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Information for Graduate-Level Physics Program Applicants

If you already have the information you need, GO DIRECTLY TO APPLICATION SUBMISSION

Overview

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.

IMAGE: grad 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. Data from the American Institute of Physics (AIP) for a three-year period during the 1990s, when statistics were last compared with peer departments, showed the KSU Physics Department's extramural funding per faculty to be the highest in Ohio. 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. The most recent outside review of our graduate program took place in 2005.

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.

Degrees Offered

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 Thesis research project, 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

IMAGE: Esplanade 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.

GRE Tests

For fall 2015 applicants, the General GRE test is required. In addition, Physics GRE scores are normally a required part of the application materials for the PhD physics program if an assistantship is requested. 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.

In cases where applicants are faced with significant difficulty in arranging to take the Physics GRE in their country or region, they should contact us as early as possible for further clarification of our requirements. An applicant for the Fall Semester who plans to take the Physics GRE in April is also recommended to inform us of that fact.

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)

IMAGE: merrill_hall The university requires all applicants from countries where English is not the first language to submit a score from an approved English test. No exceptions can be considered. Only the following countries are recognized by Kent State University as having English as their first language: Australia, Canada (except Quebec), Commonwealth Caribbean (including Belize), Ireland, Liberia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and the United States and its Territories (except Puerto Rico). TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is the test most commonly taken. We also accept IELTS, which for some applicants might be less expensive and might provide results sooner. The above are preferred, but we also accept MELAB scores.

For applicants who will need a Teaching Assistantship (TA) from the Physics Department for financial support, the following minimum scores apply:

IELTS: 6.5;       TOEFL-pBT: 560;      TOEFL-iBT: 83;       (MELAB: 78)

For applicants who have an external Scholarship (i.e., are financially supported from a source external to Kent State University), a TA is not applicable, and the following minimum scores apply:

IELTS: 6.0;        TOEFL-pBT: 525;       TOEFL-iBT: 71;      (MELAB: 66)

Foreign applicants are exempt from the English testing requirement if they have completed two or more years of study 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. If your score is about 5% below the above minimum, you may proceed with your online application and we will consider whether your academic qualifications and data might offset being slightly below the normal minimum in English proficiency.

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 might be sufficient if you just send a scan or a photocopy of your IELTS score report to Kent State Graduate Admissions, because they might be able to 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 2009, will carry a stipend of $24,000 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 $2000/month during the 9 months of the Fall and Spring semesters, and at at minimum, at the level of $1000/month during the three summer months, when teaching duties are especially light. Thus, graduate students supported on teaching assistantships will receive at least $21,000 for the 12 months beginning September 2009, plus a full tuition scholarship. Entering students in some cases receive the full 12-month stipend of $24,000 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 $2000 during their first year in our graduate program.

Any graduate student who has instructional duties associated with his/her assistantship is eligible to receive our newly-created Graduate Assistant Award for Excellence in Physics Teaching, which includes a monetary award in the amount of 1.5 months of the current stipend for assistantships. First-year students are eligible to be considered for this award at the end of the Spring Semester.

A number of Application Fee Waivers are made available each year; see below for details.

Health Insurance and Housing

IMAGE: centennial University-sponsored health insurance for a single student can be purchased at a cost to the student of $463 per year, after applying a flat subsidy of $1081 provided by the university. This subsidy can be used towards either an individual or family policy. These amounts are current as of Fall 2009. The university requires foreign students to obtain and maintain health insurance.

Various housing options are available for graduate-level physics program students. Rooms are available for single graduate students in some campus dormitories. One- and two-bedroom furnished apartments are available in the University-owned Allerton Apartments. Monthly rents for these units in Fall 2008 is $669 for a one-bedroom unit, and $699 for a two-bedroom unit (this includes utilities such as heating, electricity, cable TV, and high-speed internet service). In addition, a variety of reasonably priced rental housing can be found in the Kent area. 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 can cover expenses for a number 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.

Timing:

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. The Physics Graduate Program Office staff will process these applications during the last week of each month.

List of Items Needed for Completed Application

Below is the list of requirements for a completed application. The online application website tells you where to send supporting documents, and our FAQ page also summarizes this information for US applicants and for international applicants.

  1. Filled-out application forms (items without a red star can be left blank). It is a good idea to submit your forms early and get your 9-digit ID, even if your remaining items below are not yet ready.
  2. Statement of Goals (include with online forms, or send later) and brief CV.
  3. Three Letters of Recommendation (electronic or hardcopy; use of this form is optional, but we request that a form with checked boxes not be substituted for an actual letter).
  4. Official hardcopy transcript(s), not consolidated transcripts, sent by postal mail. Transcripts must cover your bachelor's degree and any master's-level study, if you have gone beyond the bachelor's level.
  5. Application Fee.
  6. 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.

Application Procedure

IMAGE: Campus ONLINE SUBMISSION OF APPLICATIONS USING THIS LINK is strongly encouraged, and this includes all categories of applicant (US citizens, and citizens of other countries).

After entering the information requested on several screens, you press a button that sends your online application forms to our central admissions office. Immediately after successful submission, your status will say:

"This web application is complete but has not yet been processed".

Within a few working days, you will receive an e-mail giving you a 9-digit ID number (not to be confused with the alphanumeric login ID which you yourself choose when you begin your online application). Your 9-digit ID allows you to login and check what documents have been received by Kent State University (see this example). Please note the following:

  • Assuming that you are applying online, you should not send supporting documents like your Statement of Goals, CV, Letters of Recommendation, etc. (either by e-mail or postal mail) before you have initiated your application via the online forms. When sending your supporting documents, it is a good idea to indicate your 9-digit ID number if you have already received it. If you have not yet received it, just be sure that you include enough information to distinguish yourself from other applicants who might have a similar name, e.g., include your date of birth. The address for US citizens & residents is different from the address for international applicants.
  • If you send e-mail attachments to the physics department, that does not mean that these documents are automatically entered into your official graduate application file, which is administered by our central admissions office covering the whole university. If you send your envelope with documents to the physics department, we will forward it to the correct office, but it is obviously quicker if you mail directly to the correct address.

Application Fee

The physics department might agree to pay the Application Fee for a very limited number of academically promising applicants that are unable to pay the fee themselves. If you feel you are in this category, then proceed with all other steps of your online application so that the only item that is missing is your application fee. If you request it, the Physics Graduate Admissions Committee will evaluate your application, and if it is competitive enough to warrant admission, the Physics Department will consider paying your application fee before processing a formal admission.

Paper-Based Applications

Occasionally, an applicant may have a special reason to prefer to download forms, print them out and fill-in by hand, and then send in all materials by postal mail. This method is obviously slower, and the online method is strongly recommended for several reasons. Here are the forms for paper-based applications by US citizens and permanent residents and by international applicants.

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 e-mail. If you still have unanswered questions, please contact: 

Graduate Coordinator
Department of Physics
Kent State University
Kent, OH 44242
Phone: (330) 672-2246
E-mail: PhysGPC@kent.edu

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