Frequently Asked Questions

Provides answers to questions often asked by prospective Penn State Smeal MBA students.

General Admission Requirements

All applicants are required to submit a Graduate School application, one essay, two letters of recommendation, a GMAT or GRE test score, resume, undergraduate transcripts, and responses to our video application questions. For international candidates, a Visa application and official English Language proficiency exam scores are required.

Beyond submitting these materials, there are no minimum requirements for application. During the admissions process, we evaluate academic ability, work experience, and fit within the program to determine admission.

We do not accept applicants who already have an MBA from a U.S. institution (or the equivalent of an MBA). Candidates who have an internationally awarded MBA may still be eligible. For questions regarding eligibility, please email smealmba@psu.edu.

A maximum of six credits may be transferred into the Smeal MBA Program as long as they have been earned within the last 5 years and have not been applied towards the requirements for a previous degree. Due to the integrative nature of the core curriculum and the structure of our program, any transfer credits will count as electives and the full four semesters of study will still be required.

For more information, please see the official Graduate School policy on transferring credits.

While there are neither prerequisite math nor computer skills required for admission, we've found that an understanding of analytical thinking and quantitative tools has a significant influence on success in the program. While we expect students to be comfortable with the use of spreadsheets and have basic knowledge of statistics, there are no prerequisites. Students from all academic backgrounds are welcome to apply.

Students with limited quantitative backgrounds may benefit from taking accounting and business statistics courses before starting the program. An introductory course in Microsoft Excel spreadsheet functions and basics can also be very valuable. All of these skills can be explored using the MBA Math website.

Once enrolled, all Smeal MBA students are required to take a pre-term course that provides a brief overview of accounting.

Yes. All MBA students are required to own a laptop. Many courses during the MBA program will require access to online tools and applications, and most students bring their laptops to class.

The best way to learn if the Smeal MBA Program is right for you is to start by browsing our website, particularly our About the Program and Ideal Candidate pages. After that, be certain to look at our Visits and Events page to attend a city visit by our admissions team, join one of our live webinars, or ideally, attend an on-campus MBA Preview Day that allows you to sit in on a class, have lunch with current students, attend group information sessions, and interview with an Admissions team member. You can also schedule an individual campus visit by emailing us at smealmba@psu.edu.

You are also encouraged to connect with current students and staff any time either by calling our office or by emailing us at smealmba@psu.edu. Once we get a chance to learn more about you, we can connect you with alumni in your area or with current students to get you started.

If you have any questions about the admissions process or application requirements, or just want to speak to an admissions counselor to learn about Penn State or the MBA Program, you may email us at any time at smealmba@psu.edu or call 800-379-6445 to speak with someone on the Admissions team.

Please keep in mind that because the evaluation process looks at your entire application and compares your profile against the larger applicant pool in each round, we cannot estimate your chance of admission before your application is complete and submitted.

Please send all your supplemental application materials to:

MBA Admissions
Smeal College of Business
The Pennsylvania State University
220 Business Building
University Park, PA 16802

The entire application package is viewed in its entirety. No specific application piece is weighed more than the other.

No. We accept applications without age discrimination. The average age of our students is 27-28.

You can submit your application if you are missing a required item; however, we cannot proceed with evaluating it until all materials are received. In these cases, we will periodically inform you via email of any missing components so you can complete the application.

If you wish to be considered for an application deadline and are still missing an item, please contact our Admissions team at smealmba@psu.edu to discuss your specific situation.

Our application fee is $65.

While we have made an effort to keep our application fee low compared to other programs, we do offer application fee waivers for the specific groups outlined below. If you qualify under one of the following, please email smealmba@psu.edu with your qualification status to request a fee waiver code.

  • Penn State alumni
  • Active duty U.S. military or U.S. veteran
  • Individuals reapplying from a previous year
  • Individuals referred to the program by a member of the Penn State Community

In addition to the above, we frequently offer application fee waivers as a Thank You to students who visit campus, attend one of our admissions team events, or meet with us at any of the various tour events listed on our Visits and Events page.

