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A Guide for Applicants to Graduate Study in Statistics

General Information

Which Degree: M.S. or Ph.D.?

The Application

The Transcript

Letters of Recommendation

Graduate Record Examinations

Test of English as a Foreign Language and the International English Language Testing System

Candidate Statement


Financial Considerations and Length of Study

Financial Aid for Ph.D. Students

Financial Considerations for M.S. Students

Will We Consider You for Financial Aid?


The Council of Graduate Schools Agreement concerning April 15th

Department contact information:

Laura Rigazzi
Admissions and Student Affairs Specialist
Phone: 773.702.0541
Fax: 773.702.9810



General Information


Applying for admission to a graduate program is not a routine or simple activity and matching the best graduate school with your abilities and aspirations is an important step in your career. These guidelines are intended to aid you in preparing an application so you will know what our admissions committee looks for in an application, which items are of importance, when to start, when to expect replies, and the like. Whether or not you decide to apply to the University of Chicago, we hope these notes will assist you in this mostly once-in-a-lifetime process.

Not every graduate program in statistics will be well suited to you, nor will you be well suited to every graduate program. Before you apply, learn as much as you can about the programs you are considering: browse their web pages, examine their course catalogs, read the fine print about their degree requirements, and talk to your undergraduate instructors and advisors about relative strengths and weaknesses of programs. Make sure your background in mathematics and statistics is appropriate for the programs you are considering. Some departments expect strong preparation in mathematics, while others prefer candidates with experience in statistical data analysis and computing, and others, such as ours, expect both.

Just as you attempt to find departments suited to your background and interests, our department tries to find students whose preparation and interests match the requirements and strengths of our own program. Our admissions committee bases its judgment on information about you supplied in your application and supporting documents.


Which Degree: M.S. or Ph.D.?


Which degree should you pursue—the master's degree or the doctorate? Here are some guidelines.

If your career goal is to conduct independent statistical research in an academic, government, or industrial setting, you should probably pursue a Ph.D. degree. For many jobs not involving independent research, a master’s degree suffices.

It is not necessary to have an M.S. degree before entering our Ph.D. program; most of our Ph.D. students join us directly from college. On the other hand, after earning their M.S. degrees here, approximately one-third to one-half of our graduates go on to other doctoral programs, typically in applied or quantitative disciplines in statistics, economics, finance, business, and other fields.

If you are fairly certain, but not positive, you want to obtain a Ph.D., you probably should still apply to the Ph.D. program. Entering a Ph.D. program is not a prison sentence. If you enroll in our doctoral program and then later decide that independent research is not for you, you may leave the program and receive the M.S. degree if you have fulfilled all of the requirements for that degree.

Our Ph.D. program is much more selective than our M.S. program. Applicants to the Ph.D. program are expected to have strong undergraduate records and high scores on the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), both the General Test and the Mathematics Subject Test.

Applicants to the M.S. program are also expected to have strong undergraduate records; they should have good scores on the GRE General Test but are not required to take the Mathematics Subject Test.

If you are not sure which program you are best qualified for, you may apply to the Ph.D. program and ask to be considered for the M.S. program if you are not admitted. Once you have created a Ph.D. application, go to the Statistics supplement page. Select "Yes" to the question in the third section. Please note that there are steps required to finalize consideration for the M.S. program, including paying an extra application fee, completing a form, and submitting the additional M.S. application. If you complete all the steps, we will then consider you for the Ph.D. program, and if we do not deem you to be ready for the Ph.D. program, we will consider you for the M.S. program.

The prerequisites for the master’s program are calculus through Jacobians and multivariate integrals, linear/matrix algebra, and a year of elementary probability and statistics. Applicants to the doctoral program should have that background solidly, plus additional courses in advanced mathematics, such as real or complex analysis, and/or in other disciplines such as computer science, economics, and the natural sciences.

Most students admitted to the Ph.D. program are awarded an assistantship. The Department pays tuition, most fees, student health insurance through the University, and a stipend to cover living expenses.  Most Ph.D. students are responsible only for a small activity fee, currently $81 per quarter.  An assistantship involves working as a teaching or research assistant.  These training experiences are part of the program; students do not compete for assistantships in order to receive funding.  Fully funded students are expected to not need external employment.

Master’s students do not receive departmental assistantships or fellowships but generally receive a partial tuition scholarship. See “Financial Considerations for M.S. Students” below for more information.

