Frequently Asked Questions

Program Questions 

How many students are in the programs?

Depending on the strength of the applicant pool, each year will will matriculate between:

  • 80-90 new MPA students
  • 50-60 new MA IR students
  • 10-20 new MA in Public Diplomacy and Global Communications (PDGC) students, and
  • 4-6 new PhD in Public Administration students.

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.

MAIR: Approximately 25-30% of our students are international.

PDGC Approximately 20-25% of our students are international 

PhD (PA): Approximately 50% 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. 

I see you offer a PhD in Public Administration. Do you offer a PhD program in International Relations?

No, but a student can enter the MAIR program and follow a pre-PhD track if they are considering pursuing a PhD in the future. We have a specialized program of study to allow for an easier transition if admitted to the PhD in Political Science at Maxwell. MAIR 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. 

Can I study part-time?

Our executive degrees for midcareer students with 7 years of experience (5 years for the online program) are offered on a part-time schedule.

Our PhD (PA) program is a full-time residential program.  The vast majority of students in the MPA, MAIR and PDGC degree programs are also full-time.  These are also residential programs.  However, once officially admitted to the MPA, MAIR or PDGC 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. 

Do you have an online or distance-learning program?

In 2017 we launched a fully Online Executive MPA 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 or International Relations.  

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 MAIR students can take up to 6 and 9 credits respectively outside of the Maxwell School, and EMPA students can take up to 12 credits outside of the Maxwell School. With approval by your academic adviser, students can transfer in related graduate coursework from another accredited institution, or take graduate courses at SU's College of Law, the S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, the Whitman School of Management, and the School of Information Studies, among others. The PDGC program is provided jointly between SU's Maxwell and Newhouse School.  

Please Note:  Dual or joint degree students do not have the flexibility of taking courses outside of their primary college(s). 

Preparing to Apply 

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 MAIR 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.  PDGC and Dual degree students are not allowed to transfer in any credit from an outside institution. 

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.

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/IELTS exam, foreign document translation, and funding documentation. 

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.

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. Proof of funding must be provided on official bank letterhead and in US dollars in order for an offer of admission to be deemed official by the University so that an I-20 document can be processed.

We 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.

Do you offer financial aid to international students?

Yes, we 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.

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, MAIR and PDGC 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, 18-month PDGC 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.

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, MA IR and PDGC degree programs.  Our cost of living, shorter program duration, as well as the opportunities for second year abroad funding (MAIR/PDGC), 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.  

Submitting an Application

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.

I have a question about filling out the online application, who do I contact?

Ken Dwyer: for the MPA, MAIR, PDGC, and PhD programs.

Margaret Lane: for the EMPA, EMIR, and EMIR in DC programs. or 866-376-3167: for the Online EMPA program.

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/MAIR - term applying to must be Summer 
MAIR/MA Econ - term applying to must be Fall 

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.  Alternatively, first year COL students may apply internally to either the MPA, MAIR or PDGC degree programs. In this case, an internal application process is followed .  Admission to the joint program from first year COL students can sometimes be limited (depending on the number of internal applications received in a given year). Therefore, if you wish to ensure your admission in the joint degree program, prior to accepting an SU COL admission, it is to your advantage to apply at the same time and complete both admissions processes. 

Should I send in a writing sample?

No, Thank you.  We do not request a writing sample and will not take this into consideration in our review of your application.

How do I find out if all my application materials have been received?  An automated application checklist will show materials received via the applications portal.  If you still have a concern, you may contact the Admissions Coordinator Ken Dwyer.

Waiting for and Responding to an Admissions Decision

When do you mail decisions?

MPA, MAIR, PDGC: mailed from January - March

We review applications for our MPA, MAIR, and PDGC programs from January - March. Notice of the admissions decision 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.

EMPA, EMIR: rolling admissions and notifications

EMPA Online: rolling admissions and notifications

PhD:  Generally by the end of February. 

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 Associate Director of Admission and Financial Aid, Stephanie Worden if there is a compelling need for an early decision and we will try to assist.

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 $500 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 complete 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. 

Do you use a waitlist?

No.  We do not utilize a waitlist 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.  

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.

I was accepted but I declined my offer. Can I reapply?

If you were admitted but declined our offer, you may reapply, but will need to refile all documents, and pay another application fee.  

Miscellaneous Questions

What sort of computer facilities does Maxwell offer?

Please visit Maxwell’s Information and Computing Technology group’s website for more information. 

Is student housing available?

See our section on Housing.

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 1. For more information on financial aid, please visit the financial aid page

What is your FAFSA school code?  The Syracuse University FAFSA Code is 002882.

Have a question we didn't answer?  Please contact our admissions support team at