The PhD Program: Frequently Asked Questions
Background and Program Choice
Financial Aid and Related Matters
Graduate Exams and Scores
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:
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 2 to be considered for our doctoral program.
When will I hear from BU?
All students who have completed files by January 2 will receive information about their admissions status by April 15th for the doctoral program. Applicants who complete their applications after January 2 will receive information about their admissions status at a later time.
What are the possible outcomes of my application to BU?
We receive far more applications than we have spots in our first year class. Therefore, most applicants cannot be accepted. We also receive many more applications for financial aid than the number of first year fellowships that we presently have. Therefore most students cannot be offered financial aid. When you receive your decision letter, you will be placed in one of five admissions categories:
Accepted with fellowship support
Accepted without support, but with a position on the fellowship support waiting list
Accepted, but without fellowship support
Placed on a waiting list for later possible acceptance
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.
What type of financial aid awards are made by your program in the first year and in subsequent years?
The BU economics department offers a limited number merit based fellowships for graduate study to selected first year students. These awards carry a yearly stipend of $19,300*, student health insurance, and a full tuition scholarship (Full time graduate tuition is over $39,508 for the 2010-11 academic year). There are no teaching responsibilities for first year fellowship students.
The BU economics department offers a variety of fellowship, teaching assistant, research assistant and other support to advanced students. Most support includes some teaching responsibilities, since the department views the training of educators and researchers as core (and complementary) parts of its mission.
Unlike some other universities, BU does not offer tuition scholarships to students other than those which are part of fellowships and assistantships. The department does not hire first year students.
*Numbers based on 2011/2012 stipend and tuition.
What information will enhance my application for financial support? Is financial support based on student need?
We look for solid quantitative and theoretical training, strong academic performance, excellent GRE scores, and strong letters of recommendation. The competition for financial aid is very keen, especially when over 600 applications are received each year. All applicants to the PhD program who ask to be considered for aid are reviewed for financial support.
In contrast to financial support at the undergraduate level, support for study at the PhD level is entirely merit based and not based on the economic circumstances of students or their parents.
Do you offer financial aid to international students?
No distinction is made between domestic or international candidates. All applicants who wish to be considered for financial aid and submit a complete application by the January 2 deadline will be considered.
What fraction of students is typically supported by the Economics Department in the first year of PhD studies?
The department offers about 8 fellowships to first year students, with a first-year class averaging about 30 students.
Do individual faculty members offer financial assistance to incoming students?
In contrast to universities in Europe and elsewhere in the world, faculty at U.S. 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.
Do individual faculty members offer financial support to advanced students?
Individual faculty members do provide support for advanced students who work as research assistants.
Contacting the director of graduate admissions
Is it useful for me to contact the director of graduate admissions (currently Simon Gilchrist) 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 (currently Barton Lipman)?
If you have questions concerning the structure of the PhD program, please send an email to email@example.com.
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.
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?
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.
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*
*The GRS Policy requires that applicants meet the minimumrequirements of each section on the internet – based test.
I am interested in financial economics. How does the program work at University?
The Economics Department is offering a newly strengthened concentration in financial economics, which utilizes advanced financial economics courses offered by the School of Management. There are three courses within this field area. Each Fall, FE 918 (Finance I) is offered. In the spring semester, the offering alternates in consecutive years between FE 919 (Advanced Asset Pricing) and FE 920 (Pricing of Derivative Securities). Jerome DeTemple and a number of members of the School of Management’s Finance and Economics department will be faculty affiliates of the Economics Department starting 2004-2005: they will participate in the recruiting, selection, education, and thesis advising for students working in financial economics.
Boston University’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics also has a strong research and teaching presence in this area. It offers a Master of Arts Degree in financial mathematics (http://www.bu.edu/mathfn/) and has an active finance and stochastics seminar.
Students working on a PhD degree with a concentration in financial economics take the standard set of core courses in their first year of study.
*For applicants who are interested in the concentration of “Financial Economics”, please indicate in the field of “Specialization” in your application form.
The GEA assists students in the graduate program in economics and provides peer resources on a variety of topics.