Skip Navigation
search: People | Departments | Penn State | Web
Penn State mark
Penn State mark
University Bulletin
Graduate Degree Programs

Application and Admission Procedures

Each step of the educational process, from admission through graduation, requires continuing review and appropriate approval by University officials. The University, therefore, reserves the right to change the requirements and regulations contained in this bulletin and to determine whether a student has satisfactorily met its requirements for admission or graduation, and to reject any applicant for admission for any reason the University determines to be material to the applicant's qualification to pursue higher education.

An applicant for admission to the Graduate School should understand that graduate work is not a simple extension of an undergraduate program but, rather, demands scholarship of a higher order, and emphasizes research, creativity, and professional competence with a minimum of formal requirements and a maximum of student initiative and responsibility.

Objective--The objective of the admission process of the Graduate School is to identify and admit a qualified graduate student body up to the limit of the University's resources to provide outstanding graduate programs. In most programs, a student may begin graduate work in the fall or spring semester or in the summer session.

As at all universities, Penn State's staff, facilities, and other resources are limited, so that not all qualified persons can be admitted. The number accepted will vary by program and from semester to semester. In some graduate programs all vacancies will have been filled long before the deadline for submitting applications, so that even outstanding students cannot be accepted.

Degree Admission--Applicants interested in applying to a graduate program at Penn State should obtain information on individual program requirements via the website at (Opens New Window). Applicants may apply for admission to only one program at a time.

Qualifications--For admission to the Graduate School, an applicant must hold either (1) a bachelor's degree from a U.S. regionally accredited institution or (2) a postsecondary degree that is equivalent to a U.S. baccalaureate degree earned from an officially recognized degree-granting international institution. Ordinarily, an entering student must have completed in a satisfactory manner a minimum of course work in designated areas, the specific courses and amount of work depending upon the intended field of advanced study. Scores on the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) General Test are required by most programs. Individual program requirements for admission are included under the specific program descriptions. Information about GRE publications can be obtained by calling the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, New Jersey, USA at 1-866-473-4373 or writing to GRE, Educational Testing Service, P.O. Box 6000, Princeton, NJ USA 08541-6000. If you prefer, you may send an e-mail to or order publications through the website at (Opens New Window).

Provisional admission may be granted to applicants whose credentials are not complete at the time of application because the baccalaureate degree has not yet been conferred, grades for the current semester are not yet available, etc. Such admission is subject to cancellation if the complete credentials, on arrival, do not meet the requirements for admission. In the interim, certification of any earned credits will be withheld. If admission is canceled for any reason, the student is dropped automatically from the Graduate School. Completion of admission in such cases is dependent upon receipt of the missing credentials. (See Provisional Admission under Classification of Students.)

Admission is granted jointly by the Graduate School and the department or graduate program in which the student plans to study. The establishment of standards by which applicants are admitted is a departmental or program responsibility. Although the Graduate School has no fixed minimum grade-point requirement for admission, an applicant is generally expected to maintain a junior-senior grade-point average of at least 2.50 on Penn State’s grading scale of A (4.00) to D (1.00). Individual programs often establish higher grade-point average requirements and use other criteria to judge candidates for admission. In exceptional cases, departments or major programs may also approve admission by reason of special backgrounds, abilities, and interests. Departmental or program requirements are given in the descriptive statements appearing under the graduate programs listed in the latter part of this publication.
A student who has been admitted to a program in which the doctorate is offered may begin working toward that degree but has no official status as a doctoral student and no assurance of acceptance as a doctoral candidate until a candidacy examination administered by the major department or committee has been passed. (See Candidacy Examination under Degree Requirements.)

Deadlines--Applicants should obtain application deadlines by contacting the individual graduate program. Because the admission process is time consuming, applications should be submitted as early as possible.

Pennsylvania Act 34 Clearance—Applicants should note that some programs may require clearance of students participating in internships/practicums in Pennsylvania school districts. Pennsylvania Act 34 of 1985 (Criminal History Record Information) specifies that employees of Pennsylvania public and private schools must undergo background checks. School districts accepting graduate students for internships/practicums increasingly require Act 34 clearance before permitting students to begin their practicums in the district, even though they are not employees. In addition, non-Pennsylvania residents are expected to present evidence of an FBI background information check. Applicants are encouraged to contact the program to which they are applying if they have questions as to this requirement and how it may affect them.

Nondegree Admission--If you do not intend to pursue a graduate degree, but want to take graduate-level courses for personal enrichment, professional development, permanent certification, or to apply for degree status at a later date, you can seek admission as a nondegree graduate student. Information on applying for nondegree graduate status may be obtained via the website at

Changing from graduate nondegree status to regular status requires a new admission application. No more than 15 graduate credits of course work taken prior to admission to a graduate degree program may be applicable to a graduate program. (See "Nondegree Student" under Classification of Students.) However, admission as a nondegree graduate student neither guarantees nor implies subsequent admission to a degree program. Nondegree students are not eligible to receive fellowships or graduate assistantships and preference for courses is given to degree students. Programs control access to some courses.

Applicants for nondegree admission must have received from a regionally accredited institution a baccalaureate degree under residence and credit conditions substantially equivalent to those required by Penn State.

Minority Students--Minority students are encouraged to apply for admission to any of the programs offered in the Graduate School. Information concerning programs and financial aid can be obtained from the chair of the graduate program, the dean of the college of the student's major interest, or from the Office of Graduate Educational Equity, 304 Kern Building.

International Students--International applicants must hold the equivalent of an American four-year baccalaureate degree. They must submit official or attested university records, with certified translations if the records are not in English. Notarized copies are not sufficient.

English Proficiency--The language of instruction at Penn State is English. All international applicants must take and submit scores for the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or the IELTS (International English Language Testing System), with the exceptions noted below.

