Graduate Admissions FAQ

If you have additional questions that are not addressed, please call the Columbian College Office of Graduate Studies at 202-994-6210 or send an email to [email protected].

How does the admission process work?
Our application system is designed to be completely electronic. Applicants complete applications through the online system, uploading unofficial transcripts and other required documents. Recommenders upload recommendation letters via links provided in system-generated emails.

Applications are first reviewed for completeness by the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences Office of Graduate Studies. The majority of our departments will review applications only when they are complete. Accordingly, your application will remain with the Columbian College Office of Graduate Studies until all of your supporting documents have been received (preferably electronically).

Once completed, your application will be referred to your department for review. The admissions committee in your department will recommend either admission or denial. All final decisions are then issued by the dean. See the "Application Decisions" section in the FAQ for additional information.

When is the application deadline?
Application deadlines vary by program. To learn the deadline for your program, please consult the program’s page in the GW Graduate Program Finder. We must receive your online application and all supporting documents before 12 p.m. Eastern Time on the day of the admission deadline.

I've missed the application deadline. May I still apply?
Applications received and/or completed after the deadline will be referred to the appropriate department for review if space in the program remains available. Because of enrollment constraints, some departments are unable to review applications after the deadline. If you wish to determine whether your department is still reviewing applications, please call the Columbian College Office of Graduate Studies at 202-994-6210 or send an email to [email protected].

If your department is unable to review your application because it was completed after the deadline, you will be given the option of having your application reviewed for a future semester. As long as your request for review falls within the same calendar year as your initial application, you will not be required to submit a new application or an additional fee.

Where do I send my supporting materials?
All required materials should be uploaded to your online application. For programs requiring a portfolio or audition, submission instructions can be found on the program’s page in the GW Graduate Program Finder.

I have submitted some application documents, but have not yet submitted my application. What will happen to my documents?
If you submit your documents in advance of your application, we will retain the documents in our files for one year and reconcile them with your application once you apply.

Do I really need to submit transcripts from every university I've attended?
Yes. Transcripts are required from all colleges and universities attended, whether or not credit was earned, the program was completed or the credit appears as transfer credit on another transcript. Exceptions to this policy may be made for study abroad transcripts that were part of your bachelor's degree program.

I have a credentials packet (e.g., Interfolio) on file with my undergraduate school. May I submit this packet as my letters of recommendation?
Yes. The credentials packet is perfectly acceptable. They should be submitted directly to the Columbian College Office of Graduate Studies from your university or Interfolio. Please indicate that the packet will be submitted offline in the application system. The recommendations should be emailed to [email protected], and they will be added to your application once they are received and processed.

My recommenders gave me copies of their recommendations. May I upload them myself?
No. Only recommendations that come to us from a university, Interfolio or directly from the recommender will be considered official and will be reviewed as part of your application.

How does the online recommendation system work?
Once you complete the recommender information section in the application and save it, your recommender(s) will immediately receive a system-generated email including a link to upload the recommendation(s) to your application. If you have already submitted your application and your checklist indicates that a recommendation has not yet been received, you can send a reminder notification to your recommender via a link on the checklist.

I completed my undergraduate degree a long time ago, and I'm unable to acquire recommendations from my former professors. What should I do?
While academic references are generally preferred, we understand that not all applicants may be able to provide them. In that case, you should request recommendations from individuals able to address your qualifications for graduate study. If you have worked in a relevant field, recommendations from your supervisors are acceptable.

I haven't taken the GRE yet. What should I do?
If the GRE is required for your program, you should make arrangements with the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to complete the GRE. You should schedule the GRE so that the results will be received by us before the admission deadline. It typically takes at least 10 business days for your scores to be received after you take the test, so plan accordingly.

Can the GRE be waived?
Some of our departments will waive the GRE requirement for students with a prior earned JD, MD or PhD. If you hold one of these degrees, please check the program’s page in the GW Graduate Program Finder to see if GRE scores are required.

Other standardized tests (e.g., GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, etc.) cannot be submitted in lieu of the GRE.

Applicants to our Master of Fine Arts and graduate certificate programs are not required to submit GRE scores.

How do I send my GRE scores to the Columbian College Office of Graduate Studies?
To have your GRE scores reported to us, you must provide the institutional code (5246) for The George Washington University to the Educational Testing Service (ETS). Please leave the department field blank, you do not have to submit a departmental code.

My GRE scores are more than five years old. Can I still use them?
You should retake the GRE if your scores are more than five years old from your application date. Having recent scores will allow both your department and the dean to complete a more accurate review of your credentials.

Decisions on the use of old GRE scores are made on a case-by-case basis. If you do not retake the GRE and wish to use your previous scores for your application, you must include a photocopy of your previous scores with your application materials. Your application will be reviewed using the previous scores.

Please note:

  • If the department or dean determines that they are unable to reach a decision on your application because of the age of your scores, we will request that you retake the GRE.
  • If you are admitted on the basis of the old scores, you may still be required to retake the exam as a precondition for your admission. This may be necessary because we have no means by which to verify the authenticity of your old scores.
  • If ETS will no longer report your scores and you have not retained a copy, you need to retake the GRE and have your scores reported to us.

My Statement of Purpose is longer than the 250- to 500-word limit indicated in the application packet. Will I be penalized for this?
No. The word limit is a general guideline, not a strict limitation. The quality of your statement is far more important than the quantity of words you use.

