Frequently Asked Questions for PhD Application
For more information on all graduate programs at MIT, application deadlines and requirements, costs and funding, you may visit this page MIT Graduate Admissions.
Do you offer a master’s degree?
No, we only offer a Ph.D.
How do I apply?
The application website will be available on September 15 for students who wish to apply to enter the graduate program the following September. The deadline for submitting completed applications is December 15th. You may find the application link in the 'Online Application' tab.
Mailing address (for official transcripts only)
Graduate Admissions Office
Department of Economics
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
77 Massachusetts Avenue, E52-301
Cambridge, MA 02139
All application requirements must be received by the online application deadline.
When is the application deadline?
The Department of Economics must receive all application materials no later than December 15th for next year's fall matriculation.
May I use MIT’s graduate application?
No, the Department of Economics has its own online application.
Can the application fee be waived or deferred?
All eligible applicants requesting fee waivers should complete this form and provide requested documentation. Please review carefully the eligibility criteria on the form prior to applying. A representative in the ODGE office will notify you about the outcome of your request. If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail us at email@example.com.
I applied last year; how can I reapply?
You should fill out a completely new online application. Please indicate that you applied earlier by checking the appropriate box. In order for your materials to be re-reviewed, you must provide at least one new recommendation letter as well as the standard application forms, transcripts, etc. The application fee is NOT waived for applicants who are re-applying.
May I attach supplemental materials?
The new online application system allows applicants to provide a URL for web-based supplemental documents such as a CV or resume, full text or abstracts of an important paper or published article, etc. Some applicants have provided a link to their personal web page, others to a file-sharing account from a free online file sharing provider. Applicants should be judicious in their choice of supplemental documents. In most cases a CV and/or published papers are the documents committee members will review. In the Supplemental Materials section of the application, the larger field allows applicants to enter more than one URL with comments or labels (URLs will not be live links but can be copied and pasted into a browser). The smaller box allows only one URL without explanatory text, but it will appear as a live link for committee members. You can use either or both boxes. Do not mail or email supplemental materials to the department offices.
What degree do I need to apply? Must my undergraduate coursework be in economics? A bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) is required. It is not essential that the bachelor’s degree be in economics, but some preparation in undergraduate economics, especially in economic theory, is a necessity, as is a working knowledge of calculus.
Can I apply if I already have another PhD or doctoral degree? Yes. Applicants who already have a doctoral degree have been admitted in the past. You should provide all documents required for the graduate application, including valid GRE scores.
Is it required or recommended that I complete any specific undergraduate coursework?
No specific coursework is required. Some students come to us after finishing master’s degrees in economics, some come from undergraduate economics program, and some have degrees in another field. What we look for depends on the student’s background. Successful candidates whose prior background is primarily in economics have typically excelled in advanced undergraduate or graduate courses and taken math at least through linear algebra. Many have taken real analysis or some other advanced proof-oriented course, though this is not necessary. For candidates who were not economics concentrators we look for evidence of exceptional performance in their prior field of study, strong technical skills, and some economics background. It would be unusual for us to accept a student who has not taken intermediate microeconomics.
May I apply to other departments or programs outside of the Economics department?
Yes, but keep in mind that the applications are independent of each other. We do not share supporting materials, and separate fee is required for each application.
Can I visit your department or contact faculty before being admitted?
No. Official department visits, including faculty meetings, are arranged after students have been admitted. However, you are more than welcome to arrange a tour of the MIT campus through the MIT Information Center.
Whom do I contact if I have questions about the application process?
Please inquire via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can you give me an idea of my chances for admission, based on GRE scores or Class Rank, for example?
We can make no preliminary evaluation based on one or two qualifications. The Admissions Committee carefully reviews the entire application (recommendations, essay, grades, test scores, previous experience, etc.) in making its decisions. The Department looks for academic and research potential, focusing primarily on coursework, grades and letters of recommendation.
Will the Department keep me informed of my application status?
We do not routinely acknowledge receipt of applications or supporting documents. Once you have submitted an online application you may go back in and check the status of your application and recommendations. Decisions will be communicated via email and letter. Information about decisions will not be given over the phone.
When can I expect to be notified about an admission decision?
Most notices of acceptance are sent out by end of February, although some may be sent as late as mid-March; candidates have until noon on April 15th to notify the Department of their decision to accept or reject their offer of admission.
Can an applicant who was not accepted into the program request information as to why they were not accepted?
Due to the large volume of qualified applicants to the Economics graduate program and the small number of students accepted, we are unable to give specifics as to why an application was denied.
How many applications does the department receive each year, and how many applicants are admitted?
The Department receives, on average, about 800 applications each year. About 40 students are admitted, and 20-22 matriculate.
What portion of graduate students are international? Are there any special considerations or requirements for international applications?
A significant portion, usually about half, of admitted students are international. No, there are no special considerations or requirements for those applications.
How long does it take to complete the PhD program?
The duration varies depending on the individual, but on average the program is completed in five years, with the first two years spent on required coursework and the latter three devoted to field research and dissertation writing.
May I transfer credits from another master's or PhD program I have attended?
No, we do not accept transfer credits. However, the Department offers a system of waiver exams for Micro Theory, Macro Theory, and Statistics.
Is an accepted student allowed to defer?