Minimum Acceptable Test Scores

Individual graduate programs of study may require higher scores for admission.

Internet-based test (iBT) - a total score of 80 with a 19 on the speaking section for the internet-based test (iBT). Applicants with iBT speaking scores between 15 and 18 may be considered for provisional admission, with Graduate School approval, which requires completion of specified remedial English courses ESL 114G (American Oral English for Academic Purposes) and/or ESL 116G (ESL/Composition for Academic Disciplines) and attainment of a grade of B or higher within the first semester of enrollment.

Paper-based test (taken prior to July 2017) – the minimum acceptable score is 550.

Paper-based test (taken July 2017 or later) – a combined total of the 3 sections evaluated must be 60 or greater.

The minimum acceptable composite score for the IELTS Academic Test is 6.5.

International applicants are exempt from the TOEFL/IELTS requirement who have received a baccalaureate or a graduate degree from a college/university/institution in any of the following: Australia, Belize, British Caribbean and British West Indies, Canada (except Quebec), England, Guyana, Republic of Ireland, Liberia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Scotland, the United States, and Wales.

Please note that specific graduate programs may require all international applicants to submit a TOEFL or IELTS score, regardless of their academic background and country of origin.

Information about the TOEFL can be obtained by visiting its website at Local administration at University Park campus of the TOEFL is handled by the IECP. Information about the IELTS can be obtained by visiting its website at

Undergraduate Students--Any senior with a 3.50 grade-point average may be admitted to 500- or 800-level courses with the consent of the instructor; other seniors with a B average or better may be admitted to graduate courses with the consent of the instructor, the student’s academic adviser, and the director of Graduate Enrollment Services. Forms to request permission to take 500- or 800-level courses are available in the Office of Graduate Enrollment Services, 114 Kern Building.

Undergraduate students in The Schreyer Honors College who undertake integrated undergraduate–graduate study (IUG) can pursue concurrent bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Information on IUG study can be obtained at the office of the dean of The Schreyer Honors College, 10 Schreyer Honors College.

In certain cases undergraduate students may subsequently apply credits they have earned in 400, 500, and 800 series courses toward an advanced degree at Penn State. After admission to the Graduate School, and with the approval of the major field, a maximum of 9 credits relevant to the graduate program of study that were not used to satisfy undergraduate requirements may be applied toward an advanced degree. The time limitation on the completion of a master’s degree program applies to these as well as to other credits.

Postdoctoral Fellows, Scholars, and Guests of the University--Postdoctoral Fellow appointments are financed under a Postdoctoral Fellow Program of a granting agency outside the University. A Postdoctoral Scholar is the usual designation for all other postdoctoral appointments that meet the standards enumerated by the National Research Council. Postdoctoral appointments are considered appointments of a temporary nature that are intended to offer an opportunity for continued experience in research or teaching, usually, though not necessarily, under the supervision of a senior mentor.

Individuals holding the highest degree in their fields from Penn State or other accredited colleges and universities are invited to apply to the dean of the Graduate School for guest privileges for purposes of noncredit study. Guests may attend seminars and courses with the privileges of faculty members and, if space and facilities are available, carry on research. Individuals may also be appointed to temporary positions in all University ranks. All guests are expected to affiliate formally or informally with one of the departments, institutes, or other subdivisions of the University engaged in scholarly pursuits.

Policy on Second Doctorates--The Graduate School does not admit applicants to concurrent double Ph.D. degree programs, D.Ed. degree programs, or D.M.A. degree programs, or to concurrent doctoral degree programs in any combination (Ph.D., D.Ed., and/or D.M.A.). In general, the Graduate School discourages the pursuit of a second Ph.D., D.Ed., or D.M.A. degree. However, if an applicant who holds one of these degrees requests admission to a second doctoral degree program (either Ph.D., D.Ed., or D.M.A.), the applicant is asked to give the Graduate School the reason why the second doctorate is necessary (as opposed to taking course work or obtaining a master's degree in the second field or working in a postdoctoral appointment in the second field). The Graduate School then may solicit responses concerning the necessity of the second doctorate from representatives of the field at Penn State or elsewhere. This information is then given to the Dean of the Graduate School for the final decision. If approved, all Graduate School requirements for the second doctorate must be met de novo.

Student Pennsylvania Resident Status--When it appears that an applicant for admission is not a resident of Pennsylvania for tuition purposes, a non-Pennsylvanian classification is assigned. If the student who is thus admitted believes that circumstances do not justify classification as a non-Pennsylvanian, a petition may be addressed to the Fee Assessor, The Pennsylvania State University, 108 Shields Building, University Park, PA 16802 for reclassification. Penn State Harrisburg students may petition the Penn State Harrisburg financial officer.

A copy of the Policy for Determination of Eligibility for Reclassification as a Pennsylvania Resident for Tuition Purposes can be obtained in the office mentioned above or online and should be reviewed before requesting reclassification. Any reclassification resulting from a student's petition shall be effective for tuition purposes as of the date such petition was filed. A student who changes residency from Pennsylvania to another state must promptly give written notice to the University. See also Appendix V to this bulletin.

Updated: 1/8/18



Look up course abbreviations

Course descriptions are stored in LionPATH, the University-wide student information system. Please visit the LionPATH Course Catalog to access current course descriptions. At that point, you will be leaving the University Bulletin website.

Skip Popular Searches
  1. Graduate Course Descriptions
  2. Graduate Programs
  3. Doctoral Degree Requirements
  4. Master's Degree Requirements
  5. Application and Admission Procedures
  6. Credit Certificate Programs
  7. General Information
  8. Tuition and Cost
  9. Intercollege
  10. Academic Information and Procedures