Graduate FAQs

Below are the answers to many common questions regarding our admissions process. If your question is not answered here, please contact us at 202-994-6210 or via e-mail at

Admissions process

Q: 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 Graduate Admissions office. The majority of our departments will review applications only when they are complete. Accordingly, your application will remain with the Columbian College Graduate Admissions office until all 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" FAQ section for additional information.


Q: When is the application deadline?

Application deadlines vary by program. To learn the deadline for your program, please visit the application information page for your program. We must receive your online application and all supporting documents before 12 p.m. on the day of the admission deadline.

Q: 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 contact the Columbian College Graduate Admissions office (202-994-6210/

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 nor an additional fee.

Submitting application materials

Q: Where do I send my supporting materials?

All required materials should be uploaded to your online application. For programs requiring a portfolio/audition, please review the application information page for your program, for instructions on submitting the portfolio/audition.

Q: 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.


Q: 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.

Letters of recommendation

Q: I have a credentials packet, ex. 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 CCAS from your University or Interfolio. Please indicate that they will be submitted offline in the application system.  The recommendations should be emailed to, and they will be added to your application once they are received and processed.


Q: I have a copies of recommendations that my recommenders gave me. May I upload those 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.


Q: 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.


Q: 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

Q: 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 prior to the admission deadline. It typically takes at least 10 business days for your scores to be received after you sit the test so plan accordingly. Information regarding the GRE is available through the ETS website.

Q: 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 application information page for your program to see if your GRE scores are required.

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

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

Q: How do I send my GRE scores to the Columbian College Graduate Admissions office?

To have your GRE scores reported to us, you must provide the Educational Testing Service (ETS) with the institutional code for The George Washington University. This code is 5246. Please leave the department field blank, you do not have to submit a departmental code.

Q: My GRE scores are more than five years old. Can I still use them?

As an initial matter, you should retake the GRE if your scores are more than five years old from when you apply. 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. If the department or dean determine 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.

Obviously, 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.

Statement of purpose

Q: 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 250-to-500 word limit is meant to describe general parameters, not a strict word count. Naturally, the quality of your statement is far more important than the quantity of words you use.

Application Fee

Q: Can the application fee be waived?

The application fee may be waived in some circumstances. Please check the Admission 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. 

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.


International applicants

Q: International Applicants: 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 certificate to the best of your current knowledge and ability. If you will be totally dependent on the university for funding, you should still complete the certificate (leaving the Source of Funds section blank) and submit the certificate along with the necessary supporting documents. Submitting your Financial Certificate early in the admissions process will allow us to expedite the approval of your I-20.

Q: International Applicants: How do I send my TOEFL scores to the Columbian College Graduate Admissions office?

To have your TOEFL scores reported to us, you must provide the Educational Testing Service (ETS) with the institutional code for Columbian College. This code is 5246.

Q: International Applicants: Can the TOEFL/IELTS be waived?

TOEFL scores are required of all applicants who are citizens of countries where English is not an official language. Exceptions may be made for applicants who hold a degree from a college or university in a country where English is the official language and the medium of instruction. No other exceptions are made.

International students who have earned a degree from a university in an English-speaking country are not required to submit TOEFL scores. If admitted, however, those students may be required to take a English for Academic Purposes (EAP) course.

Similarly, international students who score lower than 600 on the paper-based TOEFL or 100 on the internet-based TOEFL are required to take either EAP 6110 or EAP 6111. The TOEFL/IELTS score will determine which EAP course they are placed into.

Q: International Applicants: I have earned a degree in the US. Do I need to submit a TOEFL/IELTS 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., Canada, Australia, etc.), you are not required to submit TOEFL scores. You should have studied in that country full-time for at least one year before you begin at GW for your TOEFL to be waived. If you are admitted, however, you may be required to take the English as a Foreign Language placement test prior to enrolling at GW.

Q: International Applicants: What is the minimum TOEFL score for admission?

The minimum university TOEFL score for admission to GW graduate programs is 80 on the internet-based test (IBT) or 550 on the paper-based test (PBT). Please note many of our programs, especially PhD programs have a higher minimum standard. Please review the application information page for your program for information on minimum TOEFL/IELTS scores.
International students applying for a graduate teaching assistantship/fellowship should submit TOEFL scores of 100 or above on the IBT or 600 or above on the PBT. See also the CCAS information page for international applicants.

Fellowships and financial aid

Q: Is there a separate application for department fellowships and assistantships?

No. To be considered for a department fellowship/assistantship, you must merely check "yes" on the 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.

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

Q: 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 to send you the necessary forms. For more information regarding the financial aid process, please visit the university's Student Financial Assistance website.

You must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or refugee to apply for need-based financial aid.

Checking your application status

Q: How do I check the status of my application?

You may check your status anytime by logging into your online account. 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.

Q: 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.

Q: 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 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. All letters of recommendation for admitted students are destroyed when you begin your program.

Q: 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 above, we are prohibited from releasing copies of your materials. Similarly, your application materials cannot be returned to you.

Application decisions

Q: I've submitted my completed application. When will I receive a decision?

The time frame for admissions notification can vary considerably on the basis of a number of factors. 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.

Q: 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.

Q: 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.

Q: I've been admitted, but I'm not able to attend in the semester I applied for. Can I defer my admission?

Yes, applicants may request to defer consideration for up to one year from the original application cycle for which they submitted. You will be sent a notice that our office has created an updated application for you in the application portal, which you will need to finalize with updated supporting documents and letters of recommendation. The application fee will be waived. You must submit the updated application by the application deadline for the new term.

Please note that award offers may not be deferred. Applicants who receive an award and request a deferral will be reconsidered for funding in the term in which they reapply.

Applicants who do not submit the updated application by the deadline for the deferral term requested will not be considered.

Q: I've been denied. Can I request reconsideration?

Yes. You may receive reconsideration by submitting a written request to the Columbian College Graduate Admissions office. Requests for reconsideration 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

Q: 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.

Please note: 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 minimum requirements for English proficiency

Applying to multiple programs

Q: May I apply to more than one program?

Yes, however you must submit separate and complete applications and application fees for each program. 

If you are admitted to more than one program, please note that 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

Q: 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. This details our general policy toward transfer credits. (Please note that this policy adheres to credits earned both outside and within GW.) As an additional matter, the faculty within your department will 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

Q: 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.