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PhD Admissions

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The PhD program provides training through advanced coursework and an in-depth thesis research experience. Applicants with an undergraduate degree or a Master’s degree in Materials Science or a related field (e.g., physics, chemistry, engineering) are welcome to apply. All PhD students in good standing receive financial support, including a living stipend/salary, full tuition, and a health insurance subsidy.

Application submissions for Autumn 2025-2026 open in mid September and close on December 3rd, 2024. Apply Now.

Review our Frequently Asked Questions BEFORE posing your questions!

TOEFL: Please note Applicants whose first language is not English must submit an official test score from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Please see Stanford's Graduate Admissions Student Affairs Website (Required Exams) for information regarding Minimum TOEFL Requirements, Exemptions, and Waivers. Please note we DO NOT process TOEFL or TOEFL Waivers at the Department Level. This is handled by Stanford Graduate Admissions. You must request a waiver within the online application. 

GRE: Students who wish to apply for admission to our graduate (PhD and MS) program 2025-2026 academic year are not required to take the GRE or submit a GRE score report as part of their application process.

APPLICATION FEE AND FEE WAIVERS: The fee for online graduate applications is $125. Any graduate program applicant may apply for a fee waiver through the Stanford School of Engineering. Additionally, all US applicants who qualify for a GRE Fee Reduction or were participants in one of the Diversity Programs listed automatically qualify for a graduate application fee waiver. We do not consider application fee waivers within the Department - this is processed through Stanford Graduate Admissions. 

Graduate fee waiver

The university application is on the Graduate Admissions website. Please read all the information provided before applying (any general graduate admission information given on the Materials Science and Engineering website is subject to revision by the Graduate Admissions Office). TOEFL tests must be taken early enough for us to receive the test scores by the application deadline. No late test scores, recommendation letters, transcripts, or other applicable supporting materials will be accepted.

Review our Frequently Asked Questions BEFORE posing your questions!

The application consists of the following required materials, all of which must be received by the appropriate deadline for the application to be considered complete:

  1. Online application completed
  2. Statement of purpose 
  3. Unofficial transcript(s)
    1. Please submit your unofficial transcript(s) from all post-secondary institutions you have attended for at least one year. If admitted to the MSE program, you will be asked to provide an official transcript(s). You'll be asked to provide a second official transcript if you get admitted to the program.
  4. A minimum of three (3) letters of recommendation
    1. A minimum of three (3), maximum of six (6) recommendation letters submitted online directly by the recommenders.* These letters can come from a wide range of individuals, such as research and academic advisors, instructors, and workplace supervisors.
  5. Resume
  6. Official test scores reported by ETS if necessary (TOEFL only - GRE not required)
    1. Stanford's institution code is 4704; no department code is needed.

In light of the current situation with the ongoing COVID-19 health concern, Stanford reaffirms its commitment to perform an individualized, holistic review of each applicant to its graduate and professional programs. We recognize that students may have faced significant challenges during the period of disruption caused by the pandemic, and we will take such individual circumstances into account during the application review. Importantly, we will respect decisions regarding the adoption of Credit/No Credit and other grading options during this unprecedented period of COVID-19 disruption, whether they are made by institutions or by individual students. Our goal remains to form graduate student cohorts that are excellent and encompass a diversity of perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences that enrich the graduate educational experience.

We urge you to apply early and make every attempt to get your questions answered early. Please refer to Frequently Asked Questions BEFORE submitting your questions. Due to the volume of inquiries that we receive, we have compiled the most asked questions and have summarized the answers. Please refer to our Program Requirements page before submitting your questions about programmatic requirements. Should your question not be answered in our Frequently Asked Questions, please direct your questions to:

Late applications on a space-available-only basis. We may accept late applications only if there is still space in our incoming class. This situation is extremely rare. Please contact the department with specifics of why you were unable to apply by the deadline (e.g. a medical emergency that started before the application opened and lasted until the application closed). For the PhD program, financial aid is highly unlikely if you miss the original application deadline. 

Reinstatement Application for Reinstatement in Graduate Study: If you are an admitted graduate student who has not maintained continuous registration (or been on an approved leave of absence), you must apply for reinstatement. After completing this form, submit it to your department for approval and then submit it to Graduate Admissions. If approved for reinstatement, you will be billed for the reinstatement fee.

PhD Program Specific Q&A:

Q: What is the best way to contact faculty and find out about their research?

A: All of the faculty members have public pages on the Stanford online directory, including contact information, and many have links to their labs. The web is a great place to start. The MSE website also has links to our faculty.

Q: Does your department consider diversity, equity, and inclusion during the admissions process?

A: We invite excellent students from all backgrounds, including those from historically underrepresented groups in engineering, to consider Stanford University for their graduate studies. In making admissions decisions, the Department of Materials Science and Engineering will comply with the requirements of the law as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States, evaluating each applicant based on their "experiences as an individual—not on the basis of race.” We continue to value a diverse student body that benefits the educational experience of our students and our mission of generating knowledge at Stanford University. 

Q: I want to apply now, but I will not be able to start until next Autumn (September 2026). Should I still apply?

A: If you know you are unable to start next Autumn quarter, please do not apply. We generally do not offer deferrals to PhD students unless there is an urgent, valid medical/family reason.

Q: If I am admitted, can I defer for a quarter or two?

A: The PhD program starts in Autumn. If you need to defer, you will need to request a whole-year deferral. Deferral requests are not always approved. If you know in advance that you cannot start school the following Autumn, please wait to apply in a future year.

Q: I cannot afford graduate school. How can I apply for a fellowship?

A: We provide full financial support to all of our PhD students for the duration of their program, contingent on maintaining satisfactory degree progress. This financial support includes a living stipend/salary, full payment of tuition, and a health insurance subsidy. We strongly encourage all applicants to apply for outside fellowships, such as the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Q: Is it possible to get a teaching or research assistantship?

A: Yes! All PhD students without fellowships are placed in teaching or research assistantship positions. The selection of a research topic is carried out by mutual agreement between the student and the advisor(s). This financial support includes a living stipend/salary, full payment of tuition, and a health insurance subsidy.

Q: What are your acceptance rates?

A: A typical admit class is about 20-25 PhD students per year.