Skip to content Skip to navigation

PhD Admission FAQ

Jump To:

General Information

Financial Support

Preparing for Admission

The Application Process

Educational History/Transcripts

TOEFL/GRE

Statements of Purpose

Letters of Recommendation

Additional Materials/Updates

General Information

How long does it take to get a PhD in Psychology at Stanford?

The PhD program is designed to be completed in five years of full-time study. Actual time will depend on students' prior background, progress, and research requirements. The minimum residency requirement for the PhD degree is 135 units of completed coursework and research units, which takes approximately four years. The fifth year is typically spent working on the dissertation.

What are the requirements for the PhD degree in Psychology?

Please consult the PhD Requirements page.

What are the different subfields within the graduate program in Psychology?

  • Affective Science
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Neuroscience
  • Social Psychology

What is the Department's teaching requirement?

PhD students must complete five quarters of teaching assistantships, working as a teaching assistant (TA) under the supervision of a faculty member. Students are required to attend a TA training workshop in their first and second years. In addition, students are encouraged to take advantage of department and university teacher training programs. Students for whom English is a second language are expected to acquire sufficient fluency in English. All international students must be approved by Stanford’s EFS department

Is there a standalone Master of Arts program in Psychology?

The Department of Psychology does not offer a terminal Master’s degree program. Current doctoral students within the Department or in another Stanford graduate program may apply to be awarded a Master of Arts in Psychology during the course of their PhD program.

Does your department have a program in Clinical Psychology? Are you accredited by the APA?

No. Our department does not have a program in Clinical Psychology. As such, we are not accredited by the APA.

Financial Support

What is the annual cost of attending your program?

Admitted graduates are fully funded for five years of study, including four summers. The funding package provides an income for students, full tuition coverage, and full health insurance coverage.

What type of financial support do you offer?

To date, the Department has been successful in providing full financial support for graduate students in the form of a living stipend, tuition, and health insurance, which is covered through spring quarter of their fifth year. Department financial aid assignments are made at the beginning of each academic year. Continued financial support is contingent on satisfactory academic progress. Students are encouraged to pursue fellowships offered by the University and by national organizations, such as the National Science Foundation.

Stanford University also offers the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program, designed to build a multidisciplinary community of Stanford graduate students dedicated to finding creative solutions to the world's greatest challenges. The program awards up to 100 high-achieving students every year with full funding to pursue graduate education at Stanford, including the PhD in Psychology. To be considered, you must apply to Knight-Hennessy Scholars and separately apply to the Psychology Department. Note that the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program application deadline is in the spring before the autumn application cycle.

Do you offer support for the summer months?

Yes, assistantships and/or fellowships are guaranteed during the summer months for first- through fourth-year students.

Preparing for Admission

When is the application deadline?

The tentative application deadline for matriculation in fall 2020 is December 3, 2019. We will update this website once this deadline has been confirmed. 

Am I eligible to apply if my undergraduate major is not in Psychology?

An undergraduate major in Psychology is not required; applicants from other backgrounds can apply and be admitted. All applicants should have sufficient foundational knowledge and research experience prior to the program to allow them to go straight into graduate-level coursework and conduct research.

If I have prior graduate work, can it be transferred to the PhD program?

No, the Department of Psychology does not allow the transfer of unit credits from your previous program.

What is the admissions committee's expectations of prospective students?

Admission to our program is highly competitive. About 10-15 admits enter the program each year and are chosen from a pool of approximately 600 applicants. These students are selected on the basis of a strong academic background as demonstrated by previous coursework, test scores, research experience, and letters of recommendation. Please be assured that the Department reviews each application very carefully and makes decisions on an individual basis.

The Application Process

How do I apply?

Please visit the PhD Admissions page for instructions on how to apply to the Psychology PhD Program, graduate application requirements, and the link to the online application. 

Is there an application fee? If so, can I apply for a fee waiver?

The fee to apply for graduate study at Stanford is $125. Acceptable form of payment is by credit/debit card (Visa or MasterCard only). We do not accept electronic check payments or checks by mail. The fee is non-refundable and must be received by the application deadline. If you believe you qualify for a fee waiver, please visit Stanford's page about graduate fee waivers to review the requirements.

Can I submit another application to a different department within the University?

