Information for Graduate-Level Physics Program Applicants
If you already have the information you need,
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We accept alternatives to formal testing to satisfy the English language requirement.
The subject or physics GRE is not required for an application to have full consideration.
- Degrees Offered
- Criteria for Admission
- Financial Aid & Scholarships
- Health Insurance and Housing
- Opportunities for US Applicants to Visit Kent
- Submission Date for Applications & Decision Timetable
- List of Items Needed for Complete Application
- ** APPLICATION PROCEDURE **
- Frequently-Asked Questions and Additional Information
The graduate-level physics programs at Kent State University offer solidly-based fundamental course work and the opportunity to do experimental or theoretical research with first-class scientists. Our research groups enjoy international recognition in front-line areas of physics, we have excellent experimental and computational facilities, and we interact extensively with other strong research centers.
The quality of our physics programs are reflected in our success in competing nationally for grant support and in the publication record of our faculty and students. A ranking of physics PhD programs, published by the National Research Council, rated our program in the top 5% nationwide in both the percentage of faculty publishing regularly and the percentage engaged in sponsored research. In publications per faculty, the same study ranked Kent near the top 20% nationwide.
Our graduates enter initial employment in permanent positions at a higher rate than national norms (based on AIP data). The PhD physics program at Kent has been a major source in the US for PhD physicists employed in the area of liquid crystal applications, and our program offers excellent flexibility to choose among research topics spanning the full range from fundamental theoretical work to highly application-oriented experimental physics.
We have typically 50 to 60 graduate students enrolled in our year-round program. Graduate study may be started any term, including the summer. However, a new student with a typical undergraduate preparation is usually advised to start in the fall.
We invite you to scan through our Top Ten List of facts that prospective physics applicants ought to know about our program and about life as a physics graduate student at Kent State University. Another useful resource is the virtual tour page aimed at students across all areas of study, both undergraduate and graduate, at Kent.
Any unconditionally-admitted graduate student has the option to be a candidate for the PhD physics degree without first completing a Master's Degree. A student who chooses to pursue a Master's Degree has two options: an MS degree, which includes a Master's research project resulting in a written report that may take the form of a Thesis; or an MA degree, which requires only the completion of 32 semester-hours of credit with satisfactory grades. Students pursuing a PhD can apply for the MA degree as soon as they have completed 32 semester-hours of credit.
Criteria for Admission
Do I qualify for Admission?
The explanation below of our criteria for admission tries to answer this question in general terms. After reading through to the end, you may still have uncertainty or questions. If so, you should also consult one of our related FAQ items.
Degrees, Courses & Grades
Applicants must have at least the equivalent of a US baccalaureate degree in physics or a closely-related subject. (Applicants whose undergraduate major is not physics can find more explanation on our FAQ page, while International Applicants should consult a different item on our FAQ page for more about equivalency.) Good undergraduate preparation for graduate study typically includes the equivalent of the following upper-division courses at Kent State U: classical mechanics, modern physics (two semesters), laboratory (two semesters), electromagnetism, quantum and atomic physics, thermodynamics, data analysis and computational physics, and some electives such as nuclear physics and solid state physics. A grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.0 on a scale of A = 4.0 in your highest degree is required for unconditional admission. Students from countries where GPA is not used are assessed according to a standard appropriate for their own country.
Update: The General and Subject GRE is now optional for all applicants.
Although not required, applicants are strongly encouraged to submit Physics GRE and General GRE if available. Final-year undergraduates who have not yet completed one or more courses needed to prepare for the Physics GRE are still recommended to take the test in the fall of their final year. We recognize that such applicants cannot be expected to score at their full potential, and we take this special circumstance into account. There is no definite minimum score that we require for the Physics GRE, and we take many factors into account when interpreting an applicant's performance on this test.
Research Experience & Miscellaneous Factors
It is an advantage for applicants to have research experience, and we take this into account in admission decisions. However, research experience is not required. A student with an academic record not truly representative of his/her present ability is also welcome to apply and submit additional supporting information. Each application is given individual attention.
English Tests (for International Applicants only)
Update: We accept alternatives to formal testing (such as Duolingo) to satisfy the English language requirement.
The university requires all applicants from countries where English is not the first language to submit a score from an approved English test. There are no exceptions to this requirement unless students qualify for a waiver. A variety of test scores (listed below) are acceptable to meet this requirement.
Unconditional admission requires the following minimum scores:
IELTS: 6.5; TOEFL-pBT: 550; TOEFL-iBT: 79; PTE: 58; Duolingo: 110
Foreign applicants are exempt from the English testing requirement if they have completed a degree at a university in the US, or in an English-speaking country as defined above. TOEFL and IELTS scores expire after two years, and must be current at the time of application.
Your official English test result must be sent directly from the testing organization (Educational Testing Service (ETS) in the case of TOEFL) to Kent State. With either TOEFL or IELTS, you have the option at the time of registering for the test to specify several universities to receive official results. If you were not thinking about Kent State when you took the test, and you only decided to apply to us at a later date, then you need to contact ETS, pay a fee, and instruct them to send your official result directly to Kent State University. If takers of the IELTS test subsequently decide to apply to Kent State University after paying the fee, it normally sufficient to send a scan or a photocopy of your IELTS score report to Kent State Graduate Admissions, because the admissions office can likely verify your score electronically based on this information.
