Graduate Admissions FAQ
If you have additional questions that are not addressed below, please call the Columbian College Office of Graduate Studies at 202-994-6210 or send an email to [email protected].
- Admissions Process
How does the admission process work?
Our online application can be accessed on a desktop computer or mobile device such as a tablet. You should upload unofficial transcripts and other required application materials (not including recommendations and official test scores) before submitting your application. Recommenders will upload their recommendation letters via a system-generated invitation email. Any required test scores must be sent to GWU by the testing organization(s).
The CCAS Office of Graduate Studies will review your submitted application for completeness. Departments will not review incomplete application files. Your checklist will show if your file is complete or not.
Once the Office of Graduate Studies has reviewed your application and has determined that it is complete and ready for departmental review, your application will be referred to the department. Our office will send you a confirmation email after we send your application to the department, and it will include a timeline estimating when a decision will be returned. In most cases, the department's admission committee will recommend either admission or denial. Your final decision is issued by the dean, and you will be notified by email to view that decision via the application system.
What if I cannot upload a document to my application or I need assistance?
If you are having difficulty uploading a required document, please double-check the following common challenges:
- Does the file name include any symbol or non-English characters? Acceptable characters are . - or _.
- Is the file size too large? You may need to save the file to a lower resolution or to gray-scale.
- Was the document sent to you encrypted or password-protected? If so, please print and scan to pdf, or take a clear screenshot of the document. Then place it on a local drive or in the cloud so you can upload the document to your application.
If you are still having trouble, our office may be able to assist you. Please email [email protected] with any requests for assistance. Note that our response may be slower for requests that come to us in the busy week leading up to an application deadline. We therefore encourage you to submit your application several weeks ahead of the deadline.
The deadline is the date by which a submitted application should be complete, based on the dashboard checklist. Application deadlines vary by program. To learn the deadline for your program, please consult the program’s page in the GW Bulletin's Graduate Program Finder. We must receive your online application and all supporting documents by 11:59 pm 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 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, we will create a new application form that you must complete and submit, and the application fee will be waived.
- Submitting Application Materials
Where do I send my supporting materials?
All required materials (except for recommendations and test scores, which must be official) should be uploaded to your online application. For programs requiring a portfolio or audition, submission instructions can be found on the appropriate page in the GW Bulletin's Graduate Program Finder.
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 and for high school dual-enrollment programs completed prior to your beginning your bachelor's degree, but we reserve the right to request these documents in some cases.
Do I need to provide official transcripts or unofficial transcripts with my application submission?
We accept either official or unofficial transcripts at the application stage. An "official transcript" is a transcript that has been sent directly from the issuing institution to our office. You do NOT need to provide an official transcript as long as the unofficial transcript contains your full name, the institution’s full name, major/program, and all courses listed in chronological order.
We prefer that you upload a scan of your hard-copy transcript or a copy of your PDF e-transcript, but we will also accept a transcript from your university's online student portal if it meets our requirements (please see above). Please note that we do not accept MSWord documents or self-edited transcripts for the admissions review process. Avoid having a paper transcript mailed to our office close to the deadline, as paper documents can take up to two weeks (or longer) to be processed and added to the correct application.
Do I need to provide an evaluation if I have been educated internationally?
We do not require third-party evaluations, but we will accept them if available. Simply scan the evaluation report and upload it to your online application in place of a standard transcript. All submitted transcripts or evaluation reports must be in English.
- Letters of Recommendation
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 directly 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. If your recommender does not receive our email or if the link in the email does not work, please let them know that they can email us their recommendation directly, to [email protected], and we will upload it on their behalf.
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.
- GRE Scores
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. We recommend taking any required tests at least one month before our posted application deadline. CCAS graduate programs will accept official results of either the standard GRE or the GRE at-home version.
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 Bulletin's Graduate Program Finder to see if GRE scores are required. We do not waive the GRE on the basis of previously earned master's degrees.
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?
We require official GRE scores, and ETS will not send official scores if they are expired. Therefore, you should retake the GRE if your program requires it and you took the exam more than 5 years ago.
- Statement of Purpose
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. While we do not count words, we encourage you to consider that excessively short or long statements are not optimal. A good rule of thumb is to stay within +/- 25% of the recommended length. Remember that you do not need to repeat in detail information that is easily found in your transcript and resume.
