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[F]requently [A]sked [Q]uestions – for Applicants

The majority of the following answers are found on the Graduate School website. And remember, ALL STUDENTS MUST APPLY ONLINE!

Admissions Questions

After you complete and submit your online application, you will proceed to the payment section for your non-refundable application fee. The application system requires payment by credit card. Neither cash nor check can be accepted.

The application fee for United States citizens and permanent residents is $75.00 in U.S. currency drawn from a U.S. bank. The application fee for international applicants is $85.00 in U.S. currency drawn from a U.S. bank or from an international bank with a U.S. affiliate.

One official transcript from all colleges and universities previously attended; (NOTE: Applicants currently attending or who have previously attended NC State are not required to provide an NC State transcript.) A list of courses in progress if enrolled as a Post-Baccalaureate Studies (PBS) student at NC State is requested as well.

Three recommendations from people who know the prospective student’s academic record and potential for graduate study. Letters from research advisors are particularly valuable.

For 2021 admission, we will waive the application fee for the first 100 applicants that are American citizens and that have an undergraduate GPA of better than 3.0 . More details are here.

The Physics department does NOT waive the application fee for international students.

Yes, if he/she feels as though their physics background is strong enough to begin taking graduate physics courses immediately. Please explain in your Candidate Statement why you think you are prepared for our program.

We routinely admit students without Physics GRE scores. However, they can be valuable for judging applicants who have taken a path that is different than those of students who are already here. These could be international students where we rarely have multiple applicants from the same institution over multiple years, students from smaller colleges where we do not have outcomes of students from prior years in our graduate program, or students that have taken their physics courses in an unusual way such as online, by self-study, or through auditing. We encourage students take the Physics GRE and submit scores if they believe that it helps their application.


About half of all students are international students. Each semester the exact number is determined based on the quality of the applicants and our department’s budget as well as the number of prospective students that apply.

This varies each semester. Most recently, we had approximately 80 international applicants. We are very proud of our international students’ accomplishments and feel they enjoy their academic/learning experience while here at NC State.

These data are not available for release. The graduate school sets nominal guidelines for GPA and TOEFL. However, we judge the whole application and can admit outside of the nominal bands if the candidate shows strength in other aspects.


TOEFL scores are valid for up to two years prior to the beginning of the semester in which you wish to enroll. If you are required to take the TOEFL, you cannot be granted admission with an expired TOEFL score.

Each applicant is reviewed individually. The decision to apply is up to the individual student. High scores – such as GRE and TOEFL – do support the applicant, but are judged in the context of the entire application.

To be eligible for admission to the Graduate School all international applicants, regardless of citizenship, must demonstrate proficiency in English at a level necessary to be successful in a graduate program at NC State. This requirement can be met for most applicants in one of the following ways; however, some programs may require additional evidence of English proficiency:

  • Provide Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) with a total score of at least 80 on the Internet-based Test (iBT). The Physics department requires the following minimum test scores for each section:
    Listening:18 points
    Reading:18 points
    Writing:18 points
    Speaking:18 pointsfor admission to the Graduate School
     23 pointsfor TA appointment where TA has direct verbal interactions with students
     26 pointsfor TA appointment where TA presents lectures in the class or laboratory
    NOTE: The current computer- and paper-based versions of the TOEFL test will be given until the iBT version is implemented in a particular location. Computer-based TOEFL scores must be 213 or higher (with at least 17 on three sections and no section score below 13). The paper-based test requires a score of 550 or higher (with scores of 50 on at least two of the three sections and no section score below 45).
  • Provide International English Language Testing System (IELTS) scores with an overall band score of at least 6.5. Minimum test scores for each section are listed below:
    Speaking:6.5for admission to the Graduate School
    7.0 for TA appointment
  • Be a citizen of a country where English is an official language and the language of instruction in higher education.
  • Have successfully completed at least one year of full-time study in a degree program at a four-year U.S. college or university.
  • TOEFL or IELTS test date must be no older than two years (24 months) prior to the beginning of the requested entry term.

You may send a photocopy of your TOEFL score report to the Physics Department Office. The copy you mail can be used for initial review purposes. However, if you are required to take the test, you cannot be admitted until ETS sends us your official score report.

Financial Aid

Most students (>95%) in the PY graduate program are supported by a teaching assistantship (TA), research assistantship (RA) or fellowship. Typical TA/RA support levels in Fall 2018 are ~$23,532/year. Health insurance is provided to all students in good standing, as is tuition for a specific amount of time for those on TA or RA appointments or fellowships. – The cost of living near NC State is relatively low, particularly compared to major metropolitan areas. Additional information can be found here.

The same as the deadline for the application.

Each student should check to see what opportunities are available to them. Additional information can be found here. The eligibility requirements are stated for each fellowship. We may suggest or propose candidates with positive decisions to fellowships that require nomination from the program.

Specific Questions

Each applicant is reviewed individually. The decision to apply is up to the individual student. High (superior) scores -such as GRE and TOEFL- do favorably support the applicant. Exceptions to standard accreditation may be granted for applicants with international degrees, including applicants with three-year degrees from institutions in Europe participating in the Bologna Process.


First-year graduate students are usually eligible for the GSSP (Graduate Student Support Plan). Graduate students that meet the GSSP requirements are eligible to receive health insurance and tuition support (for a limited number of semesters). The annual stipend for a full-time TA position is $26,000. If you are on an RA, the annual salary is at the discretion of the research professor.

For more information regarding the GSSP, please refer to the Graduate School webpage.

First-year students do sometimes get RAs as their financial aid if it is worked out with the research professor ahead of time; however, this is not standard. TAs are always offered to first year students as funding allows.


You have to take the SPEAK Test at NC State and submit your TOEFL scores during your admission process to possibly get a TA.

Please refer to the research page on the NC State Physics website, and explore individual faculty member’s research interests in their directory entries.

No. This decision can be made after the student is admitted and has started taking courses. Students typically identify an area of interest within the first year at NC State. However, a specific overlap of the students interests and the research of faculty at NC State can influence an admissions decision positively.

The minimum score for each section of the TOEFL exam is 18, and a minimum total score of 80. However, the Graduate School program sometimes makes exceptions for applicants if the rest of the application is equally as strong.

All GRE general exams, subject tests, and TOEFL should use the code 5496. This will send the scores directly to the Graduate School, and they will take care of getting the scores to each department. You do NOT need a specific physics department code.