Graduate Admissions


Applications from US and international students are accepted for Fall, Spring and Summer enrollment. The admission application is also used to request financial aid and no separate form is required. The largest number of applications for admission and aid are received for the fall semester. Students applying for fall or summer should submit a complete application package no later than January 1 and prior to August 15 for spring. Please note that all supporting documentation must be sent directly to the admissions office, not the department.

A complete application package contains the following:

  • On-line application (Apply Now)
  • A well-written Statement of Background and Goals
  • Official transcripts from all colleges attended with official English translations (if necessary); documentation showing award of degree
  • Minimum two letters of recommendation (preferably from faculty)
  • Resume or curriculum vitae (Be sure to list all publications and presentations)
  • $75 application fee (not required for RPI students and alums)
  • Official TOEFL or IELTS scores that are less than two years old. The TOEFL may be waived if the applicant has completed a degree program at a U.S. university within two years of the application deadline. 
  • Official GRE scores that are less than five years old (optional)

Tips for Completing the Application

It is very important that all students identify a specific area of concentration within the degree on the admission application. It is also important for the applicant to spend time researching the faculty associated with each area to determine interest and fit. This helps in matching a student with the appropriate faculty and available funding opportunities. Students should further address their specific interests in the statement of background and goals. The seven broad areas of research are:

  • Computer Communications, Networking, and Signal Processing
  • Computer Engineering, Hardware and Architecture
  • Control, Robotics, & Automation
  • Energy Sources and Systems
  • Image Science: Computer Vision, Image Processing, and Geographic Information Science
  • Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence
  • Microelectronics, Photonics, VLSI, and Mixed-Signal Design

Please see our complete list of faculty.

The Statement of Background and Goals is very important, and applicants should take their time with this. Ideally, it should be no more than 1-2 pages in length and should detail the reasons for going to graduate school, research interests, future goals and any other information that supports the application. Spelling and grammar do count! This would also be the place to discuss any anomalies in the application.

A resume containing up to date contact information is required. Be sure to include all publications and presentations.

Letters of recommendation should be from faculty who know the applicant well and can speak to his/her potential to be a graduate student. Letters from employers (coops or professional positions) are allowed, but they should be relevant to the intended program of study. For students working on a master's degree, it is expected that one letter of recommendation should come from the master's degree advisor.


Students often want to know their chances of being admitted and awarded aid. Applications that are complete by the deadline are considered first for admission and financial aid. Applications that become complete after the deadline will be considered for admission and any aid that may still be available. Each file is read carefully, and the admissions committee is looking for students who are academically well-prepared to pursue graduate study and whose research interests most closely match those of our faculty. It is very important that students identify an area of specialization or concentration within the degree.

Applications are encouraged from students whose undergraduate record reflects an overall grade point average of 3.3 or higher from a school comparable to Rensselaer and are strongly encouraged from those who already possess a master's degree and wish to pursue the PhD. The average GPA for the Fall 2015 admitted applicants was 3.63 and the average GRE scores were 153 verbal, 165 quantitative and 3.5 analytical. The average TOEFL score was 110 (computer based) and is well above 89, which is the Institute's minimum requirement. 

All students will be notified via email when an admissions decision has been made. 

If a student elects not to accept admission (either with or without aid) the first time it is offered, there is no guarantee that admission and/or aid will be awarded in a future semester. Typically we do not defer admission with aid decisions to a future semester except in rare cases. Applicants who wish to defer to a future semester must contact the Admissions office directly. They will be expected to re-apply and may need to supply additional documentation.

Financial Aid

Financial aid is available in the form of Teaching Assistantships (TA), Research Assistantships (RA) and Graduate Fellowships. These are awarded to top applicants who are interested in pursuing the PhD degree and are a good match with our research and our faculty. It should be noted that preference on aid is given to those who are seeking the PhD. The largest number of aid is awarded to those starting in the fall semester, but TA and RA awards may also be made in the spring as they become available. It is also important to note that financial aid is given only to full-time students and is based on previous academic performance, not on needs. Students must have a minimum 3.3