Admission Requirements

Personal Statement

This is the most critical component of the application. The personal statement should:

  • Address the applicant's understanding of and interest in his or her chosen field.
  • Explain the motivation behind the applicant's desire to enter graduate study in public administration and/or international relations.
  • Outline the applicant's academic and professional career goals.


A professional resume is required. It should outline the applicant's employment history, volunteerism and community service, academic honors and scholastic recognition, publications, leadership roles, professional associations joined, and other activities related to his or her career goals.  Applicants for the MA IR should highlight their international experiences and language proficiency on their resume. 


Students should prepare for and take the required standardized tests well in advance of our application deadline of Feb 1.  An application is deemed incomplete and will not be reviewed for admission nor financial aid until official test scores arrive from ETS. 

All students are expected to submit a GRE score and, if they are international students from a non-English-speaking nation, a TOEFL score. We will accept the GMAT in lieu of the GRE; the applicant must note this on his or her application. We accept the LSAT in lieu of the GRE from first-year SU College of Law applicants who are applying to the joint JD/MPA or JD/MAIR programs; we will not accept the LSAT from applicants outside of SU.

Test requirements will not be waived, with one exception: The TOEFL can be waived for any student who attended a school for a minimum of four years where the primary language of instruction was English. (For more detail, e-mail us).

Though students should do as well on these exams as possible, an exceptionally high or low test score will never be the sole reason behind an admission decision.  While there are no cut-offs, here are the median scores for admitted students averaged over a three year period: GRE:  580/158 - V, 700/155 - Q, and 4.5 - AW; TOEFL: 105.

All GRE and TOEFL test scores must be sent to SU from ETS. The code for the GRE/TOEFL exams is Syracuse University 2823.

If a GRE score is older than five years and no longer on file with ETS, we will accept an original score report or a notarized copy.

Quantitative Skills

PAIA does not require the completion of specific courses in mathematics, economics, or statistics in order to apply.  However, due to the rigorous analytic component of our MPA and MAIR programs, applicants should have a strong quantitative background.

Applicants lacking this background are encouraged to remedy this deficiency prior to application. Past applicants needing to strengthen this part of their skill set have found courses in intermediate microeconomics, intermediate macroeconomics, and introductory statistics to be helpful preparation.

Language Proficiency

Those pursuing the MAIR degree need to address how they meet, or plan to meet, the language requirement for the program. All graduates must demonstrate intermediate-advanced proficiency in a modern, spoken foreign language. Ideally, candidates will have already completed at least four semesters of foreign language study at the college level prior to application and entrance in our program.


One set of official transcripts is required from every college and/or university where undergraduate coursework was completed toward a degree. Unofficial transcripts are allowed at time of application, but official transcripts will  be required for official matriculation into the program.  

Official or notarized translations are required for transcripts in other languages.

Students from outside the U.S. must complete a degree comparable to the four-year U.S. undergraduate degree to be eligible for the MPA and MAIR programs.  The PAIA Department will also accept a WES credential evaluation report stipulating that a three year degree completed elsewhere is equivalent to a 4 yr US Bachelor degree.  Please see the above link for specific information on what will or will not be considered a US equivalent BA degree. 

Letters of Recommendations

Students are asked to submit three letters of recommendation.

For students who have only recently completed their undergraduate degree, two letters should come from faculty members with whom they have studied. For students with several years of experience, it is still preferred (but not required) that at least one letter comes from an academic source.

SU Application Fee

A non-refundable SU Application Fee of $75 is required at time of application.  The university has arrangements wherein it allows for the SU application fee to be waived for participants in several programs (see list below). Unfortunately we cannot waive the University application fee for applicants who are applying from outside these pre-approved programs.  

  • All Veterans / Army Defense Comptrollership Program
  • Edmund S. Muskie
  • Ford Foundation
  • Fulbright, IIE
  • GEM - Graduate Education for Minorities
  • IIPP - Institute for International Public Policy (US Department of Education)
  • McNair Scholars (please submit a Letter of Recommendation from your faculty research mentor)
  • Pickering Fellows
  • Project 1000 applicants
  • PPIA - Public Policy and International Affairs Fellows (please submit documentation that you completed your JSI)