Graduate School

Majoring in International Studies provides an excellent background for graduate study in the fields of foreign policy, human rights, political science, international economics, development studies, and language or culture studies.  Additionally, the IS Major is useful for students who are interested in issues related to Global Health or demonstrating cultural competence as they prepare to apply for Medical programs. If you are thinking about graduate school, please review the FAQ and meet with an advisor to discuss developing a timeline and plan to be a successful applicant.


How do I start?

We recommend researching graduate programs and then scheduling a meeting with either a faculty member whose research interests you or an academic advisor to discuss next steps.

How do I apply to graduate school?

In general, you will need to fill out an online application and submit materials such as official transcripts, a personal statement, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, etc. For UW-Madison, the graduate school application can be found here.

I’m a senior- when should I start getting materials together to apply?

You should check the graduate program you are applying to for specific deadlines. Most graduate programs have application deadlines between December 15th and February 1st. In general, plan on taking the GRE the summer before your senior year. You should ask faculty for letters of recommendation in the early fall and order your transcripts before Thanksgiving. Also, make sure your personal statement and application are edited by someone in the writing center.

What types of financial aid are available for graduate school?

Graduate students can apply for scholarships, assistantships, and fellowships.

What is an assistantship?

Graduate assistantships typically involve ~20 hours of work per week for a professor. In return, you receive remission of tuition and a monthly stipend. Each university is different so be sure to ask exactly what is covered in terms of health insurance coverage, fees, and tuition. Assistantships are generally awarded by your program of interest or a specific professor. However, you may also be able to secure an assistantship outside of your academic department. AT UW-Madison we have three types of assistantships based on the type of work you do; RA (Research Assistant), TA (Teaching Assistant), and PA (Program or Project Assistant).

What is a fellowship?

Fellowships are similar to undergraduate scholarships. They are typically awarded by a competition and generally do not require work in return for the award. Fellowships generally provide tuition scholarships and stipends, along with a supplement for purchasing medical insurance. Again, this will vary depending on the institution and specific fellowship so make sure to ask questions and read the fine print.

I am interested in Medical School or a Pre-Health field. What should I do?

You should work closely with your academic advisor in International Studies and the Center for Pre-Health Advising.

Should I start graduate school right after finishing my undergrad degree?

This depends on your career and long term goals as well as finances and life responsibilities. There is no “right” answer as each person is different. You should consider working with your academic advisor and making a list of the pros and cons. If you are not going to graduate school, it is important that your first job out of undergrad gives you transferable skills and that you maintain connections with faculty members who may write you letters of recommendation down the road.

Should I go to graduate school/is graduate school necessary?

Talk with professionals in the field of your interest to see if graduate school is necessary or advisable.

My GPA is below a 3.0, does this mean I’m ineligible for graduate school?

Many graduate programs do have a 3.0 GPA requirement. You can contact the specific program advisor about ways you can demonstrate that your GPA is not a good reflection of your academic abilities. For example, you could take 2 or 3 graduate level classes as a special student, get A’s in those courses, and write a personal statement that describes how these classes indicated your academic potential.