Frequently Asked Questions
...about the application process
When should I apply?
How do I apply?
Applications should be submitted through our Electronic On-line Application, by the December 31, 2023 deadline. The application fee is $90 USD, payable via credit or debit card at the time of submission.
(Note: Application FEE WAIVERS are managed entirely by the Graduate Division of the School of Arts and Sciences, and individual departments do not have the authority to grant them. To apply for a fee waiver, applicants should send a brief letter to Patricia Rea, Associate Director of Admissions, at email@example.com, stating the reason for the request. This letter should be sent no later than November 15, 2023, and your application should be in-process or near completion. Do not request a fee waiver without having started your application. Please be advised that the applicant must demonstrate a clear and compelling case of financial hardship.) Back to top.
When does the Penn math grad program begin?
The program commences annually in late August. New graduate students are required to attend welcome events during the week preceding the start of classes. For those who need to fulfill the English language requirement, an earlier arrival in the summer may be necessary. Back to top.
What degrees do I need beforehand?
Applicants do not need to have received a university degree prior to applying for our graduate program. But they should have received at least a bachelors degree by the time they would enter the program (a masters degree is not necessary in order to apply to our Ph.D. program). Ordinarily, the previous degree is in mathematics. Nevertheless, individuals with different academic backgrounds, such as a degree in physics or computer science, are welcome to apply if they possess a strong mathematical foundation. Back to top.
What mathematical background should I have?
Ideally, prospective applicants to our Mathematics Ph.D. program should be familiar with the content covered in the syllabus of our Preliminary Exam by the time they enter our program. This content aligns with the material assessed in the Mathematics Subject Test of the GRE. Applicants who have a strong grasp of this material will have the opportunity to start with our Ph.D. level courses, while those who haven't attained sufficient mastery will commence with master's-level courses. Additionally, having experience in mathematical research, such as participation in an REU program or exposure to mathematics beyond the classroom, is highly beneficial. Back to top.
What should I do before applying?
To prepare for graduate school, follow these steps:
- Strengthen your mathematical background.
- Seek advice from professors at your current school on where to apply.
- Typically, Ph.D. program applicants in the United States apply to about nine institutions.
- Research your chosen institutions, considering areas of mathematics, faculty expertise, typical time to degree, funding, teaching opportunities, and the outcomes of former graduate students.
- Ensure you meet any required exam prerequisites, which often involve advance registration.
- Prepare the necessary materials for your applications.
This advanced preparation will significantly benefit your application process.
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What exams should I take in order to apply?
The GRE Mathematics Subject Test (Institution code is 2926 and Department code is 0703) scores are optional for admission to our graduate program. Although not required, test scores will be accepted and if received, will be used as a point of information for the admission committee. If you plan to take the GRE, please be aware that this exam is given only a few times per year and it is necessary to sign up for it in advance (by early September). Applicants who took this exam in an earlier year can submit that score. Most non-native English speakers should also take the TOEFL exam, as explained below, concerning the English language requirement. Back to top.
Is there an English language requirement?
We want to know that (Ph.D.) applicants to our graduate program have sufficient ability in spoken English in order to participate fully in our program. For that reason, applicants are required to submit a TOEFL score (or alternatively, a score on the IELTS--minimum score 7) if their native language is not English (Institution code is 2926 and Department code is 0703), unless their 4-year undergraduate studies were undertaken entirely in a country whose primary language is English. Please visit the following site for test locations and dates in your country. On the TOEFL, we look for total scores of at least 100, and scores of at least 20 on the spoken English portion. Those who enter our Ph.D. program are required to pass a test of spoken English prior to the beginning of their second year at Penn, as are masters students who wish to serve as teaching assistants, if their native language is not English. This latter requirement can be met either by getting a score of at least 27 on the speaking part of the TOEFL, or by passing a special internal test that is given at Penn prior to the start of each semester (in August, December, and April). Incoming Ph.D. students who can gain from preparation for this exam are invited to participate in a summer International TA program that begins in June prior to the start of their graduate program, and they receive a stipend for doing so. Back to top.
Which Penn math grad program should I apply to?
There are three graduate mathematics programs offered at the University of Pennsylvania: masters (A.M.), M.Phil. (masters of philosophy), and Ph.D. The Ph.D. program is an academic research-oriented program, in which students write a dissertation ("Ph.D. thesis") that involves original mathematical research (see faculty research areas). Many of our Ph.D. graduates afterwards take faculty positions in mathematics departments at other universities, while others have taken research positions in areas such as computer vision, medical imaging, genomics, and mathematical finance. The M.Phil. degree is a professional degree, preparing students to work in non-academic settings in areas such as those mentioned above. The masters degree can be either an academic degree (for those who plan to enter a Ph.D. program afterwards) or a professional degree (for those who plan to work in industry afterwards). Concerning costs and funding, Ph.D. students are exempt from paying tuition or fees, and receive generous financial support for five years, provided that they make good progress toward their degree. Masters and M.Phil. students are required to pay tuition and fees, but they receive a modest stipend if they serve as teaching assistants. In addition to these Mathematics graduate programs, Penn also offers masters and Ph.D. programs in Applied Mathematics and Computational Science (AMCS) and a Ph.D. program in Statistics. The right program for you depends on your interests and career goals. Back to top.
