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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.

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. The MSU Application form for admission the following fall opens in mid August the year before. All application materials should be submitted by December 1st for the following academic year for full consideration of funding. Applications are typically accepted into January for consideration for assistantships for the following fall.

Please contact Lisa Keller, Mathematics Education Assistant Director, or Beth Herbel-Eisenmann, Mathematics Education Graduate Director, with any questions regarding the Mathematics Education Doctoral Program.

For a student perspective, contact  Alicia Matthews-Johnson or Sunyoung Park, current math ed doctoral students who are serving as student ambassadors for recruitment and admissions.

The entire application package (described below) can now be completed online. Or, parts of the application package can be mailed to our Graduate Secretary (MSU prefers the title Academic Program Coordinator), Freda Cruél:

Freda Cruél
Program in Mathematics Education
619 Red Cedar Road
C110 Wells Hall
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/Academic Statement

5. Personal Statement

6. Current Curriculum Vitae

7. Transcripts

8. English Language Proficiency, such as TOEFL Scores (International Applicants)


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

1. University Application

Go to the website: https://grad.msu.edu/apply for the Graduate Applicant and general information from The Graduate School at MSU. To create an account to start a new application or log in to continue an application, visit:  https://explore.msu.edu/apply/.

Follow the Graduate Application link (for both domestic and international applicants) to begin your application to the Mathematics Education Doctoral Program. 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 a Financial Proof statement/ 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 https://grad.msu.edu/internationalapplicants.

Once you have applied, you can use your Applicant ID and password to log in to your personalized online student portal at https://explore.msu.edu/apply/. You can upload 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 Academic Program Coordinator, Freda Cruél at bunt@msu.edu.

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: https://explore.msu.edu/apply/. Again, if you have any issues with the site, please send it via email to the Academic Program Coordinator. Please identify the course for which this paper was written, or the original purpose for this paper.

4. Statement of Professional Goals/Academic Statement

From an autobiographical perspective, applicants should discuss their reasons for pursuing a doctoral degree. We will refer to this document as either your statement of professional goals, or your academic statement. On the MSU application, it is called an academic statement. In your academic 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. This document can either be completed within the MSU application itself, or uploaded as a separate document to the online gradportal site:  https://explore.msu.edu/apply/. Again, if you have any issues with the site, please send it via email to the Academic Program Coordinator. 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. Personal Statement

The personal statement is a place where you can document your background and describe any obstacles you have overcome along your personal and/or educational journey. You can type your personal statement in the designated place on the MSU Application or upload it as a separate document to the online gradportal site:  https://explore.msu.edu/apply/. The directions in the MSU Application state: The personal statement should include information about your background and life experiences. Items you might address include but are not limited to leadership experiences, how you might contribute to a diverse educational community, and any obstacles you may have overcome.

6. 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:  https://explore.msu.edu/apply/.

7. Transcripts

Send official transcripts from all universities attended, except Michigan State University, to the Academic Program Coordinator 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:  https://explore.msu.edu/apply/, but the university will need official transcripts before a student can be admitted. Official e-transcripts will be sent directly to Admissions.

8. English language Proficiency, such as TOEFL Scores (International Students Only)

Applicants for whom English is not their primary language are required to submit English Language Proficiency scores, such as TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), and the test must be taken within two years of the application. Please select Michigan State University as a recipient of your scores, code 1465.

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. Please visit The Graduate School site for more information regarding English Language Competency and other accepted English Language Tests: https://grad.msu.edu/english-language-competency.

Note:  If the student has completed a degree program in an English speaking country, he or she can request a waiver of the English Language Proficiency Test 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 typically requires the admitted student to take the English proficiency test (MSU Speaking Test) upon arrival at MSU before allowing the student to become a Teaching Assistant.

English Language Requirements



Mathematics Education Graduate Program

Beth Herbel-Eisenmann, Director of PRIME and Math Ed Doctoral Program

Lisa Keller, Assistant Director of PRIME

Freda Cruél, Academic Program Coordinator/Grad Secretary
619 Red Cedar Road
C110 Wells Hall
Michigan State University 
East Lansing, MI 48824 
(517) 432-1490