Graduate Program Frequently Asked Questions

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Admissions Questions

In preparing an application to graduate study in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECpE), you may find an answer to your question below. Otherwise, we welcome you to contact our department admissions support staff at

Application Deadline

  • What is the application deadline?
    It is strongly encouraged that applications for summer or fall semesters be received by January 15 for consideration for a research or teaching assistantship. Applications for spring semester need to be received by September 1 for consideration for a research or teaching assistantship. Applications are still welcome several weeks after these deadlines, as the department admissions committee reviews applications on a rolling basis. Such applications will still be considered for funding opportunities. ECpE does not require any additional form for applying for a fellowship, research, or teaching assistantship.
  • My exam score/letter of recommendation/etcetera won’t be available by the application deadline. Can I still apply?
    It is OK to initiate your application and to provide your exam scores / letters of recommendation / transcripts a short time later. Applications are reviewed by the ECpE department on a rolling basis after the application deadline. However, your application will not be considered complete and will not be reviewed until we have your GRE score.
  • The application deadline has passed. Can I still apply?
    The application deadlines are best practice guidelines. However, our department will continue to make admissions decisions for several weeks beyond that deadline. If you apply during this time period, your application will receive full consideration for all admission and funding opportunities.
  • Can you pre-evaluate my application?
    Please do not email us with your grade point average, test scores or CV asking about your chances for admission. The department’s admissions committee considers a wide variety of factors in making admission decisions, and we cannot pre-screen applicants. Please submit your formal application for review.
  • What are my chances of admission?
    For the MS and Ph.D. degree programs, the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering receives hundreds of applications each year. Due to many limitations, notably both class size and funding availability, admission is typically offered to 5- to 10-percent of our applicants.


Application Components

  • What are the application requirements?
    Please see ECpE Graduate Admissions for detailed information about the application requirements.
  • What is the English requirement?
    Non-native speakers of English must meet the department’s English Proficiency Requirement in one of the following ways. There are no waivers available for this requirement.

    1)      Submit official results from one of the following exams. The minimum requirements of the ECpE Department are:

    ·         Internet Based TOEFL (iBT) 88

    ·         Paper Based TOEFL (PBT) 570

    ·         IELTS 6.5

    ·         Pearson Test of English (PTE) 59

    2)      Earn a bachelor’s or higher degree from a country where English is the only official language, such as: Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, United States (excluding Puerto Rico). The complete list is available from the Office of Admissions:

  • What is the minimum required GRE score?
    The department admissions requirements specify a Graduate Records Examination (GRE) score of 155 or better on the Quantitative section?

Application Review Process

  • I’m having difficulty with the online letters of recommendation. What are my options?
    The application instructions provide detailed information on using and troubleshooting the online letters of recommendation system.
    US Graduate Application Instructions
    International Graduate Application Instructions
  • What address should I use to mail application materials?
    You need not mail any application materials; please use the online application system. Scanned images of unofficial transcripts are acceptable for the application process; official transcripts are required only after an offer of admission is made. You may upload scans of unofficial exam scores (GRE, TOEFL, IELTS), and this will help staff in the Office of Admissions connect the official score report to your application record.
  • Do I need to submit the financial statement at the time that I apply?
    The Financial Statement form is not used during the application review process. However, timely receipt of this document can expedite the preparation of official admission offer documents.
  • I have applied online. What is the current status of my application?
    You can check the completeness of your application materials in the online application system, which records the information which was submitted or uploaded in support of your application. Required Application Materials: academic records, GPA, statement of purpose, letters of recommendation, GRE score of 155 or better on the quantitative section, English Proficiency Requirement. If you wish to include supplemental materials after the initial application, you can upload them later by returning to your application, clicking on View Activity, and then Manage Documents.If your application is complete then it is currently under review by the Graduate Admissions Committee. Decisions for Fall entry applications are expected from January through April; decisions for Spring entry applications are expected September through December. You will be contacted by email as soon as possible after a decision is made on your application.
  • I have instructed the testing agency to provide the official test scores to Iowa State University. How can I confirm that ISU received my official scores?
    When you instruct the testing agency to send the official score reports to Iowa State University, the testing agency will confirm with you via email.
  • I am interested in working in a specific research area. What faculty work in my preferred area of specialization?Our graduate applicants are encouraged to seek out faculty to sponsor their graduate research activities. You are welcome to directly contact our department’s faculty whose research interests align with your own at ECpE Faculty Research Areas.

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Financial Aid Questions

  • Information coming soon

PhD Qualifying Exam Questions

  • When should I take the PhD Qualifying Exam?
    Students who enter the program with a bachelor’s degree must complete the PhD Qualifying Exam within their first four semesters. Students who enter the program with a master’s degree must complete the PhD Qualifying Exam within their first three semesters at Iowa State. Before taking the exam, students must have an adviser, chosen your two research area and two skills courses, performed research on a topic related to your research area and skills courses, and written a report on your research project before taking the PhD Qualifying Exam.
  • How do I arrange to take the PhD Qualifying Exam and what does the exam involve?
  1. Coordinate with your adviser and research area group chair to schedule your oral presentation and oral exam.
  2. At least one week prior to your qualifying exam, provide your examining committee your written report and the list of your research area and skills courses.
  3. Prepare a presentation (30 minutes maximum) that covers a discussion of how the research you have conducted related to the research area and skills course, as well as a background of the literature.
  4. Be prepared to answer questions on your research project, literature related to your research, research area and skills courses related to your research, and other reasonable digressions. You may talk to your examining committee in advance to avoid surprises.