Frequently Asked Questions about GSPIA Admissions

Q:     What makes for a strong application?

A:     GSPIA seeks highly motivated students with clear professional goals. As an applicant, you should explain clearly why GSPIA’s programs are a match for your academic interests, and why a GSPIA degree is necessary to help you fulfill your career ambitions.

    Strong writing skills are essential. Use your essays to demonstrate that you have the ability to write analytically at a graduate level. Highlight relevant internships and work experience on your résumé.

    GSPIA’s admission process is holistic, and the admissions committee reads each application thoroughly and carefully. GRE scores, academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, work experience, essays, and other factors are all given equal consideration.

Q:     Does GSPIA require work experience?

A:    Although working in a relevant field is always beneficial to your application, GSPIA does not require a minimum number of years of work experience for most programs. Current undergraduates with no full-time work experience should, however, demonstrate a clear commitment to public service through internships, volunteer work, campus activities, and part-time jobs. Approximately 20% of GSPIA students enter graduate school immediately after receiving their bachelor’s degrees. 80% have some full-time, post-baccalaureate work experience. The average age is 27.  Please note that one GSPIA program, the mid-career accelerated Master of Public Policy and Management, does require work experience.  

Q:    Does GSPIA have a minimum undergraduate GPA?

A:    Undergraduate transcripts are an important factor in the admissions decision, but they are not the only factor. Typically, to be competitive for admission, students should have at least a 3.2 overall average. To be competitive for merit scholarships, applicants normally need at least a 3.5. The admissions committee also takes into consideration GPA within the major, GPA within the last two years, extenuating circumstances, length of time since graduating from college, rigor of the undergraduate program, and other factors.

    Because GSPIA’s admissions process is holistic, applicants with weaker GPAs can be considered for admission if they have exceptionally strong credentials in other areas, such as work experience.

Q: Does GSPIA require the GRE or GMAT? 

A: The GRE is optional for all GSPIA master's degree applicants. It is required for doctoral applicants. If you are applying for a master's program, you may submit the GRE or GMAT score as supplemental material, but this is not required. If you are applying to the PhD program, you may submit a GMAT as a substitute for the GRE. 

Program GRE/GMAT Policy
Master of Public Administration                Optional 
Master of Public & International Affairs       Optional
Master of International Development          Optional
Master of Public Policy & Management        Do Not Submit
Non-Degree       Do Not Submit
PhD in Public & International Affairs           Required 

Q:    What is GSPIA’s minimum TOEFL/IELTS Score?

A:    International applicants are required to take either the TOEFL or IELTS to demonstrate their English language proficiency. The minimum TOEFL score required for admission is 80 on the Internet-based test, although 90 or above is strongly preferred. The minimum IELTS score required for admission is 6.5 (overall, and in each of the subsections). GSPIA's institutional code is 2574. 

Q:     What majors are appropriate for someone applying to GSPIA?

A:    Although most applicants have a background in political science, economics, history, and other social sciences, GSPIA accepts students with a wide variety of undergraduate majors. Business, engineering, music, art, nursing, chemistry, and foreign language majors, among others, have been admitted successfully to GSPIA.

Q:     Am I required to take statistics and/or economics before applying to GSPIA?

A:    Undergraduate courses in statistics and economics are not required for admission, but it is a good idea to take both. Students with a background in those subjects can sometimes place out of required courses at GSPIA, and can perform better in advanced quantitative courses.

Q:     Can I apply to the PhD program if I do not already have a master’s degree?

A:    GSPIA’s PhD program is very selective, and successful applicants normally have at least a master’s degree.

Q:     Can I be interviewed as part of my application?

A:    GSPIA does not interview applicants, but you are welcome to visit the campus and meet with an advisor anytime.

Q:    How can I arrange a campus visit?

A:    Contact GSPIA’s Office of Student Services at 412-648-7640 or gspia@pitt.edu.

Q:    Must I apply to a specific program?

A:    Yes, you must declare your intended degree/major on your application. If admitted, students in the MPA, MID, and MPIA programs may change to a different major within one of those three programs at any time after they are enrolled. They may not, however, change to the MPPM or PhD programs.

Q:     If I am admitted, can I defer my enrollment?

A:    Admitted students may defer their enrollment for either one semester or for one year, as long as they request a deferral in writing and submit an enrollment deposit by the stated deadline. Scholarships, fellowships, and other forms of financial aid cannot be deferred.

Q:     May I request an application fee waiver?

A:    GSPIA waives the application fee for veterans/active duty service members of the US military, Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, AmeriCorps Volunteers, Teach for America alumni, City Year alumni, Catholic Volunteer Network alumni, Truman Scholars, Pickering Fellows, McNair Fellows, Coro Fellows, Payne Fellows, and Rangel Fellows. Prospective students who are affiliated with these organizations should contact GSPIA at 412-648-7640 or gspia@pitt.edu prior to submitting their application to request a waiver.  

Early Application Fee Waiver: Prospective students who submit a complete online application for fall-term admission by December 31 of the previous year pay no application fee.

Q:    Who is eligible to be admitted as a non-degree student?

A:    Applicants to the non-degree program must have a bachelor’s degree and are held to the same admissions standards as anyone applying to a degree program. In most cases, only U.S. citizens/permanent residents are eligible. International students may not apply as non-degree students unless they are participating in one of GSPIA’s exchange partnerships with foreign universities.

    Non-degree students are typically admitted for one semester only, to take a specific class or classes. Most often, they are graduate students at other universities who want to transfer the GSPIA credits into their home schools. Some non-degree students are taking classes for professional training or for personal enrichment. In their essays, non-degree applicants should explain what courses they intend to take and for what purpose.

