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Applications must be submitted through the Penn State Graduate School application portal.  Per University policy, an applicant may only apply to one graduate degree program at a time. Make sure to apply to the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree. Students who enter the program with a bachelor's degree are required to complete a master's degree en route to the doctoral degree. HDFS does not have a terminal master's program.

Questions about the application process may be directed to the admissions coordinator, Renee Bailey (

Application Due Date: Dec. 1

Please note that we are in the Eastern Standard Time zone.  If you are submitting on December 1 and doing so  from another time zone, please take this into account when determining the submission deadline.

Required Application Materials

  • Learn about Penn State's Graduate School's requirements.
  • When you are ready to apply you may go to the application at the Grad School Admissions and Program Information Portal, which will guide you through the materials required by the University, as well as program-specific required documents. 
    • Scientific Writing Sample: Please submit a document you wrote alone or took the lead in writing.  For example: a literature review; an honor’s thesis; or a manuscript published, accepted for publication, or submitted for publication.  For international students, your writing sample must be in English.  Submissions will not be returned.
    • A copy (front and back) of all official transcripts/documents from all post-secondary institutions attended. Only a photocopy is needed at the initial application stage, official verification will be required before a student is permitted to enroll.
    • Curriculum Vitae or Resume (optional)
    • Statement of Professional and Career Plans: This statement should not exceed 3 pages (double spaced) in length.  The statement should address the following questions: (1) Why are you interested in Penn State's HDFS program? (2) What are your professional and career plans? (3) How will your educational/research experiences at Penn State contribute to your career plans? (4) In addition to primary mentors who play a major role in students' development as scholars, the rich interdisciplinary training environment of HDFS provides opportunities to work with multiple faculty members. Please identify the faculty member or members with whom you are interested in working with and explain what it is about their work that interests you. This information will help us provide the most effective review of your application.
    • Statement of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: HDFS values, supports, and promotes diverse perspectives in our research and community.  As a result, we are interested in understanding the cultural/ethnic, racial, religious, geographical, financial, educational, age, gender, identity-related, or other privileges and challenges that have shaped prospective students.  This statement should not exceed 2 pages (double spaced) in length and should address the following questions: (1) How have the opportunities and challenges (whether plentiful or lacking) you have experienced impacted your personal and professional development?  (2) How will your background, unique perspective, and life experiences contribute to HDFS’s goal of promoting excellence through diversity at Penn State?  (3) In what ways have you engaged, or do you plan to engage, with issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in your own communities, scholarship, and research activities both after you graduate and during your time as a student? 
    • Three letters of recommendation: Letter writers will submit their letters directly to the application portal.  Letter writers should be individuals who can attest to your academic skills, readiness for graduate school, and potential for success. Please note, applications will be reviewed after all letters of recommendation have been received.
  • Applicants from outside of the U.S:
    • Visit the Office of Global Programs for information related to being an international student at Penn State.
    • Applicants residing in a country in which English is not the national language must also take an English language exam.  The University will accept the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System). For requirement information pertaining to a specific country, visit the Graduate School's Admission Eligibility by Country website.
      • TOEFL iBT
        • ​​​​​​Acceptable score: A total score of 80, with a 19 on the speaking section.
      • IELTS Academic Test
        • Acceptable score: The minimum acceptable composite score for the IELTS Academic Test is 6.5.
    • You will be asked to report either TOEFL or IELTS scores on the application as well as having official scores sent by ETS (institution code 2660).
    • Applicants who completed their prior education in a language other than English will need to have their transcripts officially translated to English for consideration by the admissions committee. 
GRE scores are no longer part of the admissions process.