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The on-line system for graduate applications for the next academic year opens in mid September from the Office of Graduate Admissions.  The department only admits students for the fall quarter of each year. 

When deciding whether to apply or not, you should be aware of how competitive the process is. The GRE exam is required and successful applicants have scores above the 94th percentile on the quantitative GRE, and received excellent grades in economics and math courses during their previous studies.


Admission and financial aid decisions are made by the Admissions Committee of the Department in March of each year for the class which will enter the following September. The 2018-2019 application schedule for the Department of Economics:

  • Mid September, 2018 - on line application system opens for Fall 2019 applicants
  • September 12, 2018:Knight-Hennessy Scholars program deadline (additional application process-see below)
  • November 14, 2018: deadline for Knight-Hennessy Scholars applicants to submit Economics Department application
  • December 4, 2018 (midnight EST): on-line applications due in the Department of Economics for all other applicants
  • Mid February, 2019: Knight-Henessy Scholars notified of admission
  • Feb. 28-March 4, 2019: Admissions decisions sent for all other applicants - check status page in ApplyWeb
  • April 4: Admitted students fly-out
  • April 15, 2018: Economics Department must be informed of student decisions
  • Late-Aug: Required arrival for newly admitted Ph.D students


General Stanford graduate admissions information can be found at the Office of Graduate Admissions.

On-line Application:  Application forms cannot be downloaded.  You must apply on-line via Office of Graduate Admissions

2018-2019 Application Fee:  $125 (subject to change).

Please send any mailed supporting materials (ie. updated transcripts) for the application which have not been uploaded to:

Department of Economics
Graduate Admissions Committee 
579 Serra Mall
Stanford University 
Stanford, CA 94305-6072 

For specific questions about the graduate economic program:

Advice to Prospective Applicants

Two general criteria govern the evaluation of your application: Do you have an interest and talent for economic research? Have you demonstrated success in formal reasoning? The admissions committee considers evidence that you can deal successfully with the technical material that is heavily emphasized in the core curriculum, and that you will produce high-quality independent research later in the program.

Applicants are not required to have been undergraduate economics majors, but most successful applicants have some preparation in economics beyond the introductory level. All successful applicants have training in formal, technical reasoning. 
Your application governs the admission decision. Occasionally the committee seeks additional information beyond the application package, but you should pay close attention to providing all the relevant information in that package. We do not interview applicants. 
We do not use any mechanical formulas to evaluate your application. We do not reject an application because of failing to meet any simple criterion, such as the quantitative GRE score or a grade-point average. We do require some exposure to and success in economics courses, a high level of performance in mathematics courses beyond calculus, and demonstrated ability in spoken and written English.
Transcripts of your results from earlier college- or graduate-level study are a key component of your application. In addition to submitting official transcripts, we ask you to self-report on your training in econometrics, mathematics, probability, and statistics. Your application should include a description of the material covered in these advanced courses and you should help us understand the marking system, preferably by explaining where your mark stands in the frequency distribution of marks in the course.   The course preparation spreadsheet is contained in the on-line application, but if you have any issues completing the online verions, you may use this   Course Preparation Spreedsheet to report your relevant training.  Save the spreadsheet as a pdf and upload to your application as a writing sample.  
We consider all aspect of your earlier performance, with particular emphasis on challenging, advanced courses. A large fraction of applicants demonstrate their skills in math by taking a non-introductory course in real analysis and receiving a high mark. 
If you took advanced economics or math in secondary school, not covered in your transcripts, include a description of the courses and your performance. Similarly, if you have been in a program that integrates advanced math with economics into a course called something like “math for economists”, let us know. 
One very important point about grades: if you took any economics, math, probability, or statistics courses in the fall term when you are applying, you must email us the results as soon as grades are available in January. This need not be official—just identify the courses, the subjects, your grades, and how to interpret the grades. 
Your application will contain results from the Graduate Record Examinations. Most successful applications score above the 95th percentile on the quantitative exam, but this is not a fixed requirement. We consider GRE results in evaluating your skills in English, along with the TOEFL if you take it. 
The third major component of your application is a set of three letters of recommendation. We use these almost entirely to evaluate your economics and mathematical skills—we give weight to those that are based on your work in a course taught by the letter-writer, over those written by employers, department chairs who were not your instructors, deans, or government officials. At least one of your letters should come from an instructor who has a PhD in economics. We give at least as much weight to letters from young instructors as we do to senior ones. Ask your letter-writers to tell us whether you belong at Stanford, rather than at PhD programs in general. Letters can be short. Here is a hypothetical example of the kind of letter we find most informative:
“I received my PhD in economics from the University of California, Sacramento, in 2007. I am familiar with Stanford’s PhD program and I believe this candidate will place in the upper third of her class at Stanford, based on her performance in my class. In that class, we covered chapters 7 through 20 of Mas-Colell, Whinston, and Green, with weekly problem sets and two examinations. She scored second in a class of 11. She was an enthusiastic participant in class and took part in insightful conversations in office hours. Though not a native speaker, her English skills are excellent. I have taken her on as adviser of her undergraduate thesis. My department is recommending three candidates to Stanford this year. According to our consensus, she is just below the top one and well ahead of the third.” 
Here is an example of a letter we would give less weight to:
“I strongly recommend the candidate for graduate study. I employed him for two years as an RA at the Folsom Research Institute. He is a diligent worker—one of the best RAs I have ever had. He willingly spent hours of overtime coding my analysis of the Survey of Income Program Participants. He is a thoroughly pleasant person to work with. He should be a success in any line of work he pursues in the future.”
Recommendation letters may be sent directly to the department if your recommenders do not want to upload their letters in the on-line application system.  They can be sent by postal mail, or as email attachments.
You may include other materials that you think would help our evaluation. Many applicants include research papers. We find it challenging to include them in our deliberations, however, so you should not expect a research paper to substitute for the other materials in your application.
We work hard to ensure that applicants with heterogeneous backgrounds receive careful review by the committee. Applicants from institutions that channel few graduates into PhD programs are welcome to apply and we give them the most serious consideration. We have grown the fraction of women in our PhD program in recent years and hope to continue on that track. And we are particularly thorough in our evaluation of minority applicants and our efforts to attract them.
The Department receives more than 700 applications per year, and approximately 50 are admitted. The entering class usually comprises 25 students. On average, approximately half of the admitted students are international.  
The department will consider proposals for admission deferral on their merits, but does not grant one automatically. Applicants should plan to begin their studies in September of the year in which they are accepted. 
In addition to uploading scanned copies of your transcripts, you need to arrange to have one official transcript (two if hard copy) sent to the department from the post-secondary institutions attended for at least one academic year as a full-time student. An official transcript is one that is received directly from the issuing institution that bears the official seal and signature of the institution, certifying its validity.
It's ok if your official transcripts reach our office after the application deadline, as long as unofficial copies have been uploaded with your application.  Updated transcripts with fall quarter/semester grades may be sent after the deadline, but must be received by January 15 for the new grades to be considered.  Official electronic transcripts are accepted and should be sent to
Detailed transcript information, including International Academic requirements, can be found at