    The non-degree program is not appropriate for students who are trying to improve their credentials so that they may apply to a GSPIA degree program. Students who are not yet qualified for a degree program would not be admitted to the non-degree program. If a non-degree student wishes to enter a degree program, he or she must submit a new application to GSPIA.

Q:   If I am not admitted to GSPIA, may I reapply for a future term?

A:   Yes, you may reapply for a future term. To improve your chances of being accepted, it is to your benefit to improve your profile before reapplying – for example, by gaining relevant work/volunteer experience, by taking additional undergraduate-level classes at a local university, etc.

Joint Degrees

Q:     How do I apply to a joint degree program?

A:    You must submit separate applications to GSPIA and to the other school. See the Joint Degree page for more information.

Q:    I am already admitted to GSPIA or to one of GSPIA’s joint-degree partner schools. Is it too late to apply to the joint degree program?

A:    No. If you are currently enrolled in the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health, Katz Graduate School of Business, School of Social Work, or School of Information Science, you may apply to GSPIA before you complete your first 24 credits. If you are a current Pitt Law student, you may apply to GSPIA before you complete your second year of law school. Current GSPIA students may apply to the partner schools before they complete their first 24 credits.

Q:    Is it possible to do a joint-degree program part-time?

A:    No, GSPIA requires all joint-degree students to be full-time.

Enrolling at GSPIA

Q:     Can I transfer credits from another graduate school into GSPIA?

A:    Yes, GSPIA accepts transfer credits. PhD students may transfer up to 30 credits from another institution (or 36 credits if they hold a master’s degree from GSPIA). MPIA, MPA, and MID students may transfer up to 12 credits. MPPM students may transfer up to 6 credits. Courses transferred must be graduate-level and must be comparable to courses offered at GSPIA, with a final grade of B or better. The assistant dean makes the final decision on transferability of credits.

Q:    Can I pursue a GSPIA degree part-time?

A:    All GSPIA master’s degrees can be done part-time, but the PhD program must be done full-time.

Q:    Can I change from full-time to part-time status (or vice versa) after I am admitted?

A:    Yes, you may change your full-time/part-time status at any time. Be aware, however, that this move may affect your eligibility for need-based federal loans. Also, if you were offered a merit scholarship as a full-time student, you will lose the scholarship by going part-time.

Q:    Can I double major at GSPIA?

A:    The University of Pittsburgh does not allow students to double major at the graduate level. However, GSPIA students can minor in any fields that are offered as majors.

Q:    What is the relationship between GSPIA and UCIS?

A:    GSPIA and the University Center for International Studies (UCIS), are distinct units of the University of Pittsburgh, but they cooperate very closely. While GSPIA offers degree programs, UCIS offers certificate programs in African, Asian, European, East European, Latin American, and Global Studies, and all GSPIA students are eligible to pursue those certificates as a complement to their GSPIA degrees.  UCIS does not offer stand-alone degree programs; its programs simply complement academic programs at other Pitt schools. Visit UCIS (www.ucis.pitt.edu) for more information.

Q:    Are there any benefits to completing a master’s degree at GSPIA if I want to pursue a PhD at GSPIA?

A:    GSPIA master’s students may apply to GSPIA’s doctoral program. Admission to the doctoral program is very selective, and GSPIA graduates are held to the same admission standards as all other applicants. If they are admitted, they may apply 36 of their master’s credits to the PhD program.

Financial Aid

Q:    What is GSPIA’s tuition?

A:    Visit the Office of Institutional Research for up-to-date tuition rates. Note that there are different tuition rates for Pennsylvania residents and non-residents.

Q:     What kinds of financial aid are available to doctoral students?

A:    Most students accepted for the GSPIA doctoral program are awarded four years of funding. Normally students are funded with Graduate Student Assistantships (GSAs) and/or Teaching Assistantships providing a salary, tuition, fees and medical insurance. GSAs and TAs are required to work 20 hours per week as assigned by the Associate Dean.

    The renewal of the initial award for successive academic years is contingent on academic performance. Assistantships will be renewed each academic year if you are in good academic standing and making normal progress in achieving your doctoral milestones. 

Q:    What kinds of financial aid are available to master’s degree students?

A:    Most merit awards at the master’s level are in the form of scholarships, which do not require the student to work in exchange. Full-time master’s students who apply for the fall term are automatically considered for merit scholarships, as long as their application is received by the February 1 deadline. There is no separate application required for merit scholarships; decisions are made based on the strength of the student’s application.

Q:    Is there a tuition discount for government employees?

A:    MPPM students who are employed full-time by a government agency (including federal, state, county, and municipal governments and school districts, but excluding the military), receive a 20% tuition discount. Only MPPM students are eligible for this funding.

Q:    Are part-time students eligible for funding?

A:    Part-time students are not eligible for merit scholarships, with the exception of part-time MPPM students who receive the 20% discount for government employees.

Q:    What kinds of need-based aid are available?

A:    US citizens/permanent residents may be eligible to apply for federal need-based aid (i.e., the Federal Direct Stafford Loan) through the University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Admission & Financial Aid. Contact OAFA with specific questions.

Q:    Does the University of Pittsburgh offer FLAS Fellowships?

A:    Yes! US citizens/permanent residents planning to study a foreign language at GSPIA may be eligible for a Foreign Language Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship, which covers full tuition and provides a living stipend. The FLAS is a highly competitive award funded by the US Department of Education, available only at select universities nationwide. Several of the University’s area studies programs offer the FLAS because they have been designated as National Resource Centers by the US Government. GSPIA’s internal FLAS application deadline is January 15; any student or prospective student interested in applying for a FLAS should contact GSPIA at 412-648-7640 or gspia@pitt.edu.

Graduate School of Public and International Affairs
3601 Wesley W. Posvar Hall, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15260