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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


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.

I have previously earned a Masters; how will this affect my timeline?

Depending on your discipline, students with a previous Masters are sometimes able to take fewer courses. In addition, these students often have skills and experience that allow them to make faster initial progress in their thesis research. While this may lead to a slightly shorter timeline, students most commonly take five years to complete their doctoral studies.

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:

Are you considered an MIT or WHOI student if you are in the program?
Students in the Joint Program are members of both MIT and WHOI communities. They have equal access to resources at both institutions regardless of where they live (on WHOI’s or MIT’s campus).

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.

Is there an information session I can attend to learn more?
Yes.  Each year we offer an information session for prospective applicants.  We do not yet have a firm date for the 2024-2025 application cycle, but we will post it here when we do.  These sessions are offered via Zoom.

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.

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.

Will the GRE be required for the 2024 admissions cycle?
For the 2024 admissions cycle, GRE scores will not be required but we have not yet decided whether they may be optionally submitted as part of the Joint Program application.

What is the minimum English proficiency exam 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
The minimum Cambridge English Exam Score is 185.
TOEFL and IELTS scores are valid for two years.

Where should I send my TOEFL scores?

Scores should be sent electronically to Institution Code: MIT 3514 and Department Code: Oceanography 75.

Does the Joint Program accept TOEFL MyBest scores?
At this time, we are not accepting MyBest scores. An applicant must have a single set of scores above our admission threshold. However, in the context of holistic admissions we will review all official tests/scores sent to us.

Can I get a waiver for the English proficiency exams?
Students whose primary language was English during their primary and secondary schooling or students who attended a 4-year English-speaking college or university in the U.S., Canada, or Europe and graduated with a bachelor's degree (or will graduate before enrolling in the Joint Program should they be admitted) may be eligible for a waiver of the English proficiency exam requirement. Instructions are here.

Unlike IELTS or TOEFL, many countries offer the Cambridge English Qualification as part of an English language course in their school curriculum. For applicants in these countries, the exam’s registration fee is waived as part of their broader educational curriculum

Can English proficiency exam scores be submitted late?
We do accept late scores, although there is no guarantee we will receive late materials in time for them to be considered in your application review process.

What if my English proficiency exam scores are expired?
If your scores are expired, you must submit new up to date scores that are active at the time of application. Do note, official scores, even if sent electronically, can take two weeks to arrive.  Please plan accordingly when scheduling your exam so that your scores arrive by the application deadline.

I sent my English proficiency exam scores and they are not showing up on the application portal, what do I do?

Please note, it can take up to two weeks for English Fluency Exam scores to be received- even if sent electronically.

Do I need to submit a resume?
Yes, resumes are a required part of the application that give us a better understanding of your work, research and educational background.

Resume writing tips can be found here:
How to Write a Resume
Resume Writing Guide for Grad School

Can I update my statement, resume or other details?
No, once your application has been submitted and the deadline has passed, we do not accept updates on any aspect of the application.

I submitted my materials in the application portal and they do not show as received, what do I do?

It can take up to 48 hours for materials to be processed and appear in the application portal.

Do you interview applicants?
We do not currently interview applicants as part of the formal application process. Prospective advisors and applicants may wish to meet with one another to ascertain whether the student’s experience and research interests would be a good fit for the advisor’s lab.

What is the application deadline date?
December 15.

What if my recommendation letters, test scores, transcripts, etc. aren’t submitted by the application deadline?
Applications and all supplemental materials (exam scores, unofficial transcripts, recommendation letters, etc.) should be submitted by the December 15 deadline. If your recommender encounters an issue or faces a challenge in submitting by the deadline, a letter can be submitted late.  However, review of applications starts shortly after the deadline and we cannot guarantee review of your application without the relevant materials.

Who reviews my applications?
Applications are reviewed by the Dean, Associate Dean, and members of the JP Admissions Advisory Committee and the appropriate Joint Committee. A list of members of the Admissions Advisory Committee and Education Coordinators can be found here:

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.

Who will notify me regarding my application?
Emails regarding application status will be sent by the Associate Dean via our Slate Portal.

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.

I’m on the waitlist, when will I find out if I am admitted?
Unfortunately, the timing of notifying waitlisted applicants is difficult to predict because it depends to some extent on when admitted applicants notify us of their decisions. We notify applicants on the waitlist as soon as possible if we are able to admit them. We do not generally send decline notices until we are certain that we will not be able to admit an applicant. We try to notify as many applicants as possible by April 15.

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.

Can I attend the Open House?
The Open House, usually held in March, is only for admitted students.

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.

What are the current stipend rates?
In 2023, the PhD stipend rate was $3,790 a month (before taxes), or approximately $45,480 per year.  New stipend rates are set and shared in April/May.

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.

How far is MIT from WHOI?
It is about an hour and 45 minute drive from WHOI to MIT. Please note, when classes are in session there is a free shuttle bus that transports students from MIT to WHOI and back twice a week along with daily public transportation options. Under some circumstances, students can also be reimbursed when using public transportation to commute between MIT and WHOI.

For 2023 – 2024, you should be aware that the bridges that span the Cape Cod Canal, and so connect MIT and WHOI, are under construction.  Please expect some traffic, especially during rush hour travel.

Does the program cover healthcare, including health insurance, dental and vision?
Under Massachusetts law, all students are required to be covered by comprehensive medical insurance.

Access to MIT Medical is included with tuition payment – all Joint Program students are covered by the Student Medical Plan (SMP) however, extended insurance is required to cover services such as hospitalization. Note, this plan does not include dental coverage. Eye exams at MIT medical are included.

Is housing guaranteed for all five years?
Unfortunately, housing is not guaranteed for all five years.

It is typical during the first year or two in the Joint Program for students to take courses at MIT.  During this time, students are expected to live in the Cambridge area.  These students, upon showing proof of rent obligation (copy of Cambridge area lease), are eligible for free transient housing (an assigned bed for the duration of an academic term) or on-call housing (a bed assigned for brief, occasional visits) at WHOI.  Students who are not paying rent elsewhere must pay for WHOI transient housing at current rates.

When students are no longer taking classes full time, they are expected to reside where their advisor/lab is located and to obtain housing in the local community.  Students based at MIT may use free on-call housing at WHOI, and students based at WHOI may use the MIT apartment for JP students for short stays (one or two nights) at no cost.

The JP housing policy can be found here:

Are summer start dates flexible?
Yes, summer start dates are flexible and to be determined with the Academic Programs office and your advisor. Students must ensure they can commit at least 8 weeks within the summer term (not including vacation time).


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.