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Graduate Admissions

Admission Requirements

Applicants are evaluated on their undergraduate coursework and grade point average, Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, career interests, recommendations, and breadth of background and experience. The Admission Committee reviews applications on a rolling basis and applicants are notified of the committee’s decision as soon as possible thereafter. Before applying, carefully review the admission requirements.

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Students applying to a dual degree program with the Washington College of Law (WCL) need to complete a separate application with the School of Public Affairs. All materials supplied to WCL will be submitted to and reviewed by SPA.

Application Deadlines

PhD Programs

January 1 (Fall admission only)

Traditional Master’s, BA/MA** Dual Degree Programs, and Graduate Certificate Programs

February 15: Priority deadline for first round consideration for Fall merit awards (merit awards are not offered to Certificate students).
October 1 (International applicants): Priority deadline for first round consideration for Spring merit awards
November 1 (Domestic applicants): Priority deadline for first round consideration for Spring merit awards

*Applications will be accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis AFTER posted deadlines until the respective term/degree program is full. Applicants are strongly encouraged to respect the priority deadlines if interested in merit aid consideration for any given term/degree program.
 **BA/MA dual degree programs are open to current AU undergraduate students only

Executive Master’s Programs

April 1: Priority deadline for MS in Organization Development (MSOD) merit award consideration
May 15: Priority deadline for Key Executive Leadership MPA merit award consideration

Executive programs have different application procedures - see the specific program for details

JD/Master’s and LLM/Master’s Dual Degree Programs with Washington College of Law (WCL)

Refer to WCL Admissions for their priority deadlines. Please see SPA priority deadlines above. Dual degree students do not qualify for SPA merit aid UNTIL a candidate plans to enroll as a full-time student in the School (based on the dual degree design, this normally is not until their second year/second Fall term on campus).

As a dual degree applicant with the Washington College of Law (WCL), you will submit a full application and all supplemental materials to WCL and a separate online application form with the School of Public Affairs (SPA) through their respective websites. Indicate on each application that you are applying for a dual degree program. All materials supplied to WCL will be submitted to and reviewed by SPA once complete. Admissions decisions are independent, and you will receive separate decision letters from WCL and SPA.

Application Requirements

  • Completed online application form
  • Application fee
  • Transcripts from all previously attended postsecondary institutions
  • Personal statement
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Resume/CV
  • GRE general test scores

Additional Requirements

  • TOEFL, IELTS, or Pearson Test of English test scores – International applicants only
  • Writing sample(s) – PhD, MSOD, and Key Executive Leadership MPA applicants only
  • Interview – BA/MA, MSOD, and Key Executive Leadership MPA applicants only
  • Combined Bachelor’s/Master’s Program Policies: Terms of Agreement form – BA/MA applicants only

  • Application Form - Complete and submit SPA’s online application
  • Application Fee ($55) - Pay a non-refundable $55 application fee with the online application. This fee can be waived for the following reasons:
    • You have received a “fee waiver code” for attending an in-person or online recruitment event.
    • You are a current AU student; AU alumni; U.S. Veteran; active duty military member; former PPIA/IIPP participant; Teach for America participant; Peace Corps participant; AmeriCorps participant; FAMU Scholar; and/or McNair scholar.
  • Transcript(s) - Upload unofficial transcripts from all previously attended postsecondary institutions after you submit your application. If transcripts are in a language other than English, English language translations must be provided. Illegible scans will not be accepted. All applicants to SPA graduate programs must possess a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution by the date of anticipated enrollment at SPA.

    Do not mail in a copy of a transcript or academic record which you have uploaded to your online application, unless requested by SPA. We will contact you when we are ready for you to send us official transcripts (only upon admission).
  • Personal Statement – Your personal statement should be a well-written and carefully crafted essay between two and five typewritten pages in length. Describe in detail your personal and career goals, relevant employment experience, reason for wanting to study at American University, and your ability and commitment to undertake graduate education at this time.
  • Letters of Recommendation – Applicants to master’s degree programs are required to acquire two (2) letters of recommendation. Recent graduates are strongly encouraged to obtain at least one recommendation from an academic source. Three (3) letters of recommendation are required for PhD applicants.

    In the online application, you will be prompted to identify your recommenders and their contact information. Please notify your recommenders that they will receive an e-mail prompt to submit their recommendation online. Recommendations should be from academic and/or professional sources. We suggest that you obtain at least one recommendation from a faculty member who is familiar with your academic work and your potential for success in graduate study.
  • Resume or Curriculum Vitae
  • GRE - GRE general test scores are required for all traditional master’s programs at the School of Public Affairs. GRE scores should be sent officially from the Educational Testing Service to American University (institutional code 5007). Scores must be from an examination taken within the last five (5) years from the application submission date.

    The GRE may be waived for admission to the traditional master's degree programs if the applicant has five (5) or more years of professional, relevant work experience. To apply for a GRE waiver, please complete the waiver request on the online application and upload your resume/CV.

    The LSAT may only be substituted for applicants to the Washington College of Law (WCL) and School of Public Affairs for dual degree JD/Master’s and LLM/Master’s programs. The GMAT may be substituted for MPA and MPP applicants. There are no other exceptions.
  • International Applicants Only – The School of Public Affairs requires TOEFLIELTS, or Pearson Test of English test scores for international applicants whose native language is not English AND who do not hold a four-year bachelor's degree from a U.S. accredited college/institution. TOEFL scores should be sent officially from the Educational Testing Service to American University (institutional code 5007). The University code for PTE is X1Q-K6-10.
    Minimum score requirement:
    • TOEFL - 100 on IBT test, 250 on computer-based test, or 600 on paper-based test
    • IELTS – 7.0
    • Pearson Test of English - 68
  • Please carefully review the International Student Admissions Requirements page for details on required immigration and financial documents to be submitted after admission.
  • Writing Sample – One sample of your written work (12-25 pages) is required for PhD applicants. Refer to the executive program pages for specific writing sample requirements for the MSOD and Key Executive Leadership MPA programs.


Application documents that are not submitted online must be mailed to us at the following address:

US Mail (USPS)
SPA Graduate Admissions
Office of Enrollment
4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20016-8081

Courier Address/Overnight (FEDEX, UPS, DHL, etc.)
SPA Graduate Admissions
Office of Enrollment
3201 New Mexico Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20016-8081

Fax: 202-885-3991

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Certificate and Non-degree

Certificate and Non-degree Application Requirements

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