Frequently Asked Questions

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Political Science Graduate Program F.A.Q.

graduate students in class

Applying

When is the application deadline?
The deadline for application is January 7th. All materials must be on file with the department by this date, including GRE scores.

Do I need an undergraduate degree in political science to be considered for admission?
No, an undergraduate degree in political science is not required.

What are the admissions requirements?
1. Submitted GRE scores (the University’s institutional code is 6681).
2. Transcripts from all previous universities.
3. Bachelor's degree from an accredited university.
4. A statement of purpose and resume/CV. A writing sample is highly recommended.
5. Three letters of recommendation from persons who can comment on your academic ability and motivation.

What are the minimum GRE scores required?
Verbal and Quantitative GRE score each in the 70th percentile (at least 156 of the points must come from the verbal examination) and an analytical writing score of 4.5 or higher.
Note: With respect to the GRE and GPA requirements, it should be noted that achievement well above our minimum on one may compensate for a score somewhat below our minimum on the other.

What are the minimum G.P.A. requirements?
Undergraduate grade point average of at least 3.3 on a four-point scale (or its equivalent for foreign applicants). For applicants who have done graduate work elsewhere, we require a graduate grade point average of at least 3.5.

How long should my statement of purpose be and what should I talk about?
The statement of purpose is generally 800-1,000 words, or 2-3 pages in length. You should use a standard font, 12-point size, with double-spaced paragraphs.
Your statement should explain the following:
1. Why you are interested in political science (enough that it is sensible for you to do 4-6 years of intensive study/teaching/research in the field).
2. What particular political issues or problems you hope to conduct research on.
3. What career you see your PhD leading to. This can be in academia but does not have to be.
4. Which members of our faculty, ideally 2-3, based on their research expertise, would make relevant intellectual/professional mentors for you if you joined the program. You can find on our website a list of our faculty, and you can follow the links to see their CVs and other information on their research.
5. Any other information about yourself that would help us assess your readiness to do well in our program.

Are there additional requirements for international students?
Foreign students whose native language is not English must achieve a TOEFL iBT score of at least 100.

When can I expect to hear about an admission decision?
Our admissions committee meets in late January or early February and initial decisions are announced shortly thereafter.

Can I begin the graduate program in a semester other than the fall?
No. New doctoral students must enter the program at the beginning of the fall term due to the structure of our curriculum.

How many students apply each year? How many are admitted?
The Ph.D. program receives about 60 applications each year. Of these, 6-10 are admitted.

About the Program

How will a degree from the University of Iowa set me apart from other graduates on the job market?
The doctoral program in Political Science at Iowa is notable for providing its students with strong training in cutting-edge research skills, through both coursework and close collaboration between students and faculty. At the same time, Iowa’s PhDs gain extensive teaching experience and training. Many in recent years have won competitive university awards as an outstanding teaching assistant. The program is small compared to many of Iowa’s peer departments around the country, which means that each student receives close attention from relevant faculty members and has more opportunities to be brought into the department’s scholarly activities. Our students typically enter the job market with multiple experiences that help them stand out. These include such things as conference participations, peer-reviewed publications, and internally awarded fellowships that recognize their scholarly or teaching accomplishments.

What are some notable achievements of the faculty in the Department of Political Science?
The Department of Political Science at the University of Iowa offers a rich program of graduate study that has as its foundation a group of faculty members who are committed to first-rate research and teaching. The Department of Political Science ranks among the best in the country in terms of scholarly quality as measured by faculty publications in the leading professional journals. Our faculty also play leadership roles in the profession by, for example, editing journals, receiving major research grants from governmental and private sources, helping organize major conferences, and being invited to speak nationally and internationally.

Are political science professors easy to reach?
Yes. Graduate students and faculty in our department have offices together on the same floor of Schaeffer Hall. Students quickly get to know and regularly interact with faculty beyond just their instructors, including simply by chatting in the hallway. Faculty are happy to meet with our graduate students, including outside office hours, to discuss their work. The result is a department in which faculty-graduate student research collaboration is frequent and productive. In addition, a variety of formal and informal departmental events throughout the year bring faculty members and graduate students together.