Please note: Application fee waivers must be applied at the time of application. Fees cannot be reimbursed after an application has been submitted.

Simply fill out this form to receive one of our information brochures in the mail.

Letters of Recommendation

We require written evaluations from two recommenders, preferably from your immediate supervisors or anybody who can comment on your work. This could include your clients. Because working with a team is a critical part of the Smeal MBA experience, one of the letters of reference could be from a peer or team member about your teamwork and leadership skills.

Academic recommendations are acceptable if you are applying straight out of an undergraduate program or if you have worked with the recommender as a teaching assistant, researcher, or in a similar capacity. We encourage you to provide recommendations from your work place when applicable.

It is important that you select a recommender who knows you well and is willing to dedicate the time to convey your experience in detail. In-depth recommendations are more important than well-known names or titles.

We are proud to partner with the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) to support the MBA Common Letter of Recommendation form. During the application process, you will provide the name and email address of your recommenders on our Recommendation Portal. Recommenders will be provided with a personalized link to provide the required information.

While two letters of recommendation are required, our recommendation portal allows you to identify a third recommender if you believe that a third recommendation will add significant value to your application or will help the admission committee get a different perspective about you.

Two recommendations from individuals who can objectively speak to your past are required for the Smeal MBA admissions application. Recommendations from personal friends, relatives, or family acquaintances are not appropriate. We prefer letters written by employers or professional colleagues.

Consider another work-related source, such as a client or a manager from another department who knows your skills. Perhaps you could ask a former manager who has left the company. What we are looking for is a recommendation from someone who knows your work well, preferably from a supervisor and/or a team member's perspective.

Application Essay

While your test scores, recommendations, and work experience tell us a lot about what you have done, your essay helps us learn about your values, passions, interests, and beliefs. Take time to think, and then write—this is not an easy question to answer. There are no "right" answers. The Admissions Committee will review your response when evaluating your application. Please be genuine, specific, and concise in your response.

Yes, clarity and brevity are critical to effective professional communications.

We require applicants to write one essay on their application:

“What are your short-term and long-term career goals? What is your plan for achieving these goals? Please be as specific as possible, including industry and function. How do you see your experience at Smeal fitting into this plan?”

In addition to the written essay, you will also be asked to submit brief responses to video questions. For more information on the written essay and video questions, please see our Application Page.

Please use your judgment to decide what you put in this section. In general, any information that you think would aid the admissions committee in making a decision and that is not covered anywhere else in the application can be included here.

GMAT/GRE, TOEFL/IELTS and GPA

The TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is required of all applicants whose native language is not English. International candidates who have not received a degree from a U.S. college or university must earn a score of 550 or higher on the paper-based TOEFL or 80 on the internet-based TOEFL, with a minimum of 19 on the speaking section. Scores must be sent directly to the Smeal College MBA office (code 2660).

While we prefer that students take TOEFL, we do accept valid IELTS scores (6.5 minimum) as an alternative to TOEFL scores. Scores must be sent to Penn State using code 2660. If you need to mail your IELTS results, please mail them to: 

The Pennsylvania State University
Graduate Enrollment Services
114 Kern Building
University Park, PA 16802

If you are an international candidate, you may be exempt from the TOEFL if you:

  • Received a degree from a U.S. college/university/institution.
  • Received a baccalaureate or a masters degree from a college or university in: Australia, Belize, British Caribbean and British West Indies, Canada (except Quebec), England, Guyana, Republic of Ireland, Liberia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.
  • Are a U.S. Permanent Resident.

While some the education systems of some countries are predominantly English, the TOEFL is required for consistent evaluation across areas.

TOEFL scores are valid for two years. This validity period is set by ETS, the official group that administers the TOEFL test.

Unfortunately, you must still submit a TOEFL even if you have been living in the U.S. for several years. The only exceptions are if you:

  • Received a degree from a U.S. college/university/institution.
  • Received a baccalaureate or a masters degree from a college or university in: Australia, Belize, British Caribbean and British West Indies, Canada (except Quebec), England, Guyana, Republic of Ireland, Liberia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.
  • Are a U.S. Permanent Resident.

