Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the application deadline?
2. What am I required to submit for application to your program?
3. How do I request an application fee waiver?
4. How many applications do you receive each year? How many are accepted?
5. What is the minimum or average GPA or GRE score for successful applicants?
6. How many students are in the programs?
7. How internationally diverse are your programs?
9. What is the average age of your incoming students?
10. What are the core requirements for each degree?
11. I see you offer a PhD in Public Administration. Do you offer a PhD in International Relations?
12. Do you have dual degree programs?
13. Can I study part-time?
14. Do you have an online or distance-learning program?
15. Can I take classes at other schools or departments within Syracuse University?
Preparing to Apply
16. What do you look for in an applicant?
17. Can I visit the campus?
18. Can I arrange a personal interview with an admissions adviser to discuss my application?
20. Do you accept transfer students?
21. May I take courses as a non-matriculated student?
22. Do I have to submit a separate application if I wish to pursue a certificate program?
23. Do you have any special requirements for international applicants?
24. Do I have to take the TOEFL or IELTS?
25. Do I need to have my foreign documents translated?
26. Do I need to submit funding documentation?
27. Do I have to be fluent in a foreign language?
28. What forms of payment do you accept for the application fee?
29. What is your GRE policy?
30. I've taken undergraduate- and graduate-level courses at a number of schools. Which transcripts am I required to submit?
31. Who should write my letters of recommendation?
32. Can I have my recommendations sent by my college's letter file service?
33. What if my recommender forgot to use the recommendation form?
34. Do you offer financial aid to international students?
35. Can I apply for a Graduate Assistantship (GA) position in my first year?
Is it possible to receive a full fellowship for my first year?
Submitting an Application
37. Can I apply online?
38. Where do I send paper documents?
39. Do the application materials need to be postmarked with the date of the deadline?
40. If I have a question about filling out the online application, who do I contact?
41. If I want to apply to a joint program, do I submit two applications?
42. Should I send in a writing sample?
43. How do I find out if all my application materials have been received?
Waiting for and Responding to an Admissions Decision
44. When do you mail decisions?
45. Can I get an early decision?
46. Can I defer my admissions offer?
47. Do you use a wait list?
50. If I wasn't admitted, can I get feedback on my application?
51. May I appeal my admissions decision? (51b: If I declined an offer, can I reapply?)
52. What sort of computer facilities does Maxwell offer?
53. Is student housing available?
55. When do I need to send in the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Financial Aid)?
56. What is your FAFSA school code?
1.What is the application deadline? The application deadline is February 1st for application to the MPA, MA IR and PhD (Public Administration) degree programs. Only complete applications (including required official test scores) will be reviewed for admission and financial aid. We continue to accept late applications for the MPA and MA IR through the spring however,we cannot guarantee that applications received after this date will be reviewed. Late applications cannot be considered for financial aid. Care should be taken to apply by the Feb 1 deadline.
2.What am I required to submit for application to your program?
1) a completed online application
2) a non-refundable, application fee of $75 (we do not waive this fee)
3) a personal statement as per the instructions on the application
4) all official transcripts from universities where you have studied or earned/plan to earn a degree
5) a resume or CV
6) three letters of recommendation
7) official test scores for GRE and TOEFL/IELTS if you an international student whose bachelors degree was not earned from an institution in which English is the language of instruction
3.How do I request and application fee waiver?
Syracuse University processes the applications for our graduate program. They have agreements in place to waive the application fee for McNair Scholars, PPIA Fellows and Pickering Scholars ONLY. We do not waive application fees for any other applicants. The University would require that the Department pay any waived application fee if we grant a waiver. We decided we would rather use our resources to assist students with financial aid, rather than pay application fees to this central unit. Any requests for an application fee waiver will NOT be granted. We hope you understand and appreciate this decision.
4.How many applications do you receive each year? How many are accepted? We typically receive about 500 - 600 applications each year for the MPA and MA IR programs. The average acceptance rate for both programs is about 50%. We generally receive 80-100 applications for the PhD and admit 6-8 students annually.
5.What are the median or average GPA and GRE score for successful applicants? There are no minimum GPA or GRE requirements for admission. The admissions committee reviews the entire profile of an applicant through a holistic approach. Grades and standardized test scores are taken into consideration in the context of the broader application.
