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The 20 Best In-Person Schools for Political Science in 2023

Many of the best schools in the nation also have the best political science programs. Take a look at our picks for the top 20 best schools with political science degrees. 

20 Best In-Person Schools for Political Science

Harvard University

1. Harvard University

Premium Score: 98.00

Acceptance Rate: 4.6%

National Rank: 2

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Times Higher Education ranks Harvard University as the best university in the United States and the 7th best university in the world. Harvard is the oldest higher education institution in the US and has influenced the world with its graduates.

The list of politicians who attended Harvard is extensive. Eight U.S. presidents have attended Harvard and countless heads of government from nations across the world also can list Harvard as their alma mater. 

When it comes to government studies, Harvard leads the way. Their innovative programs are always changing and in fact, their undergraduate government concentration just added two new programs of study: data science and tech science.

Take a look at some of Harvard’s government courses:

  • Japan and the World 
  • American Democracy
  • Power and Identity in the Middle East
  • Race in a Polarized America 
  • Political Sociology
  • Media in American Politics 

Students may pursue government studies both at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Graduate students pursuing a Ph.D. must complete all academic courses in the first two years of study. 

If you are interested in politics and are looking for a solid way into the world of politics than a degree from Harvard University is a great way to get there. 


Yale University

2. Yale University

Premium Score: 95.75

Acceptance Rate: 6.3%

National Rank: 6

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Yale University is an Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut.  The university was founded in 1718- over 300 years ago. Yale is known for its European liberal arts curriculum. Though rooted deeply in these traditions,

Yale is also known for its innovation and highly creative student body and alumni.  When it comes to politics, Yale has a long-standing tradition and is the alma mater for several US presidents including William Howard Taft, Bill Clinton, Gerald Ford, and both George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush.

Undergraduates may pursue a political degree in a wide range of areas including: 

  • Classical Civilization
  • East Asian Studies 
  • Economics
  • Ethics, Politics, and Economics 
  • Global Affairs 
  • History
  • Modern Middle East Studies 
  • Political Science 
  • Russian and Eastern European Studies 
  • South Asian Studies 

A number of these programs are also advanced degrees and students may pursue further studies in the form of a master’s or Ph.D. A degree from Yale opens doors to a world of opportunities.  If you are looking to pursue a degree in politics then take a deep dive into all that Yale has to offer. 


University of Pennsylvania

3. University of Pennsylvania

Premium Score: 94.5

Acceptance Rate: 8.4%

National Rank: 19

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The University of Pennsylvania is an Ivy League university located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  There are over 25,000 students enrolled at UPenn and the student-to-faculty ratio is 6:1.

The university offers academic programming for traditional and non-traditional students and includes robust programming for continuing education and online education. UPenn also has an outstanding MOOCS offering which is open and accessible to all who wish to learn.

Undergraduate pursuing a course of study in politics may choose to major in: 

  • History 
  • Political Science
  • Sociology 
  • Among Others 

As a traditional student in the College of Arts and Sciences students pursuing a traditional path are encouraged to explore a major through entry courses UPenn’s MAP program and continue to explore career options through their many internships opportunities.  Graduate students continue their education either through their political science Ph.D. program or their graduate certificate in politics. 


Stanford University

4. Stanford University

Premium Score: 92.25

Acceptance Rate: 4%

National Rank: 1

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Stanford University is a private university located in Stanford, California. It currently enrolls over 17,000 students while maintaining a student-to-faculty ratio of 5:1. Stanford is a known innovator not only in the areas of technology but in fields like education, psychology, and political science.

Students may pursue an undergraduate degree in: 

  • African American Studies 
  • American Studies 
  • Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law 
  • Economics
  • Ethics in Society 
  • Global Studies 
  • History
  • International Policy Studies 
  • International Relations
  • Sociology
  • And more 

Stanford offers a wide range of programs for its students and is known for its highly specialized curriculum with an interdisciplinary approach.

Their graduate students may study American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, Political Theory, and Political Methodology. 


Princeton University

5. Princeton University

Premium Score: 91.25

Acceptance Rate: 5.5%

National Rank: 2

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Princeton is a private Ivy League university located in Princeton, New Jersey. There are 8,374 students enrolled and the student-to-faculty ratio is 5:1. Carnegie classifies Princeton as an R:1 university with very high research activity. The university is currently making headway in the areas of quantum computing, health, politics, and education.

