Majoring in International Studies provides an excellent background for graduate study in the fields of foreign policy, human rights, political science, international economics, development studies, and language or culture studies. Additionally, the IS Major is useful for students who are interested in issues related to Global Health or demonstrating cultural competence as they prepare to apply for Medical programs. If you are thinking about graduate school, please review the FAQ and meet with an advisor or faculty member to discuss developing a timeline and plan to be a successful applicant.
UW-Madison’s La Follette School of Public Affairs
The La Follette School pursues research, education, and public service in a collaborative setting where students, faculty, and practitioners interact closely and draw upon the outstanding scholarly resources of the University of Wisconsin—Madison. In doing so, we:
- produce and publish innovative multidisciplinary policy and management research;
- train, mentor, and educate students interested in domestic and international policy and governance in public, non-profit, and private settings; and
- inform the practice of public affairs locally, nationally, and globally by disseminating knowledge to practitioners and to the broader public.
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How do I start?
We recommend researching graduate programs and then scheduling a meeting with either a faculty member whose research interests you or an academic advisor to discuss next steps.
How do I apply to graduate school?
In general, you will need to fill out an online application and submit materials such as official transcripts, a personal statement, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, etc. For UW-Madison, the graduate school application can be found here.
I'm a senior. When should I start getting materials together to apply?
You should check the graduate program you are applying to for specific deadlines. Most graduate programs have application deadlines between December 15th and February 1st. In general, plan on taking the GRE the summer before your senior year. You should ask faculty for letters of recommendation in the early fall and order your transcripts before Thanksgiving. Also, make sure your personal statement and application are edited by someone in the writing center.
What types of financial aid are available for graduate school?
Graduate students can apply for scholarships, assistantships, and fellowships.
What is an assistantship?
Graduate assistantships typically involve ~20 hours of work per week for a professor. In return, you receive remission of tuition and a monthly stipend. Each university is different so be sure to ask exactly what is covered in terms of health insurance coverage, fees, and tuition. Assistantships are generally awarded by your program of interest or a specific professor. However, you may also be able to secure an assistantship outside of your academic department. AT UW-Madison we have three types of assistantships based on the type of work you do; RA (Research Assistant), TA (Teaching Assistant), and PA (Program or Project Assistant).
What is a fellowship?
Fellowships are similar to undergraduate scholarships. They are typically awarded by a competition and generally do not require work in return for the award. Fellowships generally provide tuition scholarships and stipends, along with a supplement for purchasing medical insurance. Again, this will vary depending on the institution and specific fellowship so make sure to ask questions and read the fine print.
I am interested in Medical School or a Pre-Health field. What should I do?
You should work closely with your academic advisor in International Studies and the Center for Pre-Health Advising.
Should I stars graduate school right after finishing my undergraduate degree?
This depends on your career and long term goals as well as finances and life responsibilities. There is no “right” answer as each person is different. You should consider working with your academic advisor and making a list of the pros and cons. If you are not going to graduate school, it is important that your first job out of undergrad gives you transferable skills and that you maintain connections with faculty members who may write you letters of recommendation down the road.
Should I go to graduate school/is graduate school necessary?
Talk with professionals in the field of your interest to see if graduate school is necessary or advisable.
My GPA is below a 3.0, does this mean I'm ineligible for graduate school?
Many graduate programs do have a 3.0 GPA requirement. You can contact the specific program advisor about ways you can demonstrate that your GPA is not a good reflection of your academic abilities. For example, you could take 2 or 3 graduate level classes as a special student, get A’s in those courses, and write a personal statement that describes how these classes indicated your academic potential.
Graduate Programs in International Affairs
1. Choose your school/program
- Associate of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA): APSIA is dedicated to the improvement of graduate education in international affairs. It connects prospective students and employers to member schools, so that they can capitalize on the skills an APSIA education provides.
- Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA): NASPAA’s twofold mission is to ensure excellence in education and training for public service and to promote the ideal of public service. It is the membership association of graduate programs in public administration, public policy, and public affairs.
- Public Policy & International Affairs (PPIA): PPIA is dedicated to increasing diversity in public service. It believes that our society is best served by public managers, policy makers, and community leaders who represent diverse backgrounds and perspectives.
2. Review admission deadline and requirements
- Review application deadlines
- Common application deadlines are:
- December 1
- January 15
- Common application deadlines are:
- Some of the common admission criteria include (though they vary by programs):
- Bachelor’s degree
- Professional experience
- English language requirement (i.e. TOEFL; TOEFL is often waived for students who have obtained a degree at an English-medium university)
- Application materials include:
- Application form
- Official undergraduate or graduate transcripts
- Current resume or curriculum vitae (CV)
- Standardized test scores
- English language test scores
- Statement of Purpose
- Three letters of recommendation
- Writing sample
- Application fee
Each school has an online application portal for graduate school. Visit each school’s website to apply for the graduate program.
1. Finalize your test scores
Some programs accept standardized test scores after you submit the application. You need to schedule your test dates carefully and make sure to submit the scores on time.
2. Check your application status
Keep track of the status of your application.
3. Make admission decision
Once the results are announced, you can accept/decline/defer (depending on programs) the offer. Make sure you do it before deadline.
4. Submit administrative documents
Schools may require additional documents regarding health insurance, visa, social security, accommodation, and residence permit to prepare you for smooth transition to new school. Some may also require you to attend the orientation. Therefore, you need to make sure that you submit all required documents and register for the orientation.