The PhD Program: Frequently Asked Questions

Application Information
Application Deadlines
Application Decisions
Background and Program Choice
Financial Aid and Related Matters
Contacting Faculty
Graduate Exams and Scores
Student Organizations

Application information

How can I get an application?

All applications are now online. You can apply to our doctoral program by going here:

For more information about the online application process, you should contact the Graduate Admissions Office at:


Admissions Office
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
Boston University
705 Commonwealth Avenue, Suite 112
Boston, MA 02215

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Application Deadlines

What is the deadline for applications to be submitted?

All applications must be complete and received by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences by January 5 to be considered for our doctoral program.

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Application Decisions

When will I hear from BU?

All students who have completed files by January 5 will receive information about their admissions status by April 15th for the doctoral program. Applicants who complete their applications after January 5 will receive information about their admissions status at a later time.


What are the possible outcomes of my application to BU?

All admitted students are offered five years of fellowship support, which means we cannot accept more than a certain number of applicants. We receive far more applications than we have spots in our first year class. Therefore, most applicants cannot be accepted. When you receive your decision letter, you will be placed in one of three admissions categories:

  • Accepted with fellowship support
  • Placed on a waiting list for later possible acceptance
  • Not accepted

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Background and Program Choice

What if I have only a BA (or other undergraduate) degree? Can I still apply for the PhD program?

Yes. Apply for the post-bachelor’s PhD program (called MAPE/PhD).


What are the basic math requirements/recommendations?

3 semesters of calculus; linear algebra, knowledge of mathematical statistics and probability theory; knowledge of differential equations. Real analysis is also very helpful. Familiarity with computer programming is also valuable, but not essential.


What are the most important characteristics that you look for in an applicant to the PhD program?

The entire application is reviewed and considered. All components of the application – including quality of preparation, courses taken and grades received, letters of recommendation, work experience related to economics, the personal statement and GRE test scores – are all important to the admission committee.

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Financial Aid and Related Matters

Please see PhD Program Financial Aid for more information.

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Contacting Faculty

Contacting the director of graduate admissions

Is it useful for me to contact the director of graduate admissions concerning my application?

If you want to alert the director of graduate admissions and the graduate admissions committee of some information relevant to your application, please send an email to

This material will be placed in your file, where it will be reviewed by our faculty. However, in view of the large number of applications to the graduate program (close to 800 last year), it is not possible for us to provide responses to all individual emails.


Contacting the director of the graduate program

If I have questions concerning the graduate program and its requirements, should I contact the director of the graduate program?

If you have questions concerning the structure of the PhD program, please send an email to


Contacting other economics faculty

Is it useful for me to contact individual faculty concerning my application or financial support during the application process?

In general, at US institutions, individual faculty do not play an important role in the admissions process, so that emails to them are not encouraged. If your faculty advisor emails a member of the BU faculty concerning your application, perhaps attaching a copy of an application letter, then this may be valuable in some cases.

In contrast to universities in Europe and elsewhere in the world, faculty at US economics department do not directly hire assistants at the start of the PhD program, but rather the department provides financial aid to outstanding students without requiring an attachment to a specific faculty member or research group. For this reason, it is not useful for you to contact specific faculty members to inquire about potential support.

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Graduate Exams and Scores

ETS institution Code: The ETS Institutional code for the School of Arts and Sciences is “3087″. You do not need to add a department code.



Will you accept the GMAT in place of the GRE?
NO. You must submit the GRE exam report.


GRE scores

The GRE is a major component in the admission decision and is especially crucial for those applying for financial support. GRE scores are valid for two years. Thus, for applicants for Fall 2012, only GRE scores taken in 2010 and 2011 are valid.


TOEFL scores

The TOEFL minimum requirements are listed below:

Official results of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), as administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), are required of international applicants whose native language is not English. Unless otherwise required by the department/program, the minimum score requirement is 213 (computer-based test) or 550 (paper-based test).  The minimum score requirements  for the internet-based test are listed below**. This requirement is waived only if an applicant has received, or expects to receive, an undergraduate or graduate degree from a college or university in any of the following countries prior to enrollment in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences: The United States of America, Canada, The United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand.  [U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents do not have to submit the TOEFL or IELTS]

** If an applicant has taken the new internet-based test, the scores on the individual sections should be, at a minimum, the following:

Reading – 21*
Listening – 18*
Speaking – 23*
Writing – 22*

*The GRS Policy requires that applicants meet the minimum requirements of each section on the internet – based test.

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Student Organizations

Graduate Economics Association (GEA)

The GEA assists students in the graduate program in economics and provides peer resources on a variety of topics.

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