How to Apply

Due date: March 7, 2019

Students in the College of Arts of Sciences apply to the Program in their fourth semester of study. As a distinguished major, the Program admits a limited number of students each year, typically between 18 and 22. A 3.00 cumulative GPA is generally required for admission, but the average GPA of recent classes is substantially higher.

Before the Application

  • Is the Program Right for Me?  Students should browse the PST website, in order to get some insight into the character of the program. The abstracts of recent PST theses will give you a sense of what kind of projects have been undertaken within the major. Current PST majors as well as graduates (some of whom are involved in a new PST alumni group) are often willing to answer questions about the program. You may also join us on our PST Facebook page. The Director of the program holds a meeting for prospective majors in mid-February to answer any questions about admission procedures and program requirements, and is also willing to see prospective students individually. Feel feel to contact the Director. 
  • Can I Study Abroad? The program requires students to be in Charlottesville during their third and fourth years. If you wish to study abroad, you should do so during your second year, or in a summer if you can manage it.  Or you might consider studying or working abroad after you graduate.
  • What Courses Should I Take? It is recommended, but not required, that prospective applicants take one “Foundation” course (or more, if you wish) that will count toward the major. Please click here to see a partial list. All courses that satisfy the major’s requirements can be counted toward the major, even if taken before admission to the major.

Application Process

Please submit your application following these guidelines:

  • A paper copy of all documents (except your letter of recommendation) should be delivered to Michael Smith’s office at S-396 Gibson Hall. Please place your application in a file folder labeled with your name. (If you are out of town and want to submit a paper application, the address is Prof. Michael Smith  Department of Politics, University of Virginia, P.O. Box 400787, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4787.)
  •  Students studying abroad may submit their applications online to
  • Applications for the Class of 2021 are due on MARCH 7, 2019.

Application Checklist

Please include the following documents:

  1. A cover sheet including your full name (Last, First Middle); student ID number (from your student card); email address, cellphone number; cumulative GPA; permanent mailing address; and, finally, the name, email and department of your recommender.
  2. Your transcript. An unofficial transcript printed from a pdf available from SIS is fine.
  3. A letter of recommendation by a faculty member, emailed directly to Michael Smith at
  4. list of your three proposed areas of study, with two specific courses per area. This list is of course provisional and does not commit you to a particular course of study if you join the Program, but it should reflect a thoughtful and coherent curricular plan. Courses you have taken can be used in constructing your areas of study.
  5. A 300-500 word essay describing your interest in the program. This essay should address the following questions: (1) What are your intellectual goals and why are they best addressed in the interdisciplinary PST major? (2) How do the areas of study you’ve chosen address these interests?  In short, please tell us about your substantive intellectual interests.
  6. A copy of paper submitted to a previous course, preferably with the instructor’s feedback included. Choose a writing sample that you think represents your best work.
  7. A brief statement of your most important extracurricular activities that also explains why you find the commitment worthwhile.

Candidates can expect to hear from the committee no later than the end of March, and often sooner.

Download a one-page summary.