Frequently Asked Questions

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The PhD Program

  • Q: Do you offer a Master's degree?
    A: No, we only offer the PhD in Political Science. You will earn a Master's degree on your way to receiving the PhD, but we do not offer the MA for non-PhD students.

  • Q: How long will the program take?
    A: You can reasonably expect to finish the program in 5-6 years. Political Science PhD students typically spend at least one year in the field conducting research, which is why it may take longer than for other social science doctorates.

  • Q: Do you offer dual degrees with other programs or departments at UC Berkeley?
    A: Currently, the Political Science PhD program does not offer any formal dual degrees.

Application

Required Application Forms

  • Q: What forms am I required to fill out in order to apply?
    A: You must fill out all sections of the online Graduate Division Application application requirements page.

  • Q: Is there a Diversity office that can assist me with the application process?
    A: You can find helpful resources, links, and tools for successfully completing the graduate application in the Social Sciences Diversity Office.

Transcripts

  • Q: Am I required to submit official transcripts?
    A: Not unless you are admitted to the program and decide to enroll. However, in order to be considered for admission, we must have a digital copy of your unofficial transcripts for ALL courses that you received academic credit for toward a degree. All transcripts should be uploaded to your Graduate Division Online Application

  • Q: What is the difference between an official and unofficial transcript? Do you accept both?
    A: An official transcript is issued directly by your registrar's office in a sealed envelope either to you or mailed directly to us. You are not permitted to see an official transcript. An unofficial transcript is one that you have seen, usually issued on paper or online from your school's registrar's office. You should upload your unofficial transcripts to your Graduate Division Online Application.

  • Q: I have taken courses at multiple institutions. Which transcripts do you need?
    A: We need official transcripts for ALL courses that you received academic credit for toward a degree. A list of transferred courses on your degree transcript is not sufficient.

  • Q: My institution does not issue grades until after your December 3 deadline. What should I do?
    A: We must have a transcript on file by the December 3 deadline to review your application. Submit a current transcript by the deadline, and send us an updated transcript as soon as grades become available. Please be aware that review of applications begins very soon after the deadline, so we cannot guarantee review of any materials received after December 3.

  • Q: What can I do if I am in a Master's program, and won't have any grades until after the December 3 deadline?
    A: Ask your registrar's office to send us an official document verifying your enrollment and current course list, as well as a date when we can expect your official grades.

  • Q: What are the transcript and translation requirements for international students?
    A: Please refer to the instructions given by the graduate division about degree requirements for international applicants at http://grad.berkeley.edu/admissions/admis_require.shtml (external link).

GPA Calculation

  • Q: The online application asks for various GPAs, but my institution does not use a 4.0 GPA scale. What should I do?
    A: Ask your registrar's office if they have a standard format for changing your grades to a 4.0 GPA scale. If it is not a simple conversion, you may leave these sections in the online application blank.

  • Q: In the online Graduate Division Application, they ask for the average GPA of my Upper Division coursework. How do I know which courses to include?
    A: UC Berkeley refers to advanced level undergraduate courses as "Upper Division." Generally, these are the courses that may require prerequisites, junior or senior status, and/or are restricted to students within the major. Talk to your undergraduate advisor for further assistance in deciding which courses fit into this group.

Recommendation Letters

  • Q: How do my recommenders submit their letters?
    A: In the online Graduate Division Application, you will be asked to submit the names and email addresses of your letter writers. Fill out the names and email addresses for each of your three recommenders, choose whether you waive your right to access the letters, and whether the recommenders will use the online system to submit letters. Follow the directions in the system closely to ensure that your professors will receive the email with instructions on how to submit their letters online.

  • Q: My professor would prefer to send the letter by mail. Is that OK?
    A: While we strongly prefer to receive letters online, we are also happy to accept letters by mail. Ask your professor to mail the letter directly to the Department of Political Science at the address at the bottom of this page. There is no additional form your recommender needs to fill out. Please remind him or her that our deadline is December 5, and we need to have the letter in our office by that date.

  • Q: Do you accept letters from dossier services such as my university's career services center?
    A: We are happy to accept recommendation letters from either your university's dossier service or Interfolio either as an online upload or by mail.

  • Q: How many recommendation letters should I submit?
    A: We require three academic letters of recommendation, though you are welcome to submit more if you wish. Please keep in mind that we cannot guarantee that the committee will read more than three letters, so we recommend that you only ask recommenders to submit their letters if you believe they have something substantial to say about your application.

  • Q: May I ask my current or former employer or other non-academic references to submit letters?
    A: As long as you have submitted the required three academic letters of recommendation, additional letters may be from non-academic sources as you see fit. You should not submit one of these letters in place of the three required academic letters.

Standardized Tests

  • Q: What standardized tests do you require?
    A: ALL applicants are required to take the GRE General Test. International students from countries where the official language is not English must also take the TOEFL or IELTS. Please refer to the graduate division's requirements for evidence of English language proficiency for exceptions to this requirement and more information at http://grad.berkeley.edu/admissions/admis_require.shtml (external link).

  • Q: What is the institution and department code for UC Berkeley, Political Science Department?
    A: UC Berkeley's institution code is 4833. Please DO NOT include a department code or choose the Political Science department when selecting to which schools you would like ETS to send your scores. UC Berkeley receives all ETS scores electronically, which will then be automatically matched with your application and sent on to the department. Help save a tree, and prevent a duplicate printed version from being sent to the department by NOT entering a department code when you request your official GRE scores for UC Berkeley, Political Science Department.

