Frequently Asked Questions

Financial Aid and Benefits

Q: Do all incoming students receive financial aid?
A: MCB Ph.D. students receive a stipend in the form of a Teaching Assistantship, Research Assistantship or Fellowship (currently $34,000 annually). Funding is guaranteed for 5 years as long as the student remains in good standing with the Program. Funding is not guaranteed by the Program for master's students; support is arranged between the student and their advisor.

Q: Do I receive any other benefits?
A: MCB students supported on an RA or TA are part of the Graduate Employment Organization (GEO) union. As members, they receive health insurance at 5% of the total cost and free dental insurance. In addition, full tuition and most course fees are waived each semester. GEO-eligible students are only responsible for the Service Fee, the Graduate Senate Tax, and the Grad Entering Fee (1st semester only).

Q: If I am to receive a stipend, why do you require me to provide financial information?
A: The International Programs Office requires financial information for all International Students. This is required before a VISA can be considered.

Submitting an Application

Q: Does the MCB Program pre-evaluate applications?
A: No. All applicants should follow the steps outlined below.

Q: Which is the preferred way of applying?
A: Students must use the UMass Amherst Graduate School online application for admission.

Q: How much is the application fee?
A: The non-refundable $85 application fee is payable online via credit card or by check drawn on a U.S. bank (made payable to UMass Amherst).

Q: Can I send the application fee after I am accepted?
A: The fee or waiver documentation must accompany the application; otherwise the application will NOT be processed or considered. 

Q: Can the application fee be waived or deferred?
A: Applicants in the following categories may qualify for a Graduate School application fee waiver:

  • Members of the McNair Scholars Program - submit documentation as a PDF attachment to
  • Applicants who qualify for a GRE fee reduction - submit a copy of your GRE fee reduction as a PDF attachment to
  • Current Five College undergraduate students applying to a master's only program, excluding MFA programs. The fee is automatically waived, no additional documentation is necessary.
  • Current UMass graduate students enrolled in a master's program and applying for a doctoral degree in the same program.
  • Eligible domestic students from underrepresented groups who are participants of these organizations and programs.

Q: What happens to my application if I submit it without the application fee or the waiver documentation?
A: Your application will not be processed or considered by anyone at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. 

Q: Can I apply to two or more programs for the same entrance period?
A: Yes, but you must submit separate applications, application fees, and separate sets of credentials.

Q: What happens to my application if I submit it after the posted deadline for my desired program?
A: All processed applications are forwarded to the appropriate program. Those applications submitted after the deadline are normally "bumped" to the next entrance cycle. Late applications are considered only at the discretion of the admissions committee.

Q: How do I submit my transcript?
A: Please submit your transcripts from all colleges/universities attended, undergraduate and graduate, where nine (9) or more credits were earned. Unofficial transcripts uploaded to the Additional Materials page of your application are acceptable for the review of your application. Upon admittance, official transcripts will need to be submitted, either electronically or in paper format, directly by each institution's Registrar to the Graduate Student Service Center.  Review After You Apply for instructions on submitting official transcripts.

Q: Where do I upload my unofficial transcript?
Unofficial transcripts should be uploaded to the Additional Materials page of your application.

Q: Are official transcripts and score reports of TOEFL required for the application process or are photocopies accepted?
A: Photocopies and unofficial versions are accepted for the application process. HOWEVER, the Graduate School requires official documentation before any formal acceptance into the program is made.

Q: Can I upload additional documents after my application is submitted?
Once you receive your Spire credentials and are able to access your Graduate Applicant Center, you can see which of your references have submitted recommendations and send reminders to those who have yet to submit. You can upload additional documents, such as transcripts, to supplement your application materials. You can also see a summary of everything the Graduate School has received as part of your application by clicking Check Status of Application.  