Deferrals are handled on an individual basis. The maximum deferral granted is two years. Funding offers may not be deferred.
Do you offer a distance learning degree, a part-time degree program, or part-time non-degree study?
We offer neither a distance learning degree nor a part-time degree program. Part-time non-degree study is considered “Special Student status” at MIT and is overseen by the Graduate Admissions Office. Please see their website for more information.
How should I send my transcripts?
Please upload transcripts to your online application to facilitate a prompt review of your application. Uploaded transcripts are considered unofficial, since they are opened by the student. If your transcript is in a language other than English, please upload only an English translation (to reduce file size. This can be your own unofficial translation). Even if courses taken at one institution are recorded on another college’s transcript, transcripts must be submitted from the institution at which the courses were taken. We don't require original official transcripts until after a student has been admitted to the department. If you're admitted to the program, we'll require you to have an official copy of your transcript(s) sent to us from the university's registrar. Your transcript will be verified upon receipt and any discrepancy between the transcript you uploaded and the official transcript will result in a withdrawal of our offer of admission.
Do I have to fill out the "Subjects Taken Form" on the application?
Yes, this section is required. We see transcripts from thousands of schools from all over the world. It is extremely helpful for us to review applicants' coursework, textbooks used and grades in a standard format. If you need more space than is provided in the initial Subjects Taken page, click the 'save' button, exit and re-enter the page, and you will be provided with additional lines on the form.
Is a minimum GPA required to apply?
Since many schools do not calculate GPAs, we do not impose a set minimum. However, the applicant pool is academically strong and extremely competitive.
May I submit more than three letters of recommendation?
Yes, the online system will allow you to submit more than three letters of recommendation. Due to the volume of materials that result from more than 800 applications, please submit a fourth letter only if it provides information that is significantly different from the content of the required three.
Is the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) mandatory?
Only the GRE general exam is required for admission to the department. You also have the option of taking the optional subject/advanced section in your undergraduate major in addition to the general exam if you feel it will give the Admissions Committee more insight into your qualifications. GRE scores are valid for 5 years.
How do I report my GRE scores/What are the reporting codes?
Your online application will require you to attach a scanned copy of your test scores (or if you do not receive your copy of the score report before submitting your application, you may upload a screen shot of the scores provided on the ETS website). An official GRE score report must also be sent directly to MIT from ETS. MIT's school code for the GRE is 3514. The code for the Department of Economics MIT is 1801.
When is the last date I can take the GRE?
Because ETS takes 2-3 weeks to report scores, applicants are expected to take the GREs by November 30 to allow for proper reporting time. Applications will not be reviewed until your scores are received.
What is the minimum score for the GRE?
There is no minimum score for the GRE. However, admission to our program is highly competitive; our admissions committee is most interested in applicants with the highest quantitative scores.
Who is required to take the TOEFL or IELTS?
International students whose first language is not English are required to submit either TOEFL or IELTS scores (not both, but MIT prefers IELTS). U.S. citizens and Permanent Residents do not take IELTS or TOEFL. The Economics Department will waive the TOEFL or IELTS requirement for international non-native speakers of English who have spent four or more years studying in an accredited school or university where English is the language of instruction. If you fulfill this criteria, you will have the option to request to waive the TOEFL/IELTS test on the online application, under the section 'Test Scores'. TOEFL and IELTS scores are valid for two years. Scores that expire while an application is under review will be considered valid.
How do I report my TOEFL or IELTS scores/What are the reporting codes?
Your online application will require you to attach a scanned copy of your test scores. TOEFL or IELTS scores must also be sent directly to MIT from ETS. MIT's school code for the TOEFL is 3514. The TOEFL code for the Department of Economics at MIT is 84. IELTS does not require a code. Please enter "MASSACHUSETTS Institute of Technology-Graduate Admissions". No address is required as scores are reported electronically.
When is the last date I can take the TOEFL or IELTS?
Applicants are expected to take the TOEFL or IELTS by November 30th to allow for proper reporting time. If your score report arrives shortly after the deadline it will be accepted, but applications may not be reviewed until the scores are received.
What is the minimum requirement for the TOEFL?
What is the minimum requirement for the IELTS?
The minimum requirement is 7.
Does the program offer financial aid? Are international students eligible?
Yes, financial aid is offered, and international students are eligible. Scholarship offers include full tuition for the academic year, twelve-month individual health insurance, and a stipend/salary to cover living expenses for the nine-month academic year. Continuation of financial aid for years two through five is dependent on satisfactory academic progress. In the third through fifth year, financial aid typically takes the form of a Teaching or Research Assistantship.
What if I have some partial outside funding?
Such situations are dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Generally, if the Department can offer financial support it will offer a supplement to bring a student’s funding up to the equivalent of our full scholarship offer. Having outside funding does not guarantee admittance to the program.
Does my stipend cover health insurance?
Your mandatory health insurance fee is covered by your award (and is not taken out of your stipend) and includes Accident and Hospitalization Insurance. You will receive this insurance unless you can demonstrate that you have equivalent insurance through another source, in which case you must complete a waiver form available at MIT Medical.
Does the Economics department fund all graduate students?
No, the department does not have sufficient financial resources to fund all admitted graduate students. We admit some qualified applicants without providing them with funding. We hope that students in this situation are able to find other funding sources, but recognize that unfortunately this sometimes does not happen.