Our admissions target for the Ph.D. program is eight to ten students per year. Our small class sizes mean that our Ph.D. students may establish a close working relationship with professors easily and that no particular faculty member is likely to be overloaded with advisees.

Our admissions target for the master’s program is approximately 30-40 new students per year. Typical students in the master’s program include a mix of (1) people who come to the University just for an M.S. in statistics, (2) doctoral students from other departments within the University who are augmenting their education with an M.S. degree in statistics, and (3) undergraduates at the University who are earning a bachelor’s and an M.S. degree simultaneously.


The Application


The admissions committee reads your application and, based on the information provided there, assesses your preparation in mathematics, statistics, and computing, your interests within statistics, and your potential for original research. The committee tries to answer questions such as

1. Is the Department suited to the applicant's interests?

2. Is the applicant sufficiently well prepared mathematically?

3. How likely is it that the applicant will complete the degree?

The various parts of your application shed light on these questions.


How to Apply

Our application site is open annually from early September through December 31.  During that time, you may access the application online.  If you have any questions about the online application, please see the application section of our FAQs page.


The Specifications of the M.S. Program

Students in the Master's program may choose an area of specialization (used to be referred to as special track), such as biostatistics, statistical genetics, statistical finance, environmental statistics, computational neuroscience, machine learning, pattern recognition, scientific computation, survey methodology, etc. In your Candidate Statement you may indicate what areas of specification you are interested in (we encourage you to do so). Nonetheless, one applies to the M.S. program as a whole, not to any particular area of specification. The areas of specification largely influence what electives you take and what topic you write your Master’s paper on.


Students Currently at the University of Chicago

If you are a doctoral student in another department within the University who wants to augment your education with a M.S. degree in statistics or an undergraduate at the University who wants to join our B.A./M.S. program, then you must apply to our M.S. program. Your application will be reviewed according to the same criteria as all other applications. Doctoral students should read and consider the regulations in the University’s “Student Manual” which apply to them prior to applying. Undergraduates who are interested in the B.A./M.S. program should discuss their plans with the Department's undergraduate advisor, Professor Mary Sara McPeek, no later than the Autumn Quarter of their third year.

Of course, any student at the University of Chicago is welcome to apply to our M.S. or Ph.D. program at the conclusion of their studies.


The Transcript

A copy of your transcript from each undergraduate or graduate institution you have attended is required. Scanned or unofficial copies are sufficient for the admissions process.  We only require official transcripts from students who ultimately join our program.

Your transcript and grades indicate the depth and breadth of your interests, as well as your performance in each of your courses. We have no minimum grade point average (GPA) for admission to our programs, but we do not view poor grades favorably, especially those obtained in statistics and mathematics courses.

It may be unclear from your transcript whether you have met the prerequisites for our program. For example, your transcript might show that your math courses were "Mathematics I" and "Mathematics II"; such uninformative course titles leave us in the dark about your math background. In these cases, we recommend that you include, in addition to your transcript, a list of the topics covered in each course that would be relevant to our program. You may upload your list on the "Statistics Supplement" tab in the online application. You may also use this supplement to explain your school’s grading system, address any unusual or low grades you received, or comment on other aspects of your transcript.


Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation provide insight into abilities, strengths, and weaknesses that cannot be reflected in grades and test scores alone. You should select referees who know your work well and will write a frank and detailed letter of appraisal of you and of your likely success in our graduate statistics program. Letters that speak to your mathematical or statistical abilities, any special experience that you might have (in statistical applications, for example), or your potential for research are particularly welcome.

Choose the people who will write letters of recommendation for you with care and observe the protocols of courtesy by letting them know that you will submit their contact information with their permission.  After you submit their contact information, your referees will receive an email including the recommendation deadline, information pertaining to your right of access to view recommendations, and a link for submitting a recommendation.  By following this link, referees can type a recommendation directly on our application website or upload a PDF file. If your referees have any difficulties submitting letters, please instruct them to contact for help.

Three letters of recommendation are required. Two additional letters may be included if you think the circumstances warrant it.


Graduate Record Examinations

We require the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) General Test of all applicants; in addition, it is strongly encouraged that applicants to the doctoral program take the GRE Mathematics Subject Test. If you have not already done so, you should make arrangements to take these exams as soon as possible. We occasionally admit students with otherwise exceptional records who have not taken these exams, but this is unusual.

The GRE is offered several times a year by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). Arrangements with ETS must be made several weeks in advance of the date of the examination, and it takes another six to eight weeks after the exam for the scores to reach us. Consequently, we encourage applicants to take the GRE no later than August and to take it earlier if possible. When a choice is offered, take the computerized version of the GRE for faster scoring and score delivery.