If you are looking to pursue a major in politics at Princeton consider a few of their related courses of study: 

  • American Studies 
  • African American Studies 
  • Economics
  • History and the Practice of Diplomacy
  • Journalism
  • Politics
  • Public Policy
  • Sociology
  • Among Others 

As a graduate student, you have the opportunity to take any of these degrees further pursuing a Ph.D, joint degree, or professional certification. 

A number of their graduate programs are interdisciplinary the Social Policy joint degree, for example pulls in programming from a number of departments including economics, politics, population studies, psychology, and sociology.

This is a unique way to approach political science which prepares graduates for a wide array of career possibilities. 


Brown University

6. Brown University

Premium Score: 90.75

Acceptance Rate: 6%

National Rank: 13

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Brown University is a private ivy league university located in Providence, Rhode Island. Brown has a reputation for its innovative programming and intimate setting. The university currently enrolls 10,257 students and has a student-to-faculty ratio of 6:1.

Undergraduate students enjoy small classes and a flexible Open Curriculum that allows students to design and implement a completely personal course of study.  Undergraduates all have a “shopping period” when they sample a wide array of courses.

Students, therefore, approach academics interdisciplinarily. Brown believes it is important to learn how to learn. The same principles apply to political science. Even students with the same concentration will have different experiences.

Take a look at a few concentrations related to political science: 

  • American Studies 
  • Economics
  • History
  • International Relations
  • Public Policy
  • Social Analysis and Research
  • Sociology

Similarly, Brown offers a variety of master’s degrees and Ph.D. programs.  These programs are extremely rigorous and the standards are high as is to be expected with any prestigious university. Brown graduates tend to go on to take positions at some of the top government and international agencies in the world. 


Williams College

7. Williams College

Premium Score: 88.75

Acceptance Rate: 9%

National Rank: 27

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Williams College is a private 4-years institution located in Williamstown, Massachusetts. There are just 2,149 students enrolled at Williams College and the student-to-faculty ratio is 6:1. The vast majority of students are undergraduates. 

The university uses majors and concentrations. All students take classes from every college, as well as two intensive writing courses and a mathematical class.

Take a look at the political science and related courses available at Williams.

  • Africana Studies (concentration)
  • American Studies
  • Arabic Studies
  • Economics
  • History
  • Political Economy
  • Political Science
  • Sociology
  • Asian Studies
  • And More

Their political science major focuses on systems of power how they are achieved and challenged whereas the political economy major is an interdepartmental major that merges political economics with contemporary political issues.

Similarly, the American studies major also takes an interdisciplinary approach. Students have a unique opportunity through the Williams-Exeter program to study for a full year at Oxford University. 


Duke University

8. Duke University

Premium Score: 88.50

Acceptance Rate: 6%

National Rank: 10

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Duke University is a private 4-year university located in Durham, North Carolina. There are over 16,000 students enrolled and the student-to-faculty ratio is just 6:1. This is a research institution with the highest level of research. Over 80% of Duke students are enrolled in the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences.

Students take an entirely interdisciplinary approach and are able to design their own education from as many as three academic disciplines.  As so much of what is happening in the world right now is interdisciplinary this is a great opportunity for anyone interested in political science. Over 80% of Duke students also double major.

Take a look at some of the majors and minors available at Duke: 

  • African and African American Studies 
  • Civilization
  • Economics
  • History
  • Interdepartmental Major 
  • International Comparative Studies 
  • Political Science 
  • Statistical Science
  • And More

There are literally thousands of paths to choose from if you wish to study political science at Duke. If you are looking for a high quality education with a lot of creative freedom you can’t go wrong with a political science degree from Duke University. 


Massachusetts Institute of Technology

9. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Premium Score: 98.00

Acceptance Rate: 4%

National Rank: 7

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The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a world-class technology school located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. MIT is arguably the best technology school in the world but who knew they were also a great school for political science?

Regardless of its name, MIT is a target for the best scholars in the world and the same can be said of all other scholars including scholars in the political sciences.

Their school of Humanities, Arts and Sciences offers programming in political science and related fields.  Let’s take a look: 

  • Economics
  • Global Studies
  • History
  • Political Science

Additional individuals looking to major in political science may elect to minor in political science, public policy, or applied international studies.  Graduate students are welcome to either pursue a MS in political science or a PhD in political science. 


Pomona College

10. Pomona College

Premium Score: 87.25

Acceptance Rate: 7%

National Rank: 41

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Pomona College ranks as the 5th best liberal arts college in the US according to US News. This highly prestigious liberal arts school currently enrolls 1,573 students and maintains a student-to-faculty ratio of 8:1.

