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Admissions FAQ

Admissions Frequently Asked Questions

Applying to Materials Science and Engineering at Stanford

PhD and Master's Admissions Tips and Tricks (PDF)

-Stanford University 2017-18 Materials Science Application Information

Stanford MSE PhD Admissions

Stanford MSE MS Admissions

  • Please note that the part-time MS program cannot be completed solely online. Students must be able to come to campus.

Stanford Central Graduate Admissions

Contact Information

Application Requirements

  • Application with fee
  • Three letters of recommendation while a maximum of six letters are accepted we usually read three)
  • One (1) Official Transcript (from any institution attended for at least one year, or for any degree conferred)*
  • GRE General Results (Stanford University institution code is 4704 - a department code is not required)
  • TOEFL Results (scores are required of all applicants who have not received a degree from an English speaking university or have an approved Stanford Admissions Waiver)

Application Deadlines 2017-18

Autumn – September 2018 Start Date

  • MS: 11:59 PM (PST), January 9, 2018
  • PhD: 11:59 PM (PST), December 5, 2017

All application materials—including test scores—are DUE by the posted deadline.

You can submit supplemental material at any time before the deadline; material will be matched when you submit your online application.

If you are a re-applicant, all materials listed above are required again, including letters of recommendation. If test scores are less than five years old, we may be able to reinstate them. Please send an email to matsciengr@stanford.edu for more information on reapplying.

General application requirements

Q: What are the required tests for admissions?

A:  There are two required tests for admissions, the GRE and TOEFL.  We do NOT accept any other language proficiency exams at this time.

1: GRE (Graduate Record Exam):

  • ALL applicants are required to submit GRE scores.
    • No subject tests required.
    • No minimum score required.
    • GRE scores are valid for 5 years from the test date.
    • Test scores received by Graduate Admissions prior to September 1, 2012 are no longer retained on file. If you had ETS send test scores to Stanford but you did NOT submit an application, you must request that ETS resend the scores if you submit an application in the future.
    • Find GRE information here.

2:  TOEFL: Adequate command of spoken and written English is required for admission. Applicants whose first language is not English must submit an official test score from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Stanford accepts only ETS (Educational Testing Service) scores.

- Scores must be submitted from a test taken within the last 18 months.

- Exemptions are granted to applicants who have earned a U.S. bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree from a college or university accredited by a regional accrediting association in the United States, or the international equivalent degree from a university of recognized standing in a country in which all instruction is provided in English. Therefore, applicants with degrees from the U.S., Australia, Canada (except Quebec), New Zealand, Singapore, and the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales) are exempt from taking the TOEFL and do not need to submit the TOEFL Waiver Request form.

- Applicants with degrees from institutions in countries other than those listed above and in which English was the only language of instruction must submit the TOEFL Waiver Request form in order to be evaluated for a waiver to the TOEFL requirement.

- U.S. citizenship does not automatically exempt an applicant from taking the TOEFL if the applicant’s first language is not English. Please refer to https://studentaffairs.stanford.edu/gradadmissions/applying/exams for details on the minimum test score requirement. Both the GRE, and TOEFL if applicable, are required by the University and cannot be waived by the Department. In order for the official scores from ETS to arrive in time for the deadline, they should be taken well in advance and no later than an October test date.

Q: What is the most important part of my application?

A: Our Department does not have a "formula" for admissions. The admissions committee looks at the applicant's background and record to determine potential for success. We look at the whole package, including the strengths and weaknesses, as well as the availability of resources in the department for the applicants.

Obviously, the better your test scores, transcripts, letters, and experiences, the better your chances of gaining admission, but there are no guarantees. We can never admit all the students with the ability to succeed in graduate school, as there simply are not enough resources to support all of our excellent applicants.

Because of our "whole view" approach, we do not keep statistics of test scores, GPAs, etc. of those admitted in past years. Early application will not increase your chance of being accepted.

Q: My school(s) has sent an official transcript. Why does my checklist say that only my unofficial transcript(s) have been received?

A: The checklists will be updated in the order that they are received AFTER the application deadline. It may take up to three weeks (15 business days) to process into your application.  DO NOT wait to have your official transcript sent. 

