Program and admission FAQs

As you prepare to apply to any one of our graduate programs, you might have several questions. Here we have gathered the questions prospective students typically ask us, and the answers to them. The list is rather exhaustive, so please go through it carefully. You might find that your queries are answered right here. 

Questions on the application process

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How do I apply?

PhD and MSECE applications are submitted through the University of Minnesota Graduate Application portal

What is required for my application?

Application requirements for the MSECE program

Application requirements for MSECE (fully online option) program

Application requirements for PhD program

  • Note: the application system is a centralized system for all University of Minnesota Twin Cities graduate programs. ECE applicants only need to submit the materials listed in the links above. The application system will mention other materials, but those are not relevant for our applicants.

When is the application deadline?

MSECE: Priority deadline is January 1 for fall admission and final deadline is March 1. The deadline for spring admission is October 1. 

MSECE (online option): Priority deadline is January 1 for fall admission and final deadline is March 1. The deadline for spring admission is October 1.

PhD: Our priority deadline is December 1 for admission for the fall 2024 semester. The priority deadline of December 1 means applications submitted by December 1 can be considered for additional fellowships (nominations need to be determined by our department in early December). We accept applications through March 1. Applications submitted after December 1 will be considered for full funding. No additional materials need to be submitted for funding consideration. The deadline for spring admission is October 1. 

How important is it to contact faculty before I apply? 

MSECE applicants do not need to contact faculty before applying.

PhD applicants are not required to contact faculty before applying, but it is recommended. Funding from faculty advisors is a significant factor in our admissions process. You can review ECE research areas to find out more about individual faculty research interests and expertise. 

What do PhD applicants submit for a writing sample?

PhD applicants can use a published paper as their writing sample or a paper from previous coursework. If submitting a paper with multiple authors, please add a page at the beginning of your document specifying which sections were your responsibility.


How do I add updated documents to my application? 

Once the application is submitted you will not be able to make changes. If you need to update a document, please send it to the ECE Graduate Program ( to replace documents in your application.

I will be applying before my current degree is complete. Should I update my application with a new transcript when I receive more grades?

No, you do not need to update the application with your new transcript after you have submitted your application. Admitted students will be required to submit final transcripts at a later date.


Are GRE scores required?

GRE scores are not required for fall 2024 admission. However if you earned your undergraduate degree at a lesser known institution, GRE scores could support your application and help us evaluate it.

My supporting documents such as my transcript (or GRE or TOEFL scores) have been sent to the University of Minnesota, but my application status still indicates incomplete due to missing documents. Should I resend the missing documents?

No, please wait for the admissions office to process your submitted documents. It can take up to 6 weeks for submitted scores to be processed and added to application materials.

What are the English proficiency requirements?

  • Applicants can view English language exam information for the University of Minnesota at the Graduate School's English Language Proficiency site
  • It is fine if your scores are not attached to your application when you submit; the Graduate School will attach your official scores but they can take 6+ weeks to process
  • Our department can review your materials without those official scores. We understand the process can be delayed due to our processing time. 
  • If your scores were set to the University more than 6 weeks ago but you are still not seeing the official scores on your application, please contact to request that the admissions office verify if they have received your scores.
  • Applicants are often concerned that their application will not be reviewed if they have an English exam score under the minimum scores outlined by the University. This is not the case; we review applications even if some of the English exam scores are lower than the stated requirement. If an applicant is admitted with a lower score than the requirement, they can complete an additional assessment when they arrive on campus. Based on the results of this assessment, they may be asked to take an English course during their first semester. 
  • If you have English exam scores that are current now but will expire by fall 2024, you do not need to worry about that at this time. We can review your application with expired scores. If you are admitted and accept the offer of admission, we can work with the Graduate School to determine what steps need to be completed. This process can vary from person to person and we will need the Graduate School's feedback to know how to proceed. 

What are the minimum GPA requirements for admission?

Our programs are competitive, however we do not have a minimum GPA requirement. Students typically have a GPA of 3.4 and above.

Am I eligible to apply if my undergraduate major is not electrical engineering?

Yes, students who meet the minimum degree requirements with a strong technical background in engineering, physics, or mathematics are welcome to apply. A bachelor's degree in electrical engineering is not strictly required.

Are specific prerequisite courses required for admission?

There are no specific prerequisite courses required for admission. However, we advise prospective applicants to review the ECE Graduate Handbook and the ECE Course Catalog to evaluate what prerequisites are needed for graduate-level courses in your area(s) of interest.


