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PhD Admissions

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.

Applications for Autumn 2021 are now OPEN. All applications must be submitted by Tuesday, December 1, 2020, by 11:59 pm (PST). Please follow Grad Admission- Step by Step Application Guide (aka Tips & Tricks) on the application process, bypass sections, requirements, and after-submission instructions.

Please note that TOEFL scores are required. Please see Tip #21 in Tips & Tricks for information regarding Minimum TOEFL Requirements, Exemptions, and Waivers. We are aware that some students are unable to take the GRE test due to COVID-19. Because of this disruption, the submission of GRE scores for this application cycle is optional. All applications will receive full consideration, whether GRE scores have been submitted or are not submitted. Tip #18 in Tips & Tricks for information regarding GRE questions/submission. If you have requested a GRE waiver by email, it has been automatically approved. Please contact us if you have any questions.

Graduate Admissions Application

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.

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). GRE and TOEFL*** (Optional - COVID19 exception) 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: Online application, statement of purpose and unofficial transcript(s). A minimum of three (3), maximum of six (6) recommendation letters submitted online directly by the recommenders.* Official test scores reported by ETS. Stanford's institution code is 4704; no department code is needed. 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.


In light of the current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic, Stanford reaffirms its commitment to perform 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 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 are aware of some school closings in areas impacted by the Coronavirus outbreak, and that it may delay some courses of study as well as the reporting of official school documents. If you are impacted by this, please contact our office to request an extension: gradadmissions@stanford.edu. We will do our best to work with you and your department.


Due to COVID-19, many locations throughout China have suspended the testing of TOEFL iBT. To accommodate test-takers, Educational Testing Services (ETS) is offering the TOEFL IPT Plus. The TOEFL iBT is typically required of all applicants to graduate study when English is not the first language and the applicant does not qualify for an exemption; this is a University requirement. The TOEFL ITP Plus provides paper-based TOEFL iBT Level 1 with an unscored video speaking component, provided by Vericant.

Stanford will temporarily accept the TOEFL ITP Plus test with the Vericant interview for applicants from Mainland China who are unable to sit for the TOEFL iBT. This exception is only for the 2020-2021 application cycle. Applicants may be asked to re-test at a later time once the Stanford TOEFL iBT becomes available, or applicants may be asked to re-test through the Stanford Language Center. Per current University policy, all international students including those from Mainland China must receive English language clearance from the English for Foreign Students program prior to becoming a teaching assistant.

We urge you to apply early and make every attempt to get your questions answered early. Please refer to Frequently Asked Questions and our tips and tricks BEFORE submitting your questions. Due to volume of inquiries that we receive, we have compiled the most asked questions and have summarized the answers into these two documents. Please refer to our Program Requirements page before submitting your questions about programatic requirements. Should your question not be answered in our Frequently Asked Questions and tips and tricks, please direct your questions to: mseadmissions@stanford.edu. 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 (eg. 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 (PDF) 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: I want to apply now, but I will not be able to start until Fall 2021. 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 also 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: We normally admit about 20-25 PhD students per year. We often have over 350 applications per year.

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

A: Yes. Diversity has been a core value at Stanford since the university's founding in 1891. We value the rich perspectives, skills, and ideas people from varied backgrounds bring to the Stanford community. Diversity is woven throughout Stanford and is reflected not only in our people, but also in the curricula and research enterprises. The teaching and research of our faculty provide opportunities to engage deeply in concerns related to diversity in every sphere of life. Today diversity at Stanford, in its myriad forms, is essential to maintaining our educational excellence. Diversity leads to better ideas, more informed decisions, and enriches the learning and research environment. Applicants are asked to write an essay that describes how their own unique experiences and personal identity would contribute to a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable environment at Stanford. These might include: first in family to attend graduate school (or university), gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, work and life experiences, special interests, culture, socioeconomic status, religion, citizenship status, nationality, campus leadership activities, among others. Q: Does Stanford provide housing to PhD students? A: All first-year PhD students are guaranteed university housing. Over half of all Stanford graduate students live in university apartments. A number of different housing options are available for single students, couples without children, and graduate students with families.