FAQ

We've included some frequently asked questions about the graduate admissions process. Please click on a question to display the answer. If you have additional questions not covered here please email us at chemgradeducation@mit.edu.

How do I apply?

The application for Fall 2014 Admission will open on September 15, 2013.  Fill out the online application form by 23:59 EST, December 15, 2013.

You will need to provide the following information:

  • Field(s) of Interest
  • Personal information/legal and mailing addresses
  • International student data
  • Three or more names and email addresses of letter writers: We recommend that before 11/15 you notify your letter writers that you will be requesting evaluations from them. This will give them time to prepare and submit their letters by December 15. Once you have submitted your online application, instructions to your letter writers will be generated for you. You are responsible for making sure that your letter writers have copies of these instructions.
  • Scanned copies of your college transcripts
  • Scanned copies of your GRE scores
  • For international students, scanned copies of your TOEFL or IELTS scores
  • Educational and work history
  • Statement of objectives
  • Outside financial support and potential financial support information
  • Credit/debit payment of $75


After your online application is complete, you must also arrange for your official transcript to be mailed to:

Department of Chemistry
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Room 6-205
Attention: L.M. Guthrie-Libby
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139

When do I need to submit my application?

The deadline for September admission is December 15.

When will I hear if I've been accepted?

Offers of admission are typically made by mid-February. Notice of declines will be sent out electronically by late February.

Do I have to take the GREs?

Yes. Additionally, the Chemistry subject GRE is helpful, but not required.

Can I visit the department?

If you are admitted to our program, you will be invited to visit the department. The department hosts an official visiting weekend when faculty are available and you will be able to meet current students, attend dinners with faculty and current graduate students, go on tours of the campus and department, and attend orientation meetings on MIT and the Chemistry Department graduate program.

Can I apply to a Masters degree program?

We do not have an MS program. Applications are only accepted for the PhD program.

Does my stipend cover health insurance?

Your mandatory health fee is covered by your tuition award and includes Accident and Hospitalization Insurance. You will receive this insurance unless you can demonstrate that you have equivalent insurance through another program, in which case you must complete a waiver form available at MIT Medical.

How and when do I choose a research advisor and begin research?

Graduate students in chemistry generally select a research advisor during their first semester in the program and begin thesis research by the beginning of the spring term.  Choosing an advisor is one of the most important decisions you will make during your graduate career, and the department has scheduled a program to help you. The Chemistry Education Office coordinates desk rotations and a schedule of evening faculty research talks, and you are also required to set up individual appointments with faculty members. These all take place throughout the fall semester and we provide you with more details over the summer and during Orientation.

During the first week of November of your first fall semester, you will provide a ranked list of your top three choices of research advisor to the Chemistry Education Office. No faculty member is permitted to accept a student into his or her research group prior to the first week of November. You will find out your research group assignments in early November and most groups expect you to start research in the beginning of January.

What are cumulative exams?

Cumulative Exams are the written component of the General Examination for the PhD degree. The cumulative exams are written by the faculty on a rotating basis, and examine general knowledge in each area of chemistry, including recent developments as reported in the current literature and in Departmental Colloquia.

When do I need to arrive in the fall?

  • The exact date that you need to arrive will vary based on your TA assignment. If you will be teaching a laboratory section, you will need to be on campus by August 18, 2014, and if you are teaching a recitation, you will need to be on campus by August 25, 2014.
  • Over the summer you will receive confirmation of your TA assignment and the exact date that you should arrive on campus.  If you receive a housing assignment, you will be asked with your housing offer when you want to move in. Please request to be housed by August 17, 2014.
  • "Lab Boot Camp" is the orientation and training only for students assigned to teach a laboratory subject and is Monday, August 18, 2014 - Friday, August 22, 2014.
  • Graduate Student Orientation & TA Training for all new graduate students is on Monday, August 25, 2014 - Friday, August 29, 2014.
  • The mandatory English Evaluation Test for new students whose primary language is not English is on Tuesday, August 26, 2014.
  • Registration Day is Tuesday, September 2, 2014.
  • Classes begin on Wednesday, September 3, 2014.

What will my responsibilities as a TA be?

Students serve as TAs for two terms as partial fulfillment of the department's requirements for a PhD degree. Usually this requirement is fulfilled in the first year. Your specific TA responsibilities are:

  •     Attend all class lectures
  •     Attend TA staff meetings
  •     Lead recitation sections; or
  •     Supervise students in labs
  •     Grade problem sets and exams or lab reports
  •     Provide review sessions and individual help when requested
  •     Hold regular weekly office hours (minimum of 2 hours per week)
  •     Inform faculty instructors of problems and students having special difficulties
  •     Maintain professional interaction with students at all times

Your teaching will, on the average, require approximately 10-17 hours per week. This will vary by the class and throughout the course of the semester.

When will I know my fall semester TA assignment?

You will receive notification by email of your fall TA assignment in mid-July. Along with your assignment notification, we will include information about the Chemistry Department Orientation and Teaching Workshop as well as other useful material to help you prepare for your first year at MIT. Please be sure that we have a summer email address for you. If you have not received this information by the beginning August, call us!

How are TA assignments made?

In the fall, TA assignments are based primarily upon faculty request, class size, your area of specialty, and prior laboratory/teaching experience. Please email Lynn Marie Guthrie-Libby by May, 11, 2013 to confirm your area of specialization in Chemistry. You will receive an email from Jennifer Weisman in early May with more detailed information about TA assignments, including the specific courses that use TAs.

What does a recitation TA do?

Recitation TAs are in charge of one or two smaller sub-groups of a lecture class. Recitations meet for one hour either once or twice a week, depending on the class. The purpose of the recitation TA is to help students understand the material covered in lecture and in their readings. How the TA chooses to cover this material is, for the most part, his or her choice. In recitation, most TAs spend a lot of time going over the assigned problem sets, discussing material covered in the professor's lectures, and bringing in new problems for the students to try. Recitation instructors also spend time outside of lecture and recitation meeting with students and grading problem sets.

What does a lab TA do?

Laboratory TAs typically have more informal interaction with their students than recitation TAs - the contact between TA and student includes more one-on-one interaction. The primary focus of Lab TAs  is to teach their students how to become researchers by providing direction and support. In all the labs, students learn safety, technique, and procedure primarily under the watchful eyes of the Lab TAs. The TAs are also responsible for grading written lab reports, tests, and/or giving oral examinations.