Admission to the graduate programs in Communication at the University of Colorado Boulder is an extremely competitive process, with approximately 5–10 MA students and 5 PhD students admitted in regular years from approximately 85 applications. (Due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on higher education, our program is admitting fewer graduate students.) All PhD and MA students selected for admission are fully funded, although exceptions can exist.

Note that students who apply to the Communication graduate program will be admitted to the Department of Communication. Information about other graduate programs offered by other departments within the College of Media, Communication and Information (CMCI) can be found on the College’s Graduate Admissions website.

Admission to the graduate program in Communication is based on consideration of students’ entire academic performance, as assessed by indicators that include: (a) BA and MA grade point average, with university and department reputation taken into account; (b) scholarly work published (e.g., in communication journals) and presented (e.g., at communication conferences and undergraduate honors conferences); (c) teaching experience and effectiveness (especially for PhD applicants); (d) letters of recommendations (preferably from professors familiar with students’ academic work); and, (e) a writing sample. International applicants must meet the Graduate School’s and the department’s English proficiency requirements.  GRE scores are not required for admission.

Of particular importance is a personal statement that describes how students’ academic background and qualifications have prepared them to conduct research at the graduate level and how their research interests fit with the goals, areas and courses offered in the graduate program and with particular graduate faculty members’ research and teaching foci. In addition, as the Department of Communication values diversity, equity, and inclusion, students should include a paragraph describing how their educational, professional, or personal (e.g., cultural, economic, or social) experiences prepare them to contribute to the department's emphasis on diversity and inclusion during their graduate career at CU.

The department is committed to creating and maintaining a community in which diversity is a fundamental value. In selecting qualified applicants, additional consideration is given to prospective students whose presence will add to the diversity of the department, college, university and Boulder community.

Students are admitted to the MA and PhD programs such that they start in the fall semester. In some cases, however, students can be admitted starting in the spring semester, although funding, typically, is not available to them from the department.

Students who are not seeking an MA or PhD degree but may be doing so in the future also sometimes can enroll in a graduate communication course through CU-Boulder’s Continuing Education ACCESS program.

  • Personal Statement: A 3–5 double-spaced page statement that describes (a) students’ backgrounds and qualifications to conduct research and the graduate level, (b) how their research interests fit with the goals, areas, and courses offered in the communication graduate program at the University of Colorado Boulder, and with the research and teaching engaged in by department graduate faculty members, and (c) how their educational, professional, or personal (e.g., cultural, economic, or social) experiences prepare them to contribute to the department's emphasis on diversity and inclusion during their graduate career at CU. The statement also should indicate whether students wish to be considered for an assistantship (see financial support portion of the graduate program on this website).
  • Academic CV
  • Transcripts: Unofficial transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate courses taken must be submitted. One copy from each undergraduate and graduate institution that you attended must be submitted, even if credits from one institution appear on the transcript of a second institution. Official transcripts will be requested if you are recommended for admission.
    1. For admission to the MA program, a BA degree or the equivalent is required. Special attention is given to grades in the major, and in the last 2 years of undergraduate study. A minimum overall grade point average (GPA) of 3.20 (out of 4.00) is required, with most admitted students having a much higher overall GPA. Although a major in Communication (or a related field) is preferred, other academic and professional experiences are considered based on their relevance to the MA program of study.
    2. For admission to the PhD program, a BA degree and an MA, MS, or equivalent degree are required. A minimum MA overall GPA of 3.50 is required, with most admitted students having a much higher overall GPA. Although an MA in Communication (or a related field) is preferred, other academic and professional experiences will be considered based on their relevance to the PhD program of study.
  • Teaching Experience and Effectiveness (most applicable to PhD students): Students who have taught undergraduate courses should indicate on a separate page their teaching experience (e.g., courses taught and in what capacity, e.g., as a recitation or stand-alone course instructor). Students who have taught undergraduate courses in which they have been assessed for teaching effectiveness by undergraduate students (e.g., via teacher course questionnaires) should submit a summary of those assessment results. Students are also welcome to submit other information about their teaching (e.g., syllabi).
  • Reference Letters: Three letters should be submitted, preferably from tenured/tenure-track professors at the BA institution attended (for MA applicants) and from the MA institution attended (for PhD applicants), although letters from other sources (e.g., instructors and employers) can be submitted. Letters should speak to students’ capability to be successful in pursuing graduate work (especially in terms of academic writing skills) in the respective degree program.
  • Graduate Student Funding Request:  This form can be found on the 'Additional Information' tab of the online application.
  • Nonrefundable Application Fee: Payable by credit card during the online submission of applications (checks or international money orders submitted must be payable in U.S. funds to the University of Colorado)
  • Writing Sample: Only one writing sample can be submitted. The writing sample should be a self-contained original essay (e.g., not an MA thesis chapter that is taken out of context) that demonstrates the applicant’s best scholarly writing ability. The essay, preferably, is a single-authored scholarly publication or conference paper. No essays written with a faculty member may be submitted. All personal identification of the author should be removed so that it can be read blind and evaluated by CU-Boulder faculty members.

