FAQ's

Q. Does my undergraduate or prior graduate work have to be in economics in order to apply?

A. We welcome applications from students whose major area of study (at undergraduate or graduate level ) is not economics provided it involves substantial use of mathematics and statistics. However, all applicants must have taken some advanced undergraduate courses in economics including courses (comparable to) intermediate microeconomics and intermediate macroeconomics in US universities. 

Q. What kind of mathematical background should I have in order to enter the Ph.D. program?

A. Graduate level economic analysis unlike undergraduate coursework, is highly mathematical and requires frequent use of the tools learned in calculus, differential equations, real analysis, and linear algebra. If you don’t have graded coursework in these specific areas, we urge you to take additional mathematics classes before applying. 

Q. May I send you my qualifications and be pre-assessed for admission?

A. We are unable to determine in advance if an applicant will be admitted to the Ph.D. program as there are too many variables involved. It will not give you an advantage to e-mail your education history and other credentials to the department, as they will not be reviewed unless you apply for admission.

Q. Will you inform me when you receive my application and if it is incomplete?

A. The department will not inform you directly of your application status. You can check in the application system at any time and it will tell you if there are any required elements not yet submitted.

Q. Can I submit more than three letters of recommendation?

A. You can submit more than three letters of recommendation, if you like. What matters most is not the number of letters submitted, but their quality. Your letter writers should be in a position to understand both your abilities as a student and the rigor of doctoral study in economics. Professors of economics are a good choice for letter writers, although they are certainly not the only choice. 

Q. Do I have to take the GRE?

A. Yes. All Ph.D. applicants must submit GRE scores. A minimum score of 310 (combined verbal and quantitative) is required in order to be considered for financial aid. If your scores are more than five years old, you must retake the test. When registering for the test, you must request that your scores be sent to Southern Methodist University, Office of Research and Graduate Studies (institution code 6660, no department code is required). Allow several weeks for test scores to reach the University. To ensure timely receipt of GRE scores, applicants are urged to take the paper exam in October, or the computer-based test no later than early December. An application is considered incomplete without these scores.

Q. Do I need to take the TOEFL or IELTS? What is the waiver policy for the TOEFL/IELTS?

A. The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is required of international applicants whose native language is not English. The English language requirement may be waived if you have a bachelor’s degree from university where the primary language is English.

Q. Is an interview part of the admission process?

A. No. We do not have a formal interview process. Also, the University application does have a video essay component which one might see as serving a similar purpose. As a policy, the Department of Economics does not use this element of the application in our review process. While this video may be required by the University for some applicants, it will still not be used by our Department.

Q. Do you need my official test scores or may I send a copy of my GRE/TOEFL score record?

A. Official scores are now submitted to us electronically by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), which sponsors both exams. You may send a copy to the department for informational purposes to better assist the admissions committee with the evaluation of your application; however, if you are offered admission, official scores from ETS must be on record in our student administration database.

Q. How do I check my application status?

A. You can check on the status of your application by logging into the application system to determine if it is complete or not. Once your admission status is determined, the Graduate School will notify you of the decision. The department will not release any information over the phone or by email. Please do not inquire.

Q. Can I start in the spring term?

A. No. All Ph.D. students must start the program in the fall semester. 

Q. When is the qualifying exam?

A. The comprehensive exam is taken at the end of the first year of study. It consists of 2 parts taken over two days, covering Micro and Macro Theory. If either portion of the exam is not passed, a retake opportunity will be offered. Students must pass both sections of the exam on either the first or second attempt in order to continue in the program. 

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

A. No. The program is a full-time program and takes about five years to complete:

  • First year - Students take a full schedule of courses (four courses in fall, three in spring).
  • Second year - Students take a full schedule of courses (three courses in fall, three in spring).
  • Third year - Students take only a partial schedule of courses (three courses in fall) and begin their dissertation proposal in the spring. Third year papers are due at the end of the spring term.
  • Fourth year - Students make substantial progress on their dissertation proposal. Often they propose their dissertation.
  • Fifth year - Students devote full time to writing a dissertation and propose (if they haven't already) and defend their dissertation.

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

A. No. Prior coursework at the graduate level will not reduce your time to degree. There is very little overlap between master’s and Ph.D. level coursework.

Q. How many applications do you receive and how many students do you admit?

A. We have recently been receiving over 100 applications a year. Our target for incoming class sizes is in the range of 5-8.

Q. Does the department offer financial aid to Ph.D. students?

A. Yes. The department is able to offer financial aid to a limited number of incoming students each year. Approximately 60-80% of the incoming will receive financial aid each year. Independent of whether they enter the program with financial aid, it has been the consistent policy of the department to offer teaching or research assistantships to all Ph.D. students that pass the qualifying exams provided they meet all requirements for being in good standing in the program and demonstrate satisfactory academic progress. 

Q. How many of your graduate students are U.S. citizens/international students?

A. Currently about 20% of our students are U.S. citizens. The great majority, 80%, are non-U.S. citizens from countries all over the world.

Q. Who should I contact to get more information about SMU's graduate programs?

A. Please contact the graduate advisor, Stephanie Robertson at Stephanie@smu.edu or 214-768-2694