Student affairs application process

The School of Education Student Affairs program admits 25-35 students once each year in a cohort-based program. Because there is a strong practitioner focus, all full-time students are required to have an assistantship, which we arrange through interview days. Part-time students must have a current position in higher education.

Applying and being admitted to the student affairs program includes:

  • Application to ISU Graduate College
  • Admission to the School of Education Student Affairs program
  • Placement in an assistantship

Application materials 

  1. Complete the online graduate application.
    • Note: If you have not previously been admitted to the Graduate College at Iowa State University, you must complete the online graduate application through the Iowa State Admissions office. Please disregard any application acceptance dates that may be listed on the Iowa State University-wide admissions site and continue with your application as prompted through their website.
    • Note: if you have previously been admitted to the Graduate College at Iowa State University, do not complete an online graduate application. Instead, please fill out Section I of the “request to transfer from one major/program/department to another” form and submit this form, along with the below required application materials, directly to the graduate support specialist..  
  2. The faculty of the Iowa State University Student Affairs in Higher Education master’s program value scholarly, socially just, reflexive, and active student affairs practice. As such prospective students applying to this program should submit a coherent statement that addresses the prompts below. Each prompt should be no more than 300 words. Upload your responses to these prompts as one separate document to your online graduate application. 
    • Prompt 1: What do you consider to be a current issue affecting college student success and what role can student affairs play in addressing the issue?
    • Prompt 2: Describe how you have demonstrated your espoused values related to diversity, inclusion, equity, or social justice.
    • Prompt 3: Describe an experience that influenced your development in college, what you learned from that experience, and how you might use that lesson to support other students.
      Note: You do not have to include a response to the request for a personal statement on page 4 of the online graduate application – uploading a document that answers these prompts will take the place of the personal statement. 
  3. Upload your current resume to your online graduate application.
  4. Identify three references who will provide you letters of support. The faculty of the Iowa State University Student Affairs in Higher Education master’s program value scholarly, socially just, reflexive, and active student affairs practice. Please ask your recommenders to specifically address how you have demonstrated:
    • An openness to diversity, inclusion, equity, or social justice
    • Maturity
    • Self-reflection
    • Intellectual curiosity
      Note: On your online graduate application, you will have the opportunity to enter the names and email addresses of your three references. If you choose the option of using the online process, your references will be emailed a form to fill out once you have submitted your online graduate application.  Once your reference has completed the form and submitted it, it will automatically upload to your online graduate application. If you choose not to use the online process on the online graduate application, please have your references fill out this form and email it directly to the graduate support specialist.
  5. Order your official transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate institutions you have attended. If you have earned a degree at Iowa State, you do not need to order those transcripts because these will already be on file. For those needing to send transcripts, these should be sent to:
        Office of Admissions
        100 Enrollment Services Ctr.
        Iowa State University
        Ames, IA 50011-2011
  6. International applicants only: A TOEFL score of at least 83 or an IELTS score of at least 6.5 is required for consideration for admission to the School of Education. Please upload your official TOEFL or IELTS score report to your online graduate application. 

Admission criteria 

Admission to the Master of Education degree program in student affairs is based on the potential for academic and professional success in student affairs using the following criteria:

  • A 3.00 GPA
  • Strong recommendations from teachers, supervisors, or professional colleagues
  • Experience in student organizations, paraprofessional employment in student affairs, and/or volunteer work
  • Understanding of the student affairs profession and clear professional goals
  • Strong writing skills demonstrated in the responses to the prompts
  • Ability to secure an assistantship or employment in student affairs or a closely related area of higher education

GPA: Lower GPAs will be considered in special cases. Candidates with lower GPAs should include a letter asking for an exception and presenting a case for why they should be considered and present evidence that they will be successful graduate students.

Admission timeline

The general timeline for the application process is as follows:

  1. Apply to ISU Graduate College
    By December 1 of the year prior to the year in which you hope to begin the program
  2. Receive response from student affairs program
    In early January, the student affairs program determines which students to admit. At this time applicants will be informed if they are:
    • Accepted pending assistantship
    • May be accepted if there’s room in the program and a suitable assistantship is obtained
    • Declined
  3. Attend interview days
    Students accepted pending assistantship will be invited to attend interview days in mid-February. Students are scheduled for appropriate assistantship interviews throughout ISU based on student interest and assistantship needs. Students rank their interest in the assistantships. 
  4. Receive assistantship offer
    The program determines the best assistantship match and makes an offer to accepted students. Students decide to join the program based on the assistantship offered (no alternative assistantships are offered). Depending on the number of students that accepted, students from the waiting list are contacted with offers.
  5. Join the program 
    Accepted students begin the program with their cohort group in August

Frequently asked questions

Q: When applying for the student affairs program, do I select a master’s degree or a certification?

A: You’ll be receiving a Master of Education, so you should select a degree of M.Ed. and Education as the major. Do not select the student affairs certificate option. When asked about research interests on the application, you would indicate student affairs.


Q: If I am applying for the student affairs program, will I need to provide GRE scores for the graduate college application?

A: The GRE is not required for the M.Ed. in Student Affairs. You do not have to enter any GRE scores on the online graduate application. It is only required for our teacher licensure programs and Ph.D. applicants.


Q: Am I required to submit two different personal statements for the Graduate College and student affairs program?

A: You are not required to submit two different personal statements. You do not have to respond to the 500-word personal statement from page 4 of the online graduate application. Instead, we would like you to upload a separate document that answers the three prompts as indicated above in the “required application materials” section. If you had already completed the 500-word personal statement, you do not need to delete this statement. However, we ask that you still submit the answers to the three prompts.


Q: Do I need my references to email me with their letters and add it to the application, or do they utilize the email link sent to them through the application?

A: Your references will be able to attach their letter of recommendation to the email link provided by the program application. This system is important to maintain confidentiality for your references.