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Frequently asked questions about the graduate program in Communication

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Admissions Questions

Do you have any written materials that you can send me?

We have made every effort to answer prospective applicants' questions about the Communication Studies Graduate Program on this website. If you have questions that are not addressed here, then please email the Academic Program Assistant for our graduate program, Danielle Secker, at or the Graduate Director, Ambar Basu at

How important is my GRE score? Is there a minimum GRE score? What is the average GRE score of applicants admitted to the program?

The GRE is one measure among many that the faculty employs to evaluate applicants. An applicant's academic record, statement of purpose, and letters of recommendation are all considered in our assessment of an applicant’s potential for success as a graduate student and in our program. The USF Graduate School has set a minimum 1000 (combined verbal and quantitative) GRE score. The average GRE score for PhD students admitted into our program in the last two years is 1120. The average GRE score for MA students admitted into our program in the last two years is 1110.

What is your minimum and average GPA?

The USF Graduate School has set a 3.0 minimum GPA. The average GPA of the PhD students admitted into our program in the last two years is 3.75. The average GPA of the MA students who have been accepted into our program in the last two years is 3.53.

How firm is your application deadline?

The deadline for applications for Fall (PhD and MA) is January 15. All of your materials must be received by this date. We will accept your application materials any time prior to that deadline.

Do you have spring admission?

We do not have a spring admission for our PhD program. We do take applications for Spring admission to the MA program. The deadline for submission of all application materials is November 1. However, please note that MA spring applicants may not apply for assistantships (the awards are made only for fall admissions).

Do I have to have a background in Communication Studies to apply to your program?

No, you do not. However, please clearly spell out how your research interests focus on communication questions and align with our graduate curriculum and the research interests of the faculty members with whom you are interested in working.

Can I contact faculty and/or current graduate students?

Our faculty and graduate students are always happy to talk to prospective students. You should contact faculty on an individual basis via email to initiate an email or telephone conversation. Faculty email addresses and telephone numbers can be found on our website. If you would like to contact our graduate students, please email the Academic Program Specialist or Graduate Program Director, and they will forward your message to our students.

Can I arrange a campus visit prior to the admissions deadline?

Many of our prospective students inquire about visiting the campus and meeting in person with faculty and current graduate students. We do our best to accommodate these requests, although it is not possible to meet in person with each prospective student. In addition, meeting in person with faculty or the Graduate Director prior to our admissions deadline does not figure into our admissions decisions (if it did, we would need to meet each of our applicants before making admission decisions). Attending the National Communication Association meeting provides opportunities to meet and interact with USF faculty and graduate students—each year we participate in NCA’s Graduate Open House and host a recruiting reception. Visit the NCA website to learn more about the convention, including information on the Graduate Open House. You may also contact our Graduate Program Assistant just prior to the convention to request an invitation to our reception. The convention also affords the opportunity for you to attend the research presentations, discussions, and performances presented by our faculty and graduate students.

Following admissions decisions and depending on available funding, we invite admitted students to a recruiting event on campus. This event includes time to meet and socialize with faculty and current and newly admitted graduate students and to get a sense of the campus and university community, as well as the greater Tampa Bay area.

Do you accept non-degree seeking students?

The Communication Department does not accept non-degree seeking students. With the exception of 6001, Histories and Theories of Communication (a required course for all newly admitted graduate students), and our doctoral seminars (COM 7933 offerings), students may request to take graduate courses as non-degree seeking students. If you are interested in enrolling in a graduate course as a non-degree student, please contact the professor to discuss your interest in taking the course and your possible enrollment. Please note that taking coursework as a non-degree seeking student does not provide an alternative process for or de facto admission to our graduate program. If, after taking a course (or two) as a non-degree seeking student, you decide to apply to the program, we encourage you to do so.

Are applications reviewed on a rolling basis?

