All applicants to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences are considered on a competitive basis. The number of students admitted each year in each program is limited so that the Graduate School may operate effectively under its distinctive principles of individualized study and apprenticeship. Consequently, admission may sometimes be denied to qualified persons.

Meeting the minimum standards of admission merely qualifies the applicant for a place in the group from which final selections will be made. Selections are based on the applicant's ability to do graduate work of high quality, as shown by the distinction of the student's previous record, particularly in the proposed area of study; the letters of recommendation submitted in support of the application; and the student's presumed adaptability to the particular graduate programs offered by Brandeis. In addition, knowledge of foreign languages, relevant practical experience in the field, samples of work, the results of the standardized tests (if provided/required), and indications of character are considered.

Each application for admission with all supporting records is first examined by the appropriate program committee. The committee recommends to the Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences which applicants should be selected for admission and financial aid. The Dean reviews applications in the light of the program's recommendations.