Online Application deadline: December 1, 2014

The faculty of the Department of Political Science and the School of International Relations welcome talented candidates from a variety of academic backgrounds who wish to pursue a Ph.D. degree. Although a prior degree in political science or international relations is not necessary, it is strongly recommended that applicants have completed at least some course work in related fields, including political theory, statistics and social science research methods. 

Admission decisions are based on consideration of applicants' prior academic performance, as reflected in course grades, the results of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), letters of recommendation, and a statement of intent that demonstrates a seriousness of purpose, a high level of motivation and a desire to benefit from our faculty's areas of expertise or interest. Applicants are also required to submit a sample of their written work in English, preferably a research-oriented paper. Business, government and other practical experiences may also be taken into account. Applicants whose native language is not English must take the TOEFL examination, unless they have received an undergraduate degree from an accredited institution in the United States or other English-speaking countries. **A graduate degree earned from the US or any other English speaking country does not waive applicants from the TOEFL requirement. All 4 undergraduate years must have been studied in the US to waive the TOEFL.

The academic profiles of admitted students vary, but all applicants should be aware that the POIR admissions process is highly competitive. Students entering the program typically have competitive undergraduate grade point averages from accredited universities in the United States, or equivalent credentials from a non-U.S. institution. In addition, most students score well beyond the minimum GRE score required by Graduate Admissions.

All students admitted receive a full five-year funding package. This package includes two years of fellowship and a combination of teaching and research assistantships that provide a generous stipend along with tuition remission, health insurance, and the waiver of certain fees. There is no provision for a “pay your own way” option, although applicants holding outside fellowships (for example, certain Fulbright and Ford Foundation fellowships) may be considered for admission.


Required Document


Online USC Application

December 1, 2014; Application fee is $85.00 (Fee waivers are available for eligible applicants. Please see application for more details)

GRE Scores/TOEFL Scores

Preferably by December 1, 2014, but no later than December 10, 2014

Letters of Recommendation

Preferably by December 1, 2014, but no later than December 10, 2014

Official Transcripts

Preferably by December 1, 2014, but no later than December 10, 2014


  • Resume/CV
  • Statement of Purpose In a 2-page statement, please provide the committee with background information and most importantly, the research agenda you wish to undertake in the program, spelling out the field specializations you would declare if admitted, and identify 2-3 faculty with who you are interested in working.
  • Writing Sample (no more than 30 pages) You should select the best representation of your writing and research capabilities. This should be an academic paper that was evaluated by a faculty or other authoritative group or body such as the editorial board of a journal or a selection committee. Students should be very selective when choosing a sample to submit for consideration. The paper should present a clearly articulated thesis, amply supported with creative and original ideas and evidence. The sample should be UPLOADED in the "supplemental materials" section of the online application. DO NOT SEND HARD COPIES.
  • GRE Scores In addition to requesting that ETS mail the scores directly to USC, you must upload a copy of your score report to your application. If you cannot upload your scores because you will receive them after the December 1st deadline, be sure to email a PDF copy of your scores to Veri Chavarin at or fax a copy to (213) 742-0281.Be sure to include your USC or application identification number in your email.  
  • TOEFL Scores Applicants whose native language is not English must take the TOEFL examination, unless they have received an undergraduate degree from an accredited institution in the United States or other English-speaking countries. **A graduate degree earned from the US or any other English speaking country does not waive them from the TOEFL requirement. All 4 years must have been studied in the US to waive the TOEFL. 
  • Transcripts In addition to requesting that prior institutions mail the transcripts directly to the USC Office of Graduate and International Admission, please upload copied of your transcripts to your online application. If you prefer to only request one set of transcripts, you can request that that your official transcripts be mailed to Veri Chavarin, USC Department of Political Science , VKC 327, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0044. 
  • Letters of Recommendation Upon completing the online application, the student must also provide the names and email addresses of at least three faculty who will write letters of recommendation for the student. The faculty will in turn receive an email with instructions on how to upload their letters electronically, so that they are added successfully to the student's application.



A new prestigious award for PhD studies at USC has been founded, and one of its objectives is to attract the most talented and sought-after students from Chile to USC.  Called the USC Global Fellowships, the award will go to outstanding applicants to any USC PhD program. The awards include full tuition, year-round health and dental insurance, and an annual stipend of $30,000. USC hopes to award at least five fellowships to candidates from Chile in 2012.

