Info for Prospective Graduate Students
 Graduate Program Department of Economics ◊ University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 

This page addresses some common questions about applications, admission, and funding. Please contact us if you have additional questions.  In order to review every application carefully and fairly, the Graduate School and the Department follow the announced application procedures very consistently.  The Department endorses the University's commitment to equal educational and employment opportunities as expressed in the University's non-discrimination policy.




Admission Criteria
The Admissions Committee reviews the entire file including:

  • Preparation and performance in previous academic work,
          particularly in economics, statistics, and mathematics
  • GRE scores
  • TOEFL or IETLS scores (for international applicants)
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Statement of purpose
  • Professional experience
  • The Committee seeks to identify students who can master the quantitative material emphasized in the first-year courses and who can do independent research for the Ph.D. dissertation.  We do not have a minimum GRE score or GPA for admission.  Nor do we set a cut-off score above which we guarantee admission.  A student's entire academic background and potential for achievement are both considered.   Keeping in mind that we do not have GRE cut-off scores, some information about the typical scores may still be informative.  Last year, the average Verbal and Quantitative GRE scores were 157 and 165 respectively.   In general, the Quantitative GRE score must be 156 or above in order for an application to be competitive, but applicants with considerable strengths in other areas may be admitted and funded.

    We also try to maintain a diverse student group.  Recent classes include students from the United States,  Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Indonesia, Russia, Turkey, India, Korea, China, Columbia, Spain, Vietnam, and Thailand.

    The Graduate School recommends that you apply by December 15, 2015 to be assured of review for all University and departmental funding but that date is earlier than required by the Economics Department.  The Department will be able to review applications received by January 8, 2016 for all University and departmental funding.  If applicants are enrolled in educational programs in the fall of 2015, we prefer that they provide a transcript with their fall grades which may mean waiting until after December 15, 2015 to submit their applications. Applications received by mid-February will be reviewed for departmental funding; applications received later will be reviewed for admission and if possible for funding.  The Economics Department's deadline for all applications in May 12, 2016.

    If you are an active member of the U.S. Armed Forces and think that you have missed a deadline, please contact us.  The Graduate School will work with you to accommodate your schedule whenever possible.

    Application Instructions
    The Graduate School Admissions website includes a link to the online application system and to the application instructions. The Graduate School has worked to make the application process as straightforward as possible and has provided very detailed explanations and instructions for the online form. You will find it very helpful to read the instructions carefully before or while completing your application. A few additional instructions and clarifications are listed below.

    • Statement of purpose

    The Economics Department provides a form for the statement of purpose. Please download the form, prepare your statement on the form, and then upload it to the application web site. (Word or PDF). You may use the Statement of Purpose to explain why you are interested in attending graduate school and how your academic program and any career experiences have prepared you for a research oriented degree. We do not expect students to have selected a specific field within economics before entering graduate school, but you might describe some of the fields that you find interesting and are considering. You may also include other pertinent information that would help us understand your interests, your academic background, and your overall preparedness for graduate study.

    • Previous education and transcript(s)

    The online application asks you to list all post-secondary institutions attended and to upload a transcript for each. For the application, you may use unofficial transcripts obtained online from the institution(s). If you do attend UNC, an official copy of each transcript will be required.

    Most students obtain electronic copies of their transcripts from their schools’ online systems and then upload the files to the UNC application website. Before uploading the file, please check its legibility when viewed on a computer screen and when printed. If your school does not provide an online transcript, you may scan a hardcopy but be sure to check the legibility. All transcripts must be complete (not select courses), include grades, be issued in the original language, and be accompanied by certified English translations if applicable.

    The Economics Department deadline for full consideration for all funding sources is January 8, 2016 for admission in the fall of 2016. If you are enrolled at an educational institution during the fall of 2015 and your grades are posted by January 8, 2016, we would prefer that you submit a transcript after your fall grades are available.

    • Test scores

    You will be asked to enter the scores on your application and to have the testing services report the scores to UNC. The Graduate School requires that all admission and funding decisions be based on the officially reported scores.

    U.S. citizens, permanent U.S. residents, and international students in one of the exempt categories described on the Graduate School website need submit only the standard GRE scores. International students who do not satisfy one of the exemptions must also submit scores from either the TOEFL or IETLS.

    • Resume or curriculum vita (CV)

    Your resume should list (a) all post-secondary institutions attended along with the dates of attendance and any degrees received and (b) your relevant work experiences/internships by date. The Graduate School encourages you to provide information about your volunteer and research experiences, awards, and other activities pertinent to graduate study.

    • Supplemental documents

    Please download the Mathematics/Economics Course Form (Word or PDF) and enter your mathematics, economics, statistics, and other relevant courses. You may fill out the form electronically or fill it out by hand and then scan to create an electronic file. If you scan the form, be sure to check its legibility before uploading.

