Application FAQ

Application FAQ

Yes. Several applicants have degrees in disciplines other than communication studies. Related disciplines include Sociology, English, Family Studies, History, Philosophy, and Psychology, among others.

The school code for Penn State is 2660. All scores are received electronically at the university level; therefore, no department code is necessary.

If the GRE data are too old to include the new version of the analytical writing score, you should retake the exam. Also, if your combined Verbal and Quantitative score is under 310, you would be well advised to consider retaking it, especially if it is well below that figure.

NOTE: Due to the difficulty in accessing testing centers because of the global pandemic, the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences at Penn State is waiving the requirement to take the GRE exam for applicants who are submitting materials to be accepted into the M.A. and Ph.D. programs beginning in the Fall of 2022.

There is no official recommendation form. We ask that recommendation letters be written by individuals familiar with your professional and educational qualifications, and who can assess your promise as a scholar. Individuals listed in your application as agreeing to submit a letter of recommendation will be instructed (via the email address you provide in the electronic application) to upload their letter via the Graduate School’s Reference Submission Portal. Three letters of recommendation are required; additional letters may be beneficial.

In the statement of purpose, an applicant needs to make clear (a) why he or she is applying for admission to the Ph.D. program, (b) his or her career objectives, and (c) how he or she sees successful completion of the degree requirements as contributing to fulfillment of those objectives. The statement should be approximately two double-spaced pages.

We do not make a distinction between domestic and international applicants. In addition, we do not admit applicants to whom we cannot offer funding.

International students are required to present minimum TOEFL scores of 600 for the paper-based test, or a total score of 100, with a 19 on the speaking section for the internet-based test (iBT). Alternatively, international students may present a minimum IELTS score of 6.5.

NOTE: Due to the difficulty in accessing testing centers because of the global pandemic, the Graduate School is also temporarily accepting the following English proficiency tests:

  • TOEFL iBT @Home (total score of 80 with a 19 on the speaking section)
  • TOEFL ITP Plus for China (score of 627 or higher)
  • IELTS Indicator (score of 6.5 or higher)

Exemptions from English Proficiency Testing

International applicants who have received a baccalaureate or a graduate degree in one of the following countries are exempt from the TOEFL/IELTS requirement:  

  • American Samoa 
  • Anguilla 
  • Antigua and Barbuda 
  • Australia 
  • Bahamas 
  • Barbados 
  • Belize 
  • Bermuda 
  • British Virgin Islands 
  • Canada (except Quebec) 
  • Cayman Islands 
  • Dominica 
  • England 
  • Ghana 
  • Grenada 
  • Guyana 
  • Jamaica 
  • Kenya  
  • Liberia 
  • Montserrat 
  • New Zealand 
  • Nigeria 
  • Northern Ireland 
  • Puerto Rico 
  • Republic of Ireland 
  • Scotland 
  • Singapore 
  • South Africa 
  • St Kitts and Nevis 
  • St Lucia 
  • Trinidad and Tobago 
  • Turks and Caicos Islands 
  • Uganda  
  • United States 
  • U.S. Virgin Islands 
  • Wales

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.

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.

For the most recent fall cohort:

  • The average GPA was 3.78.
  • The average GRE Verbal score was 163.5.
  • The average GRE Quantitative score was 155.6.
  • The average GRE Analytical Writing score was 4.88.

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

Application fee waivers: We have a small budget for waivers for the application fee. If you need a waiver, please request one from Alexandria Nichols, Graduate Program Assistant at