Master’s FAQ

Orientation

What is new student orientation?

For those entering a degree or certificate program, New Student Orientation is held the Saturday before classes begin. This mandatory program will provide you with useful information about academic requirements, program policies, and important resources. You will also have the opportunity to hear from Dean Rozell and meet faculty and current students. Orientation details are provided in your admissions materials.

Students taking courses in non-degree status should not attend the above program. A separate program has been created for you that is generally held the Wednesday before the first week of classes before the fall or spring term. You will receive additional information about this program from the Office of Admissions.

New Student Resources

I've been accepted to the Schar School. What are my next steps?

Congratulations! Check out our Admitted Students page for important information and deadlines. 

Where do I buy books?

Books can be purchased at either the Fairfax Campus bookstore located on the main level of the Johnson Center (phone:703-993-2666), or the Arlington Campus bookstore located on the main level of Van Metre Hall (phone: 703-993-8170).

Can I purchase a parking decal?

Students wishing to park on campus must register with Parking Services and purchase a parking decal. Please visit the Parking and Transportation website to determine where to purchase a parking decal on either Fairfax or Arlington Campus. Additional information can be found here. Arlington parking decals are valid on the Fairfax campus, but Fairfax decals are not valid for the Arlington campus.

Where do I get my student ID?

The Mason ID/Card Office is located in Van Metre Hall, Room 220 (located in the Campus Administration suite) on the Arlington Campus or in Student Union Building 1, Room 1203 on the Fairfax Campus. Hours of operation and other details can be found on their website. Students are encouraged to upload their electronic photos for the Mason ID/Card online and then pick up their physical ID/Card from the Mason ID/Card Office.

Do I need to activate my GMU email account?

Students are required to activate and regularly access their Mason email. Activation is completed on the Mason Email Systems website. Official information will be communicated to students only through this account and students are responsible for the information communicated to this account. If students wish to place an email forward on their Mason email accounts, instructions for doing so are available on the above link.

Am I eligible for health insurance as a Mason student?

International Students (on F-1 and J-1 visas) are required to have health insurance and are automatically enrolled and billed through the university at registration time. International students who currently have a policy that meets certain conditions may be eligible for an exemption. Domestic Students registered for 6 or more credits are eligible but not required to purchase the Mason Student Health Insurance Plan. For more information, please visit the student health services website.

Is housing available for students?

Off-campus housing information can be found here or through the Arlington Campus Housing Guide. Additional information can be found through the Housing and Residence Life website

How do I commute between Fairfax Campus and Arlington Campus? Is there a shuttle available?

Mason's Shuttle Services provide free transportation between the Fairfax and Arlington campuses for students with a valid Mason ID. For further information and updates, visit the Parking and Transportation website.

Academic Advising

Who is my advisor? Where can I go for advising and assistance with planning my academic program?

Professional advisors in the Office of Student Services are available to assist students with an array of academic issues through an exploration of students’ academic, career, and personal goals. The Office of Student Services is located on the fifth floor of Van Metre Hall. Advisors will counsel students on issues related to course selection and registration, as well as academic policies and procedures. They will also help students track their progress toward degree completion. If you have any questions, please contact:

Silva Pecini Morris, Assistant Dean for Master’s Student Services
specini@gmu.edu
703-993-4157

  • Public Administration, MPA
  • Public Policy, MPP
  • Political Science, MA

Paul Nooney, Director of Master’s Student Services and Recruitment
pnooney@gmu.edu
703-993-4975

  • Biodefense, MS
  • International Commerce and Policy, MA
  • International Security, MA
  • Organization Development and Knowledge Management, MS

Course Registration

How do I register for courses?

Registration is completed via the Patriot Web system. Step-by-step instructions explaining how to register for classes via Patriot Web can be found on the admitted student webpage. In addition to registering for classes on Patriot Web, students can also make tuition payments, review their academic record, and update contact information. Please note: a $125.00 late registration fee will be charged to the accounts of all students who do not register for at least 1 credit one day prior to the first day of classes. This late fee is not applicable to students who register prior to the start of the semester and make schedule adjustments after the semester starts. Refer to the University Registrar’s Office for specific dates according to each semester.

