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Frequently Asked Questions

When is the deadline for submitting my application packet?

Completed application packets must be received by the College of IST by December 15, 2013. Applications submitted without all required documents will be considered incomplete and will not be reviewed for admission.

When will I be notified of an admission decision?

Application packets will not be reviewed before the December 15 deadline. A first round of admission decisions is usually made in early to mid-February.  However decision-making continues through mid-April.

How does IST differ from computer science?

The College of Information Science and Technology (IST) is housed in the same building (the IST Building) as Computer Science and Engineering (CSE), a department in the College of Engineering. Compared to CSE, the graduate program of IST addresses a broader set of issues dealing with computing, particularly those involving a large volume of heterogenous information and considering the human and societal impacts of computing and information systems.

How does IST differ from MIS?

Compared to MIS, the graduate program of IST focuses on information-centric issues of individuals, groups, organizations and other social entities, not just those of business.

How does IST differ from psychology?

Compared to Psychology, the graduate program of IST focuses on how cognition, motivation and other human elements affect (and are affected by) computing and information design issues within a particular context.

Do you offer spring admission?

No, we only admit students for the fall semester.

Can the application fee be waived?

No. University policy does not allow the waiver or deferment of the application fee. If you cannot pay the fee yourself, a third party (friend or relative) may pay the fee on your behalf. Applications received without the fee cannot be processed.

Exception: The Penn State Graduate School offers application fee waivers for members of selected minority groups, including Native Americans, Hispanics, and Black/African Americans. McNair scholars also may be eligible. Students requesting fee waivers must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. For more information, please contact the Office of Graduate Educational Equity.

What are the GRE codes to submit official scores?

For the GRE test, our institutional code is 2660.

There are two types of GRE tests, which do you require?

We require the the GRE General Test.

Do you have a minimum GRE score requirement?

No, we do not have a minimum requirement; however, most of our strong candidates have a combined total of 1100-1200 on the verbal and quantitative tests. We also consider very carefully your score for analytical writing as we have found this to be an excellent predictor of success in our graduate program. In general, the IST recruiting committee will take your complete application into account.

Do you accept GMAT scores in place of GRE scores?

No, for our M.S. and Ph.D. program, we do not accept GMAT scores. We do accept GMAT and/or GRE scores for our Master of Professional Studies (MPS) program.

Do you have a minimum GPA requirement?

No, we do not have a minimum GPA requirement; however, we have found that most of our strong candidates possess a GPA of at least 3.5 (out of 4), or the equivalent.

What writing samples are acceptable as part of the application packet?

The admissions committee is looking for evidence of your ability to compose scholarly or academic writing. This could be a research publication (e.g., from a conference), a final paper from a class, or a few chapters from your thesis.

As an international student, I only have writing samples in my native language. Do I need to have these translated to English for submission as part of my application packet?

Yes, all documents submitted as part of your application packet must be submitted in English.

Is it necessary to have a master's degree before applying to the Ph.D. program?

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

How can I decide whether to apply for the M.S. or Ph.D. program?

Ph.D. applicants are typically students who have previous research experience from their undergraduate, graduate, or work settings, and who have determined that they wish to pursue a research-focused graduate degree. M.S. applicants often have less research experience or are not yet prepared to commit to the more extensive work involved in the Ph.D. program.

May I apply to more than one graduate program at the same time?

No, Penn State's Graduate School does not allow students to apply to more than one program at a time.

As an international student, is it necessary to submit the TOEFL score?

Yes, all international students must submit an official TOEFL score. However, the TOEFL can be waived if you have a degree conferred from a university in an English-speaking country. Our institution code is 2660.

Do you have a minimum requirement on the TOEFL score?

The Graduate School has a minimum of 80 points on the Internet-based test, with a minimum of 19 on the speaking portion. Because we support many of our graduate students through teaching assistantships, IST requires the higher level of 23 on the speaking portion.

What is the annual cost to attend Penn State?

You can calculate the tuition and college cost on the bursar's Web site.

Where can I find general information about Penn State?

Statistics about Penn State can be found in the Penn State fact book.

Where can I find housing if I am admitted to IST?

Housing options are available on campus and off campus.

How do I apply for a graduate assistantship?

All applicants will be considered for funding, there are no additional forms to be filled out.

Does IST offer any on-line graduate degrees?

Yes, the College of IST offers two master of professional studies degrees that can be taken online.

Does IST offer any part-time evening classes for adult learners to obtain a graduate degree?

No. IST requires full-time matriculation at the University Park campus for both master's and doctoral degrees. The master of professional studies degree can be completed on a part-time basis.

How long does it take to complete a graduate program in IST?

Generally, it takes four to five years to complete our doctoral program and approximately two years to complete our master's program. The MPS programs typically take two to three years to complete.