Test Waiver Policy - GMAT or GRE waivers are offered to applicants with Ph.D., M.D., or D.O. degrees, active duty officers and veterans of the U.S. Military with more than 5 years of experience, and MD/MBA joint program applicants, who are required to submit MCAT scores instead. Waivers may also be considered for those with other advanced professional degrees, or extraordinary work or leadership experience. Factors considered for granting a waiver include an applicant's quantitative and analytical readiness for graduate study. To request a waiver:

  • Complete both your Smeal MBA Program application and Video Responses.
  • In the optional essay portion of the application, add your request and discuss your eligibility for a GMAT waiver.
  • All requests will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Scores are valid for five years.

No. We will look at your overall performance.

We take the highest overall score. We will not take the highest math or the highest verbal from different test administrations and combine them.

We will look at your overall testing history for either/both exams, but we will officially consider the highest test score reported.

We use the official ETS.org score converter.

No, there are no minimum thresholds for GMAT/GRE or GPA. Your application is evaluated in its entirety.That said, the average GMAT is 660 with a mid-80% range of 560 to 720. The average GPA is typically between a 3.3 and 3.5.

The Smeal school code for GRE is 2660. For GMAT, applicants should select "Penn State" as the university, "Smeal College of Business" as the program location, and "MBA" as the program of study.

The Smeal school code for TOEFL is 2660. It is referred to as "Penn State All Campuses."

The average GPA for the incoming class is 3.45.

Your undergraduate GPA is the required part of your application. In case of multiple bachelors or master's degrees, we place more emphasis on the trends in improvement of your GPA as opposed to raw numbers.

Taking additional classes can help, along with a very strong GMAT score. Both of these are considered as other indicators of academic potential. We will also use other parts of your application to assess your overall potential for success in the program. GMAT will carry more weight as a measure of how well you will do in your core classes.

A strong GPA can indicate your ability to perform well academically. However, the whole application is evaluated, so we do not directly trade off GMAT/GRE with GPA or vice versa. GPA measures past performance over a prolonged time period, whereas GMAT/GRE measures current potential with a significant time constraint. We look for trends to identify what these indicators and the rest of your application tell us about your ability to succeed in the program.

Application Statistics, Deadlines, Interviews, and Admission Decisions

The Penn State Smeal MBA Program accepts only 60 students per year, with a typical class between 55-60 individuals. The average GMAT is 660 with a mid-80% range of 560 to 720. The average GPA is 3.4. Students typically have between 4-5 years of work experience.

The complete class profile for the most recently admitted class is located here.

Our application deadlines are October 1, December 1, February 1, and April 1. All candidates are encouraged to apply by the February 1 deadline for financial aid consideration. For more information, view our Application Process page.

Since admission decisions are made on a rolling basis, it is to your advantage to apply as early as you are ready. The admissions committee cannot predict the quality of future applications and is inclined to admit well-qualified applicants early in the process. In addition, early application ensures that you will receive a decision earlier. However, it is important not to rush your application. We encourage you to take the time necessary to submit a thoughtful, well-prepared application. Regardless of the round in which your application has been submitted, the admissions committee will give full and fair consideration to your candidacy.

No. Applications are reviewed and admission decisions are made on a rolling basis. Because we only accept up to 60 students per year, it is in your best interest to send in your application as soon as you are ready.

The only accurate way to check the status of your application and what materials have been received is to email us at smealmba@psu.edu.

Interviews are required of all candidates admitted to the Penn State Smeal MBA Program. For each deadline, the admissions committee selects individuals to invite for an admissions interview.

In general, in-person interviews are preferable, but we also offer webcam interviews to those candidates who are unable to visit with us personally. Webcam interviews (via Penn State’s Zoom Teleconferencing service) help make our interviews more personal and allow us to get to know a candidate better.

Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis and interview invitations are typically sent out within 3-4 weeks of submission.

No. Interviews are conducted by invitation only, so not all Smeal MBA applicants are interviewed. For each deadline, the admissions committee selects individuals to invite for an admissions interview.

