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

  • 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 2022-2023 academic year, the application deadline for the Symbolic Systems M.S. program for external applicants not enrolled at Stanford is February 1, 2022. 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