How to Apply

How to Apply

Degree Admission

Degree admission is granted jointly by the Graduate School and the graduate program. Each program has its own procedures for evaluating applications. An applicant must apply for admission to a particular program of study. Applicants may apply to only one graduate program at a time. The Graduate School will not consider concurrent applications for admission to more than one program and does not act upon an application without a program's recommendation.

Please note:

  • U.S. applicants must have a baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution to apply for admission.
  • International applicants must have a tertiary (postsecondary) degree that is deemed comparable to a four-year U.S. bachelor's degree to apply for admission. This degree must be from an officially recognized degree-granting institution in the country in which it operates.
  • You may only apply to one graduate program and campus at a time.
  • If you currently hold a doctorate, you are not encouraged to apply for a second doctorate.

    Degree Application Process

    Applying for graduate admission is a two step process. Applications must be submitted to the Graduate School and the program. When the Graduate School receives your degree application, your information will be made available to the program to which you are applying. The program reviews your program application and supporting documents and makes a recommendation to the Graduate School. Upon receiving the nonrefundable application fee and a recommendation from the program, the Graduate School reviews your file to verify that the minimum admission requirements have been met. The Graduate School does not act on your application without a recommendation from the program. Questions regarding the completeness or status of your application should be directed to the program.

    Applications for Sociology and Criminology are accepted until January 9th for admission the following fall semester. Selection is based on transcripts, three letters of recommendation from persons familiar with the applicant’s academic performance, a statement of goals, a sample of written work such as a term paper or thesis, and Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores. International applicants must also submit TOEFL scores. Please do not submit information with your application that cannot be used in the admission decision process, e.g. Individual Education Plans (IEPs), medical records, statements from physicians or psychologists, or legal documents. Such information will be returned.

    • Three letters of recommendation are required for admission. Your references will be contacted electronically to complete a recommendation for you.  In addition, they should either copy and paste a formal letter of recommendation into the comments section of the electronic form OR mail a formal letter directly to the program.  The mailing address is given below.
    • A personal statement and at least one writing sample should be uploaded when completing the online application.
    • Transcripts: Applicants are required to electronically upload copies of transcripts (or equivalent documents for institutions outside the U.S., e.g., degree/study certificates, diplomas, etc.) from all post-secondary institutions attended, in the language of instruction (and copies of an official English translation if English is not the language of instruction).  Applicants recommended for admission who accept an offer through the online graduate admission system will be notified by the Graduate School that official/original transcripts/documents must be sent from the originating institutions in the official language of the institution(s) attended (and if the language of instruction is not English, an official English translation must also be sent).  The Graduate School will review all official documents to finalize the offer of admission.  An offer of admission will be revoked if official/original documents are not received by the Graduate School within specified deadlines, or if official/original documents differ from the copies uploaded by the applicant prior to the offer of admission.  For applicants whose degree conferral is in progress at the time of uploading copies, the deadline specified for receipt of official/original documents will allow for the passage of the reported date of degree conferral, and that conferral must be confirmed on the official/original documents received by the Graduate School, in order for the offer of admission to be finalized.
    • Official GRE and TOEFL (International Applicants Only) scores should be sent electronically from ETS to the Graduate School.
      • Dual-Degree in Demography:  If you wish to apply to the dual-degree program in Sociology and Demography, please complete the final four questions on our Graduate School application pertaining to the Dual-Degree Demography Program.

        Frequently Asked Questions

        Who Should Apply?

        I was an Econ,French, English, etc. major.  Can I apply?  Is an undergraduate degree in sociology or criminology required?

        Our programs are interdisciplinary; you can apply with any major. Most of our students have undergraduate degrees in sociology, psychology, political science, criminology, criminal justice, or education.


        Can I transfer credits that I've taken in another graduate program?

        Yes. Transfer requests are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.


        Do you have a terminal master's program?

        We do not offer a terminal masters degree. All of our students earn a masters degree as they fulfill the requirements for the Ph.D..


        How long does the program typically take?

        Five years for those entering with a bachelors degree; four years for those entering with a masters degree.


        What kind of jobs do people get with a Ph.D. from this program?

        Most of our graduates obtain academic positions. Others work as researchers in government agencies, in the private sector, and for think tanks and nonprofits.


        How To Apply?

        What GRE test should I take?

        The General Test.


        As an international applicant, what test or tests should I take?

        The GRE (General Test) and TOEFL.


        How many applications do you generally receive?

        Approximately 175 students apply


        Can I apply to start in the winter or spring?

        Because of the required course sequence, all incoming students must start in the fall.


        How Are Decisions Made?

        How and when does the department make admissions decisions?

        Admissions decisions are made by a committee of faculty and advanced graduate students. Most admissions decisions are made by the end of February.


        When do you need to know whether or not I will attend?

        By April 15.


        Who Gets Admitted

        What is the average GRE score of students admitted to your program?

        The vast majority of students admitted to the program score above 310 on the GRE (verbal and quantitative combined). Most students admitted to the program have GPAs above 3.7.


        What is the cut-off point for GRE scores and GPA?

        There is no cut-off. We weigh GRE scores and GPA against other qualifications and achievements.


        How many are admitted to your program each year? How many apply?

        The department will admit about 25 students each year to its graduate programs. About 175 students apply.


        What if I am admitted and then want to delay entering the program?

        Although most students start immediately, a delayed admission is possible. Such requests are considered on a case-by-case basis.


        What About Funding?

        I will need financial aid. How does that work?

        All students admitted to the program receive research assistantships or teaching assistantships. This funding package includes a stipend and a tuition waiver. We also have a strong record of providing summer support.


        Are there funds available outside of the standard funding package?

        Yes, for those with outstanding qualifications and/or achievements. See the Penn State Graduate School for more information: