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What We Look For

Each year we welcome a select group of exceptional individuals to the Symbolic Systems MS Program. We believe in holistic review of each application and while there are no hard and fast rules for defining a competitive applicant, the following points characterize the factors that most often distinguish applicants who are admitted to our program.

  • Because the M.S. in Symbolic Systems is a research-based degree, which requires each student to complete a masters thesis, the Admissions Committee looks especially for evidence of prior research experience. Authorship (especially as a sole or first author) of a research paper that has either been published, prepared for submission to a publication venue, or an undergraduate thesis project, is often an important factor in a successful application, and may be evidenced by the inclusion of this paper as a writing sample.
  • Letters of recommendation by academic researchers/faculty who have supervised or collaborated with the applicant on research are usually considered to be the best sources of third-party evaluation of an applicant's research achievement and potential.
  • An academic background in two or more of our cognate disciplines: computer science, linguistics, philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, mathematics, statistics, communication, and education. 
    • The Committee also looks for strong evidence that an applicant can succeed in the four main skill areas required for a Symbolic Systems M.S. degree (Formal, Empirical, Computational, and Philosophical). The strongest evidence often consists of successful completion of multiple courses within (or similar to) the Preparations and Breadth Requirements in our undergraduate major Core, whether they are taken at Stanford or elsewhere -- especially those which are prerequisites for courses that fulfill requirements in our Master's program
    • We do not have a specific minimum GPA requirement for admission. 
  • We seek to admit students from a broad range of life experiences, perspectives, backgrounds, and academic interests who will contribute to our community of scholars. In particular, we look for the following:
    • A good fit between a student's academic and research interests and those of our affiliated faculty (which may be highlighted in an applicant's Statement of Purpose).
    • In the case of Internal  and Coterm applicants who apply with a Project Area Statement, a good fit between the student's proposed project area and their prospective advisor, is often a distinguishing factor for admitted applicants. 

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