Undergraduate Information FAQ Back to the List

Applying to Graduate School

How and when do I apply to graduate school in Chemistry?


In May of your junior year, the undergraduate chemistry and biological chemistry advisors will hold an open meeting announced by email to junior majors. The meeting will go over how to choose a graduate program and apply to it (including the GRE's and how to apply for graduate school fellowships) and what issues to consider when you decide whether you want to pursue a Ph.D. or not. If you are graduating in three years, please email the chemistry advisor in the winter of your sophomore year so you are put on the mailing list to receive an early announcement of this meeting.

For information on Ph.D. programs in chemistry, see the ACS Directory of Graduate Research in the Chemistry Library. It includes a list of all the universities that offer graduate degrees, the faculty at those universities, and one-line summaries of their research interests.

In choosing a graduate school, the exellence of the research of the faculty in the area that interests you is of paramount importance. Talk to your undergraduate research advisor about what programs are good in your field of interest . You can also make an appointment to talk with the undergraduate chemistry advisor.

The simplest way to learn about a graduate program at a particular university is to write the departments you are interested in to request a brochure on their graduate program that describes the research of their faculty. Graduate Program brochures of some of the top departments are available for you to look at in the Chemistry Undergraduate advisor's office and brochures sent to our department by other programs are collected in a bin across from Kent 107 for our undergraduates to have access to them. Websites are also excellent sources of infromation.

For web pages of some representative graduate programs, see:














The Graduate Record Exam

The Graduate Record Exams are required for your applications to most graduate programs. There are both the general tests (like the math and verbal SAT's, but now there are three: a verbal, a quantitative, and an anlaytical) and a subject test. There is usually a test date in late October or early November of your senior year which you have to register for in September! (careful -registration due before you get back for classes). For more details on test dates, subject material of GRE's etc, see the GRE Web site.

Graduate Programs in chemistry will often require the Chemistry subject test. If you know your introductory chemistry text by Oxtoby and Nachtrieb VERY well (including some chapters only covered in part in intro chem, like the one on transition metals and coordination complexes), it will be good preparation for much of the chemistry subject test (the level of that intro chem text is not much below many colleges junior level courses.)

If you are a biological chemistry major and wish to apply for a graduate program in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, you should consult with the departments you are applying to but often they will take either the chemistry subject test (see previous paragraph) or the subject test in "Biochemistry, Cell, and Molecular Biology". To do well on the latter, you will have wanted to use your BioSci 200 level course requirement to give you additional preparation in cell/molecular biology beyond what you learned in 190's.

How do I apply for Graduate School Fellowships?

The stipend and tuition for Ph.D. graduate work in chemistry is at most schools covered by a combination of your work as a teaching assistant (usually in the first year of graduate work) and your support under a faculty member's grants as a research assistant (i.e. you don't have to pay for graduate school!). Thus, it is not essential to have a fellowship. However, there are several fellowships that offer a much higher level of support than that normally available from the above sources; it can also be an advantage to hold a graduate fellowship because a faculty member with very interesting research can give you the chance to do Ph.D. research with them even if he/she has already committed all their grant funds that year. (It can give you more flexibility with which research groups you can join). The Dean's Office Fellowships and Scholarships website includes links to the major graduate fellowships and identifies which college advisor you can contact for more information on applying for each fellowship. Below we list the major fellowships that students wishing to do graduate work in chemistry should consider, along with a short description of each. Click on the name of the fellowship for more information on application forms, etc.

Each year, UofC advisors give a workshop on applying for NSF, DOD and Hughes fellowships in mid October (including tips on how to write a successful application).

Graduate Fellowships (and some Advanced Undergraduate Fellowships)


  • AT&T Bell Laboratories Fellowship for Women and Minorities


Bell labs sponsors a number of programs for women and minorities. This fellowship provides full tuition and a stipend of $13,200 plus money for books, fees, and related travel expenses; an annual grant provides $1,500, which may be held in addition to other support the student receives (women only); students may participate in summer research in one of their labs (open to college students). The fellowship and the grant are open only to students who are beginning their doctoral studies. Criteria: accomplishment in field of specialization; potential as research scientists. Three letters of recommendation. On-campus and on-site interviews. Deadline mid January.


