Should You Apply to Penn State

Should You Apply to Penn State

Grades and Courses

Economics is unique among fields in the degree to which graduate programs at the top departments differ from undergraduate programs. The main difference involves the extent to which abstract mathematics is used. Therefore, good grades in undergraduate courses in Economics do not guarantee success in graduate school. Applicants should have taken a considerable amount of mathematics, at least through multivariate calculus, and should have done well in it.

GRE scores

GRE scores should not be more than five years old. Specifically, if you are applying for admission for the Ph.D. program beginning in the fall of year X, then you should have taken the GRE no earlier than the fall of year X-5.

  • Institution Code: 2660
  • Department Code: 1801


  1. International applicants 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.
    1. International applicants must submit official or attested university records, with certified translations if the records are not in English. Notarized copies are not sufficient.
  2. 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. Individual graduate programs of study may require higher scores for admission.
    1. TOEFL:
      1. Internet-based test (iBT) – a total score of 80 with a 19 on the speaking section for the internet-based test (iBT).
        1. 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.
      2. Paper-based test (taken prior to July 2017) – the minimum acceptable score is 550.
      3. Paper-based test (taken July 2017 or later) – a combined total of the 3 sections evaluated must be 60 or greater.
    2. IELTS: The minimum acceptable composite score for the IELTS Academic Test is 6.5.
    3. International applicants who have received a baccalaureate or a graduate degree in a country in which standard English is the predominant language and from a college/university/institution at which the language of instruction is English are exempt from the TOEFL/IELTS requirement. Countries that meet this qualification are listed in GCAC-305 Procedures or  please visit the Graduate School link.

Institution code: 2660 | Department code: 84

Minimum Requirements for Admission (by Country)

For Admission Eligibility by Country, please visit the Graduate School link.

Letters of recommendation

We place considerable weight on, and require, three (3) letters of recommendation. Letters should be from people who know you well and who are familiar with graduate programs in Economics at leading universities. The most valuable letters are from people who can credibly compare you to others who have succeeded in such programs.

Your answers to the application questions and other written work

Highly successful Ph.D. students in Economics display a wide variety of research skills, including creativity. The questions we ask on the application are intended to elicit information about those skills. Also, if you have completed a paper that displays such skills, upload it via the GRADS online application system (see below).