Best Colleges for International Relations

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August 28, 2023


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/4/22

If you’re interested in studying international relations in college, read on to learn about the best undergraduate colleges for international relations!

Are you considering studying international relations in undergrad? 

International relations, which involves the study of government and policy across nations, is an optimal choice for those looking to think critically about the world and the relationships between all of its different players. 

Your next priority after choosing a subject to major in is to find a college that specializes in it. If you find yourself asking, "What are the best colleges for international relations?" then you've come to the right place. Before you commit to a college, it's important to make sure you know the schools that offer the best international relations programs. We've listed them for you below.

Top Colleges for International Relations

While many colleges in the U.S. offer an international relations program or curriculum, not all of them can be the best. The schools recognized as the best undergraduate international relations schools are listed below. 

Georgetown University

Ranking first on the list of best colleges for international relations is Georgetown University. Located in Washington, D.C. in proximity to many U.S. federal government buildings, including the White House, Georgetown has made a name for itself as the go-to school for all things international relations, government, politics, and more. 

While there is no specific international relations program available for undergraduate students, there are many additional options within the Department of Government that have overarching international relations themes as a part of the curriculum. They are as follows:

  • B.A. in Government
  • B.A. in Political Economy 
  • B.A./M.A. Program in American Government
  • B.A./M.A. Program in Democracy and Governance

Regardless of the undergraduate program that you choose to pursue at Georgetown, rest assured that all the programs offered have strong ties to global and international affairs within the curriculum and feature a faculty of international relations experts.

At Georgetown University, tuition and fees will cost you $62,052 per year, and the school has an acceptance rate of 12%.

Yale University

Second on the list for best colleges for international relations is the prestigious and iconic Ivy League family member Yale University, located in New Haven, Connecticut. 

Yale is known for specialties in many different subjects, including international and global affairs. International and global affairs studies take place at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, which was recently rebranded and opened.

The school offers an undergraduate major in Global Affairs that features an interdisciplinary curriculum and a capstone project in the fall term of senior year. The project consists of a "unique public policy project on behalf of a real client," with the student traveling to the client's location for the project's duration. 

Ringing true to Yale's reputation of competitive admissions, the school aims for a small number of 50 students per graduating class within the Global Affairs program.

In addition to the Global Affairs program, Yale has recently introduced a five-year joint Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science - Masters in Public Policy program. Admission to the program is limited strictly to Yale students, with prospective students encouraged to apply in the second term of their junior year.

A year at Yale University will run you $62,250 in tuition fees. Before applying, keep in mind that Yale is incredibly selective, maintaining an acceptance rate of 5%.

Brown University

Coming in third place on our list of the best colleges for international relations is Brown University. Located in Providence, Rhode Island, Brown is an Ivy League school that offers an international relations program through its undergraduate concentration in International and Public Affairs

Brown offers an interdisciplinary approach to their curriculum, and provides three different tracks:

  • Development
  • Policy & Governance
  • Security

Students also have the unique opportunity to focus their studies on a particular country and region regardless of their chosen track. 

Attending Brown University will run you $65,146 per year if you are a part of the coveted 6% of applicants who are accepted.

Stanford University

When you hear the phrase, "Stanford University," words like "STEM," "science," and "mathematics" may come to mind. But did you know Stanford has one of the best international relations programs in the nation?

Located in sunny Stanford, California, the university offers an undergraduate major/minor program in international relations that focuses on the following subjects:

  • Foreign Policy
  • International Conflict and Negotiation
  • War, Peace, and International Security
  • Terrorism
  • International Trade and Economics
  • Human Rights, Ethics, and Issues

Many Stanford international relations graduates go on to pursue postgraduate degrees in law, international policy, business, journalism, and political science. 

Yearly tuition and fees at Stanford University costs $56,169. Stanford maintains an acceptance rate of 4%, making it an incredibly selective school. 

University of Southern California

Coming in fifth on our list of best colleges for international relations is the University of Southern California (more commonly known as USC), located in Los Angeles, California. International Relations programs at the University of Southern California take place at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences. 

USC's international relations curriculum aims "to combine scholarly research and practical experience to generate new knowledge in government and politics." To further support this principle, the undergraduate International Relations program at USC offers three separate international relations related programs:

  • BA in International Relations 
  • BA in International Relations - Global Economy 
  • BA in International Relations - Global Business

The variety of programs makes USC a natural choice for those looking to specialize in a specific topic involving international relations. Tuition and fees at the University of Southern California will cost $64,726 per year, and they have an overall acceptance rate of 13%.

University of Pennsylvania

Next on our list of the best colleges for international relations is yet another member of the Ivy League family - the University of Pennsylvania, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. International relations at UPenn takes an interdisciplinary approach and the program is recognized for its selectivity and commitment to excellence. 

The school offers an international relations major and minor program, as well as an undergraduate certificate in Global Human Rights, for students at UPenn that want to take their IR education one step further. 

University of Pennsylvania has an acceptance rate of 6% and attending this university will cost you $64,452 per year in tuition and fees.

