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Graduate Studies:

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Department of Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
110 Eighth Street, Troy, New York 12180-3590 USA

(518) 276-6310
Fax: (518) 276-6680

Graduate Studies Frequently Asked Questions

When is the deadline for applying?
Fall enrollment: January 1
Spring enrollment: August 15

Applications submitted or completed after the deadline will be reviewed as long as space is still available in the program.

Is there an application fee?
The application fee is $75 must be paid with your application. In very rare occasions, an applicant who has difficulty in paying the fee and has contacted an individual faculty in our department, and is likely to work under his/her supervision, the faculty may be willing to pay the application fee for the student.

Do you require GRE scores for admission?
The GRE General and Subject Tests are required for applicants as noted on the Admissions Requirements. These tests are especially important for financial aid consideration.

TOEFL is required. Applicants for whom English is not the first language must provide acceptable evidence of competency in English; a score of 600 paper-based, 100 IBT, 250 computer-based or better on the "Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)" is required to be considered for a teaching assistantship.

Teaching Assistantships
For incoming students, the Graduate Teaching Assistantship is the most common form of aid. It includes a salary (normally no more than 20 total working hours per week) plus a waiver of tuition up to 30 credit hours per year. The assistantship is for the academic year only. The tuition waiver can only be applied to courses which satisfy the Plan of Study approved by the Graduate Program Committee. Students whose native language is not English will be evaluated by the Coordinator of English Language Services in the Learning Center . Special courses in English as a second language may be recommended as a result of the evaluation. It is expected as a condition of employment that the student will make a good faith effort in performing their course duties. Continuation of assistantships in the second semester and future renewals are dependent upon certification that the student attended class regularly, worked diligently, showed improvement, and passed the English Speak Test.

Research Assistantships
Research assistantships that include stipend and tuition are available to many of our graduate students. Tuition is usually also covered. The availability of research assistantships depends upon individual research professors and is subject to the needs of contracts and interests of students. Research assistantships are normally given for the academic year, and in addition, summer support is often also available.

Thee admissions committee will automatically consider applicants for fellowships that are funded by Rensselaer. Students are encouraged to seek their own external fellowship funding.

How do I keep my financial aid?
The continuation of your award will dependent upon your academic performance and your teaching work. It is required that graduate students in our department maintain a grade point average of 3.0 or better.

Summer Support: Most students are supported through research assistantships (RA's). Students should apply for RA's directly from potential research advisors.

Qualifying Examination
Graduate program includes a qualifying examination which all prospective doctoral students must pass at the beginning of the 3rd semesters after beginning their graduate studies if they wish to continue towards the Ph.D. degree. This examination is offered twice a year, once in August and once in January. All incoming Graduate Students are welcome to attempt the test when they arrive in August. If you choose to attempt the exam you arrive, you will still have two more chances to pass the examination.

For recommended undergraduate texts relevant to the qualifying examination, please see the Qualifying Exam Handbook.

A good guideline for how much you should try to pay for housing is 1/3 of your salary. This should leave you with enough money to be able to pay for your food, heat, electricity, and whatever other costs may arise. For example, if your salary for the academic year (9 months) is $18,000, you should try to spend no more than $550 per month for rent. One way to keep the cost of housing low is to consider sharing an apartment with someone else.

Details on student life and services are offered in The Rensselaer Planner and Guide to Student Life, a publication of the Student Life office, and can be accessed from Student Life and Services at

Campus Visit
Students wishing to visit Rensselaer are encouraged to follow the link to Graduate Admissions, and complete the Graduate Student Visit Form.

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