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?
    The funding priority deadline for summer or fall entry is January 15. The funding priority deadline for spring entry is September 1. To ensure your application receives full consideration for available admission and  funding opportunities, please complete your application by these deadlines. Applications are welcome after these deadlines and will still receive consideration for remaining admission and funding opportunities.
    Applicants who will require a visa to study in the US are encouraged to apply as early as possible to allow sufficient time for visa processing.
  • 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 score / letters of recommendation / transcripts a short time later. Applications are reviewed by the ECpE department on a rolling basis after the funding priority deadline.
    Please note, an application will be considered complete when we have received the Admissions application, the official English exam score (for non-native English speakers), the unofficial academic transcripts, and the letters of recommendation. Complete applications will be available for review by the department admissions committee.
  • The application deadline has passed. Can I still apply?
    The funding priority 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. Applications completed after the funding priority deadline will receive consideration for remaining admission and funding opportunities.
    Please do not initiate an application within 30 days of the start date of your preferred semester of entry.
  • Can you pre-evaluate my application?
    Yes, please complete the first-phase of our two-part application form. Within two weeks, we will email you with an admission recommendation. If favorable, you will be invited to complete the second-phase of the application.
  • 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

    ·        Duolingo English Test 105

    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 department’s GRE requirement?
    As of May 2020, the ECpE Department Admissions Committee has temporarily suspended the GRE requirement.
  • Am I eligible for a waiver of the application fee?
    When you complete the first-phase of the application form, the ECpE faculty will review for both an admission recommendation and for a waiver of the application fee. Both decisions will be communicated in the same email within two weeks of form submittal.
  • 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 should I do if my references/recommenders do not wish to submit a LOR online, or have difficulty doing so?
    Send the Letter of Recommendation form to your recommender. Ask your recommenders to email the completed form to to be included with your application materials.
  • What address should I use to mail application materials?
    Please do not mail paper materials to Iowa State University. All application materials should be uploaded with the application.
  • 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 the official offer of admission, including the Form I-20 (for those applicants who will be applying for a visa).


Application Review Process

  • 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 documents which have been submitted or uploaded in support of your application. Ensure that all required components have been uploaded to the application system.
    If your application is complete, then it is currently under review by the Department 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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Ph.D. Qualifying Exam Questions

Students who enter the program with a bachelor’s degree must complete the Ph.D. Qualifying Exam within their first four semesters. Students who enter the program with a master’s degree must complete the Ph.D. Qualifying Exam within their first three semesters at Iowa State. Before taking the exam, students must have an advisor, 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 Ph.D. Qualifying Exam.
  1. Coordinate with your advisor 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.