Prospective Students

Henley Gate, UC Santa Barbara

We invite applications broadly from prospective students with a diversity of backgrounds and interests. UC Santa Barbara and the Department of Political Science are deeply committed to a diverse graduate student body and to developing the scholarship, leadership, and professionalism of graduate students from all backgrounds, including underrepresented minorities, first generation students, students who identify as LGBTQ, women, veterans, disabled students, and other students from non-traditional backgrounds.  Read about diversity in our program and at UC Santa Barbara here. We admit applicants coming directly from undergraduate study, those with some work experience, and those with a master's degree or other post-graduate training.

Our Ph.D. program combines rigorous training in research methods, breadth of coursework across the discipline, and flexibility through a comparatively large set of options for qualifying fields. We offer training and qualification in traditional areas of the discipline, namely American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, and Political Theory. We also offer training and qualification in Environmental Politics, the Politics of Identity, and in special cases another subfield. We additionally offer several Ph.D. emphases, such as Black Studies, Feminist Studies, and Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences.

We welcome applications from highly-qualified prospective students in all areas. If you are considering applying, please feel free to contact the department by email:

Professor Bridget Coggins
Director of Graduate Admissions

Alexander Molenaar
Graduate Program Coordinator
Ellison Hall, Room 3833


Applying to the Political Science Department at UCSB

We employ a holistic approach to reviewing graduate applications.  We consider all relevant aspects of applicants’ backgrounds and preparation for doctoral studies, without assigning a fixed weight to any particular aspect. We assess applicants in five areas:

  • Academic Preparation (grades, academic honors or awards, relevant undergraduate degree, relevant language skills, advanced degree, type of undergraduate institution)
  • Research Experience (experience with original research outside of the classroom, relevant technical skills, clarity about research interests)
  • Perseverance (success at overcoming obstacles, especially on-going or persistent ones, long-range drive to accomplish goals beyond the PhD)
  • Leadership and Outreach (involvement and leadership in academic or extramural groups, engagement with diversity, equity, and inclusion, experiences with overcoming systematic challenges or potential to serve as exemplar to others)
  • Self-Knowledge (understanding of strengths and weaknesses, efforts at self-development, positive attitude about completing goals, identification of a support network including professional mentors) 

Applicants should address these areas in their written application materials. Letters of recommendation should also address these aspects of the applicant’s background and experiences.

Application Materials and Deadline

The APPLICATION DEADLINE is December 1 for the following September.  Students are only admitted into the program for Fall Quarter. 

All application materials should be submitted via the Graduate Division's Online Application.  For department specific information and a link to the online information, please visit the Political Science section of the Graduate Division webpage.

The department requests the following materials (submitted online):

  1. Statement of Purpose, Personal History and Diversity Statement, and Resume or CV (Submitted in the online application). For the SoP and PH/DS, these are generally one page long if single-spaced, and two pages long if double-spaced
  2. Three Letters of Recommendation (Submitted online)
  3. Official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended (Submitted online). These include community colleges.
  4. English Language Exam Scores (if applicable): TOEFL Internet-Based Test (IBT) total score of 80, or TOEFL Paper-Based Test (PBT) total score of 600, or IELTS Overall Band score of 7, or Duolingo English Test total score of 120, or higher
  5. Writing Sample (submitted in the online application). These can include a chapter from a previous MA thesis, a published journal article/online entry, or a graded work from Undergraduate studies. While there is no set limit as to how many pages, previous samples usually have around 15-20 pages.

For more information, on applying to a graduate program at UCSB, please visit the Graduate Division's application webpage.

We are a group of scholars who prize first-rate inquiry, intellectual diversity, and professional entrepreneurialism in our research.

Take a few moments to get to know us better.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I find information about admission and the graduate program?

We encourage you to explore our graduate program web pages where you should be able to find much of the information for which you are looking.

Once admission decisions are sent out, you will receive initial information about funding. The Graduate Program Coordinator and the Graduate Division Website provide additional information on the cost of attending UCSB and financial aid opportunities.

Who should I contact for more information?

If you are looking for general information beyond what can be found on our website, please contact our Graduate Program Coordinator.

We also encourage you to contact individual faculty members in your area or areas of research. A full listing of faculty with contact information can be found on our online directory.

Do you require the GRE?

Our holistic review process does not consider GRE scores.

Do you offer application fee waivers?

According to the UCSB Graduate Division, application fee waivers are available for qualified U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and undocumented/Dream Scholars in financial need or who participated in a pre-graduate preparation research program. Fee waivers are not granted to international applicants, except for applicants applying through the Vietnam Education Foundation (VEF). To apply for a fee waiver, applicants must begin an online application. Within the application, applicants should click on the Payment Information tab and scroll down to the fee waiver information. Applicants must select the relevant option and upload supporting documentation. Fee waiver requests must be submitted at least two weeks before the application deadline. For more information, please email


How do I prepare for graduate school and build a strong application?

Check out the "What's Next?" UC systemwide brochure (pages 2-10) for more information on how to start preparing for graduate school and how to build strong applications.

What is your policy on TOEFL/IELTS/Duolingo scores?

According to the UCSB Graduate Division, applicants whose native language is not English are required to take the TOEFL, the IELTS, or Duolingo tests. Exemptions or exceptions to this requirement will be considered for those students who have completed an undergraduate or graduate education at an institution whose primary language of instruction is English. Proof must be provided by sending the final/official transcripts associated with the degree.

The campus minimum TOEFL score for consideration is 550 when taking the paper-based test (PBT) and 80 when taking the internet-based test (IBT). The department requires a minimum score of 600 for the written test or 80 for the internet based test. Our minimum IELTS score for consideration is an Overall Band Score of 7.

Effective August 20, 2023, UCSB will also accept Duolingo English Test (DET) scores. The current minimum grade is 120. Scores from the DET are valid for two years. For more information, please click here.

What is your admission rate?

Historically our admission rate has been about 1 in 3. Due to a surge in applications in Fall of 2020, the admission rate that year fell to well under 1 in 10. 

How many of the incoming students are international students?

The number of international students in each cohort varies. In general, about 1/4 of our admitted students have an international background.

How many students usually receive funding support?

All our students receive 5-year financial aid packages. These vary in composition, including fellowship money as well as Teaching Assistantships and coverage of tuition and fees. 

What is the size of your entering class?

The entering class size is about 8 students.