If you enjoy getting to know your classmates in an intimate setting, then a small liberal arts college like Pomona is definitely worth checking out. Pomona is located just 35 miles outside of L.A. and is a great place to kick off your life as a college student. US News also ranks Pomona College 2nd for best value schools. 

This well-rounded institution offers a lot of great options where political science is concerned. Take a look: 

  • Africana Studies 
  • American Studies
  • Asian Studies
  • Asian American Studies 
  • Economics
  • German Studies
  • International Relations
  • Latin American Studies 
  • Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
  • Russian and Eastern European Studies
  • Sociology

As you can see, there are several options for anyone interested in politics in the US and across the globe. Over half of students at Pomona conduct research with faculty members.  If you are looking for an intimate and rigorous college experience, check out the programming at Pomona. 


Dartmouth College

11. Dartmouth College

Premium Score: 86.50

Acceptance Rate: 8.7%

National Rank: 14

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Dartmouth is an ivy league institution located in Hanover, New Hampshire. There are 6,500 students enrolled and the student-to-faculty ratio is 7:1.

This research university offers a wide array of academic opportunity for any individual who is passionate about politics or global politics. There’s even an independent study option for anyone who is looking to take a deeply individualized route during their undergraduate time at Dartmouth. 

If you prefer a bit of structure here’s a look at some of the undergraduate degrees with a political science focus: 

  • American Politics
  • Comparative Politics 
  • International Relations
  • Political Theory/Public Law 
  • Political Analysis
  • And Courses that Cross Subfields

Their courses all sound riveting and thought provoking.  Perhaps you’re thinking of studying American Politics. You may take courses like “Political Economy in the Age of Google” “Political Misinformation and Conspiracy Theories” or “Affirmative Action in Higher Education.” 

If you are looking to pursue a career in political science a degree in government from Dartmouth College is an awesome option. 


Swarthmore College 

12. Swarthmore College

Premium Score: 86.25

Acceptance Rate: 8%

National Rank: 59

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Swarthmore College ranks as the 3rd best liberal arts college in the nation according to the U.S. News. Additional accolades include among the top for innovation, value, first-year experiences, and undergraduate research.

Their political science degrees are innovative and rigorous.  Not to mention, the top scholars in the world teach at Swarthmore and expect no short of brilliance from its students.

In addition to political science student may also choose to study any one of these related fields: 

  • Asian Studies 
  • Black Studies
  • Economics 
  • Global Studies 
  • History

If you are excited and passionate about politics and want a well-rounded look into both US and global politics, then you should consider Swarthmore College. 


Cornell University

13. Cornell University

Premium Score: 85.25

Acceptance Rate: 6.9%

National Rank: 15

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Cornell University is a private university ranked 17th in the nation according to the U.S. News. Additionally, Cornell ranks 3rd in the nation for best colleges for veterans, 23rd for value, and 19th for innovation among many other accolades.

The university focuses on teaching students how to learn and Cornell’s academic offerings are rigorous and research-intensive. The faculty at Cornell are the best in the world and this certainly applies to their political science degree.

Take a look at some of their degrees related to political science: 

  • Africana Studies
  • American Studies
  • Asian Studies
  • China and Asia-Pacific Studies
  • Policy Analysis and Management
  • Sociology

The Policy Analysis and Management (PAM) degree is an interdisciplinary program with a focus on government and economics. This program aims to address issues facing contemporary society and how policy-making has an impact at an individual and global level.

If you are interested in “lifting up the hood” to understand how globalized societies operate in the context of government as well as how these societies sustain in a globalized and ever-changing world then certainly check out this curriculum. 


California Institute of Technology

14. California Institute of Technology

Premium Score: 85.00

Acceptance Rate: 4.6%

National Rank: 236

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The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) is a private institution ranked 12th in the nation according to the U.S. News. There are just 2,233 students enrolled and the student-to-faculty ratio is 3:1.

Caltech is the leading science and engineering school on the west coast and a world renowned technology school. About ⅓ of all Caltech students are undergraduates and the remaining ⅔ of students are graduates. 

There is a strong emphasis on research and development at Caltech- ranked third in the nation for undergraduate research and creative projects according to the US News.

Though specializing in science and engineering, Caltech offers its own special brand of political science programming. Students will be able to:

  • Apply game theory to politics
  • Use theoretical tools applied to politics 
  • Apply quantitative methods to study politics
  • Present complex material in research projects

Caltech is clearly unique but completely on the pulse of the times.  To understand these larger systems and their interconnectivity it is essential that we have an understanding of patterns of government and their trends.