We have hundreds of applications to process, review, and mark complete. We will be in touch with you if you are missing any materials. Please do NOT call and email asking why your file is not “complete.”  Each call/email slows our process down and lengthens our review.

Q: I have taken my required tests (GRE and/or TOEFL) and requested the scores be sent to Stanford. I have also submitted my transcripts and my recommendation letters; why is my checklist saying that they have not been received?

A: You must first submit your application for Stanford to be able to see your checklist. Stanford cannot match your recommendation letters, transcripts, and test scores until test scores are sent by ETS to Stanford, and it could take up to a few weeks to match your application to your scores. The checklists will not be updated until after the December 5 deadline. Thereafter, we will update them at least weekly. We will be in touch with you if you are missing any materials.  Please DO NOT contact us requesting we update your file.  Test scores are uploaded by an automated process each week. If you are concerned that your test scores have not been received, please contact the appropriate testing service office.

Official transcripts will be marked as "received" when the department receives them in the mail. If your official transcript’s status remains "not received", it is a good idea to contact your former/current schools to send another copy of the official transcript, as it is possible that mail could get lost in transit.

Q: How can I send my test scores to Stanford and where should I send my transcripts? What is Stanford’s ETS (Educational Testing Service) institutional code for sending test scores? What is the department code?

Test scores:

Official scores must be reported directly to Stanford from Educational Testing Service. Stanford’s ETS institutional code is 4704. Individual department code numbers are not necessary. As long as the institutional code of 4704 is selected, the score will be electronically delivered to Stanford. The scores will be sent to the central Graduate Admissions Office at Stanford University electronically and matched by name and birthdate to the application files. The test reporting process may take up to a few weeks.

Transcript(s)*:

You are required to submit transcript(s) from every postsecondary institutions you have attended for at least one year as a full-time student in a degree program. You do not have to send transcripts from summer school or continuing education unless it was part of a degree program.

To submit your transcript(s), follow both of these steps:

  1. Upload a scanned copy of your official transcript (s) into the on-line application. See the transcript upload information in the File Upload Requirements section for specific instructions.

 

  1. Arrange for your official transcripts to be sent by the institution(s) to Materials Science and Engineering. An official transcript must be an original document bearing the institutional seal and official signature of the Registrar or copies verified by a school administrative officer and is one that is sent to Stanford in one of four ways:

 

  • Electronic delivery: The use of secure electronically-delivered transcripts that are pass code protected is necessary. The document's certified digital signature embedded in the document PDF assures us that it has been prepared by the college/university and that the document is original and unaltered. Please check with the registrar's office of your college/university to see if they provide secure electronic certified transcript service. Note: Transcripts sent as email attachments are not accepted. 

 

  • CollegeNET Document Service: Applicants from international institutions are encouraged to use the CollegeNET Document Service within the graduate application to request and submit authenticated transcript(s) and other academic documents. This service provides certified documents to the department to which you are applying.  Click here for additional information.

 

  • eTranscript Service: Stanford students and alumni who have active SUNet IDs can use the eTranscript Service within the graduate application. See instructions in the application.

 

  • Postal service:

Department of Materials Science & Engineering
Student Services Office
496 Lomita Mall, Room 102
Stanford, CA 94305-4034

Note: If sending paper transcripts, two sets are required*; an official transcript is one that has been signed and sealed by the college/university registrar and is received by Stanford in its original, sealed envelope

*Graduate Admissions website indicates two (2) copies official transcripts are required, but Materials Science & Engineering requires only one (1) during the application process. A second official transcript will be requested, should you be offered admission to the program.

Chinese students are encouraged to use CHESICC, however it is not required in the application stage – only OFFICIAL, sealed transcripts are required.  If you are offered admission and accept the offer, then your final transcript and your graduate and degree certificates must be submitted to Stanford via the CHESICC method as a condition of your admission. This question is answered on the Graduate Admissions website.

Q: What if my test scores are not received by the deadline?

A: Your file will not be considered complete until all required application materials are received. We may do a preliminary review of your file with unofficial (self-reported) test scores, but we will not make a final decision until we have official test scores.

Q: Would it be possible to modify my application after it has already been submitted?

A: No, you will not be able to modify your application once it's submitted. Official test scores to back up the self-reported ones, online letters of recommendation, and official transcript are the only things that can be added to your application after the deadline.

