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Grad Students

Frequently Asked Questions

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. As explained below, 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. Who is considered an international student?

A. International applicants include any person who is not either: (1) a U.S. citizen, (2) a green card holder, or (3) a holder of other "immigrant" status. However, please note that even if you are considered a domestic student, but English is not your native language, you may still have to take the TOEFL. Please review the graduate school policy on this to determine whether you are exempt or not.

Examples of non-immigrant status include: J-1, F-1, H-1 or dependent visas. If you have one of these statuses you are considered an international applicant even if you currently reside in the U.S. and obtained your undergraduate degree from a U.S. college or university.

If you are an international student, please review the UW Graduate School International Applicant information and the UW Graduate School Admissions FAQ


Q. I am an international student and would like to apply for admission to your graduate program. Do my chances of admission differ from those of US citizens and permanent residents?

A. Yes, we give priority to US citizens and permanent residents. We receive many international applications, so we can accept only a small fraction. The most important factors influencing our decision are 1) rank in class and quality of undergraduate program; 2) English proficiency; 3) Research aptitude


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 make decisions until March. You will receive an email notice of the admissions decision.


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 either no or very few research projects open to a new student at other times of the year. 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. 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. 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. Will I receive funding as a graduate student? 

A. The nature of any funding you receive will be specified in a letter at the time of your admission. With rare exception, international and domestic PhD. students' receive a stipend, health insurance, and their tuition is covered (assuming satisfactory progress toward the degree). M.S. students are not financially supported in this program. All students are responsible for minimal quarterly fees.  


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 (US citizen or permanent resident ) applicants to our graduate programs may be eliigible for an application fee waiver through the department. Please contact us for more information.


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

A. It is possible if your undergraduate degree is in engineering or science. For example, we have admitted students who obtained a BS in chemistry and most have performed well. Students with a non-chemical engineering background must take certain undergraduate ChemE courses before they can be fully integrated into the graduate program. Please review the list of courses on the degree requirements page and note that this can mean it takes up to 3 quarters longer to complete a degree.

Coursework in the following areas will improve your chances of admission: calculus, differential equations, linear algebra, transport, thermodynamics, physics and engineering basics.

If you are transitioning into chemical engineering from a different educational background, it is helpful to our admissions committee if you articulate why you are seeking to make this transition.


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

A. Yes, 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. My undergraduate degree is from UW Chemical Engineering. Can I stay on as a grad student?

A. Like other top chemical engineering departments, we think our undergraduates should pursue graduate studies in a new environment. In cases of "special circumstances" we will (reluctantly) consider a UW B.S. ChemE for direct admission to our M.S. 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. All others must look elsewhere. Feel free to ask a faculty member for suggestions on other programs you should consider.


Q. Do I need to take a Subject (e.g., Engineering or Chemistry) GRE exam?

A. No. We will consider the standard GRE test if you wish us to, but it is optional. No subject test is required, but a high score in a related field (e.g., chemistry or math) will strengthen the application.


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 that the department hosts. These students are given a chance to meet faculty and students at department expense. If you would like to visit before you have been admitted, please consult with the Graduate Advisor to see if a visit is possible. If we are able to arrange it, any pre-admission visits are at student cost.


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. 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. but 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. What scores are you looking for on the GRE, TOEFL, etc? Is there a minimum GPA cut off?

A. Be highly ranked (top 10%) in a respected chemical engineering program. The GRE is optional. If you submit scores, we will consider them. However, we will mark applications as complete and review them if you opt not to submit these.

If you are an international applicant, score at least 92 on the TOEFL to place out of additional English language instruction requirements, and at least a 26 TOEFL speaking score to be qualified to serve as a Teaching Assistant (nearly all doctoral students will serve in this capacity, MS students do not). Please note that UW is phasing out accepting IELTS. Any test dated after November 1 2016 cannot be accepted.


Q. Is it possible to switch from the Non-thesis MS option to a thesis option?

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


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. How are MS projects assigned?

A. At the beginning of student’s first autumn quarter the faculty will 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.


Q. Are there funded RA/TA positions available for MS 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 there an interview process required for admission?

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


Q. What careers can a MS in Chemical Engineering lead to?

A. The field of Chemical Engineering is vast and ever changing, therefore we recommend checking out this helpful website from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), to get some up-to-date ideas of careers that someone with a degree in Chemical Engineering could pursue:


Q. Is it possible to take the MS 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.