Information for Current Students

The Department of Political Science has numerous resources for current graduate students to take advantage of during their years on campus. 

How do I….?

How do I register for classes?

First, select your courses with the help of your First Year Advisor.  You should try to create a two-year plan to make sure that you take all of the required and recommended courses during your Residency.  Refer to the Guide to Graduate Studies for guidelines and restrictions associated with registering for classes. 

Review Course Descriptions on Caesar, and check the Schedule of Classes.  Refer to the Office of the Registrar for registration dates and times. 

Make sure to review TGS registration policies as well, and check with the Graduate Program Assistant with any problems or questions. 

How do I learn about housing options available for graduate students?

To learn more about housing options through northwestern, you can visit the housing link provided by The Graduate School. Currently, there is no roommate finding service for graduate students, although our Department and the Graduate Student Association are sometimes able to send emails to their listservs with roommate requests.

Information on university housing can be found here:

Alternatively, the Evanston campus is readily accessible by public transport from Chicago.

Current students created a helpful handout about how to search for housing as a grad student.

I need more information about my health insurance. 

Health Insurance is provided annually for PhD students as part of their financial package.  Check out this helpful handout, Keys to Navigating Your Healthcare, written by alumna Mara Suttman-Lea '17 for help with navigating the different insurance options.  

Also of interest may be this essay on mental health and academia, also written by alumna Mara Suttman-Lea '17.

How do I complete my First-Year Review?

All first year students are required to complete a brief First-Year Review with their advisor.  You may download the form, First Year Review Sheet, which must be turned in to the Graduate Program Assistant by July 1. 

Should you wish to work with a different faculty member other than your assigned first year advisor, you are welcome to do so.  Make sure to let your assigned advisor know, and verify that the alternate faculty member is willing to serve as your advisor moving forward.  Please let the Graduate Program Assistant know about the change as well.

How do I request a particular TA assignment?

Solicitations for TA preferences are sent out at about the halfway point of each quarter by the faculty member managing TA assignments.  Efforts are made to match students up with their preferred courses, but not all requests can be accommodated.  Should a student need to work with a particular faculty member for larger research purposes, that faculty member can also submit an email request to the TA coordinator.

There will be times where the Department has more undergraduate sections than available TAs; during those times, our students may be asked to take on heavier TA loads than average.  There may also be occasions where discussion sections are early in the morning or in the early evening.  We are very much aware that this sometimes presents challenges for graduate students, and we will always do our best to re-distribute the work in future quarters. 

How do I choose readers for my Research Paper Requirement?

The subfield chair and a second reader chosen by the subfield chair (normally the instructor of the course in which the research paper was written) will read the paper and determine whether it fulfills the paper requirement.  Should the instructor of the course not be available, the student should work with the subfield chair to identify a second reader. 

How do I apply for the MA?

Once you have completed your 9 quarters of residency and 18 units of coursework, you may apply for the MA.  To be awarded the MA, you must have no incomplete grades on your transcript. 

The application for the MA can be found on Caesar under TGS Forms.

How do I prepare for Qualifying Exams?

The first step in preparing for your qualifying exams is to ensure that you have completed ALL incomplete grades.  You may not sit for either the major or minor exams if you have an incomplete grade on your transcript.  Should you not be able to resolve your incomplete grades before the Fall quarter of your third year, you will be required to wait a full year to take your qualifying exam and advance to candidacy. 

Exams are offered one time each academic year; the major will be held in October, and the minor in November.  Consult the Guide to Graduate Study for more information about timing, exam content, and grading.

Sample exams are available from the Graduate Program Assistant.

How do I apply for a Conference Travel Grant?

There are two options to apply for a Conference Travel Grant.  To help you choose the right options for your work, click the infographic!

The Graduate School offers a grant of up to $800 per grant.  Students must apply for this at least two months before the conference, and may only receive two of these grants during their entire career. 

In addition to the TGS grant, the Department offers travel grants of up to $500 pre grant.  These are often used in conjunction with a TGS grant, but may also be applied for as a stand-alone grant.  There is no restriction on the number of Department grants that a student may apply for; however, preference will be given to those students who have not received a grant in the past. 

The application for the Department Conference Travel Grant can be accessed here.