MPA & MA IR
Average GPA of admitted students: 3.4 - 3,7
Median GRE scores of admitted students: V: 580/158, Q: 700/155, A: 4.5
Three year average of Average GPA of entering students: 3.78
Three year average of Median GRE scores of entering students: V: 635/162, Q: 763/170, A: 4.5
6.How many students are in the programs? Depending on the strength of the applicant pool, our class size will range between 100-115 new MPA students, 65-75 MA IR students, and 4-6 PhD students.
7.How internationally diverse are your programs?
Our programs are wonderfully diverse along international lines. With an average of over 20-25 different countries represented in our student body each year, across all three programs
MPA: Approximately 20-25% of our students are international.
MA IR: Approximately 25-30% of our students are international.
PhD (PA):Approximately 50-60% of our students are international.
These numbers vary each year and the admissions committee does not target a certain number of international students in the admissions process. The criteria for admission are the same for international and domestic students, although international students whose native language is not English must complete the English language test requirement.
9.What is the average age of your incoming students?
The average age of incoming MPA and MA IR students is 26-27. We do have students join us direct from their undergraduate studies each year, as well as many more with 5+ years of post undergraduate work experience. It is important that an applicant has an appreciation for the professional nature of these fields, have clearly identified career goals aligned with our school's mission and a demonstrated commitment to public and/or international service.
Back to top
3.What is the duration of the degree programs?
MPA - 12 months of study, July - June, entirely in residence
MA IR - 16 months of study, August through December, two semesters on campus, summer and fall terms away from campus.
MPA/MA IR dual degree - two years of full time study, still allowing for two semesters away from campus
PhD (PA) - usually completed in 4-5 years, two years of coursework, third year comprehensive exams, followed by data collection, analysis and dissertation writing.
Dual Degree Programs - most dual degree (two masters degrees) can be completed in two years of study; including the MA IR/MS PR (Public Diplomacy), MPA/MA Econ, MA IR/MA Econ, etc.
JD/MPA and JD/MA IR - completed in same three of years of study required for the JD!! (The condensed nature of our MPA and IR degrees allows this easily!)
10.What are the core requirements for each degree? Program degree requirements can be found on the Degree Program pages of our website.
11.I see you offer an PhD in Public Administration. Do you offer a PhD program in International Relations? No, but a student can enter the MA IR program and follow a pre-PhD track if they are considering pursuing a PhD in the future. We have a specialized progam of study to allow for an easier transition if admitted to the PhD in Political Science at Maxwell. MA IR graduates seeking a career in academic research and teaching, may apply to any of the PhD degree programs within Maxwell. Maxwell is home to the social science departments of Anthropology, Economics, Geography, History, Political Science, Sociology and an interdisciplinary PhD program in Social Sciences. Students should seriously consider which academic discipline they wish to have their tenure home/academic career in, when considering a PhD program.
12.Do you have dual degree programs? Yes, we have several dual degree options with our professionally oriented masters degrees in public administration and international relations. The MPA/MA IR, the MA IR/MS in Public Relations (Public Diplomacy), the MPA/MA Econ, the MA IR/MA Econ can all be completed in two years of study. Dual degree programs with SU College of Law in both public administration and international relations can be completed in three years of study. Concurrent degree programs can be crafted with the MPA and MA IR and any other graduate program at Syracuse University or SUNY College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry. For more information:
Dual Degree Programs.
13.Can I study part-time? Our PhD (PA) program is a full-time residential program. The vast majority of students in the MPA and MA IR degree programs are also full-time. These are also residential programs. However, once officially admitted to the MPA or MA IR degree, students may opt to complete their coursework on a part-time basis. A few students in each program may elect to do this each year.
14.Do you have an online or distance-learning program? In 2017 we launched a fully On-line Executive EMPA degree. The Online EMPA requires 5-7+ years of mid level management experience for application. We do not currently offer any other online programs in Public Administration nor International Relations.
Syracuse University offers a Master of Social Science (MSSc) degree, which is a distance-learning program. The program is taught by senior members of the Maxwell School faculty, and provides an interdisciplinary approach to broad social science problems, using comparative analyses of the world’s
major cultural areas. Visit the
Master of Social Science site to learn more.