USC's global fellowship programs are designed to attract and serve outstanding PhD students from regions around the world.  Global fellowships represent the highest level of fellowship funding offered by the university. Students receive support packages consisting of two years of fellowship and either two or three additional years of support, depending on their PhD program, in the form of teaching assistantships, research assistantships, or additional fellowships. 

As a leading private research university, USC is engaged in a broad range of research activity, and has more than 300 graduate programs in 17 professional schools and the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences.  Fellowships are available in all fields of study except clinical medicine and other programs that are subject to clinical fees. Applicants should preferably be eligible for support from CONACYT.

Applicants from Chile please contact Angela McCracken at or +52 (55) 5202-8822 for further information. 


1. How many letters of recommendation are required, and should they all be from academics?

We require three letters of recommendation. We prefer that letters be written by faculty who have supervised academic work, especially research projects, papers, etc. If it became necessary, we would consider one professional reference. ALL LETTERS SHOULD BE SUBMITTED ELECTRONICALLY VIA YOUR APPLICATION. By entering the names of your referees on the online application, along with their email addresses, the referees should be able to upload letters per instructions received via email by the Graduate Admission Office.

2. What codes should I use when requesting that my GRE scores and TOEFL scores be sent electronically to USC? 


PROGRAM CODE for GRE: 1901 OR 1902

PROGRAM CODE FOR TOEFL: Not required. Only use the University code.

PROGRAM CODE FOR IELTS: Not required. Only use the University code.

3. I took my GRE six years ago. Are these scores acceptable?

The Office of Graduate Admission does not accept scores that are older than five years. If your scores fall outside these parameters, please retake the examination.

4. What should be included in my Statement of Purpose? What is the expected length? 

The statement of purpose serves asa unique platform to state who you are as a would-be scholar, what five years of USC doctoral education would do for you as a researcher, what research agenda you would pursue, what fields and subject matter interest you and motivate you to embark on this five-year journey, what preparation you've received in the past and how you will leverage the skills during your tenure with us. You can also view it as an opening statement and a closing argument - you are making your case to the admissions committee, laying out qualities, attributes and distinctions that make you a strong candidate for the program. In laying out your interests and agenda, you are also establishing your compatibility with the faculty and their own research program. Please be syre to identify at least 2-3 faculty members you are interested in working with.

The statement of purpose should be a concise and cogent document, preferably two pages in length, single-spaced.

5. If I have completed a master's degree, how many courses can I apply to the POIR degree?

The POIR program allows you to transfer up to 24 semester units of outside course work. This equates to a full year's worth of courses. Depending on how much course work you complete in your first two years, transferring the full 24 units might reduce your load by twelve to eighteen months. Upon admission and enrollment in POIR, students can petition to count previous coursework towards their degree. Each course will then be examined by the respective field coordinator/s. If the field coordinator approves the course, the Graduate Advisor will apply the coursework on your student record.

6. Is a master's degree required for admission to the program?

While a master's degree is not required for admission, it has been our experience that students who have completed master's degrees prior to applying have an advantage over their peers who have not.

7. To whom should I send my transcripts, from what institutions and how many copies of each? What happens if there is a delay in delivery from the institution issuing transcripts? 

You should send one official copy of each of your transcripts to the Office of Graduate Admission. They will process the documents and scan them for reading. Because there is sometimes a delay in the processing of your transcripts, we ask that you also upload copies of all of your official transcripts to your online application. We are only concerned with transcripts from your BA-granting institution and any postgraduate work completed to date.

8. How should I respond to the section of the application that asks for proof of financial stability?

International students are asked to supply documentation that proves financial stability - in the form of a bank statement showing a balance that is greater than or equal to $25,000 US dollars. If you have such a statement, please submit it to the Office of Graduate admission. Domestic students are not required to submit this document. If you are not in a position to supply a statement, do not panic. Our program fully funds students' tuition and a monthly stipend that offsets important costs of living. You may include the following statement if you cannot produce a bank document: "The Ph.D. program to which I am applying, housed in the USC College, provides a comprehensive 5-year funding package that covers tuition and stipend each year."

9. If I have been awarded a fellowship (Fulbright or other external fellowships), do I need to submit any documentation in my application?                                                                         

Yes. If you have been awarded any type of external funding prior to the date you submit your application for admission, please be sure to upload a copy of your award letter(s) to your online application. If you receive notification of an external funding award after you submit your application, you can email copies of the documents to Veri Chavarin at Be sure to include your application or USC ID in your email.

10. I noticed you have an MA degree posted in the catalog, does this mean you have a Masters program available?

No. The program is structured in such a way that only Ph.D. students who have been admitted to our program are allowed to complete the M.A. degree.