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MPhil Application Overview

Admissions and eligibility

Admission to the Master of Philosophy in Liberal Arts (MPhil) degree is available to individuals who earned a graduate degree from Penn and have an interdisciplinary academic background; who previously completed a Master of Liberal Arts degree at Penn; or who hold an equivalent master's degree in the liberal arts at another institution.

COVID-19 and admissions reviews 

Recognizing the challenges of teaching, learning, and assessing academic performance during the global COVID-19 pandemic, Penn’s admissions committees for graduate and professional programs will take the significant disruptions of the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020 into account when reviewing students’ transcripts and other admissions materials as part of their regular practice of performing individualized, holistic reviews of each applicant. In particular, as we review applications now and in the future, we will respect decisions regarding the adoption of Pass/Fail and other grading options during the period of COVID-19 disruptions. An applicant will not be adversely affected in the admissions process if their academic institution implemented a mandatory pass/fail (or similar) system for the term or if the applicant chose to participate in an optional pass/fail (or similar) system for the term. Penn’s longstanding commitment remains to admit graduate and professional student cohorts composed of outstanding individuals who demonstrate the resilience and aptitude to succeed in their academic pursuits.

Application deadlines

You may apply to begin the Master of Philosophy in Liberal Arts during the fall, spring, or summer terms. Your application portfolio, including all transcripts, must be received by the following deadlines:

Admission Cycle Deadline
Spring 2021 November 1, 2020
Summer 2021 April 1, 2021
Fall 2021 July 1, 2021

Start your application now

Application materials checklist

Applications must be submitted through our online application system and must contain all of the following in order to be considered complete. Please note that all application materials become the property of the University of Pennsylvania and will not be returned. Remember to retain a personal copy of your application.

  • Completed online application
  • Current resume
  • Nonrefundable application fee
  • Application essays, listed below
  • Unofficial transcripts from each post-secondary school attended uploaded through the online application system 
  • Standardized test scores, if applicable (details below)
  • Two letters of recommendation (details below)

Master of Philosophy in Liberal Arts application essays

Your application includes essays addressing the following topics. Responses should not exceed four pages in length for all the questions combined. Please compile your responses into a single document, but keep them as separate essays.

  • During your master's program, you developed an interdisciplinary curriculum that explored one or more themes. Please describe your intellectual journey during your previous graduate studies and discuss, in detail, how your experience has prepared you to undertake further study in the Master of Philosophy in Liberal Arts program.
  • Describe the final thesis project you would pursue during your Master of Philosophy in Liberal Arts studies. Be as specific as possible concerning the questions you would like to explore, the methodology you would employ, the kinds of sources you would consult, the courses you would take and the faculty with whom you would like to work. You should also describe the relationship between your proposed program and your previous graduate research. If you propose to depart from your previous research, describe any coursework or experiences that have prepared you to undertake your proposed course of study. 

Letters of recommendation

Each applicant submits two letters of recommendation. If you have already completed a Master of Liberal Arts at Penn, these letters should be from Penn faculty with whom you propose to study in the MPhil. For other Penn programs or external applicants, the letters should be from two of your advisors or instructors from a previous master's program. Recommendations may be submitted online or by mail. For online recommendations, please follow the instructions in the recommendations section of the online application. For paper recommendations, please download a copy of the recommendation form (PDF) and supply a copy to each recommender.

Standardized test scores

Standardized test scores are not required for admission to the Master of Philosophy in Liberal Arts. However, you may choose to submit standardized test scores, such as the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), in support of your application. Request that your scores report for the GRE test be forwarded to the College of Liberal and Professional Studies, using ETS institutional code 2986.

A strong command of the English language is necessary for successful study at Penn. Applicants whose native language is not English must submit Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores to demonstrate English proficiency. Please note that the TOEFL is rarely waived; therefore, we encourage applicants to take the test to avoid delays in completing the application. The TOEFL must be sent from ETS using the institutional code 2986. To locate a testing site near you or schedule an exam, visit the TOEFL website. International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is also accepted and the minimum score for consideration is a 7. You may upload a copy of your IELTS test to the standardized test score section of the application.

The minimum TOEFL scores required for admissions consideration are

  • 100 (iBT)
  • 250 (CBT)
  • 600 (PBT)

Flexibility for international applicants: We recognize that there may be limited testing opportunities for the GRE, GMAT, IELTS, and TOEFL exams in your home country and some applicants will not be able to report scores by the application deadline. If this pertains to you, we encourage you to complete the application to the best of your ability and to include a supplemental statement that explains your circumstances. Your information will be provided to the appropriate admissions committee and your admissions decision will be based on the materials available at the time of review. Please note, the College of Liberal and Professional Studies is accepting at-home GRE and TOEFL test scores and the IELTS Indicator exam scores through the 2020-2021 admissions year. Please visit the specific standardized testing websites for exam options in your home country.

Upon review of an applicant's file, the Admissions Committee reserves the right to request TOEFL scores.

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Contact us

Have any questions about the MLA? Reach out to our program director or enrollment team for a one-on-one discussion.