15.Can I take classes at other schools or departments within Syracuse University? One of the benefits of graduate study at the Syracuse University is the flexibility that allows students to take courses from a variety of disciplines, even those outside of Maxwell. As a School of Social Sciences, Maxwell allows students to easily seek out and enroll in courses throughout the Maxwell departments of Political Science, Economics, Anthropology, Geography, History, and Sociology. Additionally, MPA and MA IR students can take up to 6 and 9 credits respectively outside of the Maxwell School. With approval by your academic academic adviser students can transfer in related graduate coursework from another accredited institution, or take graduate courses at SU's College of Law, the Newhouse School of Public Communications, the Whitman School of Management, and the School of Information Studies, among others.
Please Note: Dual or joint degree students do not have the flexibility of taking courses outside of their primary college(s).
Back to top
Preparing to Apply
16. What do you look for in an applicant? The MPA/MA IR Admissions Committee considers the entire profile of a candidate when reviewing their file for admission. A strong MPA or MA IR candidate has several years of relevant work experience, strong undergraduate coursework in economics and other social science disciplines, a clear understanding of their career goals as they relate to this field of study and an appreciation of the program here at The Maxwell School. Applicants should also be able to demonstrate proficiency in a second language for the MA IR program. A commitment to a career in public service is essential for admission to the MPA program. A candidate’s past academic performance and professional profile, along with their letters of recommendation and personal statement are carefully reviewed and considered critical to a candidate’s successful application.
For admission to the PhD (PA) program, applicants must have a clearly outlined research agenda and be able to be matched with a faculty member (or more) within our PAIA Department. Strong candidates for whom we do not have a probable faculty mentor are not admitted, as this mentoring component is essential to our PhD (PA) program. The academic profile and potential to be a solid researcher and analyst are critical for admission at the PhD level. Our PA PhD program only admits applicants to the PhD program who are seeking careers in academic research and teaching.
17. Can I visit the campus? We welcome prospective students to our campus and encourage those who are able to visit The Maxwell School. We are happy to meet with you and to arrange for you to meet with current students and visit classes while you are here. To schedule a campus visit, please contact the
18.Can I arrange a personal interview with an admissions adviser to discuss my application? Interviews are not required for admission to the program, although we would be happy to speak with you about your interest in the program. To schedule a meeting or a telephone interview, please contact the
20.Do you accept transfer students? While this is rare, there are circumstances in which a student will have begun their graduate studies at another institution and wish to finish them at our school. We will consider all applications for admission to the program, even if that student is currently or was previously enrolled in another program. You will need to file a complete application with the application fee by our deadline. We can only accept up to 6 credits from another school into the MPA program and up to 9 credits for the MA IR program. Leaving ones current degree program is not a decision to be taken lightly. We expect that a student making this decision is doing so with open communication at their current institution. Dual degree students are not allowed to transfer in any credit.
21.May I take courses as a non-matriculated student? No, the Department of Public Administration and International Affairs does not allow non-matriculated students to register for our PAI classes. This ensures that all students enrolled in these courses have met our admissions criteria and are committed to their academic program of study. Please note this a department policy, not a school-wide policy and you should contact the other departments within the Maxwell School to see if you are able to enroll in graduate coursework as non-matriculated student in their disciplines.
22. Do I have to submit a separate application if I wish to pursue a certificate program? There are several Certificates of Advanced Study (CAS) available to matriculated graduate students within the Maxwell School and Syracuse University. Most CAS programs can be completed as embedded certificates within your current degree program. The required courses for the CAS will align with your program of study or career track courses. There is an internal applications process that allows you to matriculate into each CAS. There are no fees associated with application to a CAS. Most CAS are administered through the various research centers and institutes within Maxwell and or across SU. We will hold information sessions on these various opportunities when you arrive on campus. Advanced application is not recommended nor required.
23.Do you have any special requirements for international applicants? There are no additional requirements for international applicants, but please see the FAQ answers regarding the TOEFL exam, foreign document translation, and funding documentation.
