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Graduate Admissions

Admission Requirements

Applicants are evaluated on their undergraduate coursework and grade point average, Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, career interests, recommendations, and breadth of background and experience. The Admission Committee reviews applications on a rolling basis and applicants are notified of the committee's decision as soon as possible thereafter. Before applying, please carefully review the admission requirements.

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Students applying to a dual degree program with the Washington College of Law (WCL) need to complete a full application with all supplemental materials with WCL, and a separate online only application with the School of Public Affairs. All materials supplied to WCL will be submitted to and reviewed by SPA.

Application Deadlines

PhD Programs

January 1 (Fall admission only)


February 15: Priority deadline for first round consideration for Fall merit awards (merit awards are not offered to Certificate students).

May 1 (International applicants): Priority international student deadline for Fall admission and merit award consideration

September 15 (International applicants): Priority international student deadline for Spring admission and merit award consideration

November 1 (Domestic applicants): Priority deadline for first round consideration for Spring merit awards

*Applications will be accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis AFTER posted deadlines until the respective term/degree program is full. Applicants are strongly encouraged to respect the priority deadlines if interested in merit aid consideration.

**BA/MA combined programs are open to current AU undergraduate students only


April 1: Priority deadline for MS in Organization Development (MSOD) merit award consideration

May 15: Priority deadline for Key Executive Leadership MPA merit award consideration

Executive programs have different application procedures - see the specific program for details


Refer to WCL Admissions for their priority deadlines. Please see SPA priority deadlines above. Dual degree students do not qualify for SPA merit aid UNTIL a candidate plans to enroll as a full-time student in the School (based on the dual degree design, this normally is not until their second year/second Fall term on campus).

As a dual degree applicant with the Washington College of Law (WCL), you will submit a full application and all supplemental materials to WCL. In addition, you will submit only the online application form with the School of Public Affairs (SPA). Indicate on each application that you are applying for a dual degree program. All supplemental materials supplied to WCL will be submitted to and reviewed by SPA once complete. Admissions decisions are independent, and you will receive separate decision letters from WCL and SPA.

Application Requirements

  • Completed online application form
  • Application fee
  • Transcripts from all previously attended postsecondary institutions
  • Personal statement
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Resume/CV
  • GRE general test scores

Additional Requirements

  • English proficiency exam scores (TOEFL, IELTS, or Pearson Test of English) - International applicants only
  • Writing sample(s) - PhD, MSOD, and Key Executive Leadership MPA applicants only
  • Admission Interview - MSOD and Key Executive Leadership MPA applicants and by invite only
  • Advising Meeting - BA/MA applicants only
  • Combined Bachelor's/Master's Program Policies: Terms of Agreement form - BA/MA applicants only

Application Form - Complete and submit SPA's online application

Application Fee ($55) - Pay a non-refundable $55 application fee with the online application. This fee can be waived for the following reasons:

  • You have received a "fee waiver code" for attending an in-person or online recruitment event.
  • You are a current AU employee; AU student; AU alumni; U.S. veteran; active duty military member; FAMU Scholar; Fulbright Scholar; Koch Summer Fellow; McNair Scholar; Pickering Fellow; former PPIA/IIPP participant; Rangel Fellow; Truman Scholar; Golden Key member; Phi Beta Kappa member; and/or AmeriCorps participant; Bonner Scholar/Bonner Leader; Teach for All participant; Teach for America participant; Peace Corps participant; first generation college graduate; and/or graduate of a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) or Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI).

Transcript(s) - Upload unofficial transcripts from all previously attended postsecondary institutions after you submit your application. If transcripts are in a language other than English, English language translations must be provided. Illegible scans will not be accepted. All applicants to SPA graduate programs must possess a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution by the date of anticipated enrollment at SPA. Do not mail in a copy of a transcript or academic record which you have uploaded to your online application, unless requested by SPA.

Official transcripts are required only after the applicant has accepted admission to American University. Official transcripts must be sent and received by a university representative and should confirm the earned degree when applicable.

International transcripts will need to be evaluated and show equivalency of the U.S. 4-year degree. Please carefully review the International Student Admissions Requirements page for details regarding international transcripts.

Personal Statement - Your personal statement should be a well-written and carefully crafted essay between two and five typewritten pages in length. Describe in detail your personal and career goals, relevant employment experience, reason for wanting to study at American University's School of Public Affairs, and your ability and commitment to undertake graduate education at this time.

Letters of Recommendation - Applicants to master's degree programs are required to acquire two (2) letters of recommendation. Recent graduates are strongly encouraged to obtain at least one (1) recommendation from an academic source. Three (3) letters of recommendation are required for PhD applicants.

In the online application, you will be prompted to identify your recommenders and their contact information. Please notify your recommenders that they will receive an email prompt to submit their recommendation online. Recommendations should be from academic and/or professional sources. We suggest that you obtain at least one recommendation from a faculty member who is familiar with your academic work and your potential for success in graduate study.

Note: Recommendation letters can only be requested after the application has been submitted and the application fee has been paid.

