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External Admissions

The Symbolic Systems M.S. Program admits a handful of external students each year. External students usually complete the program in two academic years, unless the student has a bachelor's degree in Symbolic Systems or related field. Before you begin, please carefully review the University’s Graduate Admissions website which includes University admissions requirements and information.

Application Requirements

  • Official online application and application fee. Fee waivers are available to eligible applicants. Please explore the fee waiver information.
  • Statement of Purpose outlining your goals and motivations for applying to the program.
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • The Symbolic Systems Program does not require the GRE General test for graduate applications, but applicants may optionally choose to report GRE scores. These scores will not be heavily weighted in the admissions process but can be helpful in assessing applications when an undergraduate transcript does not contain evidence of qualifications in both the humanities and the sciences, broadly construed. (This situation can arise for example in undergraduate programs that are highly specialized such that the student has, for example, taken classes only in computer science and so has no coursework showing humanistic training or has taken classes only in philosophy and has no evidence of mathematical or technical training.)
  • TOEFL scores are required of all applicants whose first language is not English regardless of citizenship status. Stanford does not accept IELTS scores. Read more about Stanford TOEFL requirements and TOEFL waivers
  • Two official copies of your undergraduate and any graduate transcripts. You are required to upload a copy of each transcript into the online application. Please scan your official transcript and attach the PDF to your application. Read more about Stanford Graduate Admissions Transcript Requirements
  • Original Research Paper: all applicants are highly encouraged, but not required, to include in their application one original research paper. A draft or work in progress of the paper is acceptable. 

Application Deadline

For the 2024-2025 academic year, the application deadline for the Symbolic Systems M.S. program for external applicants not enrolled at Stanford is February 1, 2024. The entire application and supplemental materials must be submitted online and are due by the deadline stated above (please note that we will not upload documents sent to us via email to your online application). Applicants will be notified in mid- to late-March.

Knight-Hennessy Scholars

Join dozens of Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences students who receive up to three years of funding and valuable leadership skills as Knight-Hennessy Scholars (KHS). KHS admits up to 100 select applicants each year from across Stanford’s seven graduate schools, and delivers engaging experiences that prepare them to be visionary, courageous, and collaborative leaders ready to address complex global challenges. As a scholar, you join a multidisciplinary and multicultural cohort, participate in up to three years of leadership programming, and receive full funding for up to three years of your graduate studies at Stanford.

Candidates of any country may apply. KHS applicants must have earned their first undergraduate degree within the last seven years, and must apply to both a Stanford graduate program and to KHS. If you aspire to be a leader in your field, we invite you to apply. The KHS application deadline is October 11, 2023. Learn more about KHS admission.