Graduate Application FAQs

Can I apply for a Master’s Degree in Political Science?
Can I apply for either spring or fall admission?
What can you tell me about financial aid?
When should I begin the application process?
Do I need to contact a potential advisor and get their agreement to work with me before I apply to the Ph.D. program?
How do I apply for an application fee waiver?
I am an international student, but I have a degree from an institution where instruction was in English. Do I have to provide additional evidence of English competency?
Where should I mail my transcripts? What if it is not possible for me to send official transcripts now?
How do I submit letters of recommendation?
I submitted my GRE/TOEFL, but my application status shows that the score report hasn't been received. What should I do?
Is there any required page-length or word limit for the Statement of Purpose (SoP)?
Do you require a writing sample? What should my writing sample look like?
Do you have a minimum GRE requirement?
Does Rice offer graduate student housing?
What is Houston like?
What if I have other questions?

Can I apply for a Master's degree in Political Science?

The Department of Political Science does not admit students seeking a terminal master's degree, but Ph.D. students earn a master's degree during their doctoral studies. Some of the students who begin our Ph.D. program have already earned M.A. degrees, but many begin the Ph.D. program with only a Bachelor’s degree.

If you are interested in a professional master’s program, the School of Social Sciences offers a Masters of Global Affairs or a Masters of Social Policy Evaluation.

Can I apply for either spring or fall admission?

The Rice University Department of Political Science admits graduate students for matriculation in the fall semester only. Deadline for receiving your completed application is January 5 of the calendar year you wish to enter the program.

What can you tell me about financial aid?

Rice provides financial aid in four ways:

  • tuition waivers
  • graduate fellowships
  • research and teaching assistantships based on merit
  • need-based aid such as federally insured loans

Tuition waivers are granted in an amount equal to Rice's tuition, which is $50,310 for 2020-2021.

Graduate fellowships, unlike teaching fellowships awarded by many universities, entail only a modest teaching or research assignment (a maximum of ten hours per week during the semester); consequently, graduate fellows can engage in full time study. At present these fellowships provide incoming students at least $27,000 per year. Most students receive commitments for five years of support, contingent on maintaining good standing in the program and satisfactory academic progress.

Numerous opportunities for additional summer funding (often supported by faculty grants), pre-dissertation and dissertation research support, and conference travel funding are usually available. In addition, a number of graduate students have been recipients of external fellowships. All financial aid decisions are made shortly after the January 5 application deadline.

When should I begin the application process?

You should begin your application process early, preferably in the fall prior to the fall you wish to enter. To make sure scores are available when admission decisions are normally made you should take the GRE, TOEFL, etc. as required by the December prior to the January 5 deadline. You should also request transcripts and letters of recommendation by December or earlier in order to give the senders time to get the material to Rice before the deadline. The deadline for completed applications for the fall semester is January 5.

Do I need to contact a potential advisor and get their agreement to work with me before I apply to the Ph.D. program?

While you are welcome to contact faculty members to discuss their research and mentoring interests, it is not necessary for a faculty member to commit to serve as your advisor before admission. Our admissions decisions are made by an admission committee. Students typically have opportunities to learn from several different faculty members early in their training. Students formally select their dissertation advisors in their third year of study.

How do I apply for an application fee waiver?

The Department of Political Science is currently waiving the application fee of $85 for all applicants. This will be taken care of automatically when you submit your application. We believe it is important to train social scientists from a wide range of backgrounds, and thus we want to ensure that the application fee is not a barrier to anyone considering pursuing a Ph.D. at Rice.

I am an international student, but I have a degree from a university where instruction was in English. Do I have to provide additional evidence of English competency?

