Frequently Asked Questions

Financial Aid and Benefits

Q: Do all incoming students receive financial aid?
A: MCB Ph.D. students receive an annual stipend in the form of a Teaching Assistantship, Research Assistantship or Fellowship (Effective September 1, 2019 the stipend will be $31,543.20). 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 would be 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 application fee for all applicants is $80.00. The application fee is non-refundable and is waived only for U.S. applicants who qualify to receive a GRE fee waiver or are McNair Scholars and submit appropriate documentation. The fee or waiver documentation must accompany the application; otherwise the application will NOT be processed or considered. This fee can be paid by check drawn on a U.S. bank or paid by credit card (MasterCard or VISA only).

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. This fee can be paid by check drawn on a U.S. bank or paid by credit card (MasterCard or VISA only).

Q: Can the application fee be waived or deferred?
A: No, not if you are an international applicant. For United States citizens and permanent residents, the fee can only be waived if you received, or were eligible to receive, a GRE fee waiver or were a McNair Scholar through your undergraduate institution. A copy of the GRE fee waiver or a letter from your financial aid office attesting to your eligibility for a waiver must be attached to your application.

Q: What happens to my application if I submit it without the application fee or the GRE fee 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: Where should I mail my application and supporting materials?
A: Application materials not submitted electronically with your application can be emailed to or mailed directly to:

Graduate School/ Graduate Admissions
University of Massachusetts Amherst,
530 Goodell Building
140 Hicks Way
Amherst, MA 01003

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

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: 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: 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 has a starting class of approximately 15 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 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?
If an applicant satisfies one or more of these conditions:

  1. Citizenship of Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Guyana, Ireland, New Zealand, United States, an Anglophone country of Africa or an English-speaking country of the Caribbean.
  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 in Greece or from Bogazigi University.
  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.

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

Please also view the Graduate School page for additional information.