Graduate Program Frequently Asked Questions

Browse frequently asked questions by topic:

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 or in the Application Instructions. 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/et cetera 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, statement of purpose, the English exam score (for non-native English speakers), the unofficial academic transcripts (including mark sheets), and the letters of recommendation. Complete applications will be available for review by the department admissions committee on a rolling basis.

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.

If you require a visa to study in the U.S., please do not initiate a pre-application or application within 3 months of the semester start date; it is impractical to complete both the admission review process and the visa application process within such a short timeframe.

All applicants: 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?
No. However the application fee will not be assessed until the student’s first semester enrolled at Iowa State University. If you do not enroll at ISU, you don’t need to pay the application fee. So, we welcome your 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, doctoral program admission is typically offered to 15-percent of our applicants. For master’s degrees, we offer admission to roughly 35% of applicants.

I don’t have a Masters degree, can I apply to Phd?
We welcome direct-entry PhD applications. Students may apply to the doctoral program with just a bachelor’s degree.

Application Components

What are the application requirements?
Please see ECpE Graduate Admissions for detailed information about the application requirements.

May I have an application fee voucher code?
Sarting with the Fall 2024 admission cycle, the application fee will not be assessed until the student’s first semester of enrollment at Iowa State University. If you are not admitted to Iowa State, the you will not be charged the application fee.

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:

If you hold a degree from a qualifying institution, please email to request a waiver of the English Proficiency Requirement. The data system does not do this automatically, but the department admissions coordinator will be able to assist.

What is the department’s GRE requirement?
The GRE is optional. Providing a GRE score may provide more information about your capacity for success; however, not providing a score will not be a detriment.

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. We will contact you by email if any materials are needed with your application.

My exam score won’t be available by the funding priority date / application deadline.
Yes, you may submit your exam score after the funding priority deadline. However, please understand that your application will not be reviewed by the department admissions committee until we receive your English exam score. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis, and the applications completed by the funding priority date are guaranteed full consideration for all available funding opportunities; applications completed after the funding priority date receive consideration for remaining opportunities.
I recommend that you upload the unofficial exam report to the Admissions Portal as soon as you can, as the unofficial score report will be sufficient to process the application to the admissions committee. At the same time, please also arrange for the testing agency to provide the official exam report to Iowa State University.

Is the unofficial academic transcript sufficient for the application review process?
Yes. Official academic records are required only after an offer of admission.

Is an external evaluation service required with my application?
We welcome students to provide WES or ECE academic records. If you choose WES / ECE, you must provide a course-by-course evaluation. Using these external evaluations is optional. For students who do not provide WES / ECE transcripts, then ISU Admissions staff will evaluate the academic documents.

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.

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).
Most of our PhD offers of admission also include a graduate assistantship position which fully funds a student’s educational and living expenses. If you applied to the PhD program, the only reason we would need the Financial Statement form is if you require a visa to study in the US and you intend to bring a dependent spouse or child with you.

I want to provide an updated document with my application materials. How should I do this?
Please upload the updated document to the Admissions application portal. While we cannot delete the previous version, each will have a date, so the department admissions committee will be identify the most recent version.

I’m having technical difficulties with the ISU Admissions application portal. Help!
Sometimes clearing your browser’s history and cache will create a fresh start and solve most problems. If not, please share screenshots of the error message or problem area to be resolved, and provide a detailed description when you request assistance through

If you have difficulty connecting to ISU’s admission system, please use a VPN.

Application Review Process

I have applied. 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 incomplete, we will email you requesting the missing materials. 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 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.
Our faculty lead very busy schedules of research and teaching duties; many will not reply to your inquires. Even so, we encourage you to apply to your preferred graduate program, as most faculty recruit their graduate students through the application review process.

What funding is available for admitted students?
The department offers a limited number of graduate assistantship positions (both teaching and research positions) and some scholarships. Students with a graduate assistantship generally work 20-hours per week and earn a stipend (currently  $10,350 per semester), a graduate tuition scholarship, and health insurance benefits. A student with a 10-hour GA position earns a stipend of $5,175, a partial graduate tuition scholarship, and health insurance benefits.

<Back to top>

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.