If you have earned a degree from a university with instruction in English, the requirements for the TOEFL or IELTS are waived. The TOEFL and IELTS requirements can also be waived with proof of degree from an accredited US high school, or proof of completion of the equivalent of a high school education or the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor's degree in a country with English instruction. These countries are identified to be: Anguilla, Antigua, Australia, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Canada (English-speaking provinces), Cayman Islands, Dominica, Fiji Islands, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Liberia, Montserrat, New Zealand, Sierra Leone, South Africa, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, St. Kitts & Nevis, The Bahamas, Trinidad, Trinidad & Tobago, United Kingdom, U.S. Virgin Islands, West Indies, or Zimbabwe.

Where should I mail my transcripts? What if it is not possible for me to send official transcripts now?

Transcripts should be mailed to:

Department of Political Science MS-24
Rice University
P.O. Box 1892
Houston, TX 77251-1892

We require one copy of the official, confidential transcript from each institution (undergraduate and graduate) that you have attended. Send transcripts from any institution where you earned (or will earn) a degree, studied for one year or more, or took classes that relate to your current application for graduate study.

The transcripts should provide a listing, year-by-year, of all courses taken and the grade or marks received for each one. It is helpful to have the grading scale of the institution and the student's rank in class included when such information is available. There is no need to submit secondary school records.

While official transcripts sent directly from the issuing institution to Rice are preferred, digital copies submitted by applicants themselves will be acceptable for the application process. However, all offers of admission extended to applicants without official transcripts on file will be conditional upon the receipt of official transcripts within 30 days of the offer being made.

All documents not in English must be accompanied by official English translations. These translations must also bear an original ink signature and seal; translations alone will not be acceptable.

How do I submit letters of recommendation?

In the online application, you will enter the email addresses of your recommenders. They will receive an email directly from our system with instructions for submitting their letters of recommendation. Please make sure to inform your recommenders that you have applied to Rice and that they should expect this email.

If a recommender informs you that they are not receiving the email, please first confirm that you have prompted the system to send the email. If you have and the recommender is still not receiving it, it may have gone to the recommender’s spam/junk folder, or the recommender’s email system may have blocked the email. As a last resort, your recommender may email the letter of recommendation to poli@rice.edu and we will upload it.

You may add additional references to be contacted for letters of recommendation or update information about your current references from your status page in the online application system. Thus, if you wish to change the email address that a recommender uses to receive the email link, you may do so.

We also accept materials from services like interfolio. Please follow the instructions from interfolio to submit the interfolio email address of your recommender.

I submitted my GRE/TOEFL, but my application status shows that the score report hasn't been received. What should I do?

Please allow for a delay of two to four weeks in connecting official scores to your record. If the score is still not connected, please contact us at poli@rice.edu. Sometimes slight differences in names or addresses can make connecting score reports to applications difficult.

Is there any required page-length or word limit for the Statement of Purpose (SoP)?

No, we do not have any minimum or maximum page-length or word limit for the SoP.

Do you require a writing sample? What should my writing sample look like?

We recognize that applicants to our program vary in their past experience with political science research. As a result, providing a writing sample is optional. We encourage you to provide a writing sample if you believe your sample will demonstrate your experience and ability in research or other skills related to earning a Ph.D. in political science.

Do you have a minimum GRE requirement?

We have no official minimum GRE requirement. While most of our students score quite well on the GRE, we recognize that the GRE is only one component of the academic record. We evaluate applications holistically.

Does Rice offer graduate student housing?

Rice’s graduate students live off campus, either in nearby rental properties or at the university-owned Rice Graduate Apartments or the Rice Village Apartments. Learn more about Rice’s convenient graduate student housing options.

What is Houston like?

Houston is the fourth-largest city in the United States, and among the most diverse! Rice University is situated between the largest medical center in the world and one of the best museum districts in the country. The city has an abundance of green space, plays host to many international festivals and events, and is home to 2 airports, making travel easy and convenient. More information about the city can be found here, or you can take a virtual tour of the Rice campus.

What if I have other questions?

There is another list of FAQs about the application process from the Graduate Studies Office here. If your question is still not answered, please feel free to contact us at poli@rice.edu.