Applications to our graduate program are reviewed about two weeks after the application deadline. They are not reviewed on a rolling basis. The applications are reviewed by the Graduate Committee, which is composed of faculty members with diverse research interests. The Graduate Committee reviews all of the applications and prepares a short list of our top-ranked applicants. After allowing all members of the faculty to review the applications, the faculty meets and makes admissions and ranking decisions. These decisions consider applicant qualifications and potential for success in our program, program ecology and curriculum, and faculty advising workloads.

How soon will I find out whether I have been accepted or not?

All of departmental admissions decisions are provisional until the Graduate School approves them. We inform students as soon as possible about our decisions—usually before March 1.

How many students are accepted into your department each year?

We usually accept between 8 to 10 PhD and 4 to 6 MA students each year (this includes students with and without funding offers). We receive anywhere between 45-60 applications for our PhD program and 20-30 applications for our MA program each year.

Are there any special admissions issues that international students should know?

The University requires international students to take the TOEFL (or IELTS) unless they have a bachelor’s degree from a university in the United States. The University requires a minimum score of 79 on the TOEFL and a SPEAK score of 26 for students who are awarded teaching assistantships (SPEAK scores are required for all teaching assistants). We do not have special funding for international students. They are considered for funding in the same manner as US students.

I need to know departmental codes and university codes. What are they?

The Educational Testing Service (ETS) also requires codes for sending GRE and TOEFL scores to USF. The ETS code for the University of South Florida is 5828.

Financial Questions

How much does a degree from USF cost?

Information about the cost of an education at USF is available though the office of Cash Accounting. Note that this information is subject to change semester by semester.

Is there an application for teaching assistantships?

There is not a separate application for graduate teaching assistantships. If you wish to be considered for an assistantship, please indicate this on your Department of Communication Application. (Please note that this application is separate from the University of South Florida online graduate application and can be dowloaded here.)

How is financial support from the department determined?

Financial support by the department (in the form of graduate teaching assistantships) is determined based on our review of all applications submitted for our MA and PhD programs. We use assistantship offers, which include a tuition waiver (students are responsible for fees and health insurance premiums), to entice our top-ranked applicants to join our graduate program. Funding availability varies from year to year and we are only able to make funding offers to six to eight of our top-ranked applicants each year (though our top-ranked list is usually twice this long). We wish we could support all of our graduate students with funding, but we cannot.

What does an offer of financial support include?

PhD graduate students on teaching assistantships receive a stipend paid over nine months (end of August through mid-May). MA graduate students on teaching assistantships receive a stipend paid over nine months. All teaching assistantships include a tuition waiver. Students are responsible for fees. Graduate students on teaching assistantships are also able to purchase student health insurance at a significantly reduced rate.

How do I apply for funding opportunities and financial aid?

For information on funding opportunities and financial aid, visit USF’s University Scholarships page and the Funding Opportunities page.

Program Questions

What are your required courses?

Required courses, total number of hours, and other program requirements are detailed in the Graduate Student Handbook (pdf).

Can I transfer hours from another institution?

You can transfer up to 6 graduate hours (two courses) from another institution. Please note: these courses must be approved by your advisor and the Graduate Director. Approval of transfers considers the applicability of these courses to your plan study.

How are advisors assigned?

You will be assigned a temporary advisor to help you choose your first semester’s course work. At some time during your first year, students choose a major advisor and members of their supervisory committee. More information on this process can be found in the Graduate Student Handbook (pdf).

Are students required to attend graduate school full time?

Students who take nine hours (three classes) are considered full time students. If you are offered funding through the department, you must be a full time student. If you are not funded through the department, you do not need to take a full course load, although we do recommend doing so in order to complete the program in an efficient manner. Our curriculum is offered in both the daytime and evening hours. We do not offer an online degree program, but we do occasionally offer courses online.

What kind of writing sample is recommended?

Please submit an example of your best scholarly work (rather than a professional report or other document, popular press article, or other writing sample). Writing samples may be course term papers, conference papers, published essays, and single chapters from senior/honors or master’s thesis (please do not submit a complete thesis).

Who should write me a letter of recommendation?