The ETS code for the University of Chicago is 1832. The code for the Department of Statistics is 0705.

While we do not require a minimum score on the GRE for admission to our programs, GRE scores are the only measure common to all of our candidates; thus, low GRE scores not offset by evidence of strength in other areas would make admission unlikely, especially for the Ph.D. program.  Most successful applicants score above the 90th percentile on the quantitative section of the GRE General Test.

We must receive your scores directly from ETS; scanned or unofficial copies are not accepted.  You are, however, encouraged to self-report scores in your online application while you are waiting for an official score report.

Official GRE scores are valid for up to five years past the test date. As a practical matter, if your scores are more than three years old, we encourage you to retake the exam(s) to provide a more up-to-date assessment of your abilities.


Test of English as a Foreign Language and the International English Language Testing System

International applicants to the Statistics Department must demonstrate an adequate command of both spoken and written English.

We will assume you have an adequate command of English if you grew up in the United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, or the United States, OR if, in the last five years, you completed one academic year of full-time study at an English-language institution in one of these seven countries.

Otherwise, you are required to take the internet-based test (iBT) version of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). It is necessary to take all parts of the TOEFL or IELTS. Poor TOEFL/IELTS scores are grounds for denial of admission, regardless of the strength of other parts of your application.

Applicants whose total score on the four-part iBT TOEFL falls below 90, or below 7 on the IELTS, normally are not admitted unless other demonstrable evidence of proficiency in English is available.

Even if the minimum totals above are met, we may require you to provide additional evidence of your English proficiency at some later stage in the admission process.

If you are a foreign student who is excused from the TOEFL by virtue of the "full-time academic study" clause in the first paragraph, you may still wish to strengthen your application by providing further evidence of your English abilities.  You are welcome to submit TOEFL or IELTS scores even if not required.  You may also want to ask your referees to mention your English abilities in their letters of recommendation.  For example, a professor who has seen you give presentations or teach in English could comment on your speaking ability.

The TOEFL code for the University of Chicago is 1832. The code for the Department of Statistics is 59. If you are taking the IELTS, request that the scores be sent to the University of Chicago, Department of Statistics Admissions, 5747 S. Ellis Avenue, Room 222A, Chicago, IL 60637.  We must receive your scores directly from the testing agency; scanned or unofficial copies are not accepted.  You are, however, encouraged to self-report scores in your online application while you are waiting for an official score report.

TOEFL/IELTS results from tests taken more than two years prior to our application deadline of December 31 are considered expired.

For more information about the University's English language requirements, please visit the website of University’s Office of International Affairs at


Candidate Statement

The short essay provides you with an opportunity to tell us what interests you about Statistics, what your goals are, and what you hope to accomplish in your graduate studies. There is no need to tell us more about your grades, test scores, and course work in your essay—your transcript and other supporting material will provide this information. Instead, you should use the Candidate Statement as an opportunity to tell us about aspects of yourself that are not apparent from your transcript, such as extracurricular projects you have completed, work experience you have had, and so on. If you have completed graduate work elsewhere, your statement should include your reasons for wanting to change institutions or degree programs. This part of your statement is essential if you have completed more than two years of graduate study at other institutions.



The application fee is $90. The fee is nonrefundable. A waiver of the fee can be considered; see the fee waiver within the online application for further information. University regulations forbid us from admitting students who have not paid the fee or obtained a waiver; no exceptions are permitted.

If you are applying to our Ph.D. program and would like to be considered for our M.S. program if not admitted, you will need to pay both the application fees for the programs. If you are applying both to Statistics and to another University of Chicago program, you will submit separate applications and supporting materials to each program.  The only exception is standardized test scores: all departments are able to access each other’s GRE and TOEFL records.


Financial Considerations and Length of Study


Financial Aid for Ph.D. Students

In recent years our department has been able to provide full support (tuition, most fees, health insurance, and a stipend) for most of its Ph.D. students, and we expect to do so for the foreseeable future. Ordinarily, students are supported for at least four years. Support is not tied to working with a particular faculty member. At present, most fifth-year students receive full support, and most Ph.D. students receive summer support.

Decisions on departmental financial aid are made by the Statistics Department, not by the University. Assistantships are awarded on the basis of our assessment of your scholarly promise and are subject to the availability of funds.

