Frequently Asked Questions for Graduate-level Physics Degree Applicants

Because of the relatively large number of questions and answers posted below, you may want to narrow-down using the category headings, or else try searching this site using the search box found at the bottom of the navigation links on the left.

Financial Aid
Courses and Exams
Admission Requirements & Statistics
Application Deadlines
Application Process
Letters of Recommendation
International only
International only — English test

Financial Aid

What percentage of admitted applicants receive Assistantships?
100% of admitted applicants are offered an Assistantship. Normally, we do not offer admission to US or to international applicants unless we are able to provide both an Assistantship and a full tuition scholarship. This applies whether the student joins in fall (August) or in spring (January).

Will my chance of admission be improved if I indicate in my application that I don't need an Assistantship?
As explained in the previous answer, we automatically assume that every applicant needs an Assistantship. Sometimes an applicant already has a special fellowship from some organization, or has an agreement with an employer who will support the applicant's graduate education either part-time or full-time. Of course, we look very favorably on applications of this kind, and we will "go the extra mile" to help such applicants to meet our academic criteria for admission into our graduate-level physics degree programs. Applicants in this particular situation are normally not required to have taken the Physics GRE exam.

Video frame from rotating 3D event display of a relativistic gold-gold collision


Courses & Exams

What is the level of first-year graduate classes? Since I already have a Master's degree in physics, can I skip some of the first-year graduate classes?
The level of first-year graduate classes is intended for physics majors who have graduated with a BS degree from a typical US college or university. Admitted applicants who already have completed graduate-level coursework in physics and are seeking a PhD Physics degree, are invited to take our diagnostic Candidacy Exam immediately upon entering our program. Based on the results of this exam, an entering student and his/her curriculum advisor will normally tailor an appropriately shortened schedule of classes.

I have passed the PhD Qualifying/Candidacy Exam at another US university, but now I want to transfer to Kent State. Do I need to take this exam again?
Beginning in fall 2007, our department adopted a new policy whereby we will consider accepting the Candidacy Exam results from another US university on a case-by-case basis.

Admission Requirements & Statistics

Based on statistics from past years, what are my chances to be admitted?
Assuming that file completion is not in doubt, we can often provide prospective students with much better information on their admission probability than just statistics from past years — see the answer to the next question.

I think I satisfy the minimum requirements listed on your website, but I am not sure. Can you review my CV and tell me if my chances to be admitted with aid are high or low?
Yes, we will try do this. If you provide a CV or a brief emailed summary of your grades and available test scores, any special distinctions/awards, a mention of your research experience (if any), you can request a specific estimate of your chances to be offered admission. In some cases, we can give a prospective applicant a reasonably clear answer immediately, based on an email inquiry to:

Of course, if relevant information is missing or if the strength of your application so far appears similar to that of many other applicants, then it is difficult to give you a definite answer.

What minimum scores do you require the Physics GRE?
We highly recommend the Subject (Physics) GRE test, but we have not established any definite minimum score. When interpreting an applicant's Physics GRE score, we take many factors into account, e.g., what courses he or she has completed by the date of the test, when and where the courses were taken, etc.

I got a bad score on my first GRE attempt. If I try again, will you average my score over both attempts?
We don't average. Generally, we assume that your best score represents your true ability.

Video Frame from protein folding / unfolding calculation by Prof. Portman's groupI will finish my degree in May, but since I need to apply in January, my transcript will be incomplete. Is this a problem?
No, it is not a problem. Send your incomplete transcript. If you are offered admission, and if your in-progress degree is a requirement for admission, then you will be required to later send your final transcript showing your completed degree, or alternatively, you may bring that final transcript with you when you come to Kent to enroll.

My undergraduate degree is not in physics, but now I am very interested in one of the research areas of the Kent State Physics Department. Can I be admitted to your PhD Physics program?
We will consider applications from prospective students whose background and training are in an area other than Physics, such as Physical Chemistry, Material Science, or certain branches of Engineering. If your transcript shows that you have taken most of the core physics courses typically taken by Physics Majors, then there should be no problem. If your transcript shows that several of the relevant core courses are missing, but you have been exposed to that material in some other way and if you have gotten reasonable scores on the Physics (Subject) GRE, again we would encourage you to submit an application.

Is there a recommended CV format? What am I expected to write about in my "Statement of Goals"?
You have a lot of discretion here. It is entirely your choice when deciding the format of your CV. At minimum, we recommend that you list all third-level institutions you have attended, your degrees, your Grade Point Average or overall percent marks from each university, and any academic awards or honors you have obtained. If you have taken any entrance exam in physics or a physics-related subject, you should mention your rank on that exam. Briefly summarize any physics or physics-related research projects in which you have participated. If you are an international student, it is a good idea to give your scores on any standard English Proficiency test you have taken.

