Application Process


The program admits students with a variety of backgrounds. Some students will have equally strong backgrounds in education and mathematics. Others may have more extensive prior preparation in one of these two disciplines. Admissions decisions will be made by an Admissions Committee composed of members of the Mathematics Education Faculty Group.

Candidates should have:

  • the equivalent of an undergraduate major in mathematics, OR
  • satisfactory completion of coursework in mathematics appropriate to the applicant’s program of study and approved by the Admissions Committee, with the expectation of completing additional mathematics study if necessary.

In the latter case, the guidance committee will help the candidate to design a program that includes appropriate coursework in mathematics. Applicants with deficiencies in academic preparation may be admitted provisionally. These collateral courses will not count toward the degree. In addition, K-12 teaching experience is strongly encouraged, but not required.

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test is required of all applicants.

A student who shows promise for success at doctoral study but who needs additional background to be eligible for admission to the Ph.D. program will be provided with specific conditions to be met before admission. Upon successful completion of these requirements, the student may re-apply.

How to Apply

To be considered for teaching and research assistantships and for a variety of possible university or college fellowships, it is very important for applicants to submit application material on time. All application materials should be submitted by December 1st for the following academic year for full consideration of funding. Applications are typically accepted into February for consideration for assistantships for the following fall.

Please contact Lisa Keller, Mathematics Education Assistant Director, or Vince Melfi, Mathematics Education Graduate Director, with any questions regarding the Mathematics Education Doctoral Program.

For a student perspective, contact Kate Appenzeller, Valentin Kuechle or Molade Osibodu, current math ed doctoral students who are serving as student members for recruitment and admissions.

The entire application package (described below) can now be completed online. Or, the application package can be mailed to:

Freda Cruél, Graduate Secretary
North Kedzie
354 Farm Lane, Room 211
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824

or if there are issues with the uploading of content online, it can be sent electronically via email to Freda Cruél.

Please complete the items below for your application package. A list of required application items is given first, followed by detailed information for each.

Application Checklist (Materials due by December 1 for full funding consideration)

1. University Application

2. Letters of Recommendation (3 required)

3. Writing Sample

4. Statement of Professional Goals

5. Current Curriculum Vitae

6. Transcripts

7. GRE Score Report

8. TOEFL Scores (International Applicants)

9. CDGDC Report (Applicants from China)


Here is some detailed information on each item for the application packet:

1. University Application

Go to the website:

Follow the appropriate link (domestic applicant or international applicant) that will take you to an interactive form that will allow you to apply and send all of your information directly to MSU over the internet. For the Mathematics Education Doctoral Program, please use the code 7069. The application fee (payable in U.S. dollars drawn on a U.S. bank) is $65 for domestic students and $75 for international students. Note that international applicants also need to complete an Affidavit of Support if they will not be on an assistantship and/or if they will bring dependents. International applicants for whom English is a second language will need to provide  Proof of English proficiency:  See

Once you have applied, you can use your Applicant ID and password to log in to your personalized online student portal using the box at the top right side of the Graduate Education admissions gradportal site: Then, you can upload the rest of your application materials, as well as register your recommenders, using this online gradportal.

2. Letters of Recommendation

Request three letters of recommendation from professors or others who can assess your promise of success in our mathematics education graduate program and enter their contact information into your online portal at the link above. They will be prompted to upload their letter of recommendation online. At least one letter should be from one of your teachers in the highest degree you have earned to date.  If your recommenders have any issues with the website, please have them send their letter of reference to the Graduate Secretary, Freda Cruél at

3. Writing Sample

Applicants should submit one or more examples of academic or professional writing, e.g., something you have published, a master’s thesis, or a paper you might have submitted to fulfill graduate course requirements. The sample must be authored exclusively by the applicant. The purpose is to demonstrate your ability to write analytical English prose in order to give the review committee a clear idea of how well you will be able to carry out the kind of analytical writing that is such a central component of advanced graduate study. It would be most useful if this paper were at least 10 pages long (double-spaced).

An applicant may submit several such papers to the online gradportal site: Again, if you have any issues with the site, please send it via email to the Graduate Secretary. Please identify the course for which this paper was written, or the original purpose for this paper.