Resume or Curriculum Vitae - Your resume/CV should be updated, free of grammatical errors, and in a well composed layout. At a minimum, it should include educational background, employment and/or volunteer experience, special skills/attributes, and academic and/or professional honors and affiliations.

GRE - The Graduate Record Exam ( GRE) general test scores are required for general admission to the following programs in the School of Public Affairs:

  • Graduate Certificate in Public Policy Analysis
  • Master of Arts in Political Science
  • Master of Public Administration (MPA)
  • Master of Public Policy (MPP)
  • Master of Science in Justice, Law, and Criminology
  • Master of Science in Terrorism and Homeland Security Policy
  • PhD in Justice, Law & Criminology
  • PhD in Political Science
  • PhD in Public Administration
Scores must be less than five (5) years old from the application submission date and must be sent directly from the testing agency to be considered official. Instruct the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to send your official scores directly to American University (institutional code: 5007); no departmental code is necessary. Submission of GRE scores for other SPA programs not listed above is optional.

The GRE may be waived for admission to the traditional master's degree programs if the applicant has five (5) or more years of professional, full-time, relevant work experience. Typically, internship experience is not counted towards the 5 required years of work in a related career. To apply for a GRE waiver, please complete the waiver request on the online application and upload your resume/CV.

The LSAT may only be substituted for applicants to the Washington College of Law (WCL) and School of Public Affairs for dual degree JD/Master's and LLM/Master's programs. The GMAT may be substituted for MPA and MPP applicants. There are no other exceptions.

English Language Proficiency - Strong proficiency in reading, writing, speaking, and understanding English is critical for your academic success as well as your full participation in all aspects of graduate student life at American University. All graduate applicants to the School of Public Affairs (SPA), regardless of citizenship or residency, must demonstrate English language proficiency to be eligible for admission. To fulfill this requirement, applicants must satisfy one of the following criteria:

  • Submit official test scores from the TOEFL (institutional code: 5007), IELTS, or Pearson Test of English (university code: X1Q-K6-10) that meet the minimum score requirement:
    • TOEFL - 100 on IBT test, 250 on computer-based test, or 600 on paper-based test
    • IELTS - 7.0
    • Pearson Test of English - 68
  • If you hold a baccalaureate degree or higher from an accredited university located in one of the following English-speaking countries where the primary language of instruction is English, then you have potentially met the English waiver requirement and will not submit a standardized English proficiency exam for admission consideration: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Botswana, British Virgin Islands, Cameroon, Canada, Cayman Islands, Cook Islands, Dominica, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, India, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Liberia, Malawi, Micronesia, Montserrat, Namibia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Philippines, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Sint Maarten, South Africa, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, Uganda, United States, United Kingdom, or Zimbabwe.
  • Successful completion of American University's Master's Accelerator Program (MAP) with an overall GPA of 3.25 or higher.

Please carefully review the International Student Admissions Requirements page for details on required immigration and financial documents to be submitted after admission.

Writing Sample - One sample of your written work (12-25 pages) is required for PhD applicants. Refer to the executive program pages for specific writing sample requirements for the MSOD and Key Executive Leadership MPA programs.

Admission Interview (by invite only) - MSOD and Key Executive Leadership MPA will interview with the respective Program Director; a personal interview is a requirement for all students seeking admission to one of SPA's executive programs. Applicants invited to interview will be contacted by a MSOD or Key Executive Leadership MPA staff member in order to schedule a date and time. In some cases, an interview may be required for applicants to other graduate programs in SPA; any such interviews would be conducted via Skype. Applicants invited to interview will be contacted by the School of Public Affairs and given instructions on whom to contact to schedule the interview.

Current AU undergraduate students applying to the combined bachelor's/master's programs in SPA are required to meet with their SPA undergraduate advisor and the SPA graduate advisor for the master's degree program to which they wish to apply; these meetings are a requirement for admission to any combined bachelor's/master's program and must be scheduled by the student prior to their application submission while they are still enrolled in their undergraduate degree program.

Combined Bachelor's/Master's Program Policies: Terms of Agreement form - Current AU undergraduate students applying to the combined bachelor's/master's programs in SPA will obtain and complete this form during their required advising meeting with the SPA graduate advisor (see Advising Meeting section for further details regarding this meeting).


Electronic submission of documents through the online application is strongly encouraged. If you need alternatives, such as in the case of official transcript submission or for other documents unable to be submitted online through the application, be sure to mail, email or fax them to us in one of the following four ways. Please allow at least 10 business days for documents not submitted through the online application to show as received.

Via U.S. Mail (USPS) Via Courier Service (FedEx/UPS/DHL/Etc.)
SPA Graduate Admissions
Office of Enrollment
4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20016-8001
SPA Graduate Admissions
Office of Enrollment
4801 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Suite 218
Washington, DC 20016-8001

Via Email Via Fax

Note: Do not send questions to the above email address, it is only for document submission.

If you have any questions about the application process, please direct them to Please also feel free to contact us with questions by telephone at (+1) 202.885.6230 (EST)

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