If you are interested in how these methods overlap with current trends in local and global politics, Caltech may be a good fit for you. 


Columbia-University

15. Columbia University

Premium Score: 84.25

Acceptance Rate: 4.3%

National Rank: 8

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Columbia University is an ivy league institution located in New York, New York. There are 31,077 students enrolled and Columbia still manages to maintain a student-to-faculty ratio of just 6:1!

The majority of students are graduate students though thousands of students study at the brick and mortar location in New York City. Situated in the largest city in the United States, Columbia is committed to academics in a greater context.

The university offers a wide range of degrees in the field of political science including:

  • African American Studies
  • American Studies
  • East Asian Studies
  • Economics
  • Economic Policy Management 
  • Economics Political Science
  • Economic Statistics 
  • Gender and Public Policy
  • Hispanic Studies
  • International Affairs
  • International Conflict Resolution
  • Political Science 
  • Political Science Statistics
  • Politics and Education

This is just a small sample of the political science degrees offered at Columbia many of which are offered at the graduate level.  If you are looking for comprehensive programming in political science then Columbia University is where to start. 


Amherst College

16. Amherst College

Premium Score: 83.25

Acceptance Rate: 9%

National Rank: 49

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Amherst College is a private 4-year institution located in Amherst, Massachusetts. There are 1,855 students enrolled and the student-to-faculty ratio is 7:1.

Amherst College ranks 2nd in the US for National Liberal Arts Colleges, 3rd for best value school, 3rd for best learning community, and 18th for most innovative schools according to the US News. The college focuses on small classes as well as an open curriculum- Amherst is for the curious types! 

If you are curious about how politics works in today’s society, then take a look at some of what Amherst has to offer.

  • American Studies
  • Asian Civilizations
  • Black Studies
  • Economics
  • History
  • Latinx and Latin American Studies 
  • Political Science
  • Women’s Studies

The political science major is highly individualized as students design their own program. You will conduct research “across the geo political spectrum”.

Some of the current courses include “Trump and the Media” “Guns in American Politics” “Contemporary Debates: Gender and Right-Wing Populism” and “Political Ethnography.” If you consider yourself to be curious and passionate about learning then certainly investigate Amherst College. 


Wellesley College

17. Wellesley College

Premium Score: 83.25

Acceptance Rate: 16%

National Rank: 82

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Wellesley College ranks as the 3rd top liberal arts college in the US and the 8th best value school and 25th for best undergraduate teaching. It is located in Wellesley, Massachusetts and currently enrolls 2,534 students all of whom are women.

The student-to-faculty ratio is 8:1. Wellesley’s core values focus on discovery, equality, community, empowerment and social change. With social justice at the heart of their core value system it may come as no surprise that studying political science at Wellesley reflects that.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the academic departments and majors related to political science: 

  • Africana Studies 
  • American Studies 
  • Political Science 
  • Sociology
  • Women’s and Gender Studies 
  • And more 

As you can see diversity is at the core. Many students will include a minor or pursue an interdepartmental major like Asian American Studies, Health and Society, Jewish Studies, Russian Area Studies and more.  If you are looking for an intimate college setting with a rigorous thoughtful curriculum for women then take a look at Wellesley.


University of Chicago

18. University of Chicago

Premium Score: 83.25

Acceptance Rate: 7.2%

National Rank: 10

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The University of Chicago is a private 4-year institution that enrolls 17,000 students and maintains a student-to-faculty ratio of 5:1. It is listed as a doctoral university with very high research activity. According to US New, University of Chicago is the 6th best school in the nation and also ranks highly for innovation and value.

As the university is located in Chicago, the city itself impacts their curriculum and method of instruction and students can expect to find a wide range of academic offerings in disciplines like health, economics, education, political science, and the arts. 

Students pursuing a degree as an undergraduate of political science may study courses like: 

  • Political Theory
  • American Politics
  • Comparative Politics 
  • International Relations

Graduate students do not have to follow a rigid curriculum and may pick and choose courses to fit their interests.  All graduate students take comprehensive degrees and write their thesis.  


Northwestern University

19. Northwestern University

Premium Score: 82.25

Acceptance Rate: 7%

National Rank: 19

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Northwestern University is a private 4-year institution located in Evanston, Illinois. There are 22,127 students enrolled and the student-to-faculty ratio is 6:1.

Northwestern University ranks as the 9th best school in the nation and highly also for value, innovation, undergraduate teaching, internship opportunities, and undergraduate research. Its world university ranking is 22. 