Test Scores

GRE - a current GRE score is required of all applicants.  We will consider your highest score on each section of the exam if multiple test scores are submitted.
TOEFL - Success in the program requires outstanding skills in speaking and writing English. Foreign applicants whose native language is not English are required to take the iBT TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). This examination should be taken no later than October and preferably earlier. We do not ask for TOEFL scores from applicants who have received a degree from a post-secondary institution where instruction was given in English .  Additional information on international applicant academic credentials can be found here: 
The GRE and TOEFL test results should be submitted by the Educational Testing Service. You may provide self-reported results with your application, but final decisions on admission will not be made without the official scores from the testing service. Applicants should take all required exams no later than November for score reports to be received by our application deadline.  The department will accept unofficial score reports received by the application deadline to keep your file active while waiting for official scores to arrive from ETS, in the event that there is a delay in receiving the official scores from ETS.

Transfer Credit

The Department does not accept the transfer of previous graduate work toward fulfilling degree requirements. However, students with previous graduate work may be able to count some of their previous course credits toward the university residency (unit) requirement, thus reducing the time required for the Ph.D. degree.  

Financial Assistance

The Department of Economics expects prospective applicants to apply for any external funding for which they are eligible, and especially for U.S. citizens to apply for the National Science Foundation's graduate fellowships in economics. NSFs are awarded on a geographical basis, and you may wish to use a home address rather than a school address on your application to increase your chances of receiving this award, if your school is in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, or another state with high density of PhD applicants. Information on the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program can be found at the NSF website: Information on the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program can be found at the NSF website: Information on the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program can be found at the NSF website: NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program

Other Notes

Although we accept writing samples of up to 10 pages, we do not require a writing sample. We ask that you upload your summary of course work using the facility for uploading writing samples.

Knight-Hennessy Scholars 

The Knight-Hennessy Scholars program awards up to 100 high-achieving students every year with full funding to pursue a graduate education at Stanford, including the PhD in Economics. To be considered, you must apply to Knight-Hennessy Scholars by Novermber 14, 2018, and separately apply to the Economics department also by November 14, 2018.