How do I find out my program’s Statement of Purpose topic?
In most cases, the statement of purpose guidelines are available on the application information page for your program in the GW Bulletin's Graduate Program Finder. A link to this page is typically provided within the application at the Statement of Purpose section. Sometimes a specific topic is shown at that point within the application.
- Application Fee
Can the application fee be waived?
The application fee may be waived in some circumstances. Please check the Graduate Application Requirements 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 request.
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.
How do I request a fee waiver?
To request a waiver, create and complete your online application, then click Review Application and then Save & Pay. Before you will be required to pay, you will be given the option to Request Fee Waiver. Enter information in the Reason for Request box and submit. Within two business days you will receive a denied or approved email. Log back into your application portal and click Submit Your Application (after paying the fee, if your request was denied) to complete the process.
- Fellowships and Financial Aid
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. You will receive a decision about the merit-based awards and assistantships in your application decision letter.
The deadline for fellowship consideration is often earlier than the admission deadline. Be sure to check the deadline for your program in the GW Bulletin's Graduate Program Finder.
For more information about fellowship opportunities, visit our graduate funding page.
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. OSFA can provide additional information regarding the financial aid process.
Make sure in this case that you have included your Social Security Number in your application, in order to expedite financial aid processing if you are admitted and accept admission.
- Checking on Application Status
How do I check the status of my application?
You may check your status any time 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 1-2 business days 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 provide information on an application only 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 review your recommendation letters only 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. Letters of recommendation for admitted students are not permanently retained.
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.
- Application Decisions
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 available within four to six weeks after your completed application has been sent for departmental review. You will receive an email once your application has been sent to the department for review, along with an approximate time frame 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, your decision letter will contain a link to an electronic admissions packet of helpful information. 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? Applicants may request to defer their application to a future semester up to one calendar year after the initial application, with a waiver of the application fee. Please note that it is the application form that is deferred, not the offer of admission (nor of funding). Deferred applications are re-reviewed for admission within the application pool of the new start term. Deferred applicants are often readmitted, but there is no guarantee of this. If you defer, we will create a new application form which you must review, update and submit, along with new copies of all supporting documents (transcripts, letters of recommendation, resume, statement of purpose). Test scores (e.g., TOEFL, GRE, etc.) do not need to be re-submitted if the official scores were submitted with the initial application.
I've been denied. Can I request reconsideration?
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.
- Qualifications for Admission
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 also review the minimum requirements for English proficiency.
- Applying to Multiple Programs
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).
- Transfer Credits
I've already earned graduate credits. Can these be transferred to a degree program at GW?
Please consult the Transfer Credit section of our current graduate Student Handbook website, 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.
- Taking Courses Non-Degree
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:
First, 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. Second, 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 current graduate Student Handbook website.
- Awards (Funding)
My award letter says I should be registered full-time. May I register part-time?
Usually, no. Please contact the staff member listed as the point of contact in your award letter to see whether it is possible to adjust the terms of the award. Columbian College does not require salary-only GAs to be full-time students.
When will my tuition award post to my account?
Once you have registered for a given term, the tuition award should post to your student account within 1-2 business days. Note that you must meet the registration requirements for the award in order for the fellowship to apply. If the award requires full-time registration, it will not post unless/until you have registered for a full-time schedule (i.e., at least 9 credits).
If you are receiving an award after you have already been billed for a given term, please allow 8-10 business days from the time you accept for the award to be posted.
My tuition award is not on my account. Whom should I contact for help?
Please double check that you are meeting the terms of the award as laid out in your funding letter. In many cases, an award will not post to an account unless you are registered for at least 9 credits. Please also allow several business days after making registration changes for the award to update on your account. If your award is still not showing, please contact the staff or faculty member listed in your award letter as the point of contact for assistance.
Why do I have a balance on my account for University fees even though I have an award?
Student awards, even “full packages” for doctoral students, do not cover all fees. Please review the terms and conditions linked in your award letter for details.
I am a GW employee using employee tuition benefits. Am I also eligible for an award?
No. Employees may not combine employee benefits with merit awards.
I do not currently have an award, but I would like one. What are my options?
If you are a doctoral student, please consult with your Director of Graduate Studies. Many funding decisions are made by the Department.