24.Do I have to take the TOEFL or IELTS? An international student whose bachelors degree was not earned from an institution in which English is the language of instruction must submit proof of competency in English. A minimum of four years of college level instruction in English is required for us to waive our English testing requirement. Competency in English can be demonstrated by taking either the TOEFL or IELTS exam. We prefer a minimum TOEFL score of 100 and a minimum IELTS of 7.0 for application. We look for balance across all four areas of the exam.
25.Do I need to have my foreign documents translated? Yes. All foreign documents, such as official transcripts and letters of recommendation, must be translated by an official translator and notarized as authentic translations by a notary public.
26.Do I need to submit funding documentation? International students are required to submit proof of sufficient funding for one year of study. Each year this amount changes. Detailed costs for the MPA and MA IR program can be found on the Degree Program portion of our website. Proof of funding must be provided on official bank letterhead and in US dollars. We do advise applicants from overseas to allow for difficulties in communication, as well as delays in the delivery of mail both to and from the Admissions Office. This can cause problems, especially as deadlines approach. The University cannot make an official admission decision until proof of funding (through a combination of personal, third party funds or university resources) is provided. The Departments financial aid process will take place in mid March of each year.
27. Do I have to be fluent in a foreign language? The MA IR program requires that you demonstrate intermediate advanced proficiency in a foreign language in order to graduate. This requirement may be met in any of three ways:
(1) As a native speaker of a language other than English, with the ability to read and write that language;
(2) By passing a language proficiency test administered by Syracuse University that shows you are proficient through the Intermediate Level II. This test can be administered while you are on campus by an instructor at the Languages, Literatures and Linguistics program; or
(3) By successfully completing coursework through the Intermediate Level II (fourth semester) language course at an approved educational institution (such as your undergraduate institution).
Note that students may pursue a language course at Syracuse University, but language courses taken at the undergraduate level will not count toward credit in your MA IR degree program. Those students who elect to audit a language course to fulfill this requirement must provide documentation by the instructor that they have met the proficiency level required.
28. What forms of payment do you accept for the application fee? All applicants must pay a non-refundable application fee of $75. Application fee waivers are not available. Application fees are used to cover the expense of processing applications and maintaining our online system. We waive the fee only for participants in specific programs with which SU has a formalized agreement such as the Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) Fellows Program, the McNair Scholars program, and the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship. You may pay by Mastercard or Visa credit card online, or through a check or money order payable to Syracuse University.
29.What is your GRE policy? GRE scores are required for all applicants to the MPA, MAIR and PhD programs. Our GRE code is 2823. This is the institution code for Syracuse University. It should be used when requesting the ETS to send your scores electronically to Syracuse University. We will accept the GMAT in lieu of the GRE. Please note this in your application, as we must access these scores through SU's Whitman School of Management.
We evaluate all candidates based on six application elements: the personal statement; the resume/C.V.; transcripts of prior college and graduate school work; letters of recommendation; any study abroad, internship or work experience; and the GRE. For applicants who do not speak English as a first language we also require the submission of an English test score. GRE results are never the sole basis for an admissions decision. They are useful as an indicator of academic ability, especially when considering candidates from a wide variety of academic institutions across the world. GRE scores are helpful in that it gives applicants with average or marginal academic records a second method of demonstrating academic ability.
If you take the GRE exam more than once, our Admissions Committee will consider only the highest score of each section, whether that score was earned the first or second time the test was taken. Many applicants improve in at least one section the second time they take the exam.
30.I've taken undergraduate- and graduate-level courses at a number of schools. Which transcripts am I required to submit? You must submit official transcripts for any college or university attended in which you took courses that were counted toward a degree you earned. If the grades for these courses are printed on the transcript which issued your diploma, then only that transcript is required.
31.Who should write my letters of recommendation? Your letters of recommendation should be submitted by individuals who are able to assess your qualifications for graduate study from personal knowledge of your past performance. We prefer that two letters (unless you are five or more years removed from your undergraduate studies) be from faculty members who had you in class. For the professionally oriented master's degree programs, at least one letter should come from a supervisor in a professional setting, with whom you have worked closely and to whom you reported. We will consider internships and volunteer work to be professional experience. Note that letters from personal acquaintances or those who are not familiar with your academic or professional qualifications (regardless of their title) are not helpful to the admissions committee.
