Frequently Asked Questions

Here is a list of questions, that are most frequently asked by prospective applicants:


Can I apply directly to the PhD program by contacting a potential PhD supervisor?
No, unlike in other PhD programs, students must apply to the program through the standard application process. Admission is decided by the members of the Admissions Committee, not by potential supervisors.

Do I need to be accepted in the group of a PhD supervisor from the beginning of the program?
No. Students that are admitted to our program must complete two semesters of coursework before they join a research group. This gives time to the students to familiarize themselves with the different areas of research carried out by potential advisors, and therefore to make a more educated decision.


Do I need TOEFL or IELTS scores if I am enrolled in a MS program in the US or other English-speaking country?
Yes. This requirement is only waived for English native speakers and for students who earned their undergraduate degree in a university where instruction is officially in English.

If my TOEFL score, GRE score or GPA is below the minimum specified in your page, do I have a chance of being admitted?
Yes, if the other parts of your application are particularly strong. The committee will look at your application as a whole.

Is the verbal part of the GRE important?
Yes, all parts of the GRE are important.

MS Program

Does the MS degree lean more towards science or engineering?
The standard MS program is geared more towards engineering, as this is more consistent with the typical career path of the graduates of this program. However, there is significant freedom within the program to tailor it towards the student’s needs.

I am applying to MS and I am interested in the co-op program or the thesis option. Must I declare this in advance?
You do not need to declare this in advance. However, if you are particularly interested in one of these options, it might be a good idea to mention it in your personal statement.

I am an international applicant, and after completing the MS degree I want to get a job in the US. Are jobs more restricted for foreign citizens?
It depends on the area. Some companies and national laboratories do require US citizenship or permanent residency (green card), or have limited offers for foreign citizens.

How are the internships for the co-op program arranged? Do any of them turn in to full-time jobs?
A member of our faculty will work with you in trying to secure a position with a company, probably one of our industrial associates. If the residency is successful, it is probable that the company will consider offering a full-time job after graduation.

What is the typical cost of the MS program?
The amount of tuition for the MS program will vary depending on whether a partial tuition waiver is offered within the acceptance letter. The following link provides general information on the cost of tuition and living expenses.

Other Application Issues

Do you have an established format for letters of recommendation and statement of purpose?
No, there is no standard format.

Are the application processes for the Institute of Optics and the Department of Physics and Astronomy separate?
Yes, the Institute of Optics and the Department of Physics and Astronomy offer separate graduate degrees, and therefore have separate admission processes.

If I don’t get accepted into the PhD program, can I be considered for the MS program?
Yes. Applicants to the PhD program enter automatically the selection process for the MS program. Therefore, applicants with strong applications who were not admitted into the PhD program might receive an offer to the MS program. 

If I enroll in the MS program, can I then transfer to the PhD program?
No. There is no "transfer" process between the MS and PhD programs. Instead, students enrolled in the MS program that are interested continuing towards a PhD should apply to the PhD following completion of their first semester as MS students, before the application deadline.