The College of IST employs a holistic review based on several criteria including academic performance, participation in research, writing sample, personal accomplishments, letters of recommendation, and accomplishments outside of academia. Our admissions committee reviews an applicant’s complete application package. Weaknesses in one area can be offset by strengths in another area. Applicants who have overcome hardships or obstacles as part of their education or who have had unique life experiences are invited to share their stories.
For applicants who are unfamiliar or uncertain about the graduate application process, we invite you to request a mentor to help you as you prepare materials.
About Our Graduate Programs
Compared to computer science, the College of IST’s graduate programs address a broader set of issues dealing with computing, particularly those involving a large volume of heterogeneous information and considering the human and societal impacts of computing and information systems.
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.
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.
Generally, it takes one to two years to complete our master's program.
No. IST requires full-time matriculation at the University Park campus for both master's and doctoral degrees. The College of IST offers master of professional studies degrees through Penn State World Campus that can be completed on a part-time basis.
No, we welcome applicants from diverse academic backgrounds including the liberal arts, computer science, engineering, environmental sciences, information sciences, law, life sciences, management, philosophy, mathematics, and social sciences.
University policy does not allow the waiver or deferment of the application fee. If you cannot pay the fee yourself, then a third party, such as a friend or relative, may pay the fee on your behalf. Applications received without the fee cannot be processed.
Exceptions for IST Undergraduate Students
- The College of IST offers automatic acceptance into one of the college’s M.S. or M.P.S. degree programs and will waive the application fee for any graduate from an IST bachelor’s degree program with a 3.5 GPA or higher.
- This offer is good for 2 years after graduating from an IST program (any PSU campus).
- Eligible applicants should contact firstname.lastname@example.org for verification and issuance of the waiver.
Exceptions for Underrepresented Students
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.
No, we only admit students for the fall semester.
Yes, all international students must submit an official TOEFL score. However, international applicants are exempt from the TOEFL requirement if they have received a baccalaureate or a graduate degree from a college, university, or institution in any of the following countries or regions: 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.
Yes, we accept IELTS scores, but we prefer applicants to submit TOEFL iBT scores.
The Graduate School has a total minimum of 80 points on the internet-based test, with a minimum of 19 on the speaking portion. Since we support many of our graduate students through teaching assistantships, IST requires a minimum of 23 on the speaking portion.
No, we do not have a minimum GPA requirement; however, we have found that our strongest candidates possess a GPA of at least 3.5 (out of 4.0), or the equivalent.
No, all documents submitted as part of your application packet must be submitted in English.
We do not require GRE scores and we will not accept GRE scores as part of your application. This holds for both the GRE general test and the subject tests.
We recommend that you review faculty members’ personal websites, which are more detailed than the overviews provided by the College. These websites often also include invitations or other information aimed at prospective graduate students. These websites also often contain pointers to recent research papers, which can help you understand if you might be a good match. Many faculty members are willing to engage with you in advance (e.g. over email) if you can describe why you are interested in studying with them.
Individual faculty and the admission committee use these keywords to sort the applications and identify additional reviewers. Please choose keywords that are the best descriptors of your interests. List them in order of relevance if possible.
Ideally select or create and submit a PDF writing sample document up to ten (10) pages illustrating your ability to write at the graduate level. On the title page clearly indicate your work when extracting information from a longer personal work, or your contribution to a group paper, as well as the submitted venue (e.g., “new writing sample research for this application. Sample should include a cover page, table of contents, page numbers, section headers, and cited references listed at the end of the document.
We use academic records, your statements and portfolio, along with your letters of recommendation to assess your preparation and potential for success in a research degree. However, we also recognize that some aspects of your aptitude may be revealed by non-academic activities and experiences. Critical events, episodes or personal challenges in your life may have had a prolonged impact on you and can provide useful additional information.