Carnegie Mellon University Department of Chemistry

Graduate Program

Frequently Asked Questions about the Application Process

The majority of questions you may have regarding the application and admissions processes are answered here. Questions that are very urgent or of an unusual nature can be directed to the Office of Graduate Admissions (

Who should apply
Application timeline
Fees and Financial Support
Supporting documents
Checking the completeness of my application
How applications are reviewed
Arranging a departmental visit
Who should apply
How many applications does the Department of Chemistry receive each year?

Approximately 200-350 applications per year over the last 5 years.

How many applicants are admitted each year?

Offers of admission are sent to 50-70 students per year.

May I apply if I do not have an undergraduate degree in chemistry?

Yes. We encourage applications from students with undergraduate degrees in related fields such as physics, biology and engineering, particularly when they have coursework or research experience that relates to ongoing work in our Department of Chemistry.

What is your application policy regarding transfer students?

All applicants are required to provide a statement explaining the reason for transfer. In addition, at least one letter of recommendation from the applicant's current Ph.D. institution is required. Ideally, the letter should be from the student's research advisor or, if that is not possible, another faculty member who is familiar with the student and can provide information regarding current standing in the graduate program, such as the Director of Graduate Studies. A transcript of grades from the student's current university is also required.

Application timeline
Do you accept applicants for spring and fall admission?

Students are typically admitted for the fall semester. Spring admissions are limited and depend upon on the number of students who accepted offers and enrolled in the fall semester. 

Will supporting documents be accepted before I submit my application?

Yes. Documents are held until the application is received and then uploaded by the Office of Graduate Admissions.

Are my supporting documents required to arrive by the application deadline?

No. Applications remain open until all required materials are received or until all offers have been extended. Timely submission of supporting documents is strongly advised. Applicants are encouraged to monitor the status of their application and contact recommenders or institutions directly with any concerns regarding submission of materials.

Fees and Financial questions
Is it possible to have the application fee waived?

No, all applicants are required to submit a non-refundable application fee of $75 via credit card. Carnegie Mellon University is a participant in Project 1000, a program through which interested underrepresented minority students may apply to help with managing their costs of applying to multiple graduate programs. For more information about this special program, please contact CMU Assistant Provost for Graduate Education, Suzanne Laurich-McIntyre ( who can advise on how the program works.

What do I do if I mistakenly leave the Carnegie Mellon web site before I pay the application fee?

Your application will not be considered without the application fee being paid via a credit card — no checks will be accepted. If you experience problems providing credit card information after you submit your application, you may log into the application again and will be directed to the Instructions and Status page. There you will find a link where you can return to the credit card processing site, if needed.

Does admission to the graduate program include financial support?

Yes. Full financial support is offered to all incoming full-time Ph.D. students and includes tuition and stipend.

What is the minimum GRE score required?

The Department of Chemistry does not have a strict cutoff score for GREs. The majority of admitted students have quantitative GREs above the 80th percentile. Subject test scores are considered in conjunction with the GPA, the undergraduate institution and other indicators of academic background such as research publications and conference presentations.

Is the chemistry subject GRE required?

Applications will be accepted and reviewed without the chemistry subject GRE but an applicant is at a competitive disadvantage without this score. The Chemistry Subject Test is strongly recommended for all applicants and is especially important in these cases: (1) Students who wish to qualify for internal Carnegie Mellon fellowships or external fellowships such as NSF need them to be competitive. (2) Students whose undergraduate institutions provide limited undergraduate research opportunities need subject test scores to strengthen their applications. If you have taken or plan to take the chemistry subject test, please enter the date on your application form.

May I submit photocopies of my test scores?

For initial review of applicants, students may report their own scores (raw scores and percentile) on the online application form. Applicants are required to submit official score reports before a final determination is made regarding admission.

Can I take the test in April and still be considered for admission?

Scheduling an earlier test date is strongly recommended. If you are unable to do so and opt for April testing, your application will be considered for admission. However, please keep in mind that completing your application in May when your test score is received may mean that all openings have already been filled.

Supporting documents
What do I need to submit for official copies of transcripts?

For review of your application, unofficial transcripts are required from each of the colleges or universities attended. You can upload an electronic copy as part of your application.