Financial Aid & Scholarships
Grant-funded Research Assistant (RA) appointments normally cover the full 12-month period, and effective from September 2015, will carry a stipend of $24,720 plus a full tuition scholarship.
Beginning graduate students are supported by a Teaching Assistantship (TA). As the name implies, this appointment carries a part-time duty such as working in undergraduate labs, or tutoring beginning undergraduates, or grading. Graduate students on teaching assistantships are supported at the level of $2060/month during the 9 months of the Fall and Spring semesters, and at at minimum, at the level of $1030/month during the three summer months, when teaching duties are especially light. Thus, graduate students supported on teaching assistantships will receive at least $21,630 for the 12 months beginning September 2018, plus a full tuition scholarship. Entering students in some cases receive the full 12-month stipend of $24,720 by carrying out exploratory sponsored research, during the summer at the end of their first year, under the direction of a faculty member who is seeking to recruit a new student. More details can be found on our FAQ page.
An outstanding applicant might also be awarded a Special Departmental Fellowship, worth an additional $3000 during their first year in our graduate program.
Health Insurance and Housing
University-sponsored health insurance for a single student can be purchased at a cost to the student is $634 per year, after applying a flat subsidy of $1478 provided by the university. This subsidy can be used towards either an individual or family policy. These amounts are current as of Fall 2017. The university requires foreign students to obtain and maintain health insurance.
A variety of reasonably priced rental housing can be found in the Kent area. Typical rental for a one or two bedroom apartment near campus is approximately $600 and $850, respectively. The Campus Bus Service provides a transportation network for the Kent campus and links the campus with shopping centers and residential neighborhoods in nearby communities; service to Akron and Cleveland is also provided. Local bus service is free to Kent students.
Opportunities for US Applicants to Visit Kent
US citizens and residents who have applied for admission in the fall semester are encouraged to visit us during the preceding spring semester. A travel scholarship fund is available to offset some travel expenses of visiting applicants. Applicants will be contacted when the time for visits approaches, and detailed information will be communicated at that stage.
Submission Date for Applications & Decision Timetable
To begin in a Fall Semester:
The target date for receipt of applications to begin the program in a Fall semester (late August) is January 31. The competitive evaluation of applications will begin then, and offers of admission will begin soon after, and continue until our available places are filled. Applications that arrive after January 31 will be considered only if we still have places available.
To begin in a Spring Semester:
We admit most of our students to begin in a Fall semester. Occasionally we have a few places available to begin in the middle of an academic year, i.e., a Spring semester (mid January). Because of the structure of the program, a spring start is less difficult for students who already have a Masters degree. In some years we do not admit any students to begin in the Spring semester. Such applications need to be received by the target date of the previous August 31.
In order for an application to be officially complete by January 31, an applicant should start at least a month before that date. It takes time for documents like letters of reference to arrive and be processed. In January and February, the centralized Graduate Admissions Office and Staff are occupied with a high volume of applications and documents. Chances of a favorable admission decision in February are much diminished if application file documents are late in arriving and are still being processed. The Physics Department cannot act on an application until it is declared complete by the central Admissions Office.
Additional explanation about application deadlines can be found on our FAQ page.
Applicants Supported by an External Scholarship:
Applicants who do not need an assistantship from Kent State University (e.g., international students who have support from their home country) may apply at any time.
List of Items Needed for Completed Application
A list of requirements needed to complete application is outlined below. For more information about how to apply to the MA, MS, and PhD program, please see the graduate college application webpage. Besides letters of recommendation and official test scores, these documents can be uploaded when filling out the online application.
- Filled-out application forms.
- Statement of Goals and brief CV.
- Email addresses for three Letters of Recommendation. Use of this form (PDF) is optional, but we request that a form with checked boxes not be substituted for an actual letter.
- Official transcript(s) that cover your bachelor's degree and any master's-level study, if you have gone beyond the bachelor's level. Copies of official transcripts can be uploaded in the application for evaluation purposes. These must be verified by official documents before enrollment into the program.
- Application Fee.
- Where applicable, proof of English proficiency (see above for details).
Your General and Physics (Subject) GRE scores should be sent directly from ETS to Kent State. The General and Physics GRE tests are a normal requirement of the physics department (see above for details about exceptions) but as long as items 1. through 6. above have been received, your application is considered to be a Completed Application.
Please note: after an applicant instructs ETS to send GRE or TOEFL scores directly to Kent State University by normal delivery, it can take 4 to 6 weeks before we receive the information.
There is no mechanism to waive application fees by either the department or the university.
ONLINE SUBMISSION OF APPLICATIONS USING THIS LINK is strongly encouraged, and this includes all categories of applicant (US citizens, and citizens of other countries).
Frequently-Asked Questions & Additional Information
Much additional information can be found on our special FAQ page for Graduate Program applicants. Applicants are urged to check this FAQ page for instant answers before sending inquiries by email. If you still have unanswered questions, please contact:
Department of Physics
Kent State University
Kent, OH 44242