Q: What are the minimum GRE scores and/or GPAs required for admission?

A: We do not have published minimum test scores or GPAs. We encourage all students to apply as we review application packages as a whole. However, our program is competitive and successful applicants tend to score well on the GRE, especially the math section.

Q: Is there a preferred background for acceptance to the Stanford graduate program?

A: Any engineering discipline or related science discipline (such as physics, chemistry, etc.), or mathematics is a good base for graduate study in materials science and engineering.

Q: What are the minimum TOEFL scores required for admission?

A: Stanford University requires a score of 89 for the MS program, and 100 for the PhD program.  Based on the number of applicants with strong TOEFL scores however, these are just minimums – you should do your best to score above 100.

Q: How long are my TOEFL scores valid for admission?

A: Scores must be submitted from a test taken within the last eighteen months (ex. PhD deadline is December 5, 2017 so TOEFL scores from June 5, 2016 or later will be accepted).

Q: What if my official transcripts are not received by the deadline?

A: Your file will not be considered complete until all required application materials are received. We may do a preliminary review of your file with unofficial transcripts, but we will not make a final decision until we have official transcripts.

Q: What is an “official” transcript?

A: The PDF version of the transcripts you upload on line are considered "unofficial." The university requires "official" transcripts that are produced and sent directly by your university in a sealed envelope. You may also send official transcripts yourself as long as the envelope has not been opened, as indicated by an unbroken seal with a signature or stamp across it. You can also request your school to send an official electronic transcript to matsciengr@stanford.edu

Q: I am an international student, do my transcripts need to be translated into English?

A: In order for the admissions committee and university to read your transcripts, any text must be translated into English. Please see the Office of Graduate Admissions’ page on international transcripts.

Q: I am an international student (or student at a US school that doesn’t use a 4.0 scale) and my grades are not on a 4.0 scale. Should I compute my GPA to compare to the US 4.0 grading scale?

A: Yes…and…No. First, enter 0.00 in the GPA fields of the online application if your institution did not use a typical United States’ 4.0 scale. Next, please use WES (http://www.foreigncredits.com/Resources/GPA-Calculator/) or Back to College (http://www.back2college.com/gpa.htm) and send us your initial GPA calculation on a 4-point scale via an email to matsciengr@stanford.edu (include your name, birthdate, and a screenshot of the calculation).

Q: What happens if my letters of recommendation are not received by the deadline?

A: We will not review your file unless we have three letters of recommendation.

Q. What if my recommenders did not receive the invitation to submit their letters or what if they are having issues?

A: First, have your recommenders check their SPAM or JUNK mail.  Often they will find the invitation there.  If they have the invitation, within the recommender request there is a link for recommenders to use to check FAQ or get online help. The link is also accessible through your account, after it is established and your recommenders indicate there is an issue.  This cannot be resolved at the department level. This question is answered on the Graduate Admissions website.

Q: What happens if I need to remove or change a recommender?

A: Once you have submitted your application you will not be able to revise your list of recommendation letters. If you need to update your list or let us know that a recommender will not be submitting a letter, please send an e-mail to matsciengr@stanford.edu. In the email, please state your full name and what changes you need made to your recommenders.

Q: How can I request financial aid?

A: We are able to offer financial aid only to selected PhD students. Simply check the box on the application form that asks if you wish to be considered for aid. If you do not check that box, you may not be offered aid. You do not have to provide proof of need. Financial aid is administered somewhat differently in graduate school than it is in undergraduate school.

Q: What degrees can I apply for?

A: Applicants may ask to be considered for either an MS degree or a PhD degree. We do not accept applicants directly to the Engineer degree program, so please do not put this on your application form. If you expect to obtain both an MS degree and a PhD degree, apply to the PhD program only. Use the MS program ONLY if you expect to obtain a terminal MS degree and not continue your education.

Q: Can I apply to more than one department at Stanford?

A: No, you may apply to only one department. If the department to which you apply does not admit you, you may request to have your application be considered by another department, pending the second department agrees to review your application.

Generally, financial aid is already awarded by the time another department agrees to review such applications, therefore even if you are admitted, you would need to be prepared to fund yourself for at least the first year.

