Applications and Financial Aid

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Thank you for your interest in applying to the PhD program in communication theory and research. The evaluation of all graduate applications is done at the department level. Please read the following information carefully. We have made a great effort to provide detailed and thorough information regarding the application process and hope that it will provide answers to your questions.

Application Deadline

Knight-Hennessy Scholars
The Knight-Hennessy Scholars program cultivates and supports a highly-engaged, multidisciplinary and multicultural community of graduate students from across Stanford University, and delivers a diverse collection of educational experiences, preparing graduates to address complex challenges facing the world. Knight-Hennessy Scholars participate in an experiential leadership development program known as the King Global Leadership Program and receive funding for up to three years of graduate study at Stanford. Two applications must be submitted separately; one to Knight-Hennessy by October 6, 2021, 1 pm PST, and one to the Stanford graduate degree program by its deadline. 
The deadline for the submission of graduate application forms to the Department of Communication for matriculation in autumn 2022 will be December 7, 2021 at 11:59PM. The online application fee is $125 for all applicants, both domestic and international. If you are considering applying to Stanford graduate programs and need assistance with the application fees, consider applying for a fee waiver.

Self-reported (unofficial) test scores that could not be included with the online application should be faxed or emailed and must be received by the above deadline. Recommenders have until January 3, 2022 to submit their online recommendation letters.

Applicants who do not have a bachelor’s or master’s degree from a university based in the U.S. should review the information for international students to determine their eligibility to apply to graduate school at Stanford.

How to Apply

What do I need to submit?

Application form

The online application will go live in September. Any problems that you encounter while completing or submitting the application must be addressed by contacting the support desk as indicated on the application website. Since the Stanford application software is not Stanford-based, we cannot help with technical issues. Note that no changes can be made to your application once it has been submitted.

Statement of purpose

Explain the nature of your interest in the PhD program and reasons for wanting to study at Stanford. Include details about your preparation for this field of study, your future career plans, and any other aspects of your background and interests which may aid the admissions committee in evaluating your aptitude and motivation for graduate study. Please ensure that your full name is on each page of your statement of purpose. Note that once your application has been submitted, we cannot accept any revised statements of purpose or resumes. The statement of purpose should not exceed two pages, single spaced.

Do not upload academic papers, theses, or dissertations as part of your statement of purpose. These items are not required. If you wish to submit them, please do so separately by uploading them in the ‘additional information’ section of the application. We do not accept materials submitted via email.


On the ApplyWeb application, list any degree program in which you are currently enrolled, as well as every post-secondary institution you have attended as a full-time student for one or more academic years. Upload transcripts for each of these. Current transcripts should be the most recently available versions even if no grades are listed for autumn courses.

If you have participated in a study abroad program or transferred courses to your home institution, and the individual courses and grades are reflected on the transcript of the home institution, then you do not need to submit transcripts from the study abroad/transfer institution. Multiple page uploads are allowed for all transcripts. Do not send official copies of transcripts (print or e-transcripts) to the department during the application process. They are not required as part of the application and will not be uploaded to your application or acknowledged.

If you are offered admission to Stanford Communication and accept the offer, you will then be required to submit official transcripts/degree certifications that show your degree conferral to our department using one of the delivery methods listed below. Note that transcripts uploaded with the online application are not considered final official transcripts.

Stanford requires:

  • Official documents from all institutions attended full-time for at least one academic year
  • Undergraduate program documents (associate’s & bachelor’s level): final official transcript(s) showing completion of coursework required for the degree, degree earned, and the date of degree conferral. If from an international institution, additional documents are probably needed – official degree conferral/graduation document(s).
  • Graduate program documents (master’s & doctoral level): If applicable, official graduate transcript(s). In most cases, in-progress documents are sufficient. Final graduate transcript and degree conferral/graduation documents are only required for a TOEFL waiver or following a 3-year undergraduate degree from India, Pakistan, or Nepal.
  • If the documents are not in English, then institution-produced or certified translations are required, in addition to the official original-language documents.

Stanford does not consider transcripts that come from applicants or that have been in the applicant’s possession to be official. Transcripts/degree documents submitted by the student as email attachments are also not considered official.

Delivery Methods

  • PREFERRED METHOD – Certified Electronic Transcripts:  Secure electronically delivered transcripts that are passcode protected, digitally signed, and properly certified by the issuing institution sent to us only from the issuing institution or its authorized agent. Arrange for them to be sent to studentservices@commu.stanford.eduTranscripts sent as email attachments or by the applicant will be rejected.
  • ApplyWeb CertiFile Service: International and domestic final official transcripts/degree certifications delivery method via the ApplyWeb CertiFile Service. To submit the order, go to your ApplyWeb Applicant Activity Page by clicking on the Review Your Activitylink at There is a fee for this service.
  • Traditional Paper Documents: If your institution will be mailing a traditional paper transcript, it must be in an official sealed envelope that is signed or stamped across the envelope flap by the appropriate academic officer at the institution issuing the document. If the envelope has been opened or there is no stamp or signature across the envelope flap, it will not be accepted. Have the institution send it to the following address:

Student Services Manager
Department of Communication
Building 120, Room 110A
450 Jane Stanford Way

Stanford, CA 94305-2050


Upload a resume (1-3 pages) into the ‘resume’ section of the application.

