Admission Guidelines

We look for students who demonstrate the potential to do well in our program and contribute to the field of economics. Admitted students typically have strong math backgrounds, interest in economics, a good work ethic, and are a good fit with the strengths of our department and the fields that we offer.

Any student who has obtained his or her BA (or equivalent) by  August of the year the student will be entering the program can apply for admission. The Graduate Studies Committee of the Department of Economics makes the final decision on admission, based on the student's academic profile and prospects for successful completion of the curriculum.

The deadline for applications to receive full consideration is February 1. We only accept applications for fall admission. Please note that we are unable to make a decision on your application if you are missing a required component.

We evaluate each application individually, but to give you a general idea, the quantitative GRE scores for our incoming classes of 2012-16 averaged 163. Verbal GREs were slightly lower, with an average of 158, and analytical writing GRE scores averaged 4. The Graduate School has a minimum TOEFL score of 79 combined, and our students typically have TOEFL scores over 95. We also look closely at transcripts, especially math and economics courses, letters of recommendation, and personal statements.

Admissions to the graduate program in economics is competitive, so meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee admission.

Admissions Process - Some frequently asked questions

How do I apply?

You apply to the Graduate School, which accepts online applications only. At the time of application, you can upload scanned transcripts and self-reported GRE scores (official transcripts and scores are required only if you enroll).

February 1 is the deadline for all applications. All students begin in the fall semester. All students are considered for departmental funding, which typically takes the form of a teaching assistantship. If you are not interested in being considered for funding, please let us know.

We require the following:

  • resumé;
  • 1-2 page personal essay about why you want to attend graduate school in economics;
  • GRE scores taken within the last 5 years (self-reported scores are fine, but official scores are required to enroll and must match self-reported);
  • TOEFL scores if English is not your native language;
  • transcripts from all institutions attended after high school (scanned copies are fine, but official transcripts are required to enroll and must match);
  • 2 or 3 confidential letters of recommendation (you submit the contact information; the letter writers submit their letters directly)

Can I visit the department before making a decision about whether to attend?

We schedule a visitation day for accepted students in late March or early April, and encourage you to attend that day if possible, since it allows you to meet other prospective students, in addition to faculty and current students. But if that timing doesn't work, we will be glad to schedule an alternative. If you contact the Director of Graduate Studies, Jenny Minier, she will be happy to arrange a schedule for your visit.

When do students begin the program?

Math Camp for incoming students typically takes place the second full week of August. Following that, the Graduate School, Gatton College, and the Department of Economics hold several orientation sessions before classes start.

How many GRE scores will you accept?

We do not have a rule about the number of times you may take the GRE. We generally will consider all GRE scores though not necessarily weighted equally.

Is there a math requirement?

We do not have a formal requirement regarding the amount of mathematics taken prior to attending the program. However, most admitted students have at least two semesters (more typically three) of calculus and linear algebra, a semester of matrix algebra, and additional statistics/econometrics courses, in addition to a range of economics coursework. Students without a strong background in mathematics are typically at a disadvantage in our program.

Is there an economics requirement?

No, there is no requirement. However, our experiences suggest exposure to economics as an undergraduate increases the likelihood of success in our program. We strongly urge candidates to have at least taken intermediate level courses in microeconomics and macroeconomics.

Is there a separate application for funding?

No. All applications for admission are considered for funding without any additional information required or forms which need to be filled out. If you are not interested in being considered for funding, please let us know.

How many students typically enter the program each year?

Generally six to ten students enter our program each year. 

How are PhD students typically funded?

The majority of support for doctoral students in the Economics Department comes from teaching assistantships (TAs). In a typical year, five to seven incoming students are awarded teaching assistantships that cover tuition and fees, including the student health insurance fee. In addition, a stipend is paid to cover living expenses. In return, the student provides instructional assistance (grading, acting as a teaching assistant, etc.) to the department. In addition, the department is able to provide small supplemental scholarships for particularly promising candidates.

A number of students also work as research assistants (RAs), many for our Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) and the University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research. In addition, there are competitive fellowships from the Graduate School. We also frequently supplement TA or RA positions with partial scholarships.

The departmental Graduate Studies Committee awards financial aid on a competitive basis. The committee begins evaluating applications on February 1. Therefore, to be considered for financial aid, the Graduate Studies Committee must have all application materials by February 1.

How long does PhD student funding last?

Students who have made satisfactory progress throughout the program will receive four years of funding; fifth-year funding is not guaranteed though we have typically been able to offer it for students demonstrating progress on their dissertation.

If I were to receive an offer of a TA or RA, how long do I have to decide on whether to accept it?

Typically, you have until April 15th to decide whether to accept the offer. If you do not receive an offer until close to April 15th, we generally give you one or two weeks in which to decide whether to accept. However, we really appreciate knowing your decision as soon as possible! Note that April 15 is the common deadline agreed to by many graduate programs.

If I do not receive funding initially, is there a possibility of receiving funding later?

Yes. When we have applicants turn down funding offers, we frequently make additional offers to applicants who may have already been admitted but not offered funding. In addition, we have occasionally been able to make funding offers to students who have entered the program without funding after their first or second year if they have been making satisfactory progress. Note that we do not guarantee this.