Graduate Program FAQ
Before You Apply
Whom do I contact in the Materials Science and Engineering Department (MSE Department) at Penn with additional questions that are not addressed here?
If I want to get a master's degree (M.S.E. degree) as well as a Ph.D. degree, should I apply to the M.S.E. degree program or the Ph.D. degree program?
You should apply for the Ph.D. degree program. The requirements for the Ph.D. degree program supersede those for the M.S.E. degree program, thus the requirements for the master’s degree are automatically fulfilled during the course of your Ph.D. degree studies. You do not need to conduct two separate research projects (one for the M.S.E. degree, one for the Ph.D. degree) to obtain both degrees.
What are the important dates to remember, and can I apply for admission for any term?
The application deadlines of the School of Engineering and Applied Science can be accessed here.
Can I apply electronically? Can I still use a paper application, and where can I get a paper application?
Yes you can apply electronically. Electronic applications are the only method for applying to the University of Pennsylvania. Paper applications are no longer available. Please visit our online application site.
What examination scores do I need to include on my application?
The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test is required for your Penn application.
The average GRE score: Quantitative – 700 – 800, Analytical – 3.0 – 4.0.
Also, if you are a non-native speaker of English, then you also need to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). The minimum TOEFL score is 250. The IBT (Internet-Based Test) minimum score is 100.
What is the Institution Code for reporting my scores to the University of Pennsylvania and Materials Science and Engineering?
The Institution Code for the University of Pennsylvania is 2888.
Does the department accept transfer students from other departments?
Yes, transfers from other departments are accepted, provided they meet the criteria set forth for all graduate students in the Materials Science and Engineering department. Transfer students are typically asked to include a letter of recommendation from a faculty member at their current school.
After You Apply
What factors are taken into account when evaluating my application?
The underlying question that needs to be answered by your application is, “Does this applicant have the potential to be a research scientist?” Your academic background is a large part of this question. If you have previous undergraduate or industrial research experience, it makes it easier for the evaluation committee to discern your research ability. Your letters of recommendation are also important since they are often written by professors and those who evaluate research ability. The content of the application should demonstrate that you have the potential to be a research scientist. If your application does this, then you should feel confident in you acceptance to the MSE Department at Penn Engineering.
What happens after I get accepted? When do I need to formally accept or decline an offer of admission?
If you are a student in the U.S., you will be invited to visit Penn so that you can make a firsthand evaluation of whether Penn and the MSE Department are right for you. During the visit, you will speak with faculty and graduate students, receive a tour of both the department and the campus, and be treated to lunch at a local restaurant. Often, other activities can be planned with the graduate students, depending on the length of your stay. The MSE Department will reimburse you for your travel expenses. Visits by international applicants are not planned due to the complexities and costs of international travel.
The next step for you is to determine if you will accept the offer to conduct graduate studies at Penn. The official deadline for notifying the MSE Department with your decision is April 15.
As a foreign student, I cannot visit Penn prior to making my decision. How can I learn more about the department?
I received a letter of admission, but it didn't say anything about a research fellowship. Why is that?
When you are accepted to the MSE Department at Penn (Ph.D. only), you will receive two (2) letters regarding your acceptance. The first letter concerns admissions and is sent from the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS). The second letter concerns the research fellowship and is sent directly from the MSE Department.
How do I choose a research advisor, and what are the chances that I will be able to work with my advisor of choice?
In September and October of your first semester, all of the faculty of the MSE Department will give 15-minute presentations about their current research and other activities as well as their graduate groups. You are then asked to speak with the faculty in whom you are interested as well as their graduate students or post-docs. This is to determine if there is a common interest and if the working environment is compatible with your expectations. Then you are asked to rank your top three advisors and submit this list to the faculty. Finally, the faculty meets to determine which students will join which groups. The likelihood that you will be able to work your highest advisor is typically 100 percent.
Can I "pre-select" a research advisor prior to my arrival at Penn?
Pre-selecting advisors is not practiced in the MSE Department. However, you will probably have an advisor or two in mind when you arrive here because they are likely one reason why you chose Penn and the MSE Department. If you have already been in contact with the advisor and they are aware of your interest, this will increase the probability that you will join that group. Again, a student almost always gets to work with their top-ranked advisor, so you shouldn’t have to worry about it too much.
What do I do about finding a place to live?
One option is the University’s on-campus graduate student housing (https://www.graduateadmissions.upenn.edu/moving/housing/). This is probably the easiest option, but is usually more expensive than finding an off-campus apartment. The University’s Office of Off-Campus Housing (http://cms.business-services.upenn.edu/offcampusservices/) is an invaluable resource if you decide to look for an apartment yourself. Talking with current graduate students would also be quite useful in your search.
Am I required to be a teaching or lab assistant as a graduate student in the MSE department?
No teaching or lab assistantship is required for the Ph.D. or M.S.E. degree programs. However, this option is often available for students who would like this experience.
As a non-citizen of the U.S., what information do I need to know about visas?
Issues, such as visas, concerning international students should be directed to the International Student and Scholar Services Office (215-898-4661).
Dr. Shu Yang
Professor and Graduate Group Chair
Dr. Mahadevan Khantha
Senior Lecturer, Faculty Advisor and Master’s Program Advisor
Office: 221 LRSM
Ms. Irene Clements
Graduate Program Coordinator
Office: Room 201, LRSM