32.Can I have my recommendations sent by my college's letter file service? Yes, these are acceptable. Please keep in mind, however, that we would like to see at least one letter from an employer. If letters are sent directly to the admissions office by your college, you will not be required to send Syracuse University’s letter of recommendation form.
33. What if my recommender forgot to use the recommendation form? It is not necessary that these forms are used as long as the questions listed on the form are addressed in the letter. We strongly advise students to encourage your recommenders to submit their letters online through the electronic application system.
34.Do you offer financial aid to international students? Yes, we do offer financial assistance to all admitted students. International students are considered on the same basis as domestic applicants. All admission and financial aid decisions are merit based. Please check the box on the application asking for merit based financial aid consideration.
35.Can I apply for a Graduate Assistantship (GA) position ? PhD (PA) students will be provided a faculty mentor and four years of GA funding with admission. For MPA and MA IR students, full-time and half-time graduate assistantship (GA) positions are awarded to select incoming students. These are generally one year awards, even for the 16 month IR or dual degree students, as these students are typically away from campus in their second year and unable to meet the associate work requirement of a GA position. Other financial awards are available for future terms of off-campus study. If a student is not selected for a GA during the awards process (mid March) they may apply for open positions over the summer after or just prior to their arrival on campus. If funds allow, open GA positions are made available to all students via an internal applications process over the summer of early fall.
36.Is it possible to receive a full fellowship for my first year? While we have a couple full funding fellowships, these are not the norm. Students should expect to contribute to the costs of their education. Even the most generous awards will require the incoming student to fund a portion of their graduate study in the MPA and MA IR degree programs. Our cost of living, shorter program duration, as well as the opportunities for second year abroad funding (MA IR), still make Maxwell a very cost effective choice for an exceptional graduate learning experience. Please see Admissions/Finances for more detailed information on our awards process, and costs of the program.
Back to top
Submitting an Application
37.Can I apply online? Yes, we would expect you to apply via on on-line application. SU can accept a paper copy of the application from students applying from outside the university, if you cannot apply via the on-line application. You can request a printed copy by emailing
email@example.com. To apply online, HERE.
Current graduate students at SU who are applying internally to one of the degree programs in our department must submit a paper application. The application and internal application instructions are available in the PAIA office.
38.Where do I send paper application documents? We highly prefer that applicants submit as many documents as possible via our online application site. If documents do need to be mailed, they do not need to be mailed together. It can expedite the process to mail documents together, but we understand that this is not always possible. All paper documents should be sent to: Enrollment Management Processing Center, Syracuse University, Graduate Admissions Processing, P.O. Box 35060, Syracuse, New York 13235-5060. If you are express mailing documents and need a street address, please use: Enrollment Management Processing Center, Syracuse University, Graduate Admissions Processing, 621 Skytop Road, Suite 160, Syracuse, New York 13244. All documents, except foreign transcripts judged irreplaceable, become the property of Syracuse University and cannot be returned. All documents must be in English or accompanied by certified translations.
39. Do the application materials need to be postmarked with the date of the deadline? No. All of the mentioned components of the application need to be received in the Syracuse University Graduate Admissions office by the deadline in order for your application to be complete. We do not guarantee that applications submitted late will be reviewed. The review of late applications is subject to the discretion of the Admissions Committee.
40.If I have a question about filling out the online application, who do I contact? You may contact our Admissions Coordinator Karen Goebel.
41.If I want to apply to a joint program, do I submit two applications? The following NYS approved joint degree programs have their own program code on the application and you will only need to fill out one application. Please select the joint program from the drop down menu on the application for the following:
MPA/MA IR - term applying to must be Summer
MA IR/ MA Econ - term applying to must be Fall
MA IR/MS PR (Public Diplomacy) - term applying to must be Summer
If you apply to any other combination of graduate programs, you have to submit one application for each program, with one set of supporting documents.
Joint applicants with the SU College of Law are required to submit both the SU/Maxwell application and the SU/COL application- as well as provide both LSAT and GRE test scores. First year COL students may apply internally to either the MPA or MA IR degree program. In this case, an internal application process is followed and GRE scores are not required. Admission to the joint program from first year COL students is limited, therefore, it is to your advantage to apply at the same time and complete both admissions processes to ensure your seat in the joint degree program if this is your priority goal.