Current students can find details on competitive scholarship opportunities at GW through the Office of Graduate Student Assistantships and Fellowships.
CCAS will distribute information about any other available opportunities that arise to the CCAS Graduate Student Listserv and monthly student newsletter.
I have a question about my FAFSA or student loans. Whom can I talk to?
Any questions regarding student loans or the FAFSA must be directed to the Office of Student Financial Assistance. You can visit them in the Student Services Hub (located on the lower floor of the University Student Center), call them at 202-994-6620, or email [email protected]. Due to the high call volume, we recommend either visiting the Hub or e-mailing.
- Graduate Assistants (GA) and Graduate Research Assistants (GRA)
I am interested in being a Graduate Assistant. What is the process for becoming one?
Academic departments select Graduate Assistants (GAs). These positions are limited and are not available in all departments. Interested candidates should indicate their interest in a GA position on their admission application, if applicable. Students can also contact their program’s Director of Graduate Studies for more information about being a GA in a future term. Students with appropriate prior experience may wish to apply for a Writing in the Disciplines assistantship.
I am an international student/applicant planning to be on a visa. Am I eligible to be a GA or GRA?
The University requires a minimum TOEFL of 100 (Duolingo of 120, or IELTS overall of 7.0 with no individual score below 6.0) in order to be considered for a GA position. GRAs and Fellows are not required to have a TOEFL higher than the minimum for their program, but note that awards do not cover EAP (English for Academic Purposes) coursework. Students who were waived out of providing test scores for the English language requirement in the application are eligible. Current GW students who have successfully completed EAP (English for Academic Purposes) in a prior term are also eligible. If you are offered a GA or GRA award and you are in the US on a visa, you must be on an appropriate visa (F-1) to accept the award. If you are not on an F-1 visa, please contact your visa sponsor, as GW will request written permission from your sponsor to serve. This may not be possible depending upon your visa type.
I am a GA or GRA. May I take another job on campus?
Almost always, the answer is no. This is because students may not combine positions that would otherwise equal full-time employment when none of those positions has been created to provide full-time benefits. Please contact the fellowship coordinator listed in your award letter if you have questions. Note that exceptions to this policy are not possible.
As an additional matter, students on F-1 student visas are not permitted to work more than 20 hours per week.
Students may work in another position outside of the academic year (summer months) if the term of the GA or GRA appointment is only the academic year.
How do I set up a Direct Deposit?
If you are a GA or GRA, you can find a direct deposit setup option in GWeb. For more instructions visit GW's HR website. If you are a fellow (no salary), please visit the Faculty & Staff Service Center, located on second floor of the University Student Center, to fill out the appropriate paperwork.
- Stipends and Salaries
When do I receive my salary check?
Salaries are paid on the last business day of the month -- a salary is payment for services completed. The employment dates for your GA or GRA appointment will be in your award letter.
Where do I pick up my salary check?
Your salary check will be available from the Department/Program that is employing you as a GA. If you are being funded from a grant, please check with the Principal Investigator (PI) for your project. If you are not sure who this is, please reach out to the contact in your award letter. We strongly recommend you set up a direct deposit for your own convenience.
I did not receive my salary. Whom do I contact for help?
As an initial matter, please check with your Department/Program Chair or Administrator to make sure all of your hiring paperwork went through. If you did not receive a check as expected, please contact the CCAS Finance Office at [email protected] for a CCAS award, or OGSAF for an award from their office ([email protected]). A point of contact will be listed in your award letter.
When will my stipend check be available?
Stipends are paid on the first business day of the month. Please consult your award letter for specifics on the duration of your award. If your award has been made late or you have accepted it late, payment will be delayed. Usually, there are supplemental stipend payment runs 2-3 times per month.
Where do I pick up my stipend check?
We strongly recommend you set up direct deposit for your own convenience. Be sure that you have a current mailing address on file if you are not using direct deposit.
I did not receive my stipend. Whom do I contact for help?
As an initial matter, please check with your Department/Program Chair or Administrator to make sure all of the stipend paperwork and information was submitted in the proper payment systems. If you did not receive a check as expected, please contact the CCAS Finance Office at [email protected] for a CCAS award, or OGSAF for an award from their office ([email protected]). A point of contact will be listed in your award letter.
