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Below are some of the most asked questions we receive in the MIT-WHOI Joint Program. We have broken them down into areas of particular interest. We hope this helps in making your decision for graduate school. Please note if you have a question that is not answered here email us at

Will the GRE be required for the 2023 admissions cycle?
For the 2023 admissions cycle, GRE scores will not be required but may be submitted as part of the Joint Program application.

Are there any concerns about the optional Pass/No Pass grading scale that universities are offering their students during remote learning academic terms?

Our admissions committee is aware of the stresses that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused, and that many programs at colleges and universities across the country are recommending P/NP for some or all coursework.  We base our admissions decisions on a holistic evaluation of factors, not just grades in one semester. The factors include academic preparation and overall grades in STEM classes, GRE scores as a supplement (except for the 2021 application cycle), research experience, references, and your statement of objectives, as well as a match with potential advisors who have funding in hand for specific projects. We therefore suggest you follow recommendations of your undergraduate program and/or advisors with respect to P/NP vs letter grades.


Is a bachelor’s degree or equivalent required for admission?
To be admitted as a regular graduate student, an applicant must have earned a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent from a college, university, or technical school of acceptable standing. Students in their final year of undergraduate study may be admitted on the condition that their bachelor’s degree is awarded before they enroll at MIT.

I want to get a Master’s Degree, not a doctoral degree.  Can I still apply to the Joint Program?

Applications are only accepted for the doctoral program.  We do not accept students who are only interested in receiving a Master’s Degree from the Joint Program. The only exception is for the agreement we have with the U.S. Navy where students are accepted only for a Master’s Degree.

How long does it take to get a doctoral degree? 
The Joint Program is designed for students to achieve their doctoral degree in five years.

When may I start the Joint Program?
If you accept our admission offer, you may enroll in June or September. We strongly encourage you to start in June so you can get started on your research and become familiar with Woods Hole and Cambridge, depending on the location of your adviser.

Are there faculty who I can talk to about my research?
Yes, we encourage you to contact any of the faculty listed on the MIT-WHOI Joint Program website who have similar research interests to you and with whom you may want to work. You can find these listings under each field of study, or a comprehensive list of all faculty within all disciplines under “Academics”.

Do I need to identify an advisor?
You are strongly encouraged to contact faculty members with similar research interests but you are not required to identify a potential advisor for admission. Here’s information about how to contact faculty members: and here’s a list of faculty members:

Is the MIT-WHOI Joint Program the right graduate program for me?
While the Joint Program is one of the premier programs in ocean science and engineering, we acknowledge that this program may not be for everyone. Choosing the graduate school that you want to attend is an important decision because you will be dedicating at least five years to obtaining your doctoral degree. In the Joint Program, you have access to the faculty and resources at two institutions in very different locations; MIT in Cambridge, a vibrant and diverse city, and at WHOI, a seaside village on Cape Cod.  In all estimates, it is the best of both worlds.  And we are able to provide forward-looking research methods and applications to current world-wide issues.

What are the graduates of the Joint Program doing now?
Many of the MIT-WHOI Joint Program graduates go on to postdoctoral research at an academic institution and may then remain in academia as faculty and/or researchers at both small, liberal arts schools, as well as large universities.  Among our over 1,000 graduates, we also have people working in private industry, at government labs, elsewhere in government, in policy, as U.S. Naval officers, and in their own companies that they have created.

Does the Joint Program offer a part-time attendance option?
The MIT-WHOI Joint Program does not offer a part-time option.  Students who enroll in the Joint Program do so as a full-time student, and it is based on a five year program.

I just want to take a Joint Program class, but am not a Joint Program student.  How do I do that?
If you would like to take a class in the Joint Program, but are not an enrolled student, you can apply to be an MIT special student (details can be found on the MIT web site at or you can call the MIT Office of Admissions at (617) 253-2917.

Application Questions

What do I list as “Area of research or interdisciplinary program” in the application?
This is where you will list what area of research you are interested in studying.  These research areas are:  Applied Ocean Science and Engineering, Biological Oceanography, Chemical Oceanography, Marine Geology and Geophysics, Physical Oceanography.

What if I am interested in more than one of the disciplines in the Joint Program?
If you are interested in more than one field, you may list up to three that you are interested in; but, please list them in order of your interest (most interested first).

Do I need to pay two application fees if applying to the Joint Program and a separate MIT department?
If you are applying to more than one department or program, you must submit separate applications and fees for each department.

