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Master of Arts in International Relations

General Information and Frequently Asked Questions

1.  What if I don’t have extensive background in international relations?

The program accepts students with strong academic records and professional experience from all backgrounds but those with little formal training in political science, history, economics, and international affairs are encouraged to take at least two upper division international or comparative political science courses at any university before beginning the program.  Students should consult with the MAIR program director in selecting those courses.  In exceptional cases, students can be admitted to USD in a special student status that allows them to demonstrate their ability to succeed in classes that have the necessary rigor and substance before fully entering the program. 

2.  What if I do not have a 3.2 GPA or the expected minima on the GRE ( 50 per cent V, 50 per cent Q, and 4.0 A)?

Applications are evaluated as a whole.  Scores that are slightly below the normal threshold can be offset by other elements in the student's background, especially professional and/or international experience.

3.  Who should write my letters of recommendation?

At least two of your three letters should come from academic referees who can report on your academic aptitude as well as your personal qualities.  Letters from friends and colleagues or USD employees who cannot address your academic or professional experience have little value and are unlikely to improve your chances of admission. 

4.  What are you looking for in your statement of purpose?

A strong statement of purpose should demonstrate that you have thought carefully about why a Masters Degree in International Relations can enhance your personal and professional development and that USD has the appropriate program for your purposes.  The essay should run around 500 words and be an opportunity to show your writing talent and editorial care.  The statement can also include a succinct explanation of why any shortcomings in your background or record will not interfere with your successful pursuit of the degree. 

5.  What scholarships are available to the MAIR students?

There are many sources of financial assistance for graduate students within and outside the university.  The Department also awards scholarship funds on the basis of strong academic achievement.  The University offers scholarships to all active and retired members of the military equal to 15 per cent of tuition.  Please see the page on scholarships and financial aid for more information.

6.  What are the visa requirements for international students?

We welcome international students at USD and have a very strong international community.  Specific information for international applicants can be found at

7.  Who should I contact if I have further questions?

Dr. Randy Willoughby, Program Director,