  • Q: What are the minimum score requirements for the standardized tests?
    A: We do not have minimum score requirements for the GRE. However, due to the highly competitive applicant pool we receive each year, the average scores of admitted students are typically in the 80th percentile or higher on each of the three sections of the GRE General Test. For the IELTS and TOEFL, please refer to the graduate division website at http://grad.berkeley.edu/admissions/admis_require.shtml (external link).

  • Q: My tests are scheduled before the December 3 deadline, but I don't think my official scores will reach you by the deadline. What should I do?
    A: Immediately after you complete the computer based GRE test, you will receive your quantitative and verbal scores. Include these unofficial scores in the online application before you submit it by the December 3 deadline, and we will wait for your official scores from ETS.

  • Q: I plan to focus on political theory. Does the admissions committee consider the quantitative section of the GRE for my application as strongly as for non-theory applicants?
    A: While the relative need for strong math skills for theory students is taken into consideration during the admissions review process, the admissions committee holds all applicants to extremely high academic achievement standards. We recommend you spend time mastering all skills tested in the GRE exam.

Essays

  • Q: In the online Graduate Division Application, I see that I am required to write a Personal History Statement AND a Statement of Purpose. What is the difference between the two?
    A: The Personal History Statement is where you can inform the committee of your background, what makes you unique, and how you came to apply to a PhD program in Political Science. The Statement of Purpose is where you should focus more on your research interests and how you are a good fit with our department. Be sure to read the directions for each essay and answer the questions completely.

  • Q: There doesn't seem to be a limit on the length of my essays. How long should they be?
    A: We do not have a minimum or maximum length for the essays. Focus on answering the questions completely in a concise, well-written manner.

Supplemental Documents

  • Q: Do I need to submit a writing sample in addition to the essays required in the online application?
    A: Yes! You must submit a previously written political science or other social science research paper you have written, including a 250 word abstract on the paper. We also recommend that you submit a CV or resume. You can upload both of these document to the Graduate Division Online Application.

  • Q: May I mail my supplemental writing sample to the department instead of submitting them online?
    A: Please do not submit any materials by paper except recommendation letters if necessary. We do NOT accept printed writing samples. We have limited resources and space, and cannot accommodate additional printed materials from applicants. You should follow the directions in the Graduate Division Online Application to submit your documents electronically.

Admissions Criteria and Application Review

  • Q: What are your minimum admissions criteria?
    A: The department requires GRE scores from within the past five years, but does not have a minimum score requirement. Also, the university requires a bachelor's degree or equivalent with a 3.0 undergraduate GPA. However, due to the highly competitive applicant pool we receive each year, our admitted students typically far exceed the minimum requirements. For more information, please visit the Admission Requirements section on the Graduate Division website at http://grad.berkeley.edu/admissions/admis_require.shtml (external link)

  • Q: How does the admissions process work?
    A: A confidential committee of faculty reviews files beginning shortly after our application deadline of December 5. Decisions are made within the department and applicants are notified of the department's decision by email and/or phone. The Graduate Division Dean's office then reviews the department recommendations for admission, and notifies those applicants of their official admission by email.

  • Q: When can I expect to hear a decision on my application?
    A: The department will contact you by email no later than March 1, usually by mid-February. The department is authorized only to recommend admission decisions to the Graduate Division Dean, but you will receive a final decision from the Dean's office if you are admitted shortly after you hear from the department.

Deadlines

  • Q: What is your application deadline?
    A: The deadline for Fall 2014 admissions is December 3, 2013. We do not offer spring or summer admissions.

  • Q: Do all of my materials need to be in by the deadline?
    A: Yes! The committee begins the review process shortly after the deadline, so your application must be complete--including a complete application, GRE scores (unofficial scores are OK while we wait for the official scores from ETS), transcripts, and recommendation letters--by the deadline. We will accept transcripts that include fall 2013 grades after the deadline, but you must send them as soon as possible once your grades are posted. We cannot guarantee that application materials received after the deadline will be reviewed by the admissions committee.

  • Q: What about my GRE scores? ETS says it takes a few weeks to send scores, which means they may arrive at Berkeley after December 3.
    A: Don't worry about it! All we need to begin reviewing your application is your unofficial scores. As long as we have those by the December 3 deadline, we are happy for wait for your official scores from ETS. Official scores received after the December 5 deadline will not affect the status of your application review as long as we have your unofficial scores by December 3.
     
  • Q: Is there an advantage to applying early?
    A: Yes. Due to the huge volume of application materials we receive during the four weeks surrounding the application deadline, we may not be able to provide you with a status update on your application during this busy time. Therefore, it is in your best interest to submit your application and supplemental materials a few weeks early so you will have time to make sure your application is complete by the deadline. Submitting your application early does not improve your chances for admission, except by ensuring your complete application can be reviewed by the committee.
  • Q: What about my official GRE scores?
    A: Your test date must be no later than December 3, 2013, NO EXCEPTIONS! Be sure to include your unofficial verbal and quantitative test scores in your online application by the deadline, and we will wait for your official scores from ETS.

If you have any further questions, please contact us at pscadmit@berkeley.edu.