  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) scores: The required minimum TOEFL score is 75; the minimum IELTS score is 6.5. Additionally, a phone or Zoom interview is part of the application process. Applicants from Australia, Belize, Botswana, Canada (except Quebec), Commonwealth Caribbean, Ghana, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Nigeria, Singapore, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Zimbabwe are not required to submit TOEFL or IELTS scores. Applicants are exempt from the language exam requirement if they have completed at least one year of full-time academic study at a U.S. institution (or at an institution in a country where English is the native language) at the time they apply, and within two years from their desired admission term. Enrollment in an English language program, including within the USA, does not fulfill this requirement.
  • A Financial Statement with the Required Documentation

  • Domestic (U.S. citizen) applications: December 1
  • International student applications: December 1

The department offers various forms of funding for graduate students, including teaching assistantships (TA positions) and graduate part-time instructor (GPTI) positions (GPTIs teach stand-alone courses), research assistantships, summer dissertation fellowships and summer research assistantships, professional travel awards and summer partial tuition fellowships. Each of these forms of funding is explained below.
Teaching Assistantships
Generally, master’s students receive two years of funding and PhD students receive four years (in both cases, continuous from the first semester enrolled), unless they enter the PhD program directly from CU Boulder’s MA communication program, in which case the typical funding for the master’s and PhD degrees combined is five years. Enrolled students who have not been funded may be appointed on a semester or yearly basis when funding is available.
TAs and GPTIs are half-time (50%) appointments, and as such are expected to devote, on average, approximately 20 hours per week to their teaching responsibilities. In addition to normal classroom responsibilities (e.g., preparing for classes, testing, and grading), they are expected to:
  • Attend fall graduate student orientations and regularly scheduled teaching workshops
  • Meet regularly with course supervisor(s)
  • Consult with the Lead Graduate Student
  • Hold regular/consistent office hours
  • Arrange for evaluations of teaching performance (e.g., Faculty Course Questionnaires (FCQs) and classroom observations by course supervisors, the Lead Graduate Student, and/or their academic advisors
  • Comply with department and university policies about teaching and examination schedules
  • Meet specific expectations for courses taught, as set by any course supervisor(s) and by good academic practice
Summer teaching often is available to graduate students, with assignments determined by the department chairperson on the basis of seniority, need and expertise. The summer pay schedule for GPTIs (the type of appointment) is: Term A: approximately 75 percent of total paycheck received on July 1, with remaining 25 percent received on July 31; Term B: approximately 75 percent of total paycheck received on July 31, with remaining 25 percent received on August 31.
TAs and GPTIs are evaluated on their teaching performance at the annual faculty review of graduate students. They also receive regular feedback from any course supervisors.
Lead Graduate Student Fellowship
Each year, the department faculty appoints a graduate student to serve as the Lead Graduate Student (LGS), which is part of the Lead Graduate Student Fellowship through the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). The Lead program has two goals for graduate students who serve as LGSs: (a) to develop the leads themselves as future academic managers, leaders, teachers and consultants; and (b) to assist departments with internal TA preparation to improve undergraduate education. Lead training focuses on academic management, leadership, college pedagogy, consultation and teamwork. Requirements include: serving as a liaison between the CTL and the department, meeting with the lead coordinators, negotiating and writing a plan that is acceptable to the CTL and to the department, presenting on CTL opportunities that are available to graduate students and faculty, consulting with TAs during office hours and in videotaped consultations, developing and presenting at least one discipline-specific workshop, working on a cross-disciplinary team, and turning in a final report.
LGSs also do a TA support activity of their choice within the department. LGSs must have excellent working relationships with the chairperson, associate chair of graduate studies, and graduate program assistant; preference is given to those with an average score of 3.0 or better on the Faculty Course Questionnaire (FCQ) for courses previously taught, five to six semesters of teaching experience, and continued progress toward completion of the CTL certificate in teaching or professional development. LGSs receive a stipend. LGSs are nominated and voted on by department faculty. Interested students should consult with their advisor and with the associate chair of graduate studies.
Summer Dissertation Fellowships
Summer Dissertation Fellowships areawarded to students to provide time to work on their dissertation. PhD students may be awarded only one dissertation fellowship during their program, typically in the summer after completion of the PhD comprehensive examination. Students submit to the associate chair of graduate studies a one-to-three paragraph description of the proposed dissertation work, along with a letter of support from their advisor.
Professional Research and Travel Awards
Professional research and travel awards are given to students pursuing particular research projects or traveling to present scholarship at professional conferences (in addition to any other university travel support). The associate chair of graduate studies puts out a call for these awards early in the fall and the spring. The typical range of awards is $100–$600.
Pre-Doctoral Fellowships
Some PhD students are offered Pre-Doctoral Fellowships, typically in the summer, funded by CMCI. The fellowship involves working for and with a faculty member on that faculty member’s research. To the extent possible, students are matched with faculty members who are engaged in research that connects to the student’s desired expertise area. These fellowships give students research-related experience that is part of their paid work and, thereby, helps them to build a stronger profile that will enable them to do better on the job market.
Graduate School Summer Fellowship
After passing their comprehensive exams, PhD students with no summer funding from the university become eligible for a Summer Fellowship funded by the Graduate School. The purpose of the fellowship is to support PhD students’ dissertation research. Each year, the department nominates one student for the fellowship who receives a biweekly stipend throughout the summer.

You will be able to see what has been accepted and marked complete, and what is still required to complete your application on your MyCUBoulder page.

Online Application Portal

Online Application Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Application Instructions for US Students

Application Instructions for International Students


For additional information about application forms or status of an application, contact: 

Professor David Boromisza-Habashi
Associate Chair of Graduate Studies
Department of Communication
University of Colorado Boulder
(303) 735-5076