Regarding your Statement of Goals (which can be submitted either as part of the online application forms, or can be sent later as an email attachment, or can even be sent as a hardcopy along with your transcript) applicants often discuss topics and answer questions such as the following:

  • Why are you interested in physics?
  • Why are you interested in a PhD from Kent State University?
  • What areas of physics research most attract you, and why?
  • What exposure have you had to the areas of physics research you prefer?
  • What career direction do you plan to follow after completing your degree?

If you have broad interests within physics, and still have an open mind about which area of research you would like to pursue, this is often viewed by our Admission Committee as a positive attribute, and certainly does not put your application at a disadvantage.

The above are just examples, and you may address somewhat different issues if you wish. There is no expectation about the minimum or maximum length of your CV or your Statement of Goals.

How important is research experience? I expect to have a paper about my research published, but it is not ready yet. How important is this publication?
It is an advantage for applicants to have research experience, and this is one factor among many that we take into account in admission decisions. However, research experience is not a requirement. Regarding publications and other measures of research quality and productivity, these depend a lot on your supervisor and on other factors that are often beyond the control of student researchers. Therefore, we do not attach a lot of importance to whether a paper about your research has been published yet.

The physics website says that a "student with an academic record not truly representative of his/her present ability is also welcome to apply and submit additional supporting information." More specifically, what does this mean?
It may happen that a prospective student has a relatively poor overall GPA due to low grades during the early stages of his/her undergraduate work, or during some other specific time interval. We are willing to overlook such an episode if an explanation is provided, and if mitigating evidence can be found in the applicant's file. This is part of why we say that each application is given "individual attention".

How many new students will you admit next year? How many new international students will you admit?
We typically admit on the order of 10 new students in August each year. We admit a small number (and in some years, none at all) in January each year. Averaged over the past several years, roughly half our new enrollees have been international students.

Application Deadlines

How strict is the deadline for submission of online application forms?
The date by which application forms need to be submitted is not subject to a strict deadline. Each year, some students begin their applications after the recommended date, and still are in time to receive full consideration. Note, however that the reverse can happen, i.e., a prospective student begins his/her application by the recommended date, but unforeseen delays or problems result in their completed application arriving at the Physics Department too late to be considered for the desired semester. To guarantee that the latter situation does not arise, students should begin their applications earlier than the recommended date and should monitor the status of their application by logging in from time to time and being prompt and proactive in taking corrective action if the needed documents do not show up as being received within the normal time schedule.

Is there any advantage if I submit my application well before the recommended date?
The short answer is yes. The most important date is when your application file is certified by our central university-wide admissions office as being complete. This date determines whether your application can receive full consideration for the semester to which you applied. If your file is completed too late for full consideration, we will offer you the opportunity to transfer your application to the following semester (most frequently, this means transferring from August to the following January).

For Fall (August) applications, we recommend submission of online application forms sooner than the end of January. Test scores such as GRE and TOEFL can take up to a month to reach us from ETS. International applicants in particular should allow extra time for possible problems with transcripts being in the wrong format, missing letters of recommendation, or delays in arrival of TOEFL or IELTS score reports.

In most years, applications that are complete by early to mid-February will receive full consideration. In some years, we have a second round of reviews of applications and a second round of offers after mid-April, and if this second round happens, applications that missed the first round are considered. Otherwise, late applications cannot be considered for August admission, and must wait at least until Spring applicants are reviewed.

For all of the above reasons, we strong recommend getting started on your application early, and doing so is the easiest way to possibly giving yourself an advantage over other applicants.

Application Process

Images related to Liquid Crystal research by Prof. Kumar's groupWhat is the advantage of using the Online Application?
The online application process is straightforward and all documents are available to the physics admissions committee as soon as they are uploaded. It is a rare exception to receive a paper application in the mail, but we will process these as soon as possible.

Originally I applied for a certain semester, but now instead I want to be considered for admission in the following semester. What do I need to do?
If your application has not been declined already, you need only send email to and request the transfer of your application to the next semester. If it has been declined, you must apply again (using the same KSU ID). The documents can be transferred to the new application but you must pay the application fee again. 

May I submit photocopies or scanned copies of my transcript or of my GRE or TOEFL scores?
Copies of official transcripts are acceptable for review purposes. If you are admitted, the transcripts need to be verified by official ones before a student can register the first semester. University rules require official hardcopy transcripts to be sent by postal mail. You must send us copies directly issued by your university.

