Application FAQ

Application fees and GRE requirements are currently waived.

How can I tell whether I should apply?

We often receive inquiries from students who want to know whether to apply to the program. If you are interested in performing world-class research as part of an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in applied sciences building on fundamental physics, we encourage you to apply to the program.

Taking a tour of the website and looking at faculty members' research activities can help you make the final determination. For a list of current and previous advisors, visit the Applied Physics Advisors page.

Who is admitted to the Rice Applied Physics PhD program?

We select the very best candidates, based on GPA, GRE scores, TOEFL/IELTS scores (if applicable), recommendation letters, and research experience. Because we have a very limited number of places, we are sometimes forced to turn down candidates who could have successfully completed the program.

What can I do to improve my chances of admission?

  • Undertake an ambitious course of study (including advanced courses) and do well

  • Become involved with a research project, take part in research internships during the summer, or work in an industry research lab

  • Obtain recommendation letters from people who (a) know your work and (b) know what is expected at a major research university

When should I begin the application process? When is the deadline?

You should begin your application process as early as possible. Plan to take the GRE exam (and TOEFL or IELTS, if required) by October, and begin requesting transcripts and letters of recommendation by November or earlier to allow senders to get all documents to Rice before the application deadline of December 31 for admission for the following Fall. Please visit How to Apply for more detailed information.

The deadline for Fall admission is the prior December 31. Late applications are NOT accepted. This includes applications started but not submitted fully by the deadline. 

What needs to be included in my application?

Please visit How to Apply for additional details. Only fully completed applications will be considered.

Can I apply to more than one program within Natural Sciences and Engineering at Rice University?


Is it necessary to submit transcripts from all colleges/universities attended?

Yes, copies of transcripts from all colleges and universities you have attended need to be uploaded electronically with your application. For the application, unofficial transcripts are acceptable. If you are offered admission to Rice, official copies of the transcripts will be required at that time. A final copy showing your degree conferred will also be required. Those copies can be sent directly to the Applied Physics program from the institution via postal mail or electronic transcript system.

What is an official transcript?

An official transcript is in an envelope sealed and stamped by your University Registrar's office. The Registrar should mail the transcript or send via electronic transcript system directly to the Applied Physics Program. Unsealed, unstamped envelopes cannot be accepted. A transcript outside the envelope also will not be accepted.

Where should my official transcripts be sent?

Send all official transcripts to:
Applied Physics Graduate Program
Rice University, MS-100
PO Box 1892
Houston, TX 77251-1892

Do I really need three (3) letters of recommendation?

Three (3) letters of recommendation are requested, and the online reference forms are required. These letters should normally be written by faculty who are familiar with your work and can address your potential for success in graduate school.  We can begin evaluation of the full application once two letters have been received, but all letters must be received by January 6th.

Can my letters of recommendation be submitted online?

Yes, once listed, recommendation requests are sent via email to the recommender after the applicant prompts the application system to do so.  Please note that the email addresses for your recommenders must be their official institutional addresses. Recommendations from personal email accounts (Gmail, Yahoo, MSN, etc.) will not be accepted. We do not accept letters via email or postal mail; they must be uploaded to the online system.   

Applicants may track the status of their recommendations through the application status page; recommenders can be added/removed/edited from the status page as well.  Recommendation letters are due no later than 7 days after the application deadline.

What is the minimum grade-point average (GPA)?

The minimum undergraduate grade point average required is a 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. If your undergraduate school uses a different grading scale, the Admissions Committee will determine proportionally your equivalent GPA on a 4.0-point scale. You will not need to convert your scores yourself; please take care submitting both score and scale information.

I have not taken/do not have my GRE and/or TOEFL/IELTS scores yet. Can I still apply?

Yes, but for the GRE and TOEFL, you must arrange for ETS (Educational Testing Service) to send the scores directly to Rice University. We can review your application with self-reported scores but until your official scores are received from ETS, your application will be considered incomplete. The institution code for Rice University is 6609. Use department code 5101 for the GRE (Interdisciplinary Studies) and code 60 for the TOEFL (Other Physics Sciences.) If you take the IELTS exam, please send a copy of your Test Report Form from IELTS to so that Rice can retrieve your official scores from IELTS. 

Is the GRE subject test required?

The GRE Physics subject test is not required; however if you have taken it, you are welcome to include your score on your application.

What are the GRE score minimums?

