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Admission Requirements for the MA/PhD Program

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All applicants must hold a baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution, with the equivalent of an undergraduate Spanish major (roughly 30 semester hours of third-and fourth-year coursework, including surveys of Spanish Peninsular and Latin American literature, advanced grammar, Spanish phonetics).

GRE and TOEFL Scores

GRE scores - GRE scores are not required. 
TOEFL scores International students for whom English is not a native language, or who do not hold a baccalaureate or higher degree from an accredited university whose language of instruction is English, must take the TOEFL; the minimum score for the internet-based test (iBT) is a total of 80 with a 19 on the speaking section. For the paper-based test, a minimum score of 550 (taken prior to July 2017) and a combined section total of 60 or greater (taken July 2017 or later) is required. 

*IELTS scores are also accepted, with a minimum score of 6.5 required. 

Application Materials 

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Letters of Recommendation

All applicants must provide two letters of recommendation (in English or Spanish), addressed to the Department Head.  These recommendations should be uploaded to the Penn State Graduate Application website by the referee. The letters should indicate the relationship between the referee and the applicant and address the applicant's performance as well as the potential to undertake graduate studies in the chosen area.

*There are no official forms required or available. 

Statement of Purpose

All applicants must submit a Statement of Purpose (i.e., a narrative statement of intent). This document is one of the most important components of the application and should be prepared thoughtfully. 

The Statement of Purpose should be between two and three pages in length, single-spaced, and 12-point font.  The statement should include:

  1. A description of the applicant’s academic studies in Spanish and related areas, and additional experiences which bear on qualifications or interest in graduate studies.
  2. A statement addressing the applicant’s commitment to research. Simply stating that "I have always enjoyed Spanish," "I want to learn more about Spanish/improve my abilities," or "Spanish is my native language" is not helpful.

The most effective way to prepare the statement is:

  1. Outline previous educational and research experiences. 
  2. Provide a clear statement for the reasons to pursue a graduate degree that describes specific interests, including possible dissertation topics, collateral areas, and related research. 
  3. Elaborate on the abilities to conduct original in-depth research.
  4. Justify the choice of Penn State University as the appropriate institution for a graduate career. To the extent possible, identify specific faculty members and university and community resources that would make the doctoral project feasible at Penn State University.

*Important Note: Applicants who submit a Statement of Purpose in English should submit a writing sample in Spanish. Conversely, applicants who submit a Statement of Purpose in Spanish should submit a writing sample in English.


A copy of your transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended is required. 

Writing Sample

The writing sample may take the form of a recent article publication, a chapter from a thesis, a term paper, or similar representative scholarship.  The sample should be approximately ten to twenty pages in length. The submitted work must be single-authored by the applicant, and, if possible, should relate to the student’s intended field of graduate study (i.e., linguistics or literature). If you have submitted a Statement of Purpose composed in English, then the writing sample should be in Spanish.

*Please note: at least one of the two written portions of your application (the Statement of Purpose and the Writing Sample) must be in Spanish.

Admissions Process

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To complete the admissions process follow steps 1 & 2 below:


If you are ready to proceed to the application but have NOT read the Graduate School requirements, please visit Requirements for Graduate Admission.

If you have read the Graduate School and program requirements and are ready to apply, you may proceed to the application: Apply to the Graduate School at Penn State

Note that there is a non-refundable application fee for electronic application (for more fee information visit Requirements for Graduate Admission). Applications without the included fees cannot be processed. Make payable to The Pennsylvania State University (International money order or a check must be drawn on a U.S. bank. Canceled check serves as your receipt. Credit cards can be processed with the PDF downloadable Graduate School application form).

  • Please attach the generated Fee Form if you filed your application electronically and you did not pay by credit card.

Mail fee to:
Graduate Enrollment Services
114 Kern Building
University Park, PA 16802

The Department will reimburse the application fee to applicants who have the credentials to be nominated by the department for a University Graduate Fellowship or a Bunton Waller Award.

You will be prompted to submit or complete the following items electronically when filing your online application:

  • Representative research (e.g. a term paper, thesis, or article).
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Statement of purpose
  • A copy of your transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended


If you are recommended for admission into the Spanish graduate program you will be notified that official/original transcripts/documents must be sent from the originating institutions for review by the Graduate School, in order to finalize your admission.  Official transcripts will be submitted directly to the Graduate School (not the department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese).  The Graduate School will include instructions for the submission of the official transcripts at this time.

*International applicants must submit official or attested university records, with certified translations if the records are not in English (notarized copies are not sufficient).


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The deadline for applicants to be considered for the Fall semester is January 15 of that year.