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Graduate Students

Frequently Asked Questions

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How to apply

Q. I read your application deadlines. Is Autumn Quarter really the only time I can be admitted?

A. We strongly encourage you to apply for an Autumn Quarter start date because we do nearly all of our lab placements at that time. If you apply for another start date, your chances of admission will be sharply reduced because there will be no or very few research projects open to a new student. Further, you must apply for Autumn Quarter unless you have completed at least a year of graduate course work in chemical engineering. If you do not meet this requirement, please apply for autumn admission only. If you do meet it, off-quarter admission is possible, but subject to the reduced chances of admission discussed above. Application deadlines for "off" quarters are:

  • Winter: previous September 1
  • Spring: previous December 1

NOTE: These deadlines are earlier than those of the UW Graduate School.

Q. Can I apply using paper forms?

A. Sorry, we no longer have a paper-based alternative. You must use the online procedure (and your recommenders must submit electronically, too).

Q. Can the application fee be waived or paid later?

A. We realize that the fee (non-refundable, $85.00) can be a financial hardship, but for the vast majority of applicants, it cannot be waived. The UW will not allow us to review your application until the fee and all other required materials have been received. To see whether you qualify for a fee waiver, please consult the graduate school policy here. The Graduate School waiver is largely a matter of strict financial qualifications. In addition, some other domestic (U.S. citizen or permanent resident) applicants to our graduate programs may be eligible for an application fee waiver through the department. Please contact us for more information.

Q. I am interested in working for a specific faculty member. Should I send that person my application?

A. Please do not ask a faculty member to review your qualifications before applying. We cannot evaluate you until we have received a complete application. Once that has happened, a committee decides whether or not you meet our minimum standards. If you qualify and your application makes it clear that you would like to work with someone, or work in a particular research domain, the committee forwards your application to the appropriate person(s), who will then contact you.

It's common for applicants to be unsure of their interests. In that case, the admission decision depends mainly on general qualifications. If admitted, such applicants will have several months to learn about the available research opportunities before being asked to choose a specific area.

Once you have been admitted, however, you are welcome to call or correspond with any faculty member regarding research prospects or other concerns.

Q. I've been out of school for several years. Do I need references from faculty members?

A. Yes, please get at least one evaluation from a professor at the university you attended most recently. All evaluators must be able to comment on your technical abilities in detail.

Q. Is there an interview process required for admission?

A. We do not require an interview for admission into the program.

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Should I apply?

Q. I am an international student and would like to apply for admission to your graduate program. Is this possible?

A. Absolutely! We welcome applications to our graduate programs from U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and international students alike. All applications are reviewed by rubric through identical criteria, regardless of the applicant's country of origin. To learn more about UW minimum admission requirements, including citizenship and visa status, click here.

Q. What makes a strong candidate? Can you give me an assessment of whether I will be admitted before I apply?

A. Students who demonstrate excellent academic achievement, have strong research skills and research interests that align with our faculty make good candidates. When evaluating applications, we consider: your undergraduate rank in class, GPA, recommendation letters, the personal statement, undergraduate research and professional experience (if any). This is a comprehensive, time-consuming review, and we cannot consider your case until you have submitted a complete application.

If you would like an assessment on whether an application is worthwhile, you should talk to a qualified person at your undergraduate institution for a frank evaluation and recommendations on where to apply.

Q. My undergraduate degree is not in chemical engineering, but I would like to apply for and pursue a chemical engineering graduate degree. Is that possible?

A. We have admitted some students whose undergraduate degrees are in related engineering or science fields (examples include chemistry or environmental engineering). Critical subject areas include transport, thermodynamics, calculus (including differential equations), linear algebra, physics and engineering courses. A non-chemical engineering undergraduate does not need to have coursework in all of these areas to be considered, but background in at least some of these areas substantially increases the strength of such an application.

Admitted students from alternate educational backgrounds are often required to complete certain undergraduate chemical engineering courses before they are permitted to proceed to graduate level work. This can add as much as three quarters to the degree completion time. Precisely which courses will be required is the result of an individualized look at your experience and transcripts, and we cannot give you a list of required remedial coursework prior to admission.

Q. My undergraduate degree is from UW Chemical Engineering. Can I stay on as a Ph.D student?

A. Like other top chemical engineering departments, we think our undergraduates should pursue doctoral studies in a new environment. In cases of "special circumstances" we will (reluctantly) consider a UW B.S. ChemE for direct admission to our Ph.D program. Also, students who have obtained a graduate (e.g., M.S.) degree elsewhere, or have substantial industrial experience can be considered for the Ph.D. Feel free to ask a faculty member for suggestions on other programs you should consider.

UW B.S. ChemE students with an interest in one of our high-quality Master's programs should apply through the regular channels. We regularly admit students for M.S. programs who completed their B.S. ChemE at UW. 

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Q. How can I check the status of my application?

A. You may check the status of your application at any time by logging into the online application (

Q. When and how will I be notified of the admission decision?

A. We start making decisions in early January and make decisions until March. You will receive an email notice of the admissions decision.

Q. I would like to stop by and tour the department. Can you arrange that for me?

A. Admitted students are invited to attend a weekend hosted by the department, during which these students can meet faculty and current students. If you would like to visit before you have been admitted, please consult with the Graduate Adviser to see if a visit is possible. If we are able to arrange it, any pre-admission visits are at student cost.

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Selecting a degree program

Q. Which degree program is right for me?

A. We typically advise those students who would like to advance in the areas of research, academia, or top-level industry positions to pursue the Ph.D. However, sometimes time constraints and professional goals necessitate a different kind of degree, which is why we also offer the M.S. in Chemical Engineering. Students interested in the M.S. degree receive the same classroom opportunities as our Ph.D. students, but the non-thesis ChemE M.S. requires less research time and has a typical time to degree of just four quarters. The Thesis M.S. typically requires five to seven quarters.

Q. Is it possible to switch from the non-thesis M.S. option to a thesis option?

A. All incoming M.S. students start on a non-thesis M.S. track. They have the option of petitioning the graduate committee to switch to a thesis M.S. track at the end of the spring quarter.

Q: Is there a direct route to convert from a UW ChemE M.S. student to one pursuing a PhD in the same program?

A: No. Current M.S. students interested in continuing their studies in UW Chemical Engineering as part of our Ph.D. program must formally apply. Applications will be reviewed alongside and following the same criteria as applications originating from outside UW ChemE.

Q. How are M.S. projects assigned?

A. At the beginning of a student's first autumn quarter, faculty present short talks describing the research projects they have available for the upcoming year. Students then submit a form listing their top four preferred research projects.

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Financial support

Q. Is it likely I will receive financial aid?

A. Nearly all admitted Ph.D. candidates receive financial support, which includes tuition, health insurance and a competitive stipend. However, all M.S. students must support themselves.

Q. Can you tell me more about the health insurance plan?

A. Students who receive financial support get health insurance as part of the package. For more details on the plan, please consult the insurance plan web site.

Q. Are there funded RA/TA positions available for M.S. students?

A. No. The M.S. degree is entirely self-supported regardless of the track (thesis or non-thesis) that the student chooses. Therefore, we cannot offer TA or RA appointments to M.S. students.

Q. Is it possible to take the M.S. on a part-time basis or hold an outside job while completing the degree?

A. Unfortunately, because the non-thesis M.S. is a full-time, 4 quarter program there will not be sufficient time to hold a job.

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