University rules require GRE and TOEFL scores to be sent directly to us from ETS. Please be aware that it can take 4 to 6 weeks for delivery of scores from ETS to us. If international students use IELTS for their English test, Kent State University may be able to use the IELTS download service to verify your IELTS score, which can save time. See our main Applicant Information Page for specific instructions.

If the date is after mid-February and if your application is mostly complete and the main missing item is GRE (or TOEFL for foreign applicants), then the Admissions Committee of the Kent State physics department wants to be informed of your scores as soon as you know them.

When instructing ETS about sending scores directly to Kent State, what Department Code and Institution Code should I use?
The Department Code you specify should not matter, but if you are forced to pick something, use 0808. The Institution Code for Kent State University is 1367 (to minimize the chance of a mistake, if possible select by name rather than number).

Can my application fee be waived?
There is no mechanism to waive application fees and the department generally does not pay the fee for applicants.

Nuclear physics experiment e154 at SLAC (Petratos/Katramatou)Where should US Citizen & Residents send their documents?
Documents should be uploaded with your online application. If you need to send hard copies of any document, please use the following address:

    Research and Graduate Studies, Office of Graduate Services
    116 Cartwright Hall
    Kent State University
    P.O. Box 5190
    Kent, OH 44242-0001

    Phone: 330-672-2661

International applicants should use different addresses, as given below.

Letters of Recommendation

What are the allowed ways for Letters of Recommendation to be sent to Kent State University?
You will provide the names and email addresses of recommenders in the online application. They will be notified and given instructions on how to submit the letter. Most of the time, letters come to us directly from recommenders, but sometimes an applicant gathers hard-copy letters and sends them, for example, in the same envelope as transcripts. This way is less common but is permitted under our rules.

What is the physics department's policy on use of the Kent State Letter of Recommendation form?
If your recommender plans to send a paper letter, he/she is free to add this form (PDF) or not, whichever is preferred by you and/or the recommender. Recommenders who submit a letter electronically (the normal way) rarely include the form. However, please note that we request your recommenders not to send the form as a substitute for a letter.

Is there any advantage if I send more than three Letters of Recommendation?
Normally three letters are enough. Sometimes one recommender writes a very short letter without much meaningful information. In that situation, an extra letter can be helpful. Also, one person may forget to write or might be very slow; in that situation, it is a good idea to ask four people to write.

International Only

How soon can I come if I apply immediately and I am accepted?
International applications are initially processed by our university-wide Office of Global Education. When all the required documents have been received and the application file is complete, it is forwarded to the Admissions Committee of the physics department for a decision on admission. Most admitted PhD students start in our program at the beginning of the Fall semester each year (August). Students who begin in August typically have submitted their application documents around January that year.

Diagram of bent Liquid Crystal molecule, as revealed through X-ray studies by Prof. KumarI have looked over the Kent State Physics website, and I'm very interested in the research done by Prof. X. I would like to apply immediately to begin PhD research in Prof. X's group. Is this possible?
At Kent State, admitted students affiliate themselves with a research advisor after they have completed the required courses and have passed the candidacy exam. So, the first step is to be admitted and join the department. Still, if you have interest in a particular research it is helpful to say this in your Goals statement.

All the documents needed for admission are attached to this email that I am sending to the Physics Department. Do I need to do anything else to apply for the advertised PhD Studentship?
We can not process application materials sent in this way. Document should be uploaded to the online application. 

The university where I did my bachelor's degree does not use GPA, and does not convert our marks into equivalent GPA. Is this a problem?
No, it is not a problem. Our Office of Global Education is very knowledgeable about grading and assessment at universities around the world. You do not need to convert your marks to equivalent GPA. Just send your official English-language transcript to us, and we will assess your record according to the normal standards used by most US universities to calculate equivalent GPA for your country/university.

Is my 3-year B.Sc. degree accepted as equivalent to a Bachelors degree from a US university?
Three-year B.Sc. degrees from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and from certain Canadian institutions are not accepted by the State of Ohio as equivalent, and an applicant holding one of these B.Sc. degrees is required to also have a Master's degree in order to qualify for graduate admission.

The Kent State Office of Global Education says that my transcript has a "consolidated mark sheet" and it cannot be accepted. What does this mean?
Kent State University has a rule that so-called “consolidated mark sheets” are not accepted.  The consolidated format is a condensed summary format, from which some information may be removed, and many US universities do not accept this format.  Consolidation normally removes Fails, Repeated Courses and Withdrawals from the record.  US universities never use consolidation when issuing transcripts.  The reason for the rule is that if consolidated mark sheets were accepted, it could give the affected international students an unfair advantage in GPA comparisons with US students and with international students from universities that issue transcripts in the normal format.  