How do I make changes to my course selections?

Changes to registration can be made on Patriot Web in accordance within add/drop deadlines. Add/drop deadlines can be found on the registrar's academic calendar

How do I register for a consortium course?

Graduate students are permitted to take up to 6 credits of electives through the consortium program. You should meet with the academic advisor assigned to your program to discuss the process for obtaining approval and registration procedures. Additional consortium information can be found on the consortium web site.

How can I add my name to the waitlist for a course?

Certain classes in the Schar School have a waitlist option. If you attempt to register for a course that is full, and a waitlist exists for that particular course, Patriot Web will permit you to add your name to the waitlist. The waitlist is an automatic process; each time a student drops the course, the first person on the waitlist receives an override permitting that student to register for the course. The override is in effect for 48 hours. If you fail to register for the course during the 72-hour timeframe, the next student on the list is issued the override. Students who are waitlisted should check Patriot Web on a regular basis to determine if such an override has been issued. For more information, please check out the waitlist guide.

How do I add or drop a class after classes have started?

The add and drop periods are published each semester on the academic calendar, and schedule changes can be made using Patriot Web during the schedule adjustment period. Generally, you may add a course up to one calendar week into a 14-week semester and drop a course up to four calendar weeks after the first day of class (for a partial refund). After the drop deadline has passed, students are only permitted to withdraw from classes for extenuating, non-academic circumstances. Please contact your academic advisor for more information.

Coursework

How do I transfer non-degree credits into my program?

A maximum of four courses completed while in non-degree status in the Schar School of Policy and Government can be transferred into a master’s program, as long as a grade of B or better has been earned. Students must submit a Non-degree Transfer Credit form to the academic advisor for their program. Requests should be filed during the first semester of enrollment as a degree-seeking student.

Which courses should I take my first semester?

You will find a list of recommended courses for your specific program on the admitted student page. If you have any questions about your registration options, you should contact your advisor.

How many courses should I take?

Students who are studying full-time should register for three courses (9 – 10 credits) for their first semester, and part-time students should register for two courses (6 – 7 credits). We recommend considering a number of factors when choosing a course load: The amount of work required for each course – syllabi are archived here. Commitments outside of class – it is recommended that students who will be employed full-time while taking classes take no more than two courses. Course availability – please note that many required courses are not offered over the summer. Students wishing to take a summer course should plan for an elective during the summer term.

What are typical course loads?

Full-Time Students: The university considers 9 credits to be a full-time load at the graduate level. International (F-1 or J-1 visas) and military students (GI bill beneficiaries) are required to carry 9 or more credits each semester. Students wishing to take more than the recommended credit load, 12 hours for master’s students, should first meet with their academic advisor to discuss their course load.

Part-Time Students: Students taking fewer than 9 credit hours are classified as part-time. Part-time students are strongly encouraged to enroll in two courses per semester in order to progress through the program at a reasonable pace. Students who are working full-time while pursuing their degree programs should not register for more than two courses per semester.

What is Blackboard, and how do I use it?

Blackboard (mymason.gmu.edu) is a web-based system used by Schar School faculty to facilitate courses. In Blackboard, professors may:

  • Post course syllabi, readings and assignments
  • Facilitate class discussions through Discussion Boards
  • Engage in video-conferencing through Blackboard Collaborate
  • Host assessments and assign grades

 If your professor is using Blackboard, s/he will provide you with access to the class folder in Blackboard. Your Blackboard login is your Mason email username without the “gmu.edu.” The password is the same as your email password.

 Here are some helpful guides on how to use Blackboard:

 Should you encounter any issues with Blackboard, please inform your faculty and also reach out to the ITS Help Desk at support@gmu.edu.