There is no minimum for any section of the GRE exam. Those scores are evaluated in combination with all other aspects of the candidate's application.

Average GRE scores for admitted Applied Physics students are in the range of V156 (533 on the old scale) and Q164 (754 on the old scale) and above.

What are the minimum TOEFL/IELTS/Duolingo scores?

Applicants must score at least 90 on the iBT (internet-based) TOEFL, at least 600 on the paper-based TOEFL, at least 250 on the computer-based TOEFL, or at least 620 on the TOEFL ITP Plus Exam. For students who choose to take the IELTS in lieu of the TOEFL, the minimum is 7.

The average TOEFL scores for admitted Applied Physics students is 98. As very few applicants have taken the IELTS, we do not have enough data to provide an average score for admitted students. The minimum Duolingo score is 115.

The language requirement may be waived for an international student who received a degree from a US university or one in which English is the official language of communication; it is the responsibility of the applicant to submit proof for this waiver. You may upload any relevant documentation in the Experience section of the application, at the bottom in “Other Documents”. 

Additionally, applicants with credentials from the certain institutions in designated countries will have met the English Language Requirement in accordance with the Rice policy. If this applies to you, please ensure that you enter your institution on your application exactly as it appears on the official list (see link) and that the language is identified as English. See more here.

What are the ETS codes for submitting my GRE and TOEFL scores?  How do I submit my IELTS score?

The Institution Code for the GRE is 6609 and the Department Code is 5101 for Applied Physics (Interdisciplinary Studies).

The Institution Code for the TOEFL is 6609 and the Department Code is 60 for Applied Physics (Other Physics Sciences).

NOTE: You cannot search by code; you must search by the department title.

IELTS scores can be reported directly to Rice University by using the name, "Rice University Graduate Admissions".

What is the application fee and can it be waived?

There is currently no application fee.

Will I be eligible for financial aid?

All Applied Physics graduate students at Rice University receive financial support through the year. Entering students are normally awarded Smalley-Curl Institute fellowships, which carry a monthly stipend for the first nine months and an additional grant to cover tuition. At the end of the first year, students will affiliate with a research group and an advisor, at which point the advisor's department will then fund the stipend and tuition grant. 

Do you accept students for admission in the spring semester?

Most students are accepted to begin graduate study in the fall semester (August). On only very rare occasions, we accept students in the spring semester (January) on a case-by-case basis. To be considered for admission in the spring semester you must contact us at to request consideration and then submit your application materials by October 31st.  (Letters of recommendation are due by November 6.)

Do you accept students for part-time enrollment?

No. The Ph.D. program is full-time only with a minimum of 9 credit hours during the spring and fall semesters (6 hours if registered in the summer).

If I am admitted to the Applied Physics program, can I start in the summer?

We are happy to welcome those who wish to begin their graduate career before the start of classes in the fall. Any arrangements should be made between the student and a specific research advisor and is contingent upon the research funding for that advisor. The Applied Physics program does not provide financial support prior to official matriculation in August.

You have two PhD programs with "Physics" in the name. What's the difference?

The Department of Physics & Astronomy has an established record of distinguished fundamental and applied research in areas such as astronomy, condensed matter physics and high energy physics, with vigorous smaller programs in biological physics, complex systems, and quantum state manipulation. Graduate students in Physics & Astronomy join a community of scholars spanning many of the core areas and new directions of physics.

Applied Physics on the other hand, is a younger program with a deliberate focus on interdisciplinary applications. This program links physicists in relevant disciplines with biologists, bioengineers, chemists, electrical engineerings, geologists, and materials scientists. The result is a community of scholars who have quite varied interests, but who "think like physicists" and participate in an extensive network of collaborations. Some, but not all, Physics & Astronomy faculty members are members of the Applied Physics program.

Students in the two programs will take some core courses together, but the Physics & Astronomy and Applied Physics requirements are not identical. Consult the curricula for details.

Still have questions?

Applicants with additional questions can contact the Applied Physics administrator in one of the following ways. Email inquiries are general answered within 1-2 business days.

Applied Physics Graduate Program
Rice University, MS-100
PO Box 1892
Houston, TX 77251-1892

Phone: 1-713-348-6008
Fax: 1-713-348-5320

Courier deliveries should be sent to :

Applied Physics Graduate Program
301 Space Science & Technology
Rice University, MS-100
6100 Main Street
Houston, TX 77005