Q: What is meant by the question in the application, “If you applied to the PhD program but are not admitted to it, do you want to be considered for admissions to the Master's Degree Program?”

A: We have a limited number of spaces available for PhD admits. Sometimes we offer an MS program admission to someone who has applied to the PhD program. Please indicate in your application that you wish to be considered for an MS if you are not offered a position in the PhD program.

Q: I am reapplying to the program. Can I reuse any application materials?

A: All materials, including letters of recommendation, must be resubmitted. Test scores are good for five years.

Q: Is it possible to request an application fee waiver?

Please refer to https://graddiversity.stanford.edu/graduate-fee-waiver/graduate-fee-waivers for more information about application fee waivers.

Q: Can I connect with you on LinkedIn?

A: The matsciengr@stanford.edu address is an organizational email and does not have an active LinkedIn account.

MS Program Specific Q&A

Q: My undergraduate degree is not in an engineering discipline. Am I eligible to apply?

A: You are eligible to apply, but you may be at a disadvantage when compared with engineering majors who have applied. Please thoroughly review the requirements of the program in the MSE Graduate Handbook.

Q: Can I change from the MS to the PhD degree program?

A: We do have a petition procedure for students who have done extremely well during their first two quarters in our program and wish to request a transfer to the PhD program. You must have support from two faculty members, including one who is willing to act as your PhD research advisor and provide funding for you. Space is limited.

Q: May I apply to more than one Stanford MS program at the same time?

A: No, you may only apply to one MS program at a time. If you apply to more than one, both applications may be disqualified.

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

A: MS applications may be reviewed for a limited number of fellowships. These awards are competitively allocated and are based on academic merit. We 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: It is quite rare for a first-year MS student to secure an assistantship. Most MS students fund their studies with loans and search for assistantships once they have built relationships with faculty in the MSE or other departments. There is no central hiring process. Students must contact faculty members directly to inquire about assistantships.

Q: I want to apply now, but I will not be able to start until Fall 2019. Should I still apply?

A: If you know you are unable to start until a later quarter, please do not apply.  We generally do not offer deferrals to MS students unless there is a urgent, valid medical/family reason.

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

A: The MS program starts in Autumn 2018. 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 in Autumn 2018, please wait to apply in a future year.

Q: I do not live in the area. Can I do a part-time MS program completely online?

A: It is not possible to complete an entire MS degree online. Stanford does offer a part-time MS program in MatSci, but there are some caveats – please contact the Stanford Center for Professional Development for more information. The MS program is designed for local students to come on campus on a part-time basis, supplemented by a few classes online.

Q: I accidentally applied for the PhD program, but I meant to apply for the MS program. What should I do?

A: Please send an e-mail to matsciengr@stanford.edu with the subject line: “Applied to the PhD in error. Please move me to the MS pool.” In the email, please state your full name so we can find you easily.

Q. When will I hear about my Masters admission status?

A: You can expect an answer by the end of March, 2018.  We work diligently to finalize the list and get word out as soon as possible.  Please DO NOT CALL/EMAIL asking for your status as it slows the process.

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 2019. Should I still apply?

A: If you know you are unable to start until a later quarter, please do not apply.  We generally do not offer deferrals to PhD students unless there is a 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 2018. If you need to defer, you will need to request a whole-year deferral. Deferral requests are not always approved and may affect the funding offer. If you know in advance that you cannot start school in Autumn 2018, please wait to apply in a future year.

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

A: Our financial aid package for admitted students will be explained in greater detail when you are accepted to our program. Funding levels tend to rise slightly each year. We have recently awarded most accepted students a combination of fellowship and research assistantship appointment during the first year. We 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! Students employed as graduate student researchers are supported by funds from research grants and contracts obtained by faculty in the department. The selection of a research topic is carried out by mutual agreement between the student and the advisor(s). In addition to the salary, students with assistantships receive tuition, and a health insurance subsidy to partially offset the cost of student health insurance premiums.

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.

Need more information?

If you have any questions not answered on the website or in our tips and tricks, please email matsciengr@stanford.edu or write to:

Attn: Student Services
Department of Materials Science & Engineering
Stanford University
496 Lomita Mall, Room 102
Stanford, CA 94305-4034

Email is the best option for communication, as we cannot return long distance or international phone calls.