Where can I find the academic calendar?

The academic calendar is always available on the Office of the Registrar’s website. Students should consult the academic calendar each semester for important information regarding registration and add/drop deadlines.

Where can I find my course syllabi?

Most syllabi are available on the Schar School website here. If the syllabus for one of your courses is not found on the web or in Blackboard, you can contact your professor to request a copy (see Faculty Directory for contact information). Professors will also distribute the final syllabus during the first class meeting. 

How do I take a semester off from the program?

Students requiring a leave of absence from their program for a single semester must contact the appropriate academic advisor to request a leave of absence. Any student taking two or more consecutive semesters off must obtain permission to re-enroll to the Schar School of Policy and Government. In certain circumstances, the school may review the student’s academic standing prior to granting re-enrollment permission.

Can my GPA result in termination from the program?

Students enrolled in the Schar School of Policy and Government must maintain good academic standing. Master’s students are encouraged to consult their Master’s Programs Student Guide for additional information. Students should pay particular attention to the following:

  • Students may apply a maximum of 6 credits of “C” work toward graduation.
  • Receiving a grade of “F” in a single course will result in termination from the program.
  • Receiving a grade of “C” in 9 or more credit hours will result in termination from the program.
  • Although a B- is an admissible grade for a course taken in degree status, a 3.0 average must be maintained and presented on the student’s application for graduation.

Is independent study available?

Yes - an independent study affords students an opportunity to complete a more detailed research project than is generally possible in a particular course. Research often involves areas and topics not currently covered by existing courses. Independent study expects a greater level of effort on the part of the student than standard course offerings. Any student wishing to pursue an independent study should contact their academic advisor for more information.

Advanced Skills Seminars

What are 1.5 credits Advanced Skills seminars?

POGO 580 - Topics: Advanced Skills for Policy Professionals seminars are elective course options worth 1.5 credits and offered in a modified partial-semester session. For example, these courses may meet for half of the semester or in a condensed weekend format. These practical, graduate-level seminars will focus on the development of key skills required for professionals working in the policy arena. Past topics offered: Public Speaking for Executive LeadershipPolicy Communication for Executive Leadership, and Presentation/Briefing Skills.

How many 1.5 credits seminars can I take?

A maximum of two 1.5 credit seminars (3 credits total), can be applied as elective credit toward your degree requirements. Students may choose to take more than two seminars for “extra” credits, beyond what is required for the degree.

Will the Advanced Skills seminars be offered each semester?

Yes, the Schar School plans to offer at least one Advanced Skills seminar each semester, including during the summer.

If I have fulfilled all of my elective requirements, can I still take an Advanced Skills seminar?

Yes, students can take Advanced Skills seminars for “extra” credits beyond what is required to earn the degree.

If I plan to earn 3 elective credits through Advanced Skills seminars, do I have to take both seminars in the same semester?

No, you can take the seminars in different semesters.

What topics will be covered in the seminars?

Each seminar is designed to provide graduate-level instruction on practical skills that are essential in the policy arena. Specific topics will be announced prior to registration each semester, and the same topic may be offered in multiple semesters.

How are the seminars graded?

Seminars are graded in the same manner other graduate-level courses are graded.

Career Resources

Who can I contact for career advising? How do I get information on securing an internship?

The Career Development Office provides the full range of internship and career advising and can assist students with career exploration, the job search process, interviewing skills, resume building, and other professional development skills. If you have any questions about career advising, please contact:

Duane Bradshaw, Director of Career Development
dbradsha@gmu.edu 
703-993-3188

Brian Bar, Associate Director for Career Development and Alumni Relations
bbar@gmu.edu
703-993-8559

Graduation

When do I complete my graduation application?

You will receive instructions for completing the steps to graduation, including the graduation application, via email during the semester in which you intend to graduate. The application cannot be completed prior to that point. Additional details about the graduation application process can be found on the registrar’s webpage.