Our graduate admissions process is highly selective. However, in keeping with our international character, we recognize that students from different backgrounds demonstrate high potential in a variety of ways. A score above the 90th percentile provides strong evidence of PhD-level ability; this indicator is neither necessary nor sufficient for admission, however, as the candidate’s full dossier is taken into account.
Students applying for entry into the PhD program are normally expected to have passed some advanced undergraduate or graduate courses or seminars in economic theory, and to have had extensive training in mathematics, statistics, and econometrics, as well as a working knowledge of computer programming.
Any well-qualified individual with a baccalaureate degree from a recognized college or university (or with equivalent education) may apply for admission to graduate Economics programs.
Applicants must take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test at least one month before the application deadline. The GRE Subject Tests are not required. The GRE is a major component in the admission decision. We do not accept the GMAT.
Although GRE scores are valid for five years, we prefer to receive scores no older than two years old, if possible. Please note, however, that we do not reject or in any way penalize an applicant for submitting GRE scores up to five years old. The ETS Institution Code for the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences is 3087. You do not need to specify a Department Code when requesting test scores be sent to the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
Proof of English proficiency is required of all international applicants by submitting official results of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) by the application deadline. This requirement is waived only if you have received, or expect to receive, an undergraduate or graduate degree from a college or university in any of the following countries prior to enrollment at Boston University: the United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, or Ireland. This waiver does not include undergraduate or graduate degrees earned from an institution in a country listed above while enrolled in a “dual degree” program with an institution in another country. Studying in the medium of English in a country other than the ones previously listed, or studying as an exchange student in an English-speaking country without completing a degree program, is not sufficient to waive the English proficiency requirement.
Applicants are urged to take the test at the earliest possible date, and at least 1 month before the application deadline; international applicants should sit for the TOEFL at least 2 months before the application date. Retaking the exam after further language training is acceptable, and later results will be substituted for earlier ones in the admissions dossier. TOEFL scores over 2 years old will not be accepted.
Minimum score requirements
If an applicant has taken the internet-based test, the scores on each individual section should be, at a minimum:
For the TOEFL paper-based test, applicants must achieve, at a minimum, a score of 550.
The Graduate School of Arts & Sciences requires that applicants meet the minimum requirements of each section on the internet-based test. The ETS Institution Code for the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences is 3087. In addition to the TOEFL, the IELTS is also accepted as proof of English proficiency. The IELTS minimum band score required is 7.0. US Citizens and Permanent Residents do not have to submit the TOEFL or IELTS. Applicants who do not meet the minimum requirements of English proficiency are not eligible for admission. There are no exceptions to this policy.
Please note that we will not review or evaluate incomplete applications, and we will not review or evaluate applications for candidates who did not pay the application fee. Applications must include all components. No component will be waived for any applicant. Such applications will be withdrawn and no admission decision will be made. We do not do pre-evaluations by email. Additionally, we do not accept late applications. There are no exceptions to these policies.
Materials to Submit
Please do not send any materials directly to the Economics Department.
Application form and application fee
Apply online at the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences website. Please use the online application; we no longer use paper applications.
2–3 months before application deadline:
- Contact recommenders; inform them that recommendations should be submitted weeks before deadline
- Contact ETS and request an official copy of your GRE results (TOEFL for international students)
- Contact all previous colleges/universities and request official transcripts
2–3 weeks before application deadline:
- Complete application and prepare to submit before deadline
- Contact any recommender who has not submitted a recommendation and request he/she do so before the deadline
Official transcripts are not required as part of the application. All applicants are required to upload unofficial transcripts directly to the online application. Transcripts that are sent directly to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences can not be added to your application.
If you are admitted, you will be required to send in official transcripts to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences from all colleges attended prior to matriculation in the Fall.
Three letters of recommendation
We require a minimum of 3 original letters of recommendation. We generally prefer academic letters; however, professional letters of recommendation are acceptable in the case of an applicant who has been away from student status for more than 2 years. Academic recommendation letters should be written by university instructors who have taught the applicant in 1 or more classes, or have another basis for knowing well the applicant’s academic aptitude.