We adhere to the policy of the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) concerning offers of financial support in the form of a scholarship, assistantship, fellowship, or traineeship. Under that policy, acceptance of such an offer from any institution does not become binding until April 15. Complete details are given in the CGS resolution, a copy of which accompanies any offer of a scholarship, assistantship, fellowship, or traineeship.

You should also investigate other possibilities for financial support for graduate study. In particular, the National Science Foundation (NSF) offers several fellowship programs for graduate study. Other opportunities are listed on the University’s Fellowships and Funding site. We strongly encourage all eligible applicants to apply to these programs. Since the application deadlines are quite early in the fall, we suggest that you investigate your options early in the process.

If you might receive a fellowship or grant that would allow you to attend our Ph.D. program without full support from us, please bring that to our attention in the Financial Data section of the application.


Financial Considerations for M.S. Students

This section discusses how long it takes to complete the M.S. program, what it costs, and job opportunities for M.S. students on campus.

Our Ph.D. students perform almost all teaching and research assistant work in our small department; thus, assistantships or fellowships are not available for M.S. students. We do not offer assistantships to incoming master’s students, although they are typically eligible for a merit-based partial tuition scholarship of 25% during their first year of study. Subject to satisfactory performance, they may receive an increased scholarship during their second year.

Our master’s program requires a minimum of nine courses, plus an M.S. paper and presentation. Full-time students take three classes each Autumn, Winter, and Spring Quarter.  (We do not offer classes during Summer Quarter.)  Thus, the M.S. program can be completed in one year.  Many students decide to stay for at least part of a second year in order to take more electives or to have more time to complete the M.S. paper.  Many students also find that they would benefit from a full year in the program before taking the required three-course sequence in data analysis (STAT 34300-34500-34700).

The vast majority of our students are full-time.  Part-time study is a select option by permission only; it requires careful planning, as each course is offered only once or twice per year.  We do not offer evening or weekend classes.  We do not offer online classes.  We are only able to sponsor visas for full-time students.      

For the 2016-2017 academic year, full-time tuition is $51,192.  With a 25% partial tuition scholarship, each student is responsible for the remaining $38,394 as well as the $1128 Student Life Fee.  All students are required to have health insurance.  Most students enroll in the University’s plan at an annual cost of $3,615.  Students with outside insurance coverage may opt out of the University’s plan, provided they can prove their coverage is comparable.  All amounts listed are likely to increase slightly each year.

The Department occasionally hires advanced M.S. students as graders.  Pay varies depending on the level of the course.  Graders are hired based on departmental needs each quarter.  Many M.S. students also find student jobs elsewhere on campus, such as at the Booth School of Business or in the Department of Economics, as research assistants, data analysts, office assistants, student technicians, and the like.

When budgeting your education, keep in mind that most M.S. students find that they do not have time available for a job, especially early in the program.  International students should also note that most student visas have specific and strict rules limiting employment prospects.

For more information about finances, please visit the University's Fellowships and Funding site at  You may also want to consider opportunities for loans and other forms of funding.


Will We Consider You for Financial Aid?

We automatically consider each Ph.D. applicant for financial aid but take into account any outside grants or other funding the student may have. The Department does not offer financial aid to M.S. applicants other than the 25% partial tuition scholarship described above. All students are encouraged to visit the links listed in the “Resources” section of our “Admissions” site early on to determine what sources of external financial aid may be available to them.




All admitted students begin the program in Autumn Quarter. We do not allow admits during the rest of the academic year because of the structure of our course sequences. The application deadline is December 31, 2016.

The admissions committee begins reviewing applications to the Ph.D. program around the beginning of January, and applications to the M.S. program are reviewed toward the end of January. Because we get hundreds of applications, both review processes can go on for many weeks. You will receive an email when your decision is available.  To view your decision, log in to your online application.

If you are a current student, we encourage you to provide an updated transcript whenever your autumn grades are available.  You may upload updated transcripts through your “Application Status” page, even after the application deadline.  When in doubt, use the “Miscellaneous” label when uploading new materials.


The Council of Graduate Schools Agreement concerning April 15th

Applicants to the doctoral program should please note that by the terms of the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) resolution, to which the University of Chicago and many other universities in the United States are signatories, Ph.D. applicants are not required to make a final decision about acceptance of financial aid (e.g., assistantships) until April 15th, nor is any commitment on their part binding until then. The resolution does not apply to M.S. applicants.


For More Information


If you have any questions about our application process or programs, please see our FAQs page. Please do not contact individual faculty or staff with admissions inquiries. Please do not send the same inquiry to multiple people.