  • Department of Defense


The three services compete for the 90 best young scientists in the country. Fellowship parameters are a bit more stringent than those of the NSF: it's harder to arrange a deferral of the award, for instance, and a student must use the award within a certain period of time. However, the money is excellent and the DOD keeps an active list of alternatives. Essential: very high GPA and GRE scores; research experience. US citizens only. Deadline mid January.


  • Goldwater Scholarship


This is not a graduate fellowship, it is a scholarship to help complete your undergraduate studies in the sciences, and it is extremely competitive. For second or third year students in mathematical or natural sciences, including biology. Scholarship provides $7,000 award for educational expenses. Students must be nominated by faculty member or administrator; from this pool, the College chooses its candidates. Award favors research experience, high GPA, and clear statement of commitment to a career in science. US citizens only.


  • Hertz


The application profile is the same as NSF, except that an interview is thrown in (two interviews if you are a finalist). Questions asked cover both theory and practice. The style of the interview is rumored to resemble that of some state Rhodes interviews: fast, hard-hitting, high energy. Because Hertz is a private foundation, non-US citizens may be eligible. October deadline.


  • Hughes Fellowships in the Biological Sciences


Eligibility criteria are the same as for the NSF, except that awards may extend through five years. US citizens, US nationals, and foreign nationals are eligible. Research experience and detailed recommendation from faculty members are extremely important. Sixty awards made too seniors and first-year graduate students.



Students are eligible either as seniors or recent graduates, or as first-year graduate students. It is one of the most prestigious awards for graduate study and is portable between universities. Students who are not funded when they first apply (particularly if they earn an honorable mention) should reapply even if they are fully supported by their graduate institution. Research experience, proposed areas of research, and strong recommendations in the field are crucial, but a strong overall GPA is also necessary (3.7 or higher). US citizens only. Students should give full attention to the two statements they must prepare: these must be clearly and convincingly written. Due early November.


  • Physical Sciences Consortium for Women and Minorities


This same guidelines hold with the NPSCWM as with the NSF, except that this fellowship is not portable: only certain schools participate in the consortium. To collect the money (which can be worth up to $180,00 over six years), a student must attend a sponsoring institution.

Fellowships for graduate work in the United Kingdom


  • Rhodes


Students are eligible if younger than 24 years old on October 1 in the year of application; high GPA (3.7+); all fields welcomed; US citizens. Extracurricular involvement is important, as is the ability to articulate ideas with energy and clarity. The personal statement should be finely crafted. The proposed plan of study must fit applicant's academic preparation and reflect suitability of the chosen program to his or her long-term goals. Eight letters required, at least four from faculty members with whom student has taken undergraduate courses. Campus, state, and district interviews. Thirty-two awards in the US. Applicants may propose to do a B.A. or an M.A. Two years' tenure at Oxford.


  • Marshall


Students are eligible if younger than 26 years old on October 1 in the year of application; US citizens; 3.7 GPA after the first year; all fields welcomed. As with the Rhodes, intellectual vigor and extracurricular leadership are factors in the selection. Statement is critical in securing one of the 20 interviews in each of the five regions, as are strong and detailed letters from two faculty members. Student should be certain that the proposed study plan is carefully researched. Thirty-six to forty awarded annually. Two years' tenure in a British university.

Deadline for completed Rhodes and Marshall materials to be submitted to local committee: Monday of the first week of autumn quarter. You must contact your college advisor before you submit your materials. Preparation of materials must begin well in advance of deadline.


  • Churchill


Students are eligible up to age 26; US citizens; one year's tenure at Churchill College, Cambridge; acceptable fields include mathematics, biology, biochemistry, physical anthropology, computer speech and language processing, computer science, physics, chemistry, and mathematical statistics. The scholarship is research-oriented, although most students attend lectures and sit the exams. No interview. High GPA (3.7 or above recommended) and high GREs a must. four recommendations, at least one from a professor with whom you have research experience. Part of the selection process involves matching you with a lab situation in Cambridge. Extracurriculars are not a key element in the selection process but help the application. The Collage chooses to students to advance to the national competition. Materials due in HM 280 in early November.