Can the application fee be waived?
The application fee may be waived in some circumstances. Please check the Admissions Process page to see if you are eligible for a fee waiver. All other applicants must submit the application fee. Applications cannot be submitted without the fee or an approved waiver.

We strongly recommend that you pay the application fee by credit card via the online system. If you wish to pay the fee by check or money order, please follow the instructions provided in the online application process. Note that this may substantially delay submission of your application.

Is there a separate application for department fellowships and assistantships?
No. To be considered for a department fellowship or assistantship, you simply check "yes" on your application. Merit-based awards are open to all applicants.

The deadline for fellowship consideration is often earlier than the admission deadline. Be sure to check the deadline for your program in the GW Graduate Program Finder.

For more information about fellowship opportunities, visit the university's Office of Graduate Teaching Assistantships and Fellowships.

How can I apply for need-based financial aid?
Check "yes" to question 18 on the application. This will prompt GW's Office of Student Financial Assistance (OSFA) to send you the necessary forms.

You must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or refugee to apply for need-based financial aid. OFSA can provide additional information regarding the financial aid process.

How do I check the status of my application?
You may check your status anytime by logging into your online application. On the dashboard, the 100% green circle indicates that you have submitted a complete electronic application form. It does not necessarily mean that we have received all required transcripts, recommendations, and/or test scores. The checklist will indicate what has been received and what is pending. Please allow 24-48 hours (or more if including a weekend) for the checklist to be updated after you have submitted your application.

Can I designate someone to check on my application status on my behalf?
No. We will only provide information on an application to the applicant.

May I review my application materials after they've been submitted?
You may review your application materials only after you have been admitted and have enrolled as a student at GW. At that time, you may review all of your application materials, except—possibly—for your letters of recommendation.

You may only review your recommendation letters if you have not waived your right to view them. A waiver statement is included on the recommendation forms in the application packet. Your right to review your letters will be considered waived if you do not provide a written request to preserve your right. All letters of recommendation for admitted students are destroyed when you begin your program.

Can I get copies of my application materials after they've been submitted?
No. While you may view your materials according to the policy outlined in the previous question, we are prohibited from releasing copies of your materials. Similarly, your application materials cannot be returned to you.

I've submitted my completed application. When will I receive a decision?
The time frame for admissions notifications can vary considerably. Generally speaking, decisions are made within four to six weeks after your completed application has been received. You will receive an email once your application has been sent to the department for review and an approximate time in which you will receive a decision.

Please note that applications submitted well in advance of the deadline are not immediately reviewed.

How will I receive my decision?
You will receive an email once a decision is made. You may view the decision by logging into your online account. If you are admitted you will also be emailed an electronic admissions packet. If admitted, please remember to print a copy of your admission letter and to respond to your admission offer by the deadline indicated.

Will you tell me over the telephone whether or not I've been admitted?
No. We are required to honor our applicants' right to privacy. Accordingly, confidential information cannot be disclosed over the telephone because we cannot fully verify the identity of the caller.

I've been admitted, but I'm not able to attend in the semester I applied for. Can I defer my admission?
You can request that your application be deferred to a future semester within one calendar year. A request for deferment does not automatically guarantee that you will be admitted again. While most applicants are readmitted, your application must be re-reviewed within the applicant pool for that semester.

As long as your request for deferment is made within one calendar year, you will not be required to pay an additional application fee.

I've been denied. Can I request reconsideration?
Yes. You can submit a written request for reconsideration to the Columbian College Office of Graduate Studies. Requests must be made within the same academic year as the original application. Unless circumstances have changed considerably, denials of admission are seldom reversed.

I don't have the minimum qualifications for admission. Should I still apply?
Applicants with undergraduate grade point averages lower than a "B" may be offered admission provided that other aspects of their application show evidence of special promise. For instance, a strong performance on the GRE may compensate for a lower than average GPA. Strong letters of recommendation, proper fit with the program, professional experience and exposure to the field of interest are also taken into consideration.

Meeting the minimum requirements for admission does not guarantee that you will be admitted. Some departments set their admission standards higher than the minimum standards typically required by Columbian College. International applicants should review the minimum requirements for English proficiency.

May I apply to more than one program?
Yes, however you must submit an application and application fee separately for each program. If you are admitted to more than one program, you cannot be enrolled in more than one program unless a dual-degree program is in effect or you have permission from the dean(s).

I've already earned graduate credits. Can these be transferred to a degree program at GW?
Please consult the "Transfer of Credit" section of our Graduate Student Handbook, which details our general policy toward transfer credits earned both outside and within GW.

The faculty in your department will also need to review the courses you completed in order to determine if they are relevant to your GW program. Typically, this review does not take place until after the admissions process is completed. If you have particular concerns as to whether your courses will transfer, please contact the graduate advisor for the program to which you are applying.

Am I allowed to take graduate courses without having been admitted to a degree program?
In most cases, you may take courses on a non-degree basis without being officially admitted to one of our programs. The non-degree application and registration process is administered by the Office of Non-Degree Students. Questions regarding non-degree registration should be directed to that office.

There are two caveats:

  1. Successful completion of non-degree courses does not guarantee admission to a graduate program. In many cases, grades earned in non-degree courses do not figure heavily in the admission decision.
  2. Not all credits earned in non-degree courses can be transferred into a degree program. For more information, please consult the "Transfer Credit" section of our Graduate Student Handbook.


View FAQ for International Students