Stanford University
Symsys MS graduation photo

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.
  • Appropriate and successful 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 interdisciplinary coursework required for a Symbolic Systems M.S. degree. We do not have a minimum GPA requirement. 
  • We seek to admit applicants who will contribute to the scholarly community of our program. In this regard we value a diversity of personal backgrounds and academic interests.
    • 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 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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