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PhD Admissions

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The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree is intended primarily for students who desire a career in research, advanced development, or teaching. Students in the PhD program obtain a broad education in the core areas of Aeronautics and Astronautics through coursework, while also engaging in intensive research in a specialized area, culminating in a doctoral thesis.

As of the 2021-2022 application term, an MS degree will no longer be required to apply to the PhD program in Aeronautics and Astronautics. Students with a Bachelor’s degree who ultimately intend to complete a PhD degree are strongly encouraged to apply directly to the PhD program, rather than the MS program.

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.

Application Deadlines

We have one PhD admission cycle. Application deadlines are final. A completed application (including letters of recommendation, transcripts and TOEFL scores) must be uploaded by the deadline. Applications will NOT be accepted after the deadline. A completed application (including letters of recommendation, transcripts and TOEFL scores) must be received by the following date:

Autumn 2024-25: December 5, 2023

Application Requirements

To be eligible for admission to the PhD program, applicants must either:

  • hold, or expect to hold before enrollment at Stanford, a bachelor’s degree from a U.S. college or university.
  • Applicants from institutions outside the U.S. must hold the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree from a college or university of recognized standing. See minimum level of study required of international applicants.

Students who meet the above degree requirement with a strong technical background in engineering, physics, or a comparable science program are welcome to apply; a bachelor's degree in aeronautics and astronautics or mechanical engineering is not strictly required.

All students interested in pursuing a PhD in Aeronautics and Astronautics should use the Stanford Graduate Admissions Application. Your application must include all of the materials listed below and be received by Stanford by the application deadline. The fee for online graduate applications is $125.

Required Application Documents

  • Online Application
  • Application Fee
  • Statement of Purpose
  • 3 Letters of Recommendation
  • Official TOEFL* Scores, if applicable

Application Fee Waiver

If you are considering Stanford graduate programs and need assistance with the application fees, consider applying for a fee waiver.

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).


Submitting transcripts when you are applying, and after you have been offered admission are two separate steps. When applying: You must upload one scanned version of your transcript(s) in the online application. Please read the Applying section of this website for important information about submitting transcripts. If offered admission: Please see this page for information on submitting final official transcripts.

Letters of Recommendation

Three letters of recommendation are required; one letter must come from an academic source, although at least two are preferred. Recommendations must be submitted online. Please see the "Recommendations" section of the online application for information. Please do not submit letters of recommendation through Interfolio.

TOEFL Scores

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 two years. 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.

*Stanford will temporarily accept the TOEFL ITP Plus test with the Vericant interview for applicants from Mainland China who are unable to sit for the TOEFL iBT. This exception is requested only for the 2020-2021 application cycle. Applicants may be asked to re-test at a later time once the Stanford TOEFL iBT becomes available, or applicants may be asked to re-test through the Stanford Language Center. Per current University policy, all international students including those from Mainland China must receive English language clearance from the English for Foreign Students program prior to becoming a teaching assistant.

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.

Application Status

You may view your application status and decision by logging into your status page. Due to the volume of applications we receive, we are not able to confirm with individual applicants when documents have been received. All applicants should monitor the online checklist to track individual documents. It is the applicant's responsibility to monitor the checklist and ensure that all documents are received by the deadline.

Admission Decisions

Completed applications are reviewed by the faculty Admissions Committee throughout the winter. A select group of applicants will be interviewed during the evaluation process. Letters are sent as decisions are made, beginning in March. The selection of graduate students admitted to the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics is based on an individualized, holistic review of each application, including (but not limited to) the applicant’s academic record, the letters of recommendation, the statement of purpose, personal qualities and characteristics, and past accomplishments.

PhD Funding

All SoE PhD students who are in good standing relative to their PhD program requirements will be funded to the department’s PhD standard. In all departments, this is at least equivalent to Stanford’s 20-hour-RA salary plus tuition to cover the department’s required enrollment (summer enrollment requirements vary by department).  Funding can include fellowships, research assistantships, training grants and teaching assistantships. PhD students are encouraged to pursue outside fellowships. Besides the prestige, fellowships give the recipient greater flexibility in determining their own research direction.

Knight-Hennessy Scholars

Join dozens of Stanford Engineering students who gain valuable leadership skills in a multidisciplinary, multicultural community as Knight-Hennessy Scholars (KHS).

KHS admits up to 100 select applicants each year from across Stanford’s seven graduate schools, and delivers engaging experiences that prepare them to be visionary, courageous, and collaborative leaders ready to address complex global challenges. As a scholar, you join a multidisciplinary and multicultural cohort, participate in up to three years of leadership programming, and receive full funding for up to three years of your graduate studies at Stanford.

Candidates from any country may apply. KHS applicants must have earned their first undergraduate degree within the last seven years (or nine years, if you have served in your country's military). Applicants must apply to both a Stanford graduate program and to KHS.

If you aspire to be a leader in your field, we invite you to apply. The KHS application deadline is October 11, 2023. Learn more about KHS admission.