You may only apply to one degree program per academic year. However, you may apply concurrently to one departmental program and to a professional school program (law, medicine, or business).

Which faculty are accepting new students this year?

All active faculty are potentially accepting new students each year. In your application, we ask you to list the top 3 faculty that you are most interested in working with. Your application will be reviewed in full by multiple readers regardless of who you list.

My institution does not report GPAs on a 4.0 grading scale. How should I report my GPA on the application?

Please do not convert your GPA to a 4.0 grading scale. You should enter “0.00” for the GPA and use the “Unconverted GPA” and “Unconverted GPA System” fields instead. A link to detailed instructions for reporting GPA is located near these fields on the application.

I attended multiple undergraduate institutions. In what order should I list them on the application?

The institution where you earned or expect to earn your Bachelor's degree should be listed as "Post-Secondary Institution 1." The remaining institutions don’t have to follow a particular order. List all institutions that were attended for at least one full academic year. Please note that you must submit a transcript for all courses taken towards your undergraduate degree, including those from your nonprimary institutions.

When should I submit my transcripts if my degree will still be in progress at the time of the application deadline?

The most current version of your unofficial transcript must be submitted as part of your electronic application due December 3, even if the grades from your fall term are not available. The absence of these grades will have no impact on the review of your application. If you are admitted and enrolled, we will ask you to submit your final transcript showing all grades and proof of degree conferral.

Should I submit official transcripts?

At the time of your initial application, please only submit your unofficial transcripts as part of your electronic application. A short list of applicants who move forward to the next stage of the review process will be contacted with instructions for submitting official transcripts at a later stage. 

Do you have a minimum GPA score?

We do not require applicants to have a minimum GPA for consideration, and we do not release information about the average GPAs of accepted students. As a guideline, successful applicants typically earn undergraduate cumulative GPAs among the top of their class. However, please keep in mind that admission to our graduate program depends on a combination of factors, and all areas of a student’s application are weighed similarly when applications are reviewed. If our research areas meet your educational goals, we encourage you to submit an application. 

May I contact the faculty directly during the application process?

Applicants are not prohibited from reaching out to faculty directly during the application cycle. However, please understand that our faculty are extremely busy, and it is quite possible that you will receive either a very short response or no response at all. This does not mean the faculty are not interested in your application. All applications will be read and reviewed in full during the formal review process. Note that per Department policy, all faculty are potentially accepting graduate students in any given cycle, so you do not need to contact faculty in advance to see if that specific mentor is accepting students for the coming year.

Can I meet with Department staff either by phone or email before I apply to discuss my application materials or ask general questions about the program?

No, the Department staff do not have meetings with or provide individualized advising for propsective applicants. Please understand that this is a matter of bandwidth and equatibility. We do not have the ability to offer these services to all interested applicants, so we do not offer them at all. By Department policy, our staff do not provide any evaluative feedback on prospective applicants' materials, so please do not contact us with CVs, academic histories, etc to request feedback or ask about odds for acceptance. For support in crafting your application, we recommend that you turn to your existing network of mentors (eg, your letter writers) and/or the resources offered by your current or prior academic institution(s).

TOEFL/GRE

Is the general GRE required? Is the subject GRE required?

No! The Stanford Psychology PhD program does not require the general GRE or the subject GRE. We will not be collecting any information related to GRE exam scores on the application. Please do not submit GRE scores to Stanford for our program. 

When should I take the TOEFL?

For non-native English speakers, the TOEFL must be taken by the graduate application deadline.I am an international student currently enrolled in a degree program in the U.S. Do I need to submit a TOEFL score?

The TOEFL score requirements are waived for international students who have received a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree from an institution in the United States or another English-speaking country. Therefore, applicants with these degrees from the U.S., Australia, Canada (except Quebec), New Zealand, Singapore, Ireland, and the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales) are exempt from taking the TOEFL and do not need to submit the TOEFL waiver request form.

What is the minimum TOEFL score required for admission?

Please visit the website of Stanford's Office of Graduate Admissions for more information on the University’s minimum requirements.

If my TOEFL score falls below the University’s minimum, am I still eligible to apply?

Yes, you may still apply. If your TOEFL scores fall below the University's minimum requirements and you are admitted, Stanford may require you to take an English placement exam and/or English classes.

May I submit the IELTS instead of the TOEFL to demonstrate English proficiency?

