Application statistics & policies

To start applying, click Apply

We aim for an incoming class of 6-8 students. Typically, all students receive full funding including a full tuition waiver, an annual stipend, and health insurance. The stipend level depends on the type of fellowship. Our standard economics department Graduate Assistantship stipend is around $20,000. The stipend for the George W. Bush Institute Doctoral FellowshipsMoody Graduate FellowshipsUniversity Ph.D. Fellowships, and Mustang Fellowships are around $30,000. 

Please contact the Director of Doctoral Studies James Lake for any further information.

Statistics from Fall 2020 application cycle

  • 136 applications
  • 15 first round offers with full funding
  • 5 first round unfunded offers. 2 were eventually converted into fully funded offers
  • 16 first round waitlist offers. 4 were eventually converted into fully funded offers.
  • 8 students in the incoming class, all with full funding
  • 2 incoming students with George W. Bush Institute Doctoral Fellowships and 1 student with a Mustang Fellowship


Priority consideration for department Graduate Assistantships

  • January 15, 2022: All applicants are automatically considered to apply for these. Students will be at a disadvantage when applying after this deadline because we aim to make admission decisions by early February.
  • May 1, 2022: Final deadline. However, we rarely accept students applying after mid-late January.
  • To start applying, click Apply

Priority consideration for special fellowships

The department's special fellowships are the George W. Bush Institute Doctoral FellowshipsMoody Graduate FellowshipsUniversity Ph.D. Fellowships, and Mustang Fellowships.

  • January 1, 2022:  Submit the following pre-application packet. 
    • To the Director of Doctoral Studies, James Lake, in a single PDF file: 
      1. Unofficial academic transcripts
      2. Unofficial copy of required standardized test scores (GRE is optional)
      3. List of undergraduate and graduate courses taken in mathematics, probability, statistics, econometrics, and mathematical economics. Include the number and name of the course and the main textbook(s) used. 
      4. Explanation of any research experience
      5. Explanation of your current and future research interests
      6. Explanation of why the SMU economics department is a good fit for your research interests
      7. (Mustang Fellowship only) Brief essay explaining why your educational, cultural, geographic, or familial background will contribute to graduate program diversity at SMU
    • Three recommendation letters to the official application portal Apply.
  • January 15, 2022: Submit your official application  Apply.

Policies for Fall 2021 application cycle


  • GRE: Submission is optional. Students who do not submit GRE scores will be evaluated fairly based on the rest of their application. Nevertheless, GRE scores are helpful, especially for international students, and will be taken into account along with the rest of a student’s application.


  • Students who do not complete their undergraduate degree in a US university are required to demonstrate their English language proficiency through one of two ways.
  1. Have an undergraduate degree from an English-language institution in the Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, or South Africa. Or, have a two-year full-time Masters degree from a US university.
  2. Take the TOEFL, IELTS or Duolingo exam. The respective minimum score requirements are 80 for TOEFL, 6.5 for IELTS, and 115 for Duolingo.

    Video essay

    The Moody Graduate School requires a video essay for some students as part of the application to graduate school at SMU. It is required for students who both:

    • Are required to submit TOEFL/IELTS/Duolingo scores (see above)
    • Have a TOEFL speaking score below 23, or an IELTS score below 6.5, or take the Duolingo exam

    Nevertheless, the strict policy of the Economics Department is that we do not use the video essay when evaluating applicants.



    Do you have a part-time Ph.D. program?

    Can I start in the spring term?

    Can I apply for an application fee waiver?
    Yes. The Moody Graduate School considers these on a case-by-case basis and it depends on the likelihood of us making you an offer and you accepting it. Naturally, it also depends on extenuating financial circumstances. Please contact the Director of Doctoral Studies James Lake for further information.

    Does the department offer financial aid to PhD students?
    Yes, see the top of this page for further information.

    How many applications do you receive and how many students do you admit?
    Please see statistics at the top of this page. 

    I already have a master's degree. Will this reduce my time to the Ph.D. degree?

    Do I need a masters degree to apply?
    No. An incoming class typically has a mix of students who do and do not have a masters degree.

    Is an interview part of the admission process?
    Typically, no. We may request an interview in special circumstances.

    Do I need to find a faculty member to supervise me before I apply?
    No. All of our faculty members supervise PhD students. But, this is not decided before entering the PhD program. The first two years are coursework. Once research starts in the 3rd year, students start to work with various faculty members and choose their supervisor by the start of the 4th year.

    How many applications do you receive and how many students do you admit?
    Please see statistics at the top of this page. 

    When will you make your admission decisions and how will I know?
    We aim to make admission decisions in early February. The Director of Doctoral Studies, James Lake, will notify you by email. Official correspondence from the Moody Graduate School will follow. 

    What kind of mathematical background should I have in order to enter the Ph.D. program?
    Competitive students typically have a good undergraduate background in math classes such as calculus, linear algebra, probability and statistics, real analysis, and differential equations. 

    Does my undergraduate or prior graduate work have to be in economics in order to apply?
    No. But, competitive students typically have good undergraduate grades in intermediate microeconomics and intermediate macroeconomics. 

    Do I have to take the GRE?
    Please see the admission policies above.

    What is the minimum GRE score I should have?
    We focus on your quantitative GRE score and typically do not accept students with a quantitative GRE score below 160. Our recent incoming classes have an average quantitative GRE score of around 163-164.

    Do I need to take the TOEFL or IELTS?
    Please see the admission policies above.

    How do I submit my official test scores or may I send a copy of my GRE/TOEFL score record?
    Official scores are now submitted to us electronically by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), which sponsors both exams. Our ETS code is 6660. Official scores must be submitted for admission. 

    Do I need to complete the video essay part of the application?
    Please see the admission policies above.

    When is the comprehensive/qualifying exam?
    The exam is taken in June at the end of the first year: a micro theory exam on one day and a macro theory exam on a separate day. Students must pass both parts to remain in the program. You can re-take any part that you failed in July. Anyone that does not pass the qualifying exam can get their M.A. degree by finishing the coursework in the Fall of their second year. 

    How many of your graduate students are international students?
    About 80% of our students are international students. Our current PhD student body has international students from India, Bangladesh, China, Taiwan, Brazil, Chile and Colombia.