Application Information

Due to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Music regrets to announce that we will not be accepting applications in fall 2020 for students hoping to begin studies at Penn in fall 2021. The School of Arts and Sciences has made this difficult decision in order to allow allocation of available support to current students who require extra time to complete their degrees as a result of the global pandemic. While we recognize that this news is disappointing, we also believe that this is the most responsible course of action in these unsettled times.  We anticipate that we will accept applications again in the fall of 2021 and welcome new students into our program in fall 2022.

We always love to hear from prospective students. Please feel free to reach out to our graduate chair, Dr. Jim Sykes ( with any questions.

The Graduate Group in Music offers flexible, five-year Ph.D. programs for Music Studies (ethnomusicology, historical musicology, music theory)  and an intensive four-year Ph.D. program for composition. All programs offer broad coverage within music studies, with concentrations shaped by student interests.  All Ph.D. students accepted to the program receive the Benjamin Franklin Fellowship, which covers tuition, general fees, and health insurance for either 4 (composition) or 5 years (Music Studies:  ethnomusicology, historical musicology, music theory).


Elements of the Application

  • A personal statement of approximately 1,000 words.
    The statement should: 1) tell us about your reasons for applying and your relevant prior experience; 2) describe the area(s) of study and debate in which you are interested; and 3) address your particular interest in our program.

  • A critical writing sample of approximately 20-30 double-spaced pages.
    For Musicologists, Ethnomusicologist, and Theorists: The writing sample must match your interest/concentration. Two papers adding up to 30+ pages or, if you prefer, a single, 25-30 page paper. Font size and style do not matter. Please make sure your name is on each page.

    Composers should submit a shorter paper of approximately 15 pages as part of their application in addition to scores and (if possible) recordings of recent compositions.
  • Three letters of recommendation.
    Letters should be written by professors who know your work and can attest to your academic ability. Please do not submit more than four recommendation letters.
  • The GRE General Test.
    Applicants should take the GRE early enough so that the scores can be sent to Penn by December 15. We do not have a minimum  GRE score requirement, nor do we publicize the average GRE scores of past admittees. The GRE School Code for the University of Pennsylvania is 2926. Although we do not have a department code, your GRE scores will be sent directly to us if you use the University code. (GRE scores will not be required for Fall 2021 applicants due to COVID-19).
  • Electronic versions of your academic transcripts.
    You can scan an unofficial copy of your transcript to the application. If accepted, you will then need to provide a final, official paper copy of your transcript before you matriculate.

There is no foreign language requirement for admission. Once accepted to the program, students must pass two or three language translation exams (depending on program specialization), before graduating.

Application materials may be uploaded online via CollegeNet. Supplemental materials for the composition program should be submitted by email to or mailed to : University of Pennsylvania, Attn: Jacqueline Jordan, Department of Music, 201 S. 34th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104.
See the Graduate Division for more information about the application process.


Additional Information

Campus Visits

Faculty interviews and a visit to the campus are not necessary for application. After all applications have been received and reviewed, a select group of applications are invited to visit the campus for an opportunity to meet the faculty and current students and sit in on seminars. Campus visits are usually arranged in late February or early March.

English language skills

All applicants whose native language is not English must submit acceptable proof of proficiency in English prior to consideration for admission. Normally, such substantiation of English proficiency is accomplished by taking both the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and the Test of Spoken English (TSE), which are administered by the Educational Testing Service (Princeton, New Jersey). The results of these examinations must be sent to the department by December 15. If a student has completed a four year undergraduate degree in an institution where English is the spoken language, TOEFL testing can be waived.

Applying for Admission to the Graduate Program in Music



Applicants who wish to be considered for funding must see to it that their application and all supporting materials have arrived at the Department of Music no later than December 15.|

Supplementary Application Material

Supplementary materials should be submitted online as part of the application. If you are unable to upload your writing samples to the on-line system, you may send to the graduate assistant via email as word attachments ( If neither of these options are available to the applicant please send to:

Director of Graduate Studies
Department of Music
University of Pennsylvania
201 South 34th Street, Room 129 
Philadelphia PA 19104-6313