Are graduate students and faculty active at political science conferences and other events?
Iowa’s faculty members are active scholars who regularly attend academic conferences. Many have been chosen to organize major conferences or sections of them. Our faculty are also active as leaders in a variety of professional organizations. We encourage our graduate students to begin attending conferences early in their program. We also work with our graduate students on how they can turn their seminar work into conference presentations and, thereafter, submit that work for publication. Each year, the department distributes over $10,000 to doctoral students to offset the costs of attending conferences.

What are our graduates doing after earning their degrees?
Our graduates go on to work in a wide variety of academic and non-academic settings. Recent grads have found tenure-track positions at the University of Tennessee, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Massachusetts Boston, and the University of Texas at El Paso. Some grads have begun work for the U.S. Department of State or in the non-profit sector. See here for an updated list: https://clas.uiowa.edu/polisci/graduate/recent-placements

How long does it take to get a Ph.D.?
Most students complete their degree in 5-6 years.

Is there a separate program for those who just want a master’s degree?
No. We only admit students into the doctoral program.

Funding

What proportion of admitted students receives funding?
We attempt to fund all of our incoming Ph.D. students with graduate assistantships.

How do I apply for funding?
There are no special materials needed to apply for funding besides the short form that is part of the graduate application. We consider all applicants for funding, usually in the form of teaching or research assistantships.

What does a graduate assistantship cover?
In exchange for working as a teaching or research assistant for 20 hrs./week, students receive a full tuition waiver, a reduction in student fees of 50%, and a stipend for them to cover living expenses. The most current and complete information about graduate assistantships can be found here: https://www.grad.uiowa.edu/graduate-assistantships. The level of the stipend is regularly negotiated between the university and a union representing graduate students.

Is funding available for students who are not U.S. citizens?
Yes, international students are considered equally for assistantships.

Are there opportunities for summer work?
Yes, but summer funding is not guaranteed. Graduate students work as teaching assistants in the summer and are often hired as research assistants for faculty.

Living in Iowa City

How far will the TA stipend go in Iowa City?
Depending on location, a single-bedroom apartment may cost from $600 to $900 per month. The cost of living in Iowa City is similar to the national average and compares well with other cities that contain Big Ten universities. Free parking is not available downtown so factor it in when calculating whether to commute by car!

Where do graduate students usually live?
Graduate students live in rentals throughout the city and also in the Coralville/North Liberty area where rent is somewhat cheaper. The department puts newly admitted doctoral students in touch with current students for advice on how to choose a rental that will work well. You should also explore the University’s off-campus housing webpage: https://offcampushousing.uiowa.edu/.

What sort of restaurants are located in the area?
The Iowa City area offers a variety of great restaurants, including dozens within a short walk from campus. They range from sandwich shops to elegant dining, include popular options for Chinese, Korean, Indian and other Asian cuisines. For more on local restaurants, you can explore this link: https://www.thinkiowacity.com/restaurants/.

Are there good entertainment options around the city?
There are constant events in Iowa City. The university sponsors music, theater, lecture, and sporting events. Tickets to university events are either free for students or available at a discount. Live music is available every weekend at multiple locations including at the Englert Theatre, Hancher Auditorium, and various bars and restaurants. Iowa City hosts multiple festivals every year, including the Iowa Arts Fest, the Iowa City Jazz Fest, and the Iowa Soul Fest. Mission Creek, a renowned performance and literature festival, takes place every April. For more Iowa City events go here: http://downtowniowacity.com/events/.

Is the culture of Iowa City accepting of LGBTQ members and other minority communities?
Very much so. The City of Iowa City and the University of Iowa work in coordination to support and provide opportunities for a variety of communities. An organization called Iowa City Pride, in cooperation with the City of Iowa City, promotes increased visibility and opportunities for expression, such as the annual Pride Festival. The Iowa City Police Department designates three officers as liaisons to the LGBTQ community to promote dialogue and assist members of the community with police matters. The University of Iowa supports an array of resources for a growing number of communities. This includes an LGBTQ clinic in the UI Hospitals and Clinics. Graduate students benefit from several programs provided by the Graduate College’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Do students have easy and cheap transportation to the university and around the city?
The University’s CAMBUS is a free bus system that runs everywhere on campus, including to and from the residences and sports facility on the Hawkeye campus about 3 miles west of downtown. City buses run throughout Iowa City and Coralville. It is particularly convenient that all city routes originate just outside Schaeffer Hall, where our department is located. They are inexpensive, with discounted annual passes available at a special low student rate. Many students also bike around town, and ride-sharing services such Uber and Lyft are available.