Do I need a master's degree before applying for the PhD program?

No, a master’s degree is not required to apply for the PhD program. Only a bachelor’s degree is required.

May I apply for a start term other than fall?

Students are admitted in both fall and spring semesters for the MSECE, MSECE (fully online), and the PhD programs. For details and exceptions, please check the relevant How to Apply page for the MSECE program, the MSECE Online program, and the PhD program.

Questions on application fees and financial aid

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Is financial assistance available for PhD students?

PhD students are automatically considered for funding based on their overall application. After a PhD student is admitted, they will receive an email with the specifics of their financial award offer.


Is financial assistance available for MSECE students?

We are not able to provide financial offers to MSECE students. MS students can hold graduate assistantships when they enroll in the program but that is an individual process for each student. MS students must be prepared to pay for tuition without funding from our department.


Do you waive application fees?

Please use the ECE Application Fee Waiver Request form to request for the waiver. Application fee waiver requests can be submitted starting October 1.

Due to the high number of application fee waiver requests that we receive, we will only be able to review requests for applications that are complete, aside from the fee payment.

If you would like to be considered for a fee waiver request, please complete your application based on the required materials listed on our ECE website. Your application can be considered complete even if your letters of recommendation have not yet been received. Your application can also be considered complete if you are waiting for your English exam scores to be attached or if you are having difficulty completing an English exam at this time.

Before completing the fee waiver request form, please submit your application until you get to the payment page. At this point you can close out of the application. 

Questions on the program 

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How long does it take to complete the PhD? 

The PhD typically takes three to four years if you have a relevant master's degree. If you enter the program directly with a relevant undergraduate degree, it usually takes four to five years.


How long does it take to complete the MSECE?

The master’s degree program can be typically completed in a year and a half to two years, although time to completion might be slightly longer for students pursuing the degree part-time.


If I am admitted and enrolled to the MS program, may I enter the PhD program later on?

Yes, it is fairly common for our MS students to transition into the PhD program.


What is the difference between MSECE Plan A and Plan C?

The Master’s Plan A track requires students to complete 20 coursework credits, 10 thesis credits, and complete a thesis. 

The Master’s Plan C track requires students to complete 30 coursework credits and there is no thesis component. 

Students admitted into our MSECE program can choose whether they would like to do the Plan A thesis option or the Plan C coursework option. In the application you will be asked to indicate which plan you would like to pursue, however students are not required to stick with the option they select within the application. By the end of the first year in the program students should make a final decision on whether they will pursue Plan A or Plan C. 

The admissions process is the same whether applicants indicate Plan A or Plan C in their application.


How is the MSECE online program different from the standard MSECE program?

The MSECE is offered fully online for the Plan C coursework only option. Students can complete the online MSECE anywhere in the US. Students outside the US are not eligible for the fully online program.

Students who complete the online program complete the same coursework as students attending on-campus. Our courses are streamed online through the UNITE Distributed Learning office within our college. UNITE records the live classes so remote students can attend class sessions live, or they can view the recording available right after the class session ends. Exams can be completed remotely, oftentimes using a proctor. 

Students who plan to complete their degree on the University campus can utilize UNITE coursework as well. Students are allowed to complete some courses in-person and some online via UNITE.


Can international students complete internships while enrolled in ECE?

Yes, international students can hold internships after they have completed at least one academic year (two semesters) of full-time study at the University of Minnesota. This is called Curricular Practical Training (CPT). ECE students are allowed to hold a full-time internship during a fall or spring semester once while completing their degree. You will find more information on CPT in the ECE graduate student handbook.


Questions on admission decisions

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When and how will I be informed if I have been admitted?

All applicants will receive an email notification when there is a decision ready to view within the application system. PhD decisions are sent between December and April. MSECE decisions are sent between February and April. All “admit” decisions go out before any “deny” decisions are sent.

If I apply to the PhD program but do not get admitted, will I be considered for the MS program?

No, not automatically. If applicants are not admitted for the PhD, they can reach out to the Graduate Advisor to ask that their application be changed to the MSECE.

If I am admitted to an ECE graduate program, can my admission be deferred?

Admitted MSECE and PhD students are able to defer their admission; students will need to check in with the ECE Graduate Program ( about their deferral plans. PhD students can defer admission, but funding offers are not guaranteed to be valid for future semesters. This is unique for each student and their funding package. Admitted PhD students should talk with both their faculty advisor and the graduate advisor if they are considering a deferral.