If you are admitted, official transcripts showing your completed degree(s) should be mailed directly from the institutions attended to the address below, or sent via an electronic transcript delivery network designated by the institution attended.

How are my recommenders notified to send a letter on my behalf?

When the application is submitted, the recommender is automatically contacted via the email address provided by the applicant and prompted to submit the letter. Applicants do not need to contact the recommenders individually to request submission of the letter. However, recommenders typically appreciate receiving information from students about where they plan to apply as early as possible to allow enough time to write the letters.

The strongly preferred method of submission is online. This method allows the Graduate Admissions Committee to review the letters of recommendation immediately and make decisions more quickly.

My recommender did not receive an email request to submit a letter. Can you send it to him/her now?

The email request to an individual providing a letter of recommendation on behalf of an applicant is an immediate/automated process and cannot be repeated after the application is submitted. Occasionally, a spam filter may prevent an email request from being received by a recommender. If your recommender did not receive an email request, he/she may submit a letter to via email to Valerie Bridge as a PDF attachment on letterhead with signature. Alternatively, the letter may be mailed directly from the recommender, or submitted with other supporting documents if contained in sealed, signed university envelopes. Letters submitted on paper should be accompanied by a completed standard form. Please contact your recommender directly with this information. (download pdf of the recommendation form)

If your recommenders submit an online letter of recommendation, a paper letter and recommendation form are NOT required.

Checking the status of my application
Will I be notified when my application is complete?

You can check this online. Applicants are encouraged to log in the Application page to check on the materials that are being received. Due to the large volume of materials received, applicants should expect that it will generally take 2-3 weeks from the time of their application until documents are received, processed and uploaded for faculty review.

How can I check the status of my application?

The Application page will let you know when your application is complete. The Admissions Committee reviews complete files on a weekly basis. After admissions decisions are made and approved by the department head, you will be contacted by the department’s Office of Graduate Admissions.

Due to the large volume of materials received, we encourage you to wait 1-2 weeks after your application is complete before contacting us with specific concerns. At that time, you might email Valerie Bridge at if you have specific concerns or email an individual faculty member of particular interest about your status. When the number of emails is high, it can slow down the admissions process.

May I make changes to my application once it has been submitted?

You may submit optional additional materials, such as a resume or pdf of an accepted paper, by email to You may not edit the original online application after submission.

May I contact the Office of Graduate Admissions to check the status of my application?

You are encouraged to first check your application status online and send email only if you have specific or serious concerns regarding your application. When the number of emails is high, it can cause significant delays with the admissions process. You will be contacted by the Office of Graduate Admissions when a decision has been made regarding your application or if additional information is required.

How applications are reviewed
How and when are applicants notified of decision regarding admission?

Applicants will be contacted via email or letter with a decision regarding admission. Decisions are typically sent between January 1 and March 15 for fall admissions.

When are admitted students required to respond to the offer?

April 15.

Who decides whether or not a student is admitted?

The Chemistry Department's Admissions Committee, in consultation with individual faculty in the applicants' expressed area(s) of research interest, makes recommendations regarding admission to the department head, who then makes the final decision. Students are not routinely admitted to specific research groups and have the opportunity to consider different groups after joining the department. However, admitted students who have a very strong interest in a particular research group are advised to contact that faculty member early in the admissions process to discuss opportunities in that group.

Arranging a departmental visit
Are admitted students invited to visit the Department of Chemistry?

Yes. Students who are offered admission are encouraged to contact the Office of Graduate Admissions to schedule a visit and discuss travel reimbursement.

May I visit the Department of Chemistry before I apply?

Yes, we welcome individual visits from interested students. Interested students are asked to provide a brief statement about their background and research interests to aid in setting up a visit. However, travel reimbursement cannot be provided to students who have not yet applied and received an offer of admission.

Whom should I contact if I have additional questions regarding the application process?

Please direct all inquires to Valerie Bridge, Graduate Program Coordinator, or (412) 268-3150.

Please send printed materials such as transcripts to:

Valerie Bridge, Graduate Program Specialist
Department of Chemistry
Carnegie Mellon University
4400 Fifth Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213