The IELTS is not accepted at Stanford University; only the TOEFL is accepted to provide proof of proficiency in English.

How do I request a TOEFL exemption or waiver?

For all questions related to TOEFL exemptions or waivers please refer to the website of Stanford’s Office of Graduate Admissions. Please note that the central office makes all final decisions regarding TOEFL waivers; the Department of Psychology is not involved in the approval of TOEFL waivers.

How do I check the status of my TOEFL scores?

Log in to your application account. It may take up to two weeks after submitting your application or sending the scores (whichever occurs later) for your official scores to show as received. Processing may be delayed or halted if the name or birthdate on the score report does not exactly match the information on your application.

Why does my TOEFL status show as “Not Applicable” even though I submitted a TOEFL score?

This may be because you listed English as your first language in the application. Please note that “first language” refers to your native language.

Is there a department code for ETS to use in order to send in my scores?

No, there are no individual department code. Use the Stanford University score recipient code 4704 to send your TOEFL scores.

Statements of Purpose

How long should my statement of purpose be?

We strongly recommend that your statement of purpose be around two pages in length.

What should I include in my statement of purpose?

Please consult the Stanford Graduate Admissions FAQ page for more information on the Statement of Purpose.

Letters of Recommendation

How many recommendations do I need and who should I ask to be my recommenders?

Applicants need three recommendations from faculty or others qualified to evaluate your potential for graduate study. At least one evaluation and letter should be from a faculty member at the last school you attended as a full-time student (unless you have been out of school for more than five years). Substitutions for faculty recommendations may include work associates or others who can comment on your academic potential for graduate work.

My recommender will not be able to submit his/her letter by the application deadline. Will my application still be considered?

Letters of recommendation must be submitted by the application deadline. As such, we strongly encourage you to contact your recommenders directly to remind them of our deadline. If your recommender misses the deadline, please contact psych-admissions@stanford.edu. Depending on the circumstances, Department staff may collect the letter via email and forward it to the faculty to add to your file. That said, the program expects applicants to do everything possible to ensure that letters are submitted on time via the secure online system.

Can my recommenders submit their letters via email or fax?

No; recommenders must submit their letters via Stanford’s online recommender system.

My recommenders are having technical difficulties with the online letters of recommendation process. Who should they contact?

Should any of your recommenders experience technical difficulties with the online letters of recommendation process, please refer them to our application database provider's letters of recommendation help page or have them submit a Help Request Form directly to our application database provider.

Additional Materials/Updates

I realized I made a mistake on my application and/or uploaded the wrong version of my documents. What do I do?

Depending on the timing and the nature of the error, our staff may be able to correct your application. Please send an email to psych-admissions@stanford.edu. Include your full name, a complete description of the error, and attach the correct version of the file (if applicable). The Department reserves the right to decline to update your application after the deadline has passed. Requests will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

If you need to change your recommenders, please use the Activity Status Page. (Note: The order of recommenders cannot be changed.)

May I submit a resume/CV, list of publications, etc. as part of my application?

Applicants are permitted to upload one additional document to the online application, under the “Document Uploads” section.

Is there an interview process? 

Yes, our faculty interview prospective students before making final admission decisions. Some interviews may be conducted by Skype or phone; a small set of finalists will be invited to campus for in-person interviews. 

When are the on-campus interviews?

Our on-campus interview weekend for students matriculating in autumn 2020 is tentatively scheduled for February 20 -22, 2020.

When can I expect to find out the decision on my application?

The Department of Psychology aims to issue all offers of admission to PhD degree applicants by the end of March. Reapplying applicants who were previously not admitted are welcome to reapply if they can demonstrate significant progress made since they last applied. However, all documents must be resubmitted with a new application. We do not keep records from past applications.

I still have questions!

If you have questions that are not answered on this page or the Stanford Graduate Admissions FAQ page, please email psych-admissions@stanford.edu.

Please note that if your questions are already covered on this page, your email may not receive a response. Note that our Department staff are experts on the logistics and administration of the application, but do not answer questions related to research topics or faculty fit. Per Department policy, Department staff will not offer any evaluative feedback on application materials or applicants' academic background. Unfortunately, due to the extremely high volume of inquiries, we cannot provide individual status updates for applicants at any point in the process.