For Prospective Physics Graduate Students

Information about material needed to apply is given under the specific degree program found on the graduate program page. To apply,  GO DIRECTLY TO APPLICATION SUBMISSION.

Why Choose Kent State?

The graduate 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 in Biological Physics, Nuclear and High Energy Physics, Soft Matter Physics, and Quantum Materials.  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 such as National Labs. Our program offers excellent flexibility to choose among research topics spanning the full range from fundamental theoretical work to highly application-oriented experimental physics. 

As a mid-size department, our program offers an excellent balance of a diverse choice of research options with a high degree of personal attention and individual mentoring in research. We strive to maintain a rigorous, yet supportive environment to ensure our students thrive in coursework, research, and within our community.  We have an excellent track record of employment in both academic research and industry employment after graduation. Our PhD students receive competitive stipends and full tuition waivers which allows them to enjoy a good lifestyle in Northeast Ohio for which the cost of living is very reasonable. 

Our departmental culture is one of openness and camaraderie. We get together (outside of collaborating in our own research) with events such as an annual Fall picnic, end of semester winter party, weekly colloquium, and regular Nuclear Physics Seminars, and monthly dinners with faculty and graduate students. Graduate students participate in an active Physics Graduate Student Association club, intramural athletic leagues and sporting activities at the KSU Wellness Center. Science outreach opportunities include judging in local science fairs as well as serving as scientific mentors to high school and middle school participants. 

Which degree program should I apply to?

For most students, it is best to apply directly to the PhD program.

Students usually enter our department through the PhD program. It is not necessary to already have a Masters degree (i.e., a Bachelor's degree is sufficient) to be admitted directly to the PhD program. Financial support through graduate assistantships is awarded exclusively to students entering PhD program. We generally accept students into the MS program only if they have their own support (through a scholarship for example). 

If you do not need support of a Graduate Assistantship, you are welcome to apply to a Masters degree in Physics.

The Masters of Sciecne (MS) degree involves original research and we have Thesis and non-Thesis options. The MS degree is a full time program so that students need to have their own support such as an external scholarship. The Masters of Arts (MA) degree is based on graduate coursework. This is a flexible program and may be pursued full-time or part-time or part time. You should choose the best option that meets your goals.

Which semester should I apply to?

Incoming PhD students primarily start their program in the Fall semester. This is also when we appoint nearly all available Graduate Assistantships. 

The Masters of Arts program can apply to either semester since the program is flexible and generally self-supporting. 

To begin in a Fall Semester:

Competitive evaluation of applications to begin the program in a Fall semester (late August) will begin on the target date listed under the degree program on the graduate program page.. Offers of admission are sent out in the next couple weeks and continue until our available places are filled. Applications that arrive after the target date will be considered until the budgeted slots are filled.  

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 most years we do not admit any students to begin in the Spring semester. If you would like to apply to start spring semester, it is best to email the graduate coordinator ( to see if we are planning to admit students in the spring. Such applications should need to be received by the target date listed under the degree program on the graduate program 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 for Fall or Spring admission. 

What financial aid and scholarships are available?

We support all admitted PhD student with a Graduate Assistantship  with a 12 month stipend of $26,780 plus a full tuition scholarship. The assistantship can either be a Teaching Assistantship (TA) or grant supported research (RA). Beginning graduate students are supported by a TA which  carries a part-time duties such as working in undergraduate labs, or tutoring beginning undergraduates, or grading. 

An outstanding PhD applicant might also be awarded a Special Departmental Fellowship to add to the stipend during their first year in our graduate program. Also, we often nominate academically excellent students with diverse backgrounds for the Graduate Dean Award.

Masters student generally are not supported by a Graduate Assistantship. If you would like to be considered for a Graduate Assistantship, you should apply directly to the PhD program (if that meets your goals). 

How are applications evaluated?

Each application is given individual attention. We try to gain a holistic picture of the preparation of each applicant through their grades, statement of purpose, CV, and letters of recommendation. We value strong grades and research experience, but we also factor in other qualities important to success in graduate school and beyond, such as independence, persistence, creativity, over-coming adversity .

Degrees, Courses & Grades

Applicants must have at least the equivalent of a US baccalaureate degree in physics or a closely-related subject. 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 minimum grade point average (GPA) is listed listed under the degree program on the graduate program page for unconditional admission, though admitted students typically have significantly higher GPAs. Students from countries where GPA is not used are assessed according to a standard appropriate for their own country.

Research Experience 

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.

Statement of Purpose and CV

The Statement of Purpose (SOP) and CV work together to highlight academic accomplishments. While there is no minimum or maximum page limit for either of these documents, the SOP is usually one to two pages long. In addition to expounding on academic accomplishments, the SOP is a chance for you point to experiences that illustrate personal qualities important to future success as a graduate student and scientist. State your goals and interests in research clearly and discuss how specific experiences have lead to these views. You should also mention in what way the physics department at KSU aligns with your interests and will help you reach your goals. You are welcome to provide any other information you think will be helpful to evaluate your application. 

A student with an academic record not truly representative of his/her present ability is also welcome to apply and submit additional supporting information.

Letters of Reference

The three letter of references are an important part of the application. Choose references that know your academic record and can expand on your accomplishments, interests, and personality. If you have attended multiple higher education schools, choose at least one reference from your most recent (current) institution. 

Tests Scores

The General and Subject GRE is optional for all applicants. Not submitting a score will not negatively influence evaluation of your application.  

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

Can I visit the department before deciding to attend Kent State?

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.

Other questions and more 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:

Graduate Coordinator
Department of Physics
Kent State University
Kent, OH 44242
Phone: 330-672-2246