    • Financial certificate for international students

    International students (including those who are interested in receiving teaching/research assistantships or other awards from the University of North Carolina) must complete the Financial Certificate for International Graduate Students.  Please complete STEP TWO on page 2 even if you are like many of our international applicants and have little or no funding from government or personal sources. Those with no funding at the time of application will enter $0 for each box in STEP TWO including the box for “University Funding”.  If offered support from the University of North Carolina, then the “University Funding” box will be revised accordingly.  After completing the form, upload it and any electronic or scanned supporting documents together with your other application materials. 

    • Faculty interest page

    The online application is not individualized by department, and some of the information including the faculty interest page is not relevant for economics. Many students entering a PhD program in economics have not yet decided upon a major field, and they are not expected to have done so. Students need an opportunity to take courses, attend workshops, and talk with faculty before deciding upon a major field and a dissertation advisor. Also, faculty cannot commit to working with a student until they become familiar with the student’s interests and research plans. We anticipate that applicants to the economics program will leave this web form blank, and we do not plan to process the form.

    Financial Aid
    All applicants are considered for financial aid with the most common first-year assignments being departmental teaching and research assistantships, which are funded by the Graduate School or the Department of Economics.

    There are typically 16 to 20 students in the entering class, most of whom have financial aid from the Graduate School, the Department, or other sponsors.  Both U.S. and international students are eligible for support from the Graduate School and the Department.  U.S. citizens and permanent residents may also contact the University's Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid about federal loan and grant programs.

    Mathematics Background
    The minimum mathematics requirement is multivariate calculus and linear algebra. Most of our students have had additional mathematics. We have admitted and funded some students who take multivariate calculus and linear algebra during the spring semester when their applications are under review, but completing the courses earlier strengthens the application. Courses in advanced calculus and real analysis are not required but are very useful.  Having done well in these courses provides a valuable signal of a student's mathematical aptitude and seriousness about graduate study.

    Notification of Financial Aid
    We usually send the first-round of financial aid offers by March 21 and the deadline for responding to financial aid offers is April 15.  If the response rate to the first-round offers is low, then we may make additional offers.  We will not know about the possibility of second-round offers until we hear from the first-round students, some of whom do not notify us until shortly before the April 15 deadline. 

    You may want to read the Council of Graduate Schools resolution regarding deadlines for financial aid offers to incoming graduate students.  In brief, the resolution states that applicants should not be expected to reply to financial aid offers prior to April 15.  Most U.S. Graduate Schools have endorsed the resolution.  A very few departments now send financial aid letters with earlier deadlines but requests for extensions until April 15 are generally granted.   Students who have not received financial aid offers by early April become understandably concerned.  Those who hold multiple offers can help their fellow applicants by declining any offers that they have decided against prior to the April 15 deadline.

    Notification of Admission to the University
    Although we do not send financial aid offers until mid to late March, we usually begin making recommendations for admission to the University several weeks earlier.  Thus, some students may receive letters of admission from the Graduate School in February or early March before receiving financial aid letters from the department.

    Masters Applications
    Our Master’s program offers students a very strong grounding in economic theory, econometrics, and their major fields.  The Master’s program is relatively small, and we are very selective in admission since our Master’s students take the same courses as the PhD students.  Thus our Master’s students must have the necessary economics and mathematics background to understand and do well in PhD level courses.  Students can earn the Master’s degree in three semesters although some students take a fourth semester in order to augment the courses in their major  and related fields.  Many students begin their Master’s projects in one of the field courses and then work with faculty advisers to develop their research ideas as Master’s papers.  Please note that the Master’s program is not intended as an introduction to the PhD program, and students who are interested in a PhD should apply directly to the PhD program.

    We do not accept transfer credits, and most students take the standard first year courses. Students who have taken Ph.D. level courses from other institutions may be ready to take advanced courses during the first year and proceed to the dissertation stage more quickly.

    Spring Semester Admissions
    Ph.D. students are admitted only for the Fall Semester since all first year courses are two semester sequences starting in the Fall Semester.

    Chapel Hill is a great place to live. We have the atmosphere of a fairly small university community with the cultural amenities (and employment opportunities) of the Research Triangle. The corners of the Triangle are UNC, Duke University, and North Carolina State University and the middle area is the Research Triangle Park, home to IBM, GlaxoSmithKline, and dozens of high-tech businesses.  Duke University is about 10 miles from here, and many of our workshops are run jointly with Duke.  Students may take courses that we do not offer at Duke or North Carolina State University.

    Visiting UNC
    We welcome applicants who visit Chapel Hill.  Please let us know in advance and we will set-up appointments with faculty and students who share your interests.  Contact Julian Wooten, Assistant to the Director of Graduate Studies (, 919-966-2384) or Professor Helen Tauchen, Director of Graduate Studies (,  919-966-2383).

    Graduate Program Home Page Last edited 10/27/2015