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Department of Physics

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Who makes the decisions regarding admission to the graduate program?

The Graduate Recruiting and Selection Committee is responsible for these decisions, but their decisions must be approved by the Graduate School.  So, while we encourage prospective students to contact faculty to find out about research opportunities, it is important for prospective students to understand that the final decision for admission is made by the Selection Committee.  The Committee tries, of course, to select the best students from the applicant pool.  As you can imagine, comparing the applications of students from around the world is a difficult task since every country, sometimes every school, uses a slightly different system, has different standards, etc.  Further, we can only make our decision based on what is sent to us in the application.    We are happy to help you prepare the best application you can, so contact us (graduate@phys.ksu.edu) with any questions.

How do I find out about financial support?

We automatically consider all applications to our Ph.D. program for a GTA stipend unless the candidate states they have their own finances.  Your acceptance letter will detail the terms of your support.

Do you accept students seeking an M.S. degree?

We do not normally accept someone applying for a terminal M.S. degree.  If your plan is to get a Ph.D., there is no need to get a M.S. first, so be sure to mark the Ph.D. degree program on the K-State application form!

What can I expect from a Graduate Teaching Assistantship (GTA)?

Most students will have a GTA their first academic year here and a GRA for the remainder of their studies.  The precise financial details will be spelled out in our offer letter, but generally they will include a tuition waiver and a nine-month salary to carry you through the first academic year.  To earn this salary, you will be required to teach lab and/or recitation (problem-solving) courses and to grade papers and exams.  We strive to keep the load fair and manageable since you will have your own coursework to complete and a research group to locate.  The salary is competitive, especially considering that the cost-of-living in Manhattan, Kansas, is about 25% below the U.S. national average.  You can directly compare the salaries, cost-of-living, and relocation in many U.S. cities using http://www.state.gov/m/fsi/tc/79700.htm.

What can I expect from a Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA)?

Beginning the summer after the first academic year, most students join the research group they will complete their Ph.D. with.  A research group provides a GRA for you to work on research that will eventually lead to your degree.  A GRA provides a year-round salary that is comparable to or higher than a GTA, and all GRAs also cover at least part of tuition.  Students here live relatively comfortably on a GRA — many even support families.

Are there any scholarships or fellowships available?

There are a limited number of University-sponsored Timothy R. Donoghue and Presidential Scholarships available to incoming graduates of U.S. colleges or universities; additionally, the Physics Department offers some scholarships to exceptional international candidates.  These scholarships provide a substantial financial supplement to either a GTA or a GRA and can be held up to two years.  You do not apply directly for these scholarships rather the Selection Committee will select the best candidates from among the application pool.  Awardees will be notified with their offer letter.

What benefits are GTAs/GRAs eligible for?

Information regarding the plan provisions and online enrollment (including premium rates) are available here at the Human Capital Services website. 

How many applications do you receive?

We typically receive an average of about 120 applications each year for fall admission. 

How many offers do you make?

We average about 20-30 offers each year.

How many students do you enroll?

We will typically enroll 12-15 students each fall.

What is the minimum grade point average (GPA) required to be admitted into your program?

During the last two years of your coursework, you must have maintained a B average or its equivalent (3.0 on a 4.0 scale).

What is the ratio of domestic to international students admitted to the physics program?

Approximately 1/3 of our students have graduated from U.S. colleges or universities.  The remaining 2/3 are from international countries including Argentina, China, India, Iran, Jordan, Korea, Nepal, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam.

Can I apply if my BS degree is not in Physics?

We will consider an applicant whose degree is not in physics, but our preference is for those with physics degrees.  An applicant whose degree is not in physics should have at least taken several physics courses or courses with equivalent content.  An applicant without a physics degree should stand out in other respects in order to have the best chance of acceptance.

What is the deadline to apply for fall admission?

For full consideration, completed applications should be submitted to us by January 8. We will generally begin reviewing the applications soon after that date, with first round offers typically following within two to three weeks. 

What do you want in my Personal Statement?

Statements should briefly describe your interest in the program, previous experience, research interests, and long-term career goals. In addition, you can mention the names of any faculty members you are interested in working with. Limit your statement to a single-spaced page if at all possible.

I do not have my Bachelor's diploma yet.  What do I do?

The Graduate School will indicate when you must bring your original transcripts and/or any degree certificates in your admission letter.  They will then make copies of your original documents as part of your arrival process to finalize your admission.

Can I be admitted without taking the advanced physics GRE?

Yes.  We do not require the Physics GRE, nor do we require the general GRE.    We consider all applicants to our graduate program holistically.  This means we carefully consider all of the parts of your application to build a complete picture of you as a student and researcher.  If you have taken the GRE, note that the University Code for testing is 6334.  Lack of physics GRE will not harm your application.   

What is required in the references??

You will be asked to provide names and email addresses of instructors or professional references that will submit a recommendation on your behalf. Your references will be contacted automatically using the email addresses that you supply.  They will be asked how long and in what capacity they have known you.   In addition they will be asked to give an appraisal of your academic ability and ability to communicate in English.   They may also attach a personalized letter if they wish. If your reference provider is unable to utilize the online system, please have your referee e-mail graduate@phys.ksu.edu.

What format do my transcripts have to be?

Please upload transcripts for each college/university attended. Be sure that all documents include information needed to interpret grades. This is typically on the reverse side of the transcript.  Both native language and English translations are required for international students. If you have received a diploma for any or all degrees at the time of application, please upload with your transcript. We do not need high school transcripts.  Please do NOT mail any official transcripts to K-State.

I have submitted a complete application.  When should I expect to hear from you?

We will usually send out first round offers by mid-February.  If you do not receive any notification in this timeframe, your application is being held for a potential second round of offers. 

Why does K-State require English Proficiency (TOEFL, IELTS or Pearson Test of English) for physics?

Most graduate students work as a teaching assistant (GTA) for their first year.  It is obviously important to be able to interact effectively with undergraduate students. Furthermore, your professional success in physics demands that you be able to communicate results to others in spoken and written English. For these reasons, the K-State Physics Department seldom relaxes the TOEFL requirement. In exceptional cases [usually a TOEFL score just below 79/213/550 for an application that is otherwise very strong], we can provisionally admit a student to Physics provided he or she is simultaneously accepted into the K-State English Language Program (ELP). Students may have to bear the cost of the ELP themselves, and restrictions on other financial assistance may apply until the ELP program has been satisfactorily completed. See more information on the ELP here .  TOEFL scores are only valid for two years, so we cannot accept TOEFL scores older than two years.  The University Code for testing is 6334.

Is there any circumstance under which the TOEFL or IELTS can be waived?

Yes, an applicant who has received a degree in the last two years from a United States college or university is exempt from this requirement

Do you accept copies of TOEFL or IELTS scores? 

No.  An official report of the scores must be sent to Kansas State University. 

Is there a minimum TOEFL, IELTS or PTE to be accepted?

See the English Proficiency Requirements at https://www.k-state.edu/grad/admissions/application-process/international/

Do I need to submit an "Affidavit of Financial Support Form" if I'm applying for an assistantship?

Please note that you are required to complete this form ONLY if you plan to attend graduate school on your own funding.

Can I come to K-State the summer before I begin graduate study to get a head start on research?

In some cases arrangements can be made with a K-State research group and the Department to provide support. Your chances will be especially good if you know who you want to work with and what you want to work on.