Department of Chemistry
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Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Q: What are the required components of an application?

Your application must include:

- A Completed online application form, including statement of purpose. Do not submit paper application
- Official transcripts from all institutions attended
- Three letters of recommendation sent directly by referees
- Official GRE (Graduate Record Examination) scores (Chemistry Advanced Subject Test is optional)
- TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) scores for international applicants

Q: What exams are required to apply for graduate admission?

A: We require the general GRE test and the TOEFL for international applicants. The GRE subject test in Chemistry is optional.

Q: How long does it take to receive a decision?

A. There is no standard time of processing an application and receiving a decision. However, generally it takes 4-8 weeks from the time an application was completed, to the time a decision is made.

Q: Who should I contact regarding my application status?

A: Please contact the Graduate Student Coordinator, at chemgrad@usc.edu with any questions regarding your status. Please do not contact the faculty to check the status of your application.

Q: What are my chances of receiving financial support?

A: All students, international and domestic, who receive offers are awarded financial assistance in the form of paid tuition and a teaching assistantship or research assistantship.

Q: Do I need to download a form to apply for financial aid?

A: Simply complete the online application. No paper forms are required. There is no separate form for financial aid, as everyone who is admitted to our department automatically receives financial aid in the form of paid tuition and a stipend from either a teaching assistantship or a research assistantship.

Q: Is there an application fee?

A: Applications are handled exclusively by the Department of Chemistry. There are no application fees when you apply directly to the department.

Q: Do you offer a Master's degree?

A: We do not offer a terminal Master's degree. You might notice that the University lists MA and MS degrees for the Chemistry Department. We offer these degrees only to a student who chooses to leave the PhD program after completing the required coursework and research. It is not possible to be directly admitted into the Master's program.

Q: Do you accept transfer students?

A: We do sometimes accept transfer students from other universities. However, our official policy is that you must provide transcripts and at least two letters of recommendation from your current institution before your transfer application will be considered.

Q: What is the ETS institution code & department code?

A: The institution code is 4852. The department code is 0301.

Q: Who should I ask for recommendation letters?

A: USC requires three confidential letters of recommendation from professional colleagues who are in a position to evaluate the applicant's potential as a student in our Ph. D. program. We are especially interested in letters from a research advisor, undergraduate advisor, or some other immediate supervisor. Chemistry, biochemistry, or physics faculty members who have taught the applicant in multiple classes or supervised him/her in some way are in a strong position to contribute to the application. Letters from teaching assistants, faculty outside of the sciences or math, or people who have not closely observed the applicant as a student, a teacher, or a researcher are rarely useful. If the applicant is currently in another graduate program, at least two letters must come from the current institution, including one from the applicant's research advisor. Very important: Letters must be received directly from the recommenders. We will not consider letters sent to use by the applicant, even if they are in sealed envelopes.

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