Prospective Graduate Student FAQs

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 and four to five years to complete our doctoral program.

Yes, the College of IST offers master of professional studies degrees through Penn State World Campus.

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.

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 and time required in the Ph.D. program.

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

Application Information

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.

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.

No, we only admit students for the fall semester.

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

We require the GRE General Test.

No, we do not have a minimum requirement; however, our strongest candidates have a combined total of 325-340 on the verbal and quantitative tests. We also consider your score for analytical writing as we have found this to be an excellent predictor of success in our graduate program.

No, we do not accept GMAT scores for our in-residence M.S. and Ph.D. programs.

Unofficial/self-reported scores can be submitted for application evaluation. Official GRE scores are required for Penn State to be able to make you an offer of admission.

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 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.

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

About Penn State

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

Housing options are available on campus and off campus.

You can calculate tuition and additional expenses by visiting the Office of the Bursar.

Visitors to Penn State and State College can find resources for hotel accommodations, attractions, and other travel information on Penn State's website.