Q: When is the application deadline?
A: The application deadline set by the MCB Program is December 1 for fall Ph.D. enrollment and April 15 for fall master's enrollment. Supporting materials, such as reference letters, should also be submitted prior to the deadline. Any applications received after this date may still be reviewed, but the admissions process will already be under way. The Graduate School will consider your application "late" and give you the option to apply for the current year or defer your application for the following fall.

Q: What should I do if my supporting materials cannot arrive by December 1?
A: Submit your application by the December 1 deadline, and send the supporting materials as soon thereafter as possible.

Q: When will you begin reviewing applications and how will your program notify me of your action?
A: The admissions committee will begin reviewing COMPLETED applications immediately after the December 1 deadline date. Candidates will be notified of the MCB committee's decision by email or Spire notification. An official letter from the Graduate School will also be sent.

Q: What defines a COMPLETED application?
A: A completed application consists of the Application Form, 2-3 Letters of Recommendation, Undergraduate and Graduate (if applicable) transcripts, and TOEFL scores (if applicable). Until the MCB Office receives all of the above, the Admissions Committee will not review a candidate's application.

Q: What is the best way for me to check on the status of my application?
A: Within seven (7) days after the Graduate School processes your application fee, you will receive an email with your UMass Amherst NetID and password. Use your new credentials to log into SPIRE to see your Graduate Applicant Center. Applicants who already have NetIDs as current students, faculty, or staff will not receive this email. If you already have a NetID, you will find your Graduate Applicant Center in SPIRE by going to Main Menu > Admissions > Graduate Applicant Center. 

Q: If I am not accepted on my first try, can I resubmit my application?
A: You must complete a new application and submit it along with another application fee. If you file a new application within one year of your prior application, you do not have to replace your previously submitted credentials, unless you wish to update your file.

Q: What is the typical size of an incoming MCB class?
A: The MCB Program generally has an incoming class of approximately 15 PhD students and 5 Master's students.

Q: How many international students will you accept into your program this year?
A: The MCB Program does not have a set number of International students who will be accepted into the program.

Q: Can I apply for a master's degree?
A: Candidates who have received their undergraduate degree at UMass Amherst, Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College or Smith College (the Five Colleges) and have a lab affiliation with an MCB faculty member are eligible to apply for a master's degree.


Q: What are the Institution and Department Codes for sending GRE (optional) and TOEFL (if applicable) scores?
Institution Code: 3917
Department Code:0206 (GRE) 74 (TOEFL)

Q: What tests are accepted in place of the TOEFL?
Please visit for a complete list of test options.

Q: What is the minimum TOEFL or IELTS score needed in order to apply and how long is my test score valid?
Since all students are expected to read, understand, speak, and write English fluently, all applicants whose native language is not English must demonstrate English language proficiency by taking the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). The Graduate School requires a minimum TOEFL score of 550 or above for the paper-based test, 213 or above for the computer-based test, and 80 or above for the internet-based test. However, the MCB Program would prefer to see 600 or above for the paper-based test, 250 or above for the computer-based test, and 100 or above for the internet-based test. A TOEFL score is valid for two years from expected entrance date. The minimum IELTS combined score is 6.5, and IELTS scores are valid for two years from anticipated date of entrance. Please contact the test center where you took IELTS and request that your test scores be transmitted to our e-download account.

Q: When is TOEFL not required?
A: If an applicant satisfies one or more of these conditions:

  1. Citizenship of Australia, Botswana, Canada, Caribbean English speaking countries, Dominica, Gambia, Ghana, Great Britain, Guyana, Hong Kong, Ireland, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Namibia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Scotland, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, West Indies, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
  2. A college or university degree earned in the United States or in one of the countries listed above.
  3. A degree earned from the American University in Beirut, American University in Bulgaria, American College of Greece, Bogazici University in Turkey, RIT in Dubai, NYU Abu Dhabi, or NYU Shanghai.
  4. Current enrollment as a full-time student who will have completed two academic years of college/university work in the United States prior to the date of anticipated entrance at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
  5. Certification by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates.

Q: Does the MCB Program require the GRE Subject test?

Please also view the Graduate School page for additional information.