Tufts University

The world-class international relations program at Tufts University gets the number 7 spot on our list of the best colleges for international relations. It is commonly referred to as "an international relations powerhouse." Located in Boston, Massachusetts, the school offers an undergraduate IR program that includes eight semesters of secondary language training and six different concentrations:

  • Regional and Comparative Analysis
  • Subsections include Europe and Former Soviet Union, East and Southeast Asia, Africa, Middle East and South Asia, and Latin America
  • International Economics
  • Global Health, Nutrition and the Environment
  • International Security
  • Globalization
  • Identity

Tuition at Tufts University costs $65,222 a year, making it the most expensive school on our list. The school accepts 11% of applicants on average.

Johns Hopkins University

You may recognize Johns Hopkins University as a leading medical school in the U.S., but you should also know that it is home to an incredible international relations program. Located in Baltimore, Maryland, Johns Hopkins IR students are often recognized for their "firm understanding of economics and their deep expertise in international relations."

The institution offers an undergraduate major in IR and two dual degrees as well as several specialized certificates for those looking to supplement their undergraduate IR education. They are as follows:

  • Three graduate certificate options in international relations, international economics, or international studies
  • Certificate in Chinese and American Studies
  • Principles of Economics

Students who undergo the undergraduate international relations track are expected to pursue a specialization of a linguistic, thematic, or regional focus, with many different options to choose from.

Attending John Hopkins University will cost $60,480 per year in tuition and fees alone. It has an average acceptance rate of 8%.

George Washington University

Another college that ranks high in international relations is George Washington University, also located in Washington, D.C. Classes take place in the Elliott School of International Affairs, which is home to over 22,000 alumni worldwide.

The school offers a large variety of undergraduate options in the field of international relations, allowing prospective students to specialize in their interests:

  • B.A in Asian Studies
  • B.A/B.S. in International Affairs
  • B.A. in Middle East Studies
  • B.A. in Latin American and Hemispheric Studies

The acceptance rate at George Washington University is a whopping 50%, with yearly tuition and fees costing $62,200 a year.

Washington University in St. Louis

For the best international relations program in the midwest, look no further than Washington University in St. Louis, located in, you guessed it, St. Louis, Missouri. The school offers an International Affairs concentration as a part of its global studies undergraduate program, which has existed for over forty years. 

If you're looking to enhance your international relations education while you're pursuing your undergrad, the global studies program offers a joint accelerated Bachelor/Masters of Arts program in fields such as:

  • International Affairs
  • Nonprofit Management
  • Liberal Arts
  • Human Resources Management
  • American Culture Studies
  • Statistics

After joining the 13% of students who are accepted each year, you’ll be expected to pay $60,590 in tuition and fees to attend Washington University in St. Louis.

FAQs: Best Colleges for International Relations

Still have questions about the best colleges for international relations? Below, we've listed some answers to students' most popular questions about international relations and the best colleges surrounding them. 

1. What Schools Are Known for International Relations?

The best schools for study of international relations include: 

  • Georgetown University
  • Yale University
  • Brown University
  • Stanford University
  • The University of Southern Carolina
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Tufts University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • George Washington University
  • Washington University

Any of these schools listed above will provide a stellar education in international relations, featuring a strong curriculum taught by a world-class faculty. 

2. What Major Goes Well With International Relations?

While some schools offer international relations as a major, additional majors that may integrate international relations include political science, government, economics, or public policy studies.

3. Is Majoring in International Relations a Good Idea?

Majoring in international relations is a good idea if you're passionate about civics, relationships between nations, government policy, and more. 

It's a school of thought that will help strengthen your critical thinking and analytical skills, while enhancing your writing and interpersonal communication skills. Because of this, it's also a great option if you plan to attend law school or any other postgraduate study afterward. 

4. What Can I Do After I Major in International Relations? 

Once you've completed your undergraduate degree in international relations, you will have gained the ability to think critically and logically about issues surrounding nations and governing and have adopted a problem-solving mindset alongside it. 

When it comes to considering what to do afterward, the sky is the limit. Many undergraduate international relations students have gone on to continue their studies in IR or political science graduate programs, go on to law school, pursue an online master's in education in TESOL, or have gained employment in the government and political space. 

Of course, with your potential, whatever you decide to do once you graduate is up to you!

5. What High School Courses Should I Take to Get Into an International Relations Program?

If you know that you want to major in international relations in college, there are some steps you can take to strengthen your chances of an acceptance. 

You should aim to take a number of history, social sciences, and writing classes in high school to help strengthen your writing and persuasive skills. Also consider taking micro and macroeconomics classes to help further develop your logic and reasoning skills.

Final Thoughts

If you’re passionate about pursuing undergraduate relations, you’ll first have to choose a school to attend and study international relations at, which can be difficult. Many different schools offer international relations programs that are unique to one another. By listing the best ones above, we hope that we've brought you some clarity and insight on which college and international relations program is right for you. 

Any choice of program listed in this article is a great pick, but keep in mind that choosing a college can be a very personal decision.  Make sure that you take the time to do your research and select the school that's right for you. We wish you the best of luck!

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