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How to Apply

Due Date:  February 29th, 2024

Students in the College of Arts of Sciences apply to the Program in their fourth semester of study. As a distinguished major, the Program admits a limited number of students each year, typically between 18 and 22. A 3.00 cumulative GPA is generally required for admission, but the average GPA of recent classes is substantially higher. 

Before the Application

  • Is the Program Right for Me?  Students should browse the PST website to gain some insight into the character of the program. The abstracts of recent PST theses will give you a sense of what kind of projects have been undertaken within the major. Current PST majors as well as graduates (some of whom are involved in a new PST alumni group) are often willing to answer questions about the program. You may also join us on our PST Facebook page (though this is not assiduously updated).  With current PST majors, the director of the program holds a meeting for prospective majors in mid-February to answer any questions about admission procedures and program requirements. He is also willing to see prospective students individually. Please email 
  • Can I Study Abroad? The program requires students to be in Charlottesville during their third and fourth years. If you wish to study abroad, you should do so during your second year, or in a summer if you can manage it.  Or you might consider studying or working abroad after you graduate.
  • What Courses Should I Take? It is recommended, but not required, that prospective applicants take one “Foundation” course (or more, if you wish) that will count toward the major. Please click here to see the main list. All courses that satisfy the major’s requirements can be counted toward the major, even if taken before admission to the major.

Application Process

Please submit your application following these guidelines, adapted to allow fully online submission.

  • Email all documents as .docx files, as attachments (except your letter of recommendation) to Please be sure to name each file (outlined below) to lead with your last name, e.g. Smith_coversheet.docx. Please make sure that your email containing your documents has the title “PST Application Firstname Lastname” e.g. “PST Application Michael Smith.”
  • Recommendations should be sent in a separate email from the recommender, to, with the title PST Recommendation LastnameofStudent, e.g. “PST Recommendation Smith.”
  • Applications that have been sent to the email previously listed on this website WILL be considered and do not need to be resent.
  • Applications for the Class of 2026 are due 11:59 PM, Thursday, February 29, 2024.
  • Examples of previously successful applications can be obtained by emailing

Application Checklist

Please include the following documents, all named to lead with your last name, e.g. Smith_transcript.pdf:

  1. cover sheet including your full name (Last, First Middle); student ID number (from your student card); email address, cellphone number; cumulative GPA; permanent mailing address; and, finally, the name, email and department of your recommender.
  2. Your transcript. An unofficial transcript, downloaded as a pdf, is available from your Student Center in SIS. Be sure to rename the dowloaded file with your last name.
  3. A letter of recommendation by a faculty member, emailed directly to Professor Isaac Ariail Reed at
  4. A  list of your three proposed areas of study, with two specific courses per area. This list is of course provisional and does not commit you to a particular course of study if you join the Program, but it should reflect a thoughtful and coherent curricular plan. Courses you have taken can be used in constructing your areas of study. Areas of study go beyond simply the names of departments: be reasonably specific about your areas, e.g. "Origins of Human Rights,"  "Theories of Democracy," etc.
  5. A 300-500 word essay describing your interest in the program. This essay should address the following questions: (1) What are your intellectual goals and why are they best addressed in the interdisciplinary PST major? (2) How do the areas of study you’ve chosen address these interests?  In short, please tell us about your substantive intellectual interests 

Note: Students may describe their proposed areas of study briefly, if they wish, in either the list they submit (see 4 above) or the essay describing their interest in the program (see 5 above).

  1. A digital copy of paper submitted to a previous course, if possible with the instructor’s feedback included. Choose a writing sample that you think represents your best work.
  2. A brief statement of your most important extracurricular activities that also explains why you find the commitment worthwhile.

Candidates can expect to hear from the committee at the end of March.

Transfer students:  Students who are applying to transfer to the University as incoming third-year students may apply to the major, following this same checklist. Students should submit an official transcript from their current institution, and ask a current professor to submit a recommendation to the PST mailbox,  All other materials should also be submitted via email to; as stated above, please rename all files to lead with your last name.

Download a one-page summary