If you want to study it chances are you can at Northwestern- everything from opera to biotechnology. When it comes to the social sciences Northwestern offers degrees in areas like: 

  • Econometrics and Quantitative Economics
  • Economics
  • Geography
  • International Relations and Affairs
  • Political Science and Government
  • Social Sciences
  • Sociology
  • Urban Studies
  • And More

If you are looking to study political science but would like a wide range of areas to choose from then consider programming at Northwestern. 


Johns Hopkins University

20. Johns Hopkins University

Premium Score: 81.50

Acceptance Rate: 9.9%

National Rank: 9

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Johns Hopkins University (JHU) is a private institution located in Baltimore, Maryland. There are 26,000 students enrolled and the student-to-faculty ratio is 7:1. The university ranks as the 10th best in the nation and highly for value, innovation, engineering, and undergraduate research.

Baltimore is a close neighbor to Washington D.C. which means that when studying at JHU you are right on the beat of politics. 

Take a look at some of the Political Science programming available at JHU:

  • Economics and Quantitative Economics
  • Economics
  • Geography
  • International Relations and Affairs
  • Political Science and Government
  • Research Methodology 
  • Social Sciences
  • Sociology

Students may study political science at the undergraduate or graduate level and choose from either a political science concentration or an international studies concentration. 

You will learn about a wide range of political processes. If you want to be in the thick of it all while studying politics then we highly recommend investigating Hopkins. *

*https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-humanities-schools/political-science-rankings


How to Gain Admission To a Premium Political Science School

Maybe you’re taking a look at the above schools and thinking to yourself, “but how do I actually get admitted to one of the best schools in the world?” As someone pursuing a career in political science chances are you have noticed that our top politicians call schools like Yale, Harvard, and Princeton their alma mater.

The best schools tend to invest in the best people and offer need-blind tuition to recruit students from all socioeconomics backgrounds.  We all aspire to become one of the best, but how do you gain acceptance into a school like Harvard? 

The first thing to do is to apply to that school and to be sure that you have a stellar application.  

Here’s our list of things to have or do before you make your application: 

  • Get your GPA up.  Even if you need to do some extra credit or stay after.  Do it. You will need to have a nearly perfect GPA to gain admittance into one of these schools
  • Research the program you’re interested in. This especially applies to graduate programs and Ph.D. programs. You will want to know everything about each professor and their research. Become an expert in the program you’re applying to.
  • Start writing your statement of purpose early and get an editor to look over it and help you to hone your pitch.  Many of the best schools can overlook one thing but do not overlook the statement of purpose. Have research embedded within your essay and show those professors that know their research. 
  • Study for your exams.  Either join a group or get some 1:1 time with a tutor and make exams like the SAT or GRE a priority in your life. 
  • Apply to multiple schools. Just because you’re not a good fit for one program doesn’t mean you will be a bad fit for other programs.  
  • Introduce yourself ahead of the application. Don’t expect to hear back from a busy professor but make the time to reach out, anyway. 

You won’t be accepted unless you apply and if you feel passionate about anything you can do it.

Brick and mortar locations are not for everyone. In fact, many people will find many more opportunities to learn if they learn online.  Online learning is typically less expensive and much quicker.

Since time is money for most, less time means more money saved. Maybe you’re not sure that learning online is a good fit for you. There are are few things to consider before signing up for an online degree. 

Studying Online: Is it Right For Me?

Sure, studying online saves time and money but that doesn’t mean it is always right for someone. 

People who do well with online education typically have: 

  • A need to be remote
  • A family or a job they are already committed to 
  • The ability to study independently 
  • Fine-tuned executive functioning skills like planning and fine-tuning

People who may want to consider doing an in-person degree: 

  • Enjoys the community of learners and feels they need to work in groups 
  • Not easily motivated on their own
  • Likes the routine of going into school 

Not all of us will have a choice and many people will find themselves in a situation where they would have liked to study in person but have found that in all likelihood they will need to pursue a degree online to make their career in political science a success. 

We completely understand. No matter what your reasons we took a look at the best schools offering degrees online in the field of political science.

When making our selection we considered a few important metrics: 

  • Academic ranking matters and we considered US News overall ranking of each institution when making our final decision.
  • Graduation rates matter as we consider successful completion to be a reflection of the efficacy of the program. 
  • Earning after graduation matter as heading back to school is an investment and we think it should pay off in the end. 

Malcolm Peralty
Chief Editor