Frequently Asked Questions

How many applications do you receive each year?

  • Penn Chemistry Graduate Admissions is highly competitive. We typically exceed 450 applications per year. The average incoming cohort consists of 30-40 graduate students.

Which documents are required for admission?

  • The online application, 3-5 letters of recommendation, a personal statement (follow the prompt), unofficial transcripts, CV, TOEFL scores (international applicants only) and anything else you might feel is useful, such as copies of your research projects or peer reviewed publications if you have any. All materials should be submitted online through the application system by December 1st. Unofficial TOEFL or IELTS score reports may be uploaded to our application, under the "writing sample" section of our application.

Do you require GRE general and subject tests?

  • GRE general and subject scores are not required, but they are strongly recommended if you are applying to the physical chemistry division (and *especially* the theory division). If you have GRE scores, you are welcome to send them to us, the school code for all exams is: 2926. You will not be penalized if you apply without a GRE score.


Should I contact Penn Chemistry Professors before I apply to the PhD program?

  • There is no need to contact Penn Chemistry professors during the application process.  Students must first apply and be accepted into the Graduate Program in Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania. If you are accepted into the program and accept your offer of enrollment, you are welcome to reach out to faculty about joining their research group. The research advisor selection process takes place during the Fall of the first year.


Can I apply for Spring or Summer admission?

  • Penn Chemistry only enrolls new students for entrance during the Fall semester.


What are the minimum admission requirements?

  • The majority of admitted applicants have a GPA of above a 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. Our Admissions Committee carefully considers all aspects of an application including letters of recommendation, personal statement, and research experience in addition to test scores and GPA before making an admissions decision.

How do I apply for financial aid?

  • The Chemistry Department at the University of Pennsylvania provides full support (tuition, health insurance, and a monthly stipend) to all accepted graduate students for all 5 years of study. Support is given regardless of citizenship or financial need, and there is no need to file a separate application. This is a grant, not a loan, and does not have to be paid back to the University.
  • Graduate students are highly encouraged to apply for external graduate fellowships after coming to Penn. A workshop is offered to incoming graduate students that aids in fellowship application process.

Do I need to wait for my recommendation letters to be submitted before I submit my submitted application?

  • You do not need to wait for all of your letters to appear before you submit your application. Your recommenders can submit letters after you submit your application. Please submit your application by the deadline, do not wait for letters to be submitted.

What are the admission requirements for foreign applicants?

  • In addition to all required admissions materials for domestic students, International applicants whose native language is not English must submit proof of English proficiency (TOEFL). Scores should be sent to the Graduate Division of Arts and Sciences office electronically thru ETS. The institution code for all exams is 2926, no department code is necessary.
  • The majority of admitted students have total iBT scores above 100. We require a TOEFL Speak score of at least 20.

Is there a waiver for the English requirement if I earned my Bachelor's degree in the US?

  • Due to Pennsylvania State law, all graduate students must be certified in English before teaching undergraduate students. We require TOEFL scores regardless of undergraduate and graduate work already completed in the United States or another English speaking country.
  • If you completed a Bachelor's degree in the US, you may apply to our program using an expired/old official TOEFL score report. If you are accepted and choose to enroll in our program, you will either be required to attend the Summer English Language Program or you can take a test through our English Language Program Office (at your expense) before the summer program to become certified in English. A 27 on the speak score of the TOEFL exam will certify you in English. Please contact for more information on this exception.   


May I submit IELTS scores rather than TOEFL scores?

  • We prefer TOEFL scores over IELTS. If you are only able to take the IELTS test due to geographic restrictions, please submit your IELTS score report under the "writing sample" section of our application. We will use a conversion tool to compare your IELTS scores to the TOEFL equivalent. We cannot receive official IELTS scores.


Do you offer a master’s degree program?

Do you offer fee waivers?

  • We have a very limited number of fee waivers available to PhD chemistry applicants each cycle. Waivers are not guaranteed.   Students involved in programs such as McNair Scholars, MARC, RISE, Leadership Alliance or students we meet at conferences such as ABRCMS, SACNAS, or NOBCChE, are eligible to request waivers. Requests for fee waivers should be submitted by email to and should include proof of involvement in such conferences and programs. Fee waivers must be requested prior to the Thanksgiving holiday, and applicants must have a GPA of 3.0 or above to considered for the waiver.  We regret that we are not able to provide waivers to all applicants.

  • Unfortunately, we are unable to grant fee waivers to international applicants. A fee waiver may be considered for U.S. citizens or permanent residents only.

How can I visit Penn Chemistry?

  • Our Open House Weekend for likely admitted students is usually in late-February. This weekend provides opportunities to meet and socialize with current graduate students and faculty; learn about research that is carried out in the department; and tour the building facilities, the campus, and the city of Philadelphia.


I've applied to your PhD program, when will I hear back about my application status?

  • Admissions decisions occur on a rolling basis. We do not have a set date for decisions to be released. All students will be contacted before April 15th.


I've been waitlisted, how do I find out my ranking on the waitlist?

  • We do not have a ranking for the waitlist. As the acceptance deadline of April 15th approaches, there may be times when enrollment offers are extended to members of specific chemistry divisions from the waitlist. It is difficult to predict when this will happen and if you will be extended an offer of admission from the waitlist.