitude, knowledge and record of performance?
  • Is the applicant's writing sample of the highest quality?
  • Is there a faculty match?
  • If the primary language of the applicant is not English, does the applicant score 90 or higher on the English test? The Duke University Graduate School requires that any applicant whose native language is not English submit scores from either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the academic modules of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), regardless of whether or not you have attended another U.S. institution or participated in an ESL program. http://www.gradschool.duke.edu/admissions/requirements.htm. To be eligible for a TOEFL/IELTS waiver, you must  have studied full-time for two years or more at a college or university where the sole language of instruction is English and in a country where English is the primary spoken language. The two years of study must be completed prior to application submission. The request should be sent to . Either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International Language Testing System (IELTS) are accepted, but IELTS is preferred.
  • Our Admissions Committee then looks at the needs of the Department (e.g., how many students in a given subfield is desirable) and ranks the applicants accordingly. We typically receive more than 350 applications to our Ph.D. program but can only matriculate 8-12 students a year. Thus we must regretfully refuse admission to a large number of otherwise qualified applicants.
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