4. Statement of Professional Goals

From an autobiographical perspective, applicants should discuss their reasons for pursuing a doctoral degree. In your statement, please include responses to the following questions:

  • What question or area of interest related to mathematics education are you interested in exploring?
  • How have your experiences and intellectual growth shaped questions that an advanced graduate program might help you to explore?
  • What sorts of academic and professional leadership roles would the program and degree help you to assume after graduation?
  • Why are you interested in the mathematics education Ph.D. program at Michigan State University?

This statement is a very important part of the file for the review committee. Candidates should present a thoughtful and extended verbal portrait (2-3 pages long, single-spaced) of their reasons for pursuing advanced graduate study, and the match between their goals and professional interest that they wish to explore during their graduate career. The statement should be submitted to the online gradportal site: Again, if you have any issues with the site, please send it via email to the Graduate Secretary. If you completed the personal and academic statements on the MSU application, you do not need to submit a separate statement of professional goals. The statements written on the MSU application will be sufficient.

5. Current Curriculum Vitae or Resumé

Applicants are required to submit a current curriculum vita or resumé, listing educational background, GPA, and teaching experience. Upload to the online gradportal site:

6. Transcripts

Send official transcripts from all universities attended, except Michigan State University, to the Graduate Secretary at the address above. Do not send copies to the graduate school or to Admissions. You may upload unofficial copies for now to the gradportal site: , but the university will need official transcripts before a student can be admitted. Official e-transcripts will be sent directly to Admissions.

7. GRE Scores

The three standard sections of the GRE: verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing are required for admission. If you have not taken the GRE yet, please select Michigan State University as a recipient of your scores, code 1465. The scores go directly to MSU, so you really don't need a department code anymore. It would also help if, once you receive your scores, you were to upload an unofficial copy of the results to the online gradportal, along with your application materials, since official results often take several weeks to be processed. GRE scores are valid for 5 years. Applicants who have taken the test within the past 5 years should have official test results sent to MSU and upload a copy of their score report to the online gradportal. GRE Official Website:

8. TOEFL Scores (International Students Only)

Applicants for whom English is not their primary language are required to submit TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) scores, and the test must be taken within two years of the application. Under the paper-based test (PBT) version, MSU requires a minimum score of 550, with no subscore below 52.

With the internet-based version of the TOEFL (iBT), the minimum MSU requirement is an average score of 80, with no subscore below 19 for reading, listening, and speaking, and no writing subscore below 22.

Note:  If the student has completed a degree program in an English speaking country, he or she can request a waiver of the TOEFL requirement. Once the program admissions committee is convinced of the student’s English language skills based on past program completion and other evidence, it will ask the University to waive the requirement. This waiver is usually granted, but the university may require the student to take the English proficiency test upon arrival at MSU.

English Language Requirements

9. Information on Chinese Graduate Applications

During the application process, applicants submit certified copies (sealed and stamped by institutions) of all post-secondary transcripts, graduation certificates and degrees directly to the MSU Department to which they are applying.  MSU requires these documents in the original language (Chinese) as well as an official English translation.
Effective Spring 2015, Michigan State University will require all incoming ADMITTED students pursuing degrees or who have earned degrees from universities in China to submit a verification report (English version) through the China Academic Degrees and Graduate Education Development Center (CDGDC) for their final bachelor degree transcripts and bachelor degree. All verification reports need to be sent to the MSU Office of Admissions directly by CDGDC. For those Master degree granted students, we only need the undergraduate level verification report from CDGDC. The Mathematics Education Graduate Program will reimburse you for the cost of the verification once you register at MSU.
Please refer to the CDGDC website for more information:

The process is straightforward. Students in China send copies of their documents to the CDGDC along with payment. CDGDC verifies grades and degrees (depending on what is requested) by accessing national and provincial data bases and contacting universities directly. CDGDC then sends via courier service directly to the U.S. university stamped copies of the verified documents along with a statement noting in English what the degree is and whether the university and program is recognized by the Chinese Ministry of Education. The student pays approximately $40 dollars for this service.

CDGDC operates underneath the Ministry of Education for the purpose of verifying the authenticity of transcripts and degrees granted at the post-secondary level. They do this not only for overseas universities, but for employers and organizations within China as well. WES, ECE, AACRAO, and Educational Perspectives require students using their credential services to order a CDGDC verification. NAFSA and the American Embassy in Beijing have also endorsed CDGDC. MSU has required this credential for transfer applicants since fall 2012 and has had no difficulty with students obtaining this verification.