The purpose of the interview is to better understand you as an MBA candidate for our program. We encourage you to relax and be ready to talk about your goals, your experiences and your MBA aspirations. This is our best opportunity to get to know you beyond your application.

Application decisions are made on a rolling basis. Specifically, you will hear from us not later than December 1 (for applications received by the October 1 deadline); February 1 (for applications received by the December 1 deadline); April 1 (for applications received by the February 1 deadline); and June 1 (for applications received by the April 1 deadline).

Applicants are only eligible to apply once per year. To ensure fairness and equity of the process, applicants will not be reviewed a second time after a decision is made.

Absolutely. If you were not offered admission and would like to know where your application fell short, contact us at smealmba@psu.edu and request feedback on your admissions application.

Yes, we do offer deferment for a period up to one year and require payment of the enrollment deposit to hold your spot for the next admissions cycle.

Generally no. Financial aid awards may not be deferred. Financial aid awards are made each year, based on the annual aid budget. If you defer your admission, you will automatically go into the pool for aid consideration in the next admissions cycle. Some extenuating circumstances do apply and we will discuss each situation individually.

Re-applicants

Yes. You will need to write a new essay. You might choose to change your recommenders or email us and we will retain your old recommendations. If you are a re-applicant please contact us at smealmba@psu.edu to obtain an application fee waiver code.

No, it is not necessary to pay the application fee a second time. If you are reapplying to the program please contact us at smealmba@psu.edu to obtain an application fee waiver code. Please note: Application fee waivers must be applied at the time of application. Fees cannot be reimbursed after an application has been submitted.

Most re-applicants try to improve one or more aspects of their application. Many of our re-applicants retake the GMAT/GRE to improve their scores. Applicants also try to gain more diverse work experience or increase their years of experience. Our best suggestion is to request a feedback appointment to discuss recommendations specific to you.

Work Experience

You may apply immediately after finishing a bachelor's degree, but on average our students have nearly 4-5 years of full-time work experience prior to entering the MBA program. Applicants admitted directly into the MBA program without full-time work experience generally have superb academic credentials, evidence of leadership through extracurricular or community activities, and quality part-time, summer, and/or internship work experience. These applicants are mature and self-confident and can effectively articulate the reasons why they wish to attend business school at this time.

Successful candidates will have relevant, full-time professional work experience prior to applying to the Penn State Smeal MBA Program. On average, admitted candidates have 4-5 years of work experience. We evaluate both the quantity and quality of your work experience with particular attention given to progress of responsibility, leadership ability, and strong team skills.

Yes. We welcome candidates from military backgrounds and do count their years in the military towards their work experience.

Statistically only post-undergraduate work experience is counted. The primary rationale is that post graduate employment is usually at a higher level and more relevant in preparing you for an MBA experience. During your application review we do look at all prior experience and working full-time while in school can factor favorably into an assessment of your dedication, while internships and co-ops aid in your business perspective.

The admissions committee reviews your application in its entirety. While the number of years of experience is important, the committee also places emphasis on the quality of your work experience. In exceptional cases, students straight out of their undergraduate degree may also be offered admission into the MBA program if they have demonstrated strong professional maturity and excellence in other areas.

Financing your MBA

For Pennsylvania residents, the program cost is approximately $25,000 per year. For all other residents, the program cost is approximately $40,000 per year. A full breakdown of all estimated expenses can be found on our Tuition and Expenses page.

Smeal offers both scholarships and full tuition fellowships to a majority of students each year. Financial aid is awarded based on merit using the admission criteria that considers academic ability, work experience, leadership skills, and overall fit with the program.

All applicants are automatically considered for funding and there is no additional application for these awards. For full consideration, candidates should apply by the February 1 application deadline.

  • Scholarships: Funded by alumni and friends of Penn State to attract outstanding students, these one-time awards typically range from $5,000 to $10,000. In recent years, approximately 20 percent of incoming students received a scholarship.
  • Fellowships: These two-year awards are funded by Penn State to attract outstanding students and to provide support to fulfill the University's mission. Various Fellowships are available, but all provide a 100 percent waiver of tuition, subsidized healthcare, and a monthly stipend.

