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PhD Admissions

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree is intended primarily for students who desire a career in research, advanced development or teaching. PhD programs are designed to give students a broad background in mathematics and engineering sciences, together with intensive study and research experience in a specialized area. 

Current Stanford MS students interested in adding a PhD program to their academic career should speak with the staff at the Aero/Astro Student Services Office about the necessary paperwork and relevant policies. If you are a current master's student in the Stanford Aeronautics and Astronautics Department, to apply for the PhD, you must complete paperwork prior to conferring the MS degree. Failure to do so will require an application through the online admissions process along with all other external applicants.

A majority of PhD students at the Aeronautics and Astronautics Department completed the Stanford MS program. A small number of students who acquired a master's degree from other institutions are admitted each year. We highly recommend that undergraduate students interested in a PhD from Stanford Aeronautics and Astronautics apply for the Stanford MS program first. The PhD program only admits students who already hold (or are currently studying for) an MS degree. If you are applying from another institution, your MS degree must be conferred prior to starting the PhD.

Those wishing an Engineer's Degree or PhD who do not have a master's degree should apply for the master's degree and indicate on the application their desire to continue their studies beyond that degree.

Application deadlines

A completed application (including letters of recommendation, transcripts and GRE/TOEFL scores) must be received by the following dates:

Autumn 2016-2017: December 1, 2015

All students interested in pursuing a PhD in Aeronautics and Astronautics use the Stanford Graduate Admissions Application. Please follow all information and instructions. The fee for online graduate applications is $125. Your application will consist of the following:

Graduate application checklist

  • Application and fee
  • Statement of purpose
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Transcripts (two original copies)
  • GRE general results
  • TOEFL results (if applicable)

Statement of purpose

Your statement of purpose should identify personal and professional goals. It should also discuss your development to date and your intentions relative to graduate study and life beyond Stanford. The Aero/Astro Graduate Admissions Committee reads your statement of purpose with interest because, along with the letters of recommendation, it offers insight into who you are as an individual. Your statement of purpose should not exceed two pages (single-spaced).

Letters of recommendation

Three letters of recommendation are required; one letter must come from an academic source, although we prefer at least two.  Recommendations must be submitted online. Please see the "Recommendations" section of the online application for information.


Two original, official transcripts from all colleges or universities attended full time for one year or more are required. Send them to:

Aeronautics and Astronautics
Graduate Admissions
Stanford University
496 Lomita Mall
Durand Building, Room 250
Stanford, CA 94305-4035

Official electronic transcripts can be sent to

GRE general results

GRE general results must be from an examination taken within the past five years. No GRE Subject test is required. Official results must be sent electronically by ETS to Stanford. Our institution code for ETS reporting is 4704. You do not need a department code. For more information on GRE requirements, please see the "Required Exams" and "Frequently Asked Questions" sections on the Graduate Admissions website. In order to meet the December 2 deadline, the GRE should be taken no later than October 31.

TOEFL results

Adequate command of spoken and written English is required for admission. Applicants whose first language is not English must submit an official test score from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Stanford accepts only ETS (Educational Testing Service) scores. TOEFL results must be from an examination taken within the past 18 months. The Stanford institution code for ETS reporting is 4704. You do not need a department code. For more information on TOEFL requirements, please see the "Required Exams" and "Frequently Asked Questions" sections on the Graduate Admissions website.

Exemptions are granted to applicants who have earned (or will earn, before enrolling at Stanford) a U.S. bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree from a college or university accredited by a regional accrediting association in the United States, or the international equivalent degree from a university of recognized standing in a country in which all instruction is provided in English. U.S. citizenship does not automatically exempt an applicant from taking the TOEFL if the applicant’s first language is not English.


Reapplicants must submit new supporting documents and complete the online application as outlined above, in the graduate application checklist. Only prior official test scores can be reactivated.

Admission decisions

Autumn quarter completed applications are reviewed by the faculty Admissions Committee throughout the winter. Letters are sent as decisions are made, beginning in March.

Application questions?