Recommenders must submit an online recommendation. An email request will automatically be sent to your recommenders once you have saved an online recommendation. Please advise your recommender to look for this email in their inbox, as well as their spam or junk-mail folder, as emails do occasionally get filtered out.
Standardized test scores (GRE and TOEFL) should be sent to BU directly from ETS.
The ETS Institutional Code for the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences is 3087. You do not need to add a department code.
Personal statement/statement of purpose
Applicants to every degree program offered by the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences are required to submit a Personal Statement/Statement of Purpose of not fewer than 200 words. This statement must describe your qualifications and the objectives of your intended educational program at the Department of Economics. Additionally, applicants may submit a resume or CV with the personal statement. Writing samples are not required.
Additional forms required for international applicants only
When you apply:
Proof of English proficiency is required of all international applicants by submitting official results of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), as administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) by the application deadline. This requirement is waived only if you have received, or expect to receive, an undergraduate or graduate degree from a college or university in any of the following countries prior to enrollment at Boston University: the United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, or Ireland. This waiver does not include undergraduate or graduate degrees earned from an institution in a country listed above while enrolled in a “dual degree” program with an institution in another country. Studying in the medium of English in a country other than the ones previously listed, or studying as an exchange student in an English-speaking country without completing a degree program, is not sufficient to waive the English proficiency requirement.
All applicants are urged to take the test at the earliest possible date in order to verify their level of English competence, and at least one month before the application deadline. Retaking the exam after further language training is acceptable, and later results will be substituted for earlier ones in the admissions dossier. TOEFL scores over 2 years old will not be accepted.
Applicants who do not meet the minimum requirements of English proficiency are not eligible for admission. There are no exceptions to this policy.
Please review above for more information about the minimum recommended scores and submission of test scores.
Only if you are recommended for admission:
If you are an international student recommended for admission, you will be notified by the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences Admissions office to submit the following documents for student visa processing. You cannot be officially admitted until GRS receives and processes these documents.
- A completed, signed International Student Data Form or International Applicant Coversheet (available with the online application). Please note that this form cannot be emailed or faxed.
- A copy of the personal information page of your current passport.
- Copies of all current visas, if applicable.
- Financial support documentation (Sponsorship Certification Form and Bank Statement).
You must provide a bank statement or other appropriate evidence of financial support adequate to cover travel to and from Boston, and for tuition and living costs for at least 1 full year at Boston University. The estimate of expenses can be found on the International Students & Scholars website. Please note the minimum amount listed may be increased by up to 5% each academic year. Immigration regulations prohibit most international students from accepting any employment except University appointments during the first year of study in the United States.
Submit this documentation promptly to ensure sufficient time to process the student visa. It is strongly recommended that you send this documentation via express mail (DHL, FedEx, etc.) to the GRS Admissions office, as visa processing sometimes requires 2 months or more. It is not the policy of Boston University to send visa documents via express mail. Be sure to submit all required documentation for your visa as soon as reasonably possible so there is sufficient time for your visa documents to reach you through the regular mail. Once GRS processes these documents and notifies you that you have been officially admitted, they will let you know how you can request your visa documents be sent by express mail, but you must pay the cost of postage.
Please do not send any materials directly to the Economics Department.
Forms should be sent via postal mail to:
Graduate School of Arts & Sciences
705 Commonwealth Avenue, Suite 112
Boston, MA 02215 USA
To be considered for the Economics doctoral program, all applications must be complete and received by the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences by December 1.
Questions? Visit our PhD Admissions FAQs or visit the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences Admissions website.
To our Admitted Graduate Students: Please know that our priority during this challenging time is the well-being of our students and ensuring their ability to fulfill their academic program requirements. This applies to our current students as well as you, our incoming graduate students. Due to the growing impact of COVID-19, all prospective and accepted student days, interview days, and individual student visits will be moved to a virtual format.
We are also aware of the increasing concern around delayed visa appointments for our international students and delayed air travel for both our domestic and international students. Please be assured that we are currently working on alternative enrollment options for admitted students who are unable to make it to campus by the start of classes in September. You will be contacted via email with updates as they become available. Please be in touch if you have any questions or concerns.