More information on our specific Scholarship and Fellowship packages can be found on our Financial Support page.

Research and teaching assistant positions are offered by a number of Penn State departments to MBA students each year. These positions typically require between 10-20 hours of work per week. Postings for these positions are shared with all enrolled students during the summer, and students must apply separately from the MBA program application process.

Yes. Non-U.S. students are considered for scholarships and fellowships provided by Smeal. There is no additional application for these awards. For full consideration, candidates should apply by the February 1 application deadline.

  • Scholarships: Funded by alumni and friends of Penn State to attract outstanding students, these one-time awards typically range from $5,000 to $10,000. In recent years, approximately 20 percent of incoming students have received a scholarship.
  • Fellowships: These two-year awards are funded by Penn State to attract outstanding students and to provide support to fulfill the University's mission. Various Fellowships are available, but all provide a 100 percent waiver of tuition, subsidized healthcare, and a monthly stipend.

More information on our specific Scholarship and Fellowship packages can be found on our Financial Support page.

All applications submitted by the February 1 deadline are automatically considered for financial aid awards. There is no separate application needed.

Award criteria for all scholarship and fellowships are set by those donors who created the awards. Some are specifically intended for under-represented minorities, others for military candidates and veterans. Still others are specific to industry, academic performance, and academic interest. All of our scholarship and fellowship awards are based on merit.

You should apply for loans and external scholarships after you are admitted. Based on your admit date you will have a specific deadline as to when your external scholarship applications (domestic students) are due. In order to expedite the application process, we encourage you to prepare your tax return early and complete the FAFSA (domestic applicants only) as soon as possible. International students may be eligible for student loans provided they have a U.S. co-signer.

You should complete your FAFSA as soon as you have a completed tax return; you will need the FAFSA for any school's financial aid allocation process. You will need to complete a FAFSA at the beginning of each academic year if you are applying for loans and/or scholarships.

 

 

International Applicants

Approximately 30-40% of the incoming class is international.

International applications can be submitted through the April 1 deadline.

To complete your I-20 process, you will work directly with the Penn State Office of Global Programs. Your I-20 can be issued only after you have officially been admitted, enrolled, and paid your $1,000 enrollment deposit.

We do not require an original copy of your undergraduate transcripts; rather, we require an official copy that your school should be able to issue (sometimes for a fee) to you at your request.

Interaction with Current Students

  • Campus visits: You can visit the campus by attending our pre-scheduled MBA Preview Days or by scheduling an individual campus visit.
  • Opportunities to connect: Visit the Events page to view virtual opportunities to interact with current students, such as webcasts and chats, as well as chances to visit us on campus or interact with our alumni, students, or staff on the road. Current students are also active on our social media platforms, and we encourage you to engage with them there.
  • Phone and email: You can also call to chat with a current student or email one of our MBA Student Ambassadors. Call us to make arrangements to talk to a current student or to speak directly with admissions: 814-863-0474 or 800-379-6445 (toll free within the U.S.).
  • Email: smealmba@psu.edu.

Yes. Smeal offers prospective students numerous opportunities to meet the admissions committee, current students, and professors. We encourage prospective students to visit our campus to get a better understanding of the program. A personal visit is the best way to help you experience the curriculum, culture, and fit of our program. We offer both group visits and individual visits, depending on your schedule and preference. For those who cannot visit, we recommend interacting virtually by attending online events, contacting current students, and following ongoing communications. We are also active on multiple social media platforms, and invite you to connect with admissions, students and alumni in these locations as well.

Yes. You will have the opportunity to attend a class when you visit the campus. Usually an on campus visit includes information on the program, application tips, a tour, and a live MBA class. During these visits, you will have the opportunity to interact with the entire MBA community.

Yes, Smeal periodically organizes online opportunities, webinars, and live webcasts via Zoom with prospective students so you can have your queries answered as well as to help you get a better understanding of the program at Smeal. For more information about upcoming events, please see our Visits and Events page.

Our Visits and Events page has many opportunities to connect with us to learn more and transcripts from past online chats we have had with prospective students.