Exactly which transcripts are needed? Do I need to send transcripts from my college?
Transcripts are needed from each third-level institution you have attended. Confusion sometimes arises from the very different meaning of the word "college" in US and British/Commonwealth English. In US usage, "college" is always a third-level institution, where a student takes courses that count towards a bachelor's degree, whereas "college" can refer to a secondary-level school in other countries. Getting back to the question, transcripts are needed from any third-level institution where you took courses that counted towards your bachelor's degree, and if you pursued further study after your B.Sc., transcripts for that work also need to be submitted. A transcript for your secondary-level studies is not needed.

Visualization related to model simulation of a nuclear collisionWhat are the guidelines for filling out the Financial Information Worksheet?
Kent State University requires this worksheet (see link to pdf form near the end of this page) mostly because departments outside the sciences sometimes offer admission without much financial aid. Since our Physics Department offers everyone who is admitted an Assistantship and a full tuition scholarship, the worksheet numbers are not so important for our applicants. However, you still need to submit this form and a bank statement. Original documents are not needed, and you may submit email attachments. If you wish, you may print the Financial Information Worksheet and fill-out the form by hand.

Applicants should demonstrate that they have (or can borrow) enough to pay for their travel to come to Kent, Ohio. When new students arrive, they receive $500 almost immediately and then their first assistantship payment comes on September 15. Applicants should demonstrate that they have sufficient financial resources to handle this situation.

Do I need to pay taxes on the Assistantship? If so, how much?
The answer is maybe, as explained below.  US tax rules can be quite complicated, and this webpage cannot offer formal tax advice. Information given here might be incomplete or out-of-date. The Kent State Office of Global Education has staff who can assist new students with tax questions.

Some countries have a Tax Treaty with the US which may allow their citizens to earn money in the US without US Federal Tax for a certain period of years; see this link or other internet resources for further details about the individual treaties.

If your home country does not have a favorable Tax Treaty with the US, then you are generally liable for US Federal Taxes.  The rate of tax depends on many factors.  If you have an accompanying family to support, your tax could be zero or very small.  If you are single, you can still deduct various amounts from your income (this is one of the not-so-simple issues), and then you might pay 15% US Federal Tax on the remainder of your income.  Because of the deductions, your total tax can be considerably less than 15% of your total income.  Many more details can be found on the internet.

Where should international applicants send their documents?
Documents should be uploaded with your online application. If you need to send hard copies of any document, please use the following address:

    Office of Global Education
    Kent State University
   106 Van Campen Hall
    625 Loop Rd
    Kent OH 44242
    phone: +1-330-672-7980

You may use postal mail or a package delivery company.

International Only - English Test

I took my English test some years ago. Do I need to take it again?
At the time of your application, if more than two years have passed since you took your English test, your score is officially expired and the testing organization will no longer verify your score or send it directly to our university. This applies to both TOEFL and IELTS. In this situation, you are required to re-take the test. However, see also the answer to the next question.

I am a foreign applicant, but by next summer I will have completed my Master's degree at a university in the US. Do I still need to take a test of English?
If you will have completed two or more years of study at a university in the US or in another English-speaking country at the time of your requested enrollment at Kent State University, then you are exempt from the requirement to take a test of English. If you will have completed a Master's Degree from a university in the US or in another English-speaking country, even if the duration of your Master's study is under two years, you are also exempt from the requirement to take a test of English.

Liquid Crystalline material under a polarizing microscope, courtesy of Prof. Jim GleesonI have tried to register for the next TOEFL exam. The earliest date I can get a seat might be too late for me to apply for Fall admission, since Kent State will not receive my score until several weeks after the test date. What can I do?
Our first round of offers for fall semester admission is normally finished by the beginning of April. We sometimes have a second round of offers that continues until sometime in May. If your TOEFL score (or any other item required for a complete file) arrives too late, you will still be considered, but your chance of Fall Semester admission is reduced. It might be advantageous for you to consider IELTS instead of TOEFL. Check the IELTS website and select your country from the pull-down menu. Results from that test might be available to us at an earlier date.

Can you consider my application before I take the English exam, or before the score is sent to your university? If accepted, I will make sure that all needed items are submitted.
In order to be considered as a normal category of applicant and to be eligible for financial aid, you must have already demonstrated English Proficiency. International applications are initially received by our Office of Global Education. If an essential required item is missing (TOEFL / IELTS or any other requirement), the file for that applicant remains on hold in the Office of Global Education, and is never sent to the Physics Department for consideration by our Admissions Committee. Nearly every university in the US applies a rule similar to this.

If you have full financial support from your home country but have not yet demonstrated English Proficiency, it is sometimes the case that your home country will support you to study English at a US university for a semester or two before you transfer to a graduate program in your major subject. If this is your situation, please contact us for more details about your options.