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School of International Service, PhD

PhD Program Admissions Process & Requirements

Admission to the PhD Program

Submission of an Application

In order to be considered for admission, applications and all supporting materials are due by December 15. New students begin in the fall semester. The program is designed for full-time study only and is not offered online. Students may not defer admission into the program. The online application form can be accessed via the SIS Graduate Admissions website.

Four items must accompany an application for it to receive full consideration:

  • Transcripts from all previous universities attended
  • Students pursuing a PhD degree at SIS must hold at least a bachelor's degree or its equivalent before entering the program. Applicants should normally have a cumulative grade-point average that is substantially above a B (i.e., above 3.00 on a 4.00 scale, or equivalent if educated outside the US) in any previous undergraduate and graduate study, preferably in a field relevant to international relations.

  • Entrance Examination Scores
  • All applicants are required to submit valid Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores. Applicants who have already taken the GRE should contact ETS to determine if their test scores are still valid. SIS accepts the GREs only. SIS does not accept other graduate entrance examinations.

    International students whose native language is not English are required to submit results of the TOEFL/IELTS/Pearson Test of English (PTE). This requirement is waived for international students who hold a bachelor's degree or higher from an accredited university whose language of instruction is English in a country where English is also the official language [In countries where English is one of the official languages, TOEFL may be waived but additional English proficiency assessment may be required upon arrival]. Please visit the CIA World Fact Book for country and language profiles.

    Minimum score requirement: TOEFL: 100 (iBT), 250 (CBT), and 600 (PBT); IELTS: 7.0; PTE: 68. The SIS institution code for TOEFL score reporting is 8177. There is no department code.

    Please note: Applicants should plan to take the GRE and TOEFL far enough in advance of the December 15 application deadline to ensure that they will be available for consideration.

  • Letters of Recommendation
  • All applicants must submit at least three letters of recommendation. At least one of these letters must assess the applicant's past academic performance and is preferably from a former professor or other instructor who holds a PhD. All letters should evaluate the applicant's potential and suitability for undertaking doctoral study in international relations. The application for admission includes a form that should be used by those writing letters of recommendation and which can be submitted electronically.

  • Statement of Purpose
  • Applicants must also submit a “statement of purpose.” The Statement of Purpose must be written by the applicant and should explain his or her reasons for seeking an advanced degree, specific research interests, and include a summary of previous preparation and experience.

Davina Durgana

Davina Pic

Davina Durgana, an SIS PhD 2015 alumna, was recently named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list of people to watch in the sciences for her work on human trafficking. You can read her Forbes profile here.

Learn more about Ms. Durgana


Contact the PhD Program Coordinator, at 202-885-6582 or

We encourage prospective candidates to visit the University to meet faculty members and current PhD students. To arrange a visit, contact Graduate Admissions at 202-885-1646 or