42.Should I send in a writing sample? No! Thank you, but we do not request a writing sample and will not take this into consideration in our review of your application.
43.How do I find out if all my application materials have been received? You can contact the Admissions Coordinator Karen Goebel.
Waiting for and Responding to an Admissions Decision
44.When do you mail decisions? We review applications from January - March. Notice of the admissions decision (Admissions and Denials) are emailed weekly beginning in mid January. We will follow up all notices of Admission with a packet of information about the program admitted to, our admitted student visit days, and information helpful as you consider our offer of admission.
45. Can I get an early decision? There may be a rare case that an applicant needs an admissions decision prior to January 1. Please contact the Director of Admission and Financial Aid,
Christine Omolino if there is a compelling need for an early decision and we will try to assist.
46. Can I defer my admissions offer? Admitted applicants may defer enrollment for up to one year*. Dual degree applicants will need to seek approval of both degree programs. In order to be considered for deferral, an admitted applicant must 1) accept the offer of admission, 2) submit the program deposit, and 3) request a deferred entrance for one year.
Admitted applicants can request a deferral by submitting an email request to the Director of Admission and Financial Aid outlining their reason for seeking deferral. Emails requesting deferral must include the following text: “I understand that a $450 nonrefundable tuition deposit is required and if I fail to enroll in the semester agreed upon, regardless of the reason for not enrolling, both my deposit and my admission offer will be forfeited.” The only candidates who should consider deferral are those who are absolutely certain that they can guarantee their enrollment in one year and who are willing to risk losing the deposit if their plans change.
The Admissions Committee looks very favorably upon reapplications from candidates who were previously offered admission, and although there is no guarantee of readmission in a future semester, the likelihood is strong. That being said, the applicant will need to completely refile an entirely new application, resend all applications materials, and pay a new application fee to be considered for admission in a subsequent year.
* We have a grandfathered partnership with Teach For America that allows for a two year deferral. Admitted applicants, also selected to serve in Teach For America, are the only applicants who can be granted a two year deferral to allow their participation in this program.
47.Do you use a wait list? No. We do not utilize a wait list for admission decisions. All applications are reviewed and judged according to their merits. A decision is then forwarded to the applicant. There are instances in which secondary faculty reviews are required for an final decision. This may delay an admission decision as this secondary review committee meets only periodically and toward the end of the admissions cycle.
50.If I wasn't admitted, can I get feedback on my application? Yes. If your application was denied, we are happy to provide feedback on your application after the admissions season. Our goals is to help students enter these amazing fields and provide them the best information we can on how to be a good candidate for admission. Sometimes, however, our program is not the best fit for all candidates and we are happy to share this information with you.
51.May I appeal my admissions decision? No. The our admissions review process is quite thorough and taken very seriously. We will not reconsider applications during the admissions season once a decision has been made. Students may re-apply after being denied admission, but we will look for evidence that they have remedied the factors leading to their denial. You will need to submit a new application with all documents and pay another application fee.
51b. I was accepted but I declined my offer. Can I reapply? Students admitted to the MPA or MA IR program who are not ready to enroll this year may defer their admission for one year. To defer your admission you must accept our offer of admission and submit a deposit. This will guarantee you a seat in the following entering class. If you were admitted but declined our offer, you may reapply, but will need to refile all documents, and pay another application fee.
52.What sort of computer facilities does Maxwell offer? Please visit Maxwell’s Information and Computing Technology group’s website for more information:
53.Is student housing available? On campus housing is not available for graduate students. Students are responsible for finding their own housing. The PAIA department provides helpful resources to all admitted students to help them in securing housing. All admitted students are registered on a listserv and are able to share housing information with one another and seek out roommates if desired. Syracuse is traditionally a very housing rich environment - so the ability to secure housing is never the issue, but we will provide you resources to find the best housing option for your individual needs.
55.When do I need to send in the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Financial Aid)? It is best to send your FAFSA to the federal government as soon as you are able. Each year the Department of Education begins to take FAFSA forms on January 1st. For more information on financial aid, please visit the
financial aid page.
56.What is your FAFSA school code? The Syracuse University FAFSA Code is 002882.
Have a question we didn't answer? Please contact Karen Goebel.