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How does the admission process work?

The Department typically receives 100 or more completed applications each year.  On average, we admit 12 students, and this figure can be lower or higher in any given year as a result of the qualifications of applicants, departmental needs, and acceptances of offers.  The Committee reviews students on the basis of perceived fit with our program, strength of the application, GRE scores, GPA, and letters of recommendation, as well as other evidence of promise. Applicants are encouraged to identify clearly their area(s) of interest in the statement of purpose. Although the Graduate Admissions Committee makes final decisions concerning admission and funding, all faculty members are involved in the process. Generally, the Committee tries to balance the number of students admitted across the areas of faculty expertise.

What information concerning prospective students receives most attention?

We are looking for the best qualified students whose research interests match with our ongoing projects and faculty interests. Each aspect of the application materials is important, and we consider all of them in assessing an applicant’s promise to excel in a premier doctoral program. Thus, it is important that a student have a strong academic record, evidence that he/she is productive, high GRE (and TOEFL, if appropriate) scores, are strong, a high GPA, a well-articulated, specific, and focused statement of purpose, and informative letters of recommendation from sources qualified to judge academic competence and promise.


What are the average GPA and GRE scores of admitted applicants?

For the entering class of Fall 2014:

  • the average GPA was 3.78;
  • the average GRE Verbal score was 163.5;
  • the average GRE Quantitative score was 155.6; and
  • the average GRE Analytical Writing score was 4.88.


Should I visit the Penn State campus?

Applicants who are admitted to our graduate program will be invited to campus for a visit, usually in the month of March.  Coming to campus as part of our Welcome Weekend is a great way to meet current students, faculty, and other applicants who might become your classmate.  You are also welcome to visit campus any other time of year. If you are interested in visiting campus, send an inquiry to