- Student Health Insurance
I have questions about the Student Health Insurance plan. Whom do I contact for help?
Please see the Colonial Health Center’s website for the most up to date information about the plan available and current rates.
For questions, please contact the Student Health Insurance Program at [email protected]
My letter noted that I am eligible for a Student Health Insurance Related Payment. When will I receive the payment and whom do I contact with questions?
The Student Health Insurance payment amount and timeline are noted in your award letter. Note that only students receiving full funding packages, who must also be enrolled in GW's student health insurance plan, will receive the payment. The payment will post to your student account after the start of term as a credit. Usually this is done by November 15 for Fall and March 15 for Spring at the latest. You should pay the balance of your bill before the start of classes. For questions about the Health Insurance Related Payment, please contact the Office of Graduate Student Assistantships and Fellowships ([email protected]).
How do I request a refund for the Health Insurance Related Payment or another credit on my bill?
For instructions, please see the website for the Office of Student Accounts. You may also leave the credit on your bill to be applied toward a future term.
International Student Specific FAQs
- Am I considered an international applicant?
If you do not live in the United States or are from another country but are currently attending another U.S. institution, you are considered an international applicant and may need to submit additional information to apply. Please email [email protected] if you are unsure of your status.
- Will my application be reviewed if it is missing the Financial Certificate?
Yes. This will not delay the application review process. If the faculty recommends your admission, we will contact you to request that you submit the Financial Certificate.
However, because the issuance of student visas is often a time-consuming process, the Financial Certificate and supporting documents should be submitted as soon as possible. You should complete the Source of Funds section of the Visa Request for International Applicants Requesting an I-20 (F-1) or DS-2019 Form to the best of your current knowledge and ability.
Submitting your Financial Certificate early in the admissions process will allow us to expedite the approval of your I-20.
- How do I send my TOEFL scores to the Columbian College Office of Graduate Studies?
To have your TOEFL scores reported to us, you must provide the Educational Testing Service (ETS) with the institutional code (5246) for GWU.
- Can the TOEFL/IELTS be waived?
The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the academic International English Language Testing System (IELTS), Duolingo, or the PTE Academic is required of all applicants except those who hold a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree from a college or university in the United States or from an institution located in a country in which English is the official language, provided English was the language of instruction. If you are not sure that you qualify for a waiver, please email [email protected].
Admitted international students who score lower than 600 on the paper-based TOEFL, 100 on the internet-based TOEFL, 120 on Duolingo or 7.0 on IELTS are required to enroll in a 3-credit English class (EAP 6110 or EAP 6111) in their first semester. The English proficiency exam score will determine which EAP course they are placed into. Please note that the additional EAP tuition cost is not covered by any GWU scholarship award.
- I have earned a degree in the US. Do I need to submit an English proficiency exam score?
If you have earned (or will earn) a degree in a country where English is the official language (e.g., the U.S., U.K., Australia, etc.), you are not required to submit English proficiency exam scores. You should have studied in that country full-time for at least one year before you begin at GW, in order for your English proficiency test requirement to be waived. If you are admitted, however, we reserve the right to require you to take a placement test and/or enroll in EAP in your first semester.
- What is the minimum English proficiency score required for admission?
The minimum English proficiency exam scores for admission to most GW graduate programs are: 80 on the internet-based test TOEFL (IBT) or 550 on the paper-based TOEFL (PBT); or 6.0 on IELTS (no sub-score below 5.0); or 110 on Duolingo. However, many of our programs, especially PhD programs, have a higher minimum standard. Please review the program’s page in the GW Bulletin's Graduate Program Finder for additional information on required English proficiency exam scores.
International students applying for a graduate teaching assistantship or fellowship should submit higher minimum scores: an IBT score of at least 100, a PBT score of at least 600, an IELTS score of at least 7.0 (no sub-score below 6.0), or a Duolingo score of at least 120.
The minimum TOEFL score for admission to GW graduate programs is 80 on the internet-based test (IBT) or 550 on the paper-based test (PBT). However, many of our programs, especially PhD programs, have a higher minimum standard. Please review the program’s page in the GW Graduate Program Finder for additional information on TOEFL/IELTS scores.
International students applying for a graduate teaching assistantship or fellowship should submit an IBT score of 100 or above or a PBT score of 600 or above.