Do I need to mail my transcript to both MIT and WHOI?
No, UNOFFICIAL, NON-ENCRYPTED copies of transcripts are uploaded in the online application.  If you are admitted, you will be asked to send sealed official copies of your transcripts, and the address to which those should be sent will be given to you at that time.

I attend a college or university that uses narrative evaluations of my courses rather than numerical or letter grades. What should I upload into the application?
Applicants who have attended or received credit from a college or university which evaluates coursework through narrative transcripts/evaluations rather than assigning numerical or letter grades must upload narrative evaluations for math and science courses in the transcript section of the online application.

What is the minimum TOEFL iBT or IELTS score for international students applying to the Joint Program?
The minimum acceptable TOEFL score is 100 (iBT) or 600 (PBT)

The minimum acceptable IELTS score is: 7.0

TOEFL and IELTS scores are valid for two years.

Does the Joint Program accept TOEFL MyBest scores?

At this time, we are not accepting MyBest scores.  We will review all official tests/scores sent to us, and will consider the highest score from each section.

Can I get a waiver for the TOEFL or IELTS?
Students whose primary language was English during their primary and secondary schooling, and students who attended a US university or college and graduated with a bachelor's degree may be eligible for a waiver of the English proficiency exam requirement. Instructions are here.

What is the application deadline date?
December 15.

When will I be notified of a decision?
Joint Program offers are normally made by mid-Feb to late February each year.  Timing of offers can depend on a number of factors, including funding and the schedules of people involved in decisions. But every effort is made to inform people by late February. If you are on a wait list, you will be notified of that as well by late February.

How will I be notified of application status and decision?
Notification will be made via email. Please set email settings to allow all mail from and and regularly check spam/trash folders.

Can I come and visit either MIT or WHOI?
Visits are not required for application or admission to the program. If you wish to schedule meetings with Joint Program faculty members, please contact them directly. You are encouraged to state your research interests, include your CV, unofficial transcript, dates of your availability, and any time constraints in your email. Please copy the relevant Education Coordinator (s) for your discipline(s) of interest in your email.
We are unable to arrange visits for prospective students during the height of the admissions season.

I applied to the MIT-WHOI Joint Program last year and was declined.  How do I reapply?
You must submit a new application with updated demographic information, as well as pay another application fee.

Transfer Questions

I would like to transfer to the Joint Program.  What is that process?
You will need to apply with the regular application process as other applicants using the December 15 deadline, submitting all the same documents as regular applicants.  See the website for a formal explanation.

Does the Joint Program accept transfer credit?
The Joint Program adheres to MIT’s policy on transfer credits which can be found at

Graduate Transfer Credit
In special cases, advanced subjects completed satisfactorily elsewhere may be accepted for credit toward requirements for an advanced degree (with a recorded grade of "S" for subjects with exact MIT equivalents). If the subject has no MIT equivalent, approved transfer credit should be requested through a petition approved by the appropriate departmental graduate registration officer.

The student's major department will determine to what extent subjects taken as a special student are acceptable for credit toward the requirements for an advanced degree. Credit received as a special graduate student is considered with all other academic information in reviewing the application and in formulating a degree program.

Financial Aid

If I’m not accepted to the Joint Program with a fellowship, can I be accepted and pay for the tuition myself?
Unfortunately, that is not an option in the MIT-WHOI Joint Program. Students admitted to the program are admitted with funding (i.e. they receive a stipend and tuition is paid for) and we do not have the option of having students pay their own tuition.

Student Life

What is the average age of a Joint Program student?
The age of JP students ranges from 22 to 34 with the average being 26.

Do most students have a master’s degree before they come to the Joint Program?
Many students come directly from undergraduate school.  We do have some that go on to get a master’s degree before enrolling in our program and others that have been in the work force for some time before returning to graduate school.


I’m seeing “MIT-WHOI Joint Program” and “Joint Program” used in language here and throughout the website.  Are these all the same program?
Yes, it’s the same program.  The “Joint Program” is used synonymously with “MIT-WHOI Joint Program”.  It is just a shorter way of writing or saying the same thing.  MIT has several joint programs with other facilities, but WHOI only uses the "Joint" label for the MIT-WHOI Joint Program.

Can I defer my offer of admission?
Deferral requests are handled on a case-by-case basis for admitted students and must be approved by the Associate Dean.