Official TOEFL test scoresTOEFL

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). Note that U.S. citizenship does not automatically exempt an applicant from taking the TOEFL if the applicant’s first language is not English. Stanford accepts only ETS (Educational Testing Service) scores; performance on other tests and coursework, such as IELTS, will not be accepted. Stanford accepts TOEFL MyBest scores but does not currently accept TOEFL Essentials test scores. Our institution code number for ETS reporting is 4704. No department number is required. Test scores may be no older than 2 years, dating back from September 15, 2021.

ETS has introduced a solution for students impacted by the COVID-19 crisis by temporarily offering a TOEFL iBT test at home option until all test centers can reopen.

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 regionally-accredited college or university in the United States (territories and possessions excluded), or an equivalent degree from an English-language university in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.

You may request a waiver if you (will) have an equivalent degree from a recognized institution in a country other than Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, and the United Kingdom in which English was the language of instruction. You must submit a Stanford application before submitting a TOEFL waiver request form. If you receive confirmation from the Graduate Admissions Office that your TOEFL waiver request has been approved, you must forward this notification to

A minimum TOEFL score of 100 on the Internet based test (iBT) is required by Stanford University. A score of 115 is suggested by the Department of Communication. Please note that the Graduate Admission’s Required Exams webpage also states that incoming students who score below 109 on the TOEFL will likely be required to complete additional English placement testing prior to enrollment. Evidence of adequate English proficiency must be submitted before enrollment is approved by Graduate Admissions.

Applications will be processed using the self-reported (unofficial) test scores. If you submit your application before you have taken the test, please email your score to as soon as you receive it. iBT test-takers should be able to access their scores online approximately 10 days after the test date. We recommend that you take the test no later than mid-November 2021 to ensure that you meet the December 7, 2021. application deadline. Offers of admission are contingent on receipt of the official scores.

 IMPORTANT: Please note that it can take 2-3 weeks for your official test scores to arrive from ETS. In addition, the department cannot see or access these scores until approximately two weeks after you have submitted your online application. Applications will be considered complete with unofficial scores, although no offers of admission can be made without official scores.

Letters of recommendation

We require three letters of recommendation. Recommendations must be submitted online by January 3, 2022.  As part of the online application, applicants will be required to register the contact information of their recommenders. Recommenders will then receive an email with directions on how to proceed. At least one evaluation and letter should be from a faculty member at the last school you attended as a full-time student (unless you have been out of school for more than five years). Substitutions for faculty recommendations may include work associates or others who can comment on your academic potential for graduate work.

We can accommodate letters submitted by your university’s letter service (e.g. Interfolio). You will still need to enter information for each recommender in the online application, including e-mail addresses. An automatic email will then be sent to the recommender requesting a letter. You will need to contact them to let them know that they should follow your institution’s letter service protocol. Please use this email address when routing through the letter service:

Supplemental questions

  1. Applicants to the Ph.D. Program select three faculty members whose research interests align with their own (in order of preference). To select only one or two professors, simply enter one name multiple times.
  2. Applicants are asked to describe an encounter with a text/topic/event/person/experience in your scholarly or other pursuits that has informed and (re-)shaped your interests in research. Character limit: 1,500
  3. Please describe a specific challenge you faced in work/school, how you managed that hurdle, and how that experience has prepared you to pursue a PhD and contribute to the intellectual and social community at Stanford. Character limit: 1,500

Other optional papers

You may upload additional papers such as samples of your academic or published works in the ‘additional information’ section of the application. They will be included in your application file, though there is no guarantee that they will be reviewed by the admissions committee.

Optional GRE scores

Submission of general GRE scores is optional. If you would like us to see your scores, feel free to submit them.  If you do decide to submit scores, all reports must be sent electronically by ETS to Stanford University ( Our institution code number for ETS reporting is 4704, no department number is required. Test scores may be no older than 5 years, dating back from December 1, 2021. Applications will be processed using the self-reported (unofficial) test scores. If you submit your online application before you have taken the test, please email or fax your scores to us as soon as you have them. When official test scores are sent to Stanford by ETS, it will take about two weeks after submission of the application to match them with an applicant’s online file. Should the applicant’s name entered in the application be different than the name associated with the test score, applicants must notify

Financial Aid

Please note that requesting financial aid on the application form will not affect your chances of being admitted. All prospective students should review the estimated expenses associated with graduate study at Stanford.

Those eligible should also apply to the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program, which awards up to 100 high-achieving students every year with full funding to pursue a graduate education at Stanford. To be considered, you must apply to the Knight-Hennessy Scholars by October 2021 and separately apply to the Communication department by December 7, 2021.

The Department of Communication offers full funding including fellowship stipends or assistantship salary as well as tuition throughout the first 5 years of study. This funding is provided for all 12 months of the year.

Application Status and Questions

We will update your application status in the Check List section of your online application account starting December 8, 2021 to inform you whether or not your application is complete. If the application is not complete, the missing items will be categorized as ‘not received’, or specifically listed. You will be given one extra week to submit the missing items. There is no need to contact us to check on this. Doing so significantly delays the application process and our ability to confirm your application status.

Decisions are usually made by March 1. Please do not contact us prior to this date to check the status of your application.

For more information, please review our departmental website and the University’s Graduate Admissions web site. If you still have questions, please contact the Student Services Manager. In the subject heading of the email, please type ‘Admissions: LAST NAME, First Name’.

IMPORTANT: Please ensure that your email settings allow for the receipt of our emails so that they do not go into your junk mail.

Good luck! We look forward to receiving your application.

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