Please submit letters of recommendation that comment on your abilities as a research scholar and your potential for succeeding in your planned course of study and degree program (MA or PhD) and beyond. Letters written by former professors and/or advisors are most helpful. Letters written by employers, pastors, and/or friends, while helpful in describing your professional capabilities and personal character, do not help us assess your potential for success in our program.

What should be included in the statement of purpose?

In your statement of purpose please summarize your goals for graduate research and your reasons for applying to the department. When reviewing statements of purpose, the graduate faculty considers:

  • How well defined and developed your research interests are (while recognizing that these interests continue to develop during your studies at USF; this is a living statement of your research interests)
  • How compatible your research interests are with those of the faculty and of our graduate curriculum. To this end, we ask how well we can do in helping you meet your goals
  • Which courses among those offered you would be most interested in and best served by taking, as well as which members of the faculty you would like to work with and who would like to work with you

Please note that your Statement of Purpose does not need to detail your interest or experience in teaching.

Do applicants need prior teaching experience to be considered for assistantships?

Graduate teaching assistantships are awarded to our most qualified applicants. While we note the teaching experience detailed on applicant’s curriculum vitae, teaching assignments are not made on the basis of past teaching experience. Ample opportunities for teacher training are provided to all students who are awarded teaching assistantships.

If I am offered an assistantship, how many courses will I be teaching? What types of courses will I be able to teach during my studies?

Graduate students on teaching assistantships teach two courses per semester (two in fall and two in spring). All new PhD students teach two sections of SPC 2608, Public Speaking. MA students must complete 18 hours of graduate study before they are assigned to teach SPC 2608. As such, MA students assist faculty in delivering courses including COM 2000, Introduction to Communication; COM 3122, Interview Communication; or SPC 3710, Communication and Cultural Diversity. Advanced PhD students may have opportunities to teach courses in their areas of expertise, including COM 3014, Communication, Gender, and Identity; COM 4022, Health Communication; COM 4030, Women and Communication; SPC 2541, Persuasion; SPC 3301, Interpersonal Communication; SPC 4714, Communication, Culture, and Community; and ORI 2000, Introduction to Communication as Performance.

What opportunities are available for preparing me to teach?

All graduate students on teaching assistantships who are assigned to teach SPC 2608, Public Speaking, participate in a series of teaching workshops throughout the fall semester. The eTeaching and Technology Group offers a wide variety of courses, workshops, and services designed to enhance teaching effectiveness. In addition, a 12-hour graduate certificate in College Teaching is administered through the College of Education.

Does the department offer summer teaching?

The department does its best to offer opportunities for summer teaching; however, these placements are contingent on available funding. Students who are on assistantships and are assigned summer teaching are required to enroll in summer coursework; tuition waivers are included in summer teaching compensation.

Does the department offer travel funding for conferences?

Information on funding for conference travel can be found in the Graduate Student Handbook (pdf).

Where have graduates been placed after completing the program?

Our recent graduates hold tenure-track have positions in the following programs: University of North Carolina, Charlotte, Northeastern University, The University of Alabama, Rollins College, George Washington University, Santa Clara University, California State University--Northridge, Kutztown University, San Jose State University, and The University of Texas at San Antonio, among many others. Graduates have also taken placements with government agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; hospitals and health networks; and non-government, not-for-profit, and private sector organizations, as well as working in consulting positions and businesses.

Where do USF graduate students publish their work?

Our graduate students regularly present papers at regional and national conferences, many of which have been awarded "top paper" status. Though this is just a partial list, our students have published in journals including: Text and Performance Quarterly, Qualitative Inquiry, Studies in Symbolic Interaction, the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Critical Studies in Media Communication, Health Communication, Journal of Loss & Trauma, Cultural Studies<=>Critical Methodologies, Communication Theory, Rocky Mountain Communication Review, Journal of Business Communication, Human Communication, Quarterly Journal of Speech, and Journal of Applied Communication Research, among others. Further, students and graduates have published book chapters as well as books.