What do I need to include in my application?
You will need to fill out the online application form, and submit Transcripts (which can be unofficial at this stage), a personal statement (describing your mathematical interests and experience, saying what you're looking for in graduate school, and possibly indicating professors with whom you might want to work and research projects that you are interested in), and a CV/resume. You will also need to arrange for at least three professors to submit letters of recommendation through the system. (The online system can accept up to five letters.) These should be professors who can comment meaningfully about your mathematical knowledge, interest, and abilities. Typically, these would be professors from whom you had an advanced mathematics course (with proofs), or who supervised a mathematical project or activity in which you were engaged. You will also submit exam scores through the online application system. Back to top.
Should I contact individual Penn math professors?
Admissions decisions are determined by the Mathematics Graduate Admissions Committee, not by individual professors. As a result, requests for admission should not be directed to individual faculty members (or staff) but should be submitted through our online system. Nonetheless, applicants may find it valuable to contact specific professors with whom they have a particular interest in working to discuss the potential for applying and conducting research in their area of expertise. It is important, however, not to send mass emails to professors. Furthermore, if you have specific professors in mind with whom you are eager to work, it is advisable to mention this in your statement of purpose as a part of your application. Please refer to this link for a list of our faculty members' research interests, which encompass a wide range of topics: algebra, algebraic geometry, algebraic topology, analysis, applied topology, combinatorics, differential equations, differential geometry, logic, mathematical physics, number theory and probability. Back to top.
When can I expect to hear the results of my application? How are applicants notified?
Decisions regarding applications are made on a rolling basis throughout the winter and spring. Each application undergoes a thorough review by multiple faculty members, starting in early January. Admitted students can generally expect to hear around the end of February, from both the Mathematics Department and our dean's office as decisions are finalized; however, please note that there is no exact target date, and some admitted students may receive notifications sooner. We sincerely appreciate your patience as we ensure that each application is given the careful consideration it deserves.
Once decisions are released, you will receive an automated email from the application portal indicating that your decision letter is ready and has been posted. Please be aware that the email itself will not contain the final decision. To access your decision letter at any time after its release, you can simply return to the decision tab in your application within the ApplyWeb portal to review the final result. All decisions will be posted by the common U.S. uniform reply date of April 15. Back to top.
If I am admitted, when will I have to give my decision?
Ph.D. program offers all have a common due date of April 15 for deciding whether you will accept the offer. After this date, the offer expires. This uniform reply date is established by graduate schools across the United States. It's important for applicants to understand that they do not need to respond to offers from other U.S. Ph.D. programs until this date. However, for the benefit of other applicants, it is recommended that you notify us, as well as any other programs to which you've been admitted, once you've made your decision regarding the offer acceptance. This way, if you choose to decline, your spot can be offered to another applicant. Masters applicants seeking an extension beyond April 15 can request one via email. Back to top.
What types of funding are available?
Ph.D. students are offered a five-year support package including a full tuition scholarship, coverage of fees, health insurance, and an annual stipend ($40,500 for the 2023–24 academic year). They are given at least two academic years and three summers with no teaching responsibilities. More information is available here. In addition, there are a number of projects funded by faculty research grants on which Ph.D. students can be supported, in areas such as algebra, geometry, mathematical physics, cryptography, and applied topology. Masters and M.Phil. students can apply to be teaching assistants, and those who serve as TA's receive modest stipends. Back to top.
What costs are there?
Ph.D. students are exempt from paying tuition and fees for five years (which is the usual length of the program), in addition to receiving a generous stipend during that time period. Those who are making good progress toward the Ph.D. but who may need a sixth year to complete their dissertation may be permitted (but only with prior approval of the grad chair) to stay an extra year, beyond the expiration of their support package. Sixth year students are required to pay tuition and fees, but the tuition level drops dramatically in the sixth year. (Sixth year students can also apply to be teaching assistants, for a modest stipend.) Students in the masters and M.Phil. programs are required to pay tuition and fees, which are substantial (though there is the possibility to be a TA). Back to top.
If admitted, would I be required (or be able) to teach?
Ph.D. students, who are fully funded for five years, are required to teach for at least two academic years, but will also have at least two academic years with no teaching responsibilities (one of which is the first year in the program). Those who wish to teach during the summer can do so for an additional stipend (via The College of Liberal and Professional Studies LPS). Masters and M.Phil. students can apply to TA. In order to be a TA, it is first necessary to successfully complete our two-day TA training program, which is held shortly before the start of August classes. In addition, those who are not native speakers of English must first pass a test of spoken English. Each semester we have many more TA positions than we have Ph.D. students, and so others are hired as TAs. We give priority to our graduate students for these positions, before hiring others. Back to top.
My undergraduate institution does not use the 4.0 GPA scale. How should I enter my GPA into the application form?
Do not convert your GPA into a 4.0 scale. You should select "Other GPA Scale," which allows you to enter a number out of a total (____ out of ____). If your GPA was an 8.5 on a scale of 10, you would enter "8.5 out of 10." If your GPA was a 143 out of 200, then you would enter "143 out of 200."
How can I get answers to other questions?