Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Our application deadline for admission the following fall is December 1st annually. Applications submitted without all required documents will be considered incomplete and will not be reviewed for admission.

We do not offer a terminal masters degree. All of our students earn a masters degree as they fulfill the requirements for the Ph.D.

No, you may apply directly to the Ph.D. program without a master’s degree.

If you would have difficulty paying the application fee required for application to the PhD program in the Penn State Department of Anthropology, please contact Audrey Chambers ( with an explanation of your situation. A limited number of fee waivers are available for qualified students.

The Faculty of the Department of Anthropology recently voted to adopt a test-optional approach to graduate admissions and will no longer require the submission of Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores by applicants. In adopting this approach, we aim to improve equity and inclusion in the recruitment of a diverse pool of exceptional candidates to our graduate program. Our integrative approach to anthropological sciences is predicated on the belief that to study human diversity our own discipline must represent and draw on diverse ways of thinking and experiencing the world. Ultimately, diverse teams (in any discipline) have the potential to produce more transformative research and creatively address today’s most pressing questions.

In recent years, the national movement toward test-optional admissions has garnered increasing support from a wide array of institutions of higher learning. This movement stems from recognition of the systemic barriers that over-reliance on standardized tests presents to equitable and inclusive recruitment of students from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds. Our collective goal is to remove barriers to application faced by some students and allow all students to create the application package that they think best represents their abilities, interests, and motivations in applying to graduate school.

We are committed to evaluating all applicants as fairly and equitably as possible. Our move to GRE-optional admissions is accompanied by a renewed commitment to equitable, inclusive, and holistic review of applicants to our graduate program. Applicants’ undergraduate records, previous research experience, personal/research statements, letters of reference, correspondence with members of our department, interviews with the faculty, and campus visits all provide opportunities for us to assess applicants’ academic preparation and potential for success in our program.  We have initiated a revision of our application form to best align our questions to applicants with our new GRE-optional approach. This move to GRE-optional admissions provides opportunities to iteratively improve our admissions process and positions the Penn State Department of Anthropology as a leader in its field with regard to equitable and inclusive graduate student recruitment.

If you choose to take the GRE, you should take the General Test.

The Department of Anthropology does not have a fixed level of GRE performance for admission.  We are looking for the best students who demonstrate a keen interest and ability in conducting original research.

No, we do not have a minimum GPA requirement; however, to be competitive a student must have a reasonably high GPA. On the application form you have a chance to explain if you feel your grades do not reflect your abilities. If your GPA isn’t very strong, take advantage of this feature and tell us the reason(s).

We determine the number of students admitted based on funding available.  As a general rule, we admit six students each fall.  About 60-100 students apply.

We admit students in the fall semester only.

No, students entering our program have backgrounds not only in Anthropology, but in biology, geology, geography, history, psychology, and many other disciplines. If your background in anthropology is weak, you may be required to take some courses to provide the background your adviser and committee think is appropriate for your research area.

All students admitted to the program receive a funding package that includes a stipend and tuition waiver. We also offer enhanced funding packages to students with exceptional qualifications. Continued funding is conditional based on performance.

The faculty begin reviewing applications in early December. Video interviews with selected applicants are conducted in January and recruitment visits are offered to chosen applicants in late January through February. Admissions decisions to our first tier applicants are made soon thereafter.

Yes. Transfer requests are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

This varies depending on the individual student. Our program is designed to graduate most students in 5-6 years.

Most of our graduates obtain academic positions. In addition, some work as researchers in the public and private sectors.

  • Results from a recent Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) examination or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test. The minimum acceptable score for the TOEFL is 550 for the paper-based test, 213 for the computer-based test, or a total score of 80 with a 19 on the speaking section for the Internet-based test (iBT). The minimum composite score for the IELTS is 6.5.
  • International applicants who have received a baccalaureate or a master’s degree from a college/university/institution in any of the following countries are exempt from the TOEFL/IELTS requirement: Australia, Belize, British Caribbean and British West Indies, Canada (except Quebec), England, Guyana, Republic of Ireland, Liberia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Scotland, the United States, and Wales.