Stanford University

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

  • Report of your GRE (general test) scores. Official test scores must be reported directly to Stanford from Educational Testing Service (ETS). Stanford’s ETS institutional code is 4704; an individual department code number is not necessary. GRE scores are valid for five years from the date taken. NOTE: GRE scores are not used on their own either to disqualify or to grant admission to any applicant. Applications are evaluated holistically, taking into account all of the relevant information in it. A low GRE score can be compensated for by other strong qualifications for admission. Conversely, even high GRE scores are by no means a guarantee of admission.
  • TOEFL scores are required of all applicants whose first language is not English regardless of citizenship status. TOEFL scores must be from a test taken within the last 18 months. 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 2021-2022 academic year, the application deadline for the Symbolic Systems M.S. program for external applicants not enrolled at Stanford is February 1, 2021. 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-March.

Knight-Hennessy Scholars

The Knight-Hennessy Scholars program cultivates a diverse, multidisciplinary community of emerging leaders from around the world and guides them to collaborate, innovate, and communicate as they prepare to address the complex challenges facing society. Knight-Hennessy Scholars become part of a supportive family of fellow scholars. Through the King Global Leadership Program, scholars will broaden knowledge, develop skills, and strengthen character; this platform provides a collection of community experiences, workshops, meetings with leaders, domestic and global study trips, and personal development opportunities. Knight-Hennessy Scholars also receive funding for graduate study at Stanford University. To be considered, you must apply to Knight-Hennessy Scholars and separately apply to the Symbolic Systems M.S. program by the application deadlines. Apply at The application deadline is October 14, 2020 at 1:00 pm Pacific Time.