Funding for both grants is distributed on a reimbursement basis after the conference is completed.  Students are asked to save original copies of all receipts relevant to the grant, and to complete an Expense Report with John Mocek within five (5) days of returning from the conference.

How do I apply for Department Summer Funding?

The Department offers small grants for students to use in the summer.  Applications will be available in March from the Graduate Program Coordinator. These grants are intended to provide modest funding for students who might not qualify for other University grants.  Applicants may propose a wide variety of professional development activities to be funded by these grants, including methods training, language work, fieldwork, and summer reading groups.  

How do I get paid for RA work?

Serving as an RA is a great professional opportunity, and students are encouraged to take advantage of these opportunities.  All RA work needs to be approved by the Department, WCAS, and TGS before the work begins.  Have your faculty supervisor send an email to the Graduate Program Coordinator which contains the number of hours to be worked, the pay rate, where the pay should come from (discretionary or grant account), and the nature of the work to be done.  Make sure to give several weeks of notice to allow for approvals to be obtained and the payroll paperwork to be completed. 

A Permission to Work form must be completed and approved before work can begin.  More instructions can be found here.

How do I defend my prospectus?

By the end of the fall quarter of your fourth year, you must have passed a prospectus defense.  Each subfield has specific requirements for the prospectus; consult with your advisor and the field chair for further information. 

Make sure to register your prospectus on Caesar under TGS Forms, PhD Prospectus.  All students are required to have a full 3-person dissertation committee at this stage. 

How do I arrange for packages to be delivered while I’m away?

The Department can accept packages on your behalf to our second floor mailroom.  Please notify Kari Vanderwalle that you are expecting a package, and please make arrangements to have it picked up or put in your office as soon as possible.  The Department is not responsible for packages that go missing, so be sure to notify the staff if it is an item of value which should be secured. 

How do I apply for a leave of absence?

There are several options for taking a leave of absence: medical, family, and general.  Review TGS policy regarding leaves of absence for full information.  Students do not need to consult with the Department prior to applying for a leave of absence. 

How do I learn about childcare and opportunities for my family?

Childcare information can be found through Human Resources, as well as through TGS’ extensive new program for Student Parents.

How do I request that my Student Activity Fee be waived while I’m away from campus?

When you are doing field research and will not be in the Evanston area, you may request that your Student Activity fee be waived for that quarter.  To do so, complete this form, indicating the quarter for while you request a waiver or a refund, and the reason for the request.  TGS will then consult with the Graduate Program Coordinator for confirmation that you were not in the area during that quarter. 

How do I request 6th Year funding?

6th year funding is not guaranteed, but occasionally the Department is in need of additional TA support in a given quarter.  Toward the end of your 5th year, the TA coordinator will send out an inquiry; with those results, we will review our TA needs, and should there be opportunity to hire a 6th year student, the Department will write a formal request to WCAS.  WCAS then reviews the requests and decides whether there are funds available to hire a 6th year student.  These decisions are generally made during the summer quarter each year. 

How do I apply for graduation?

To apply for graduation, you must have defended your dissertation and completed all program requirements.  The application can be located on Caesar under TGS forms, and is called Application for Degree.

Students may graduate in all quarters.  Check TGS deadlines for submission of materials.

How do I defend my dissertation?

The dissertation defense should be held with at least one committee member present; other committee members are permitted to join the defense via Skype or telephone.  The defense does not need to take place on campus, however most students find it easier to do so. 

A date and time should be identified for the committee well in advance.  The defense typically lasts about two hours.  Should a room on campus be requested, the Graduate Program Assistant will need at least a month or more to secure a space. 

Prior to the defense, the student must complete and print the Final Exam Form, found on Caesar under TGS forms.  All committee members must sign the form before the defense is considered complete. 

Review this doctoral completion checklist for further instructions, and see the Graduate Program Coordinator to make sure that you’ve completed all requirements.

How do I go on the job market?

There are many resources available to help you launch your job search.   The Department holds professional development events throughout the year to help students prepare for both academic and non-academic career searches.  University Career Services is great resource for graduate students to get one-on-one guidance. TGS also offers resources for career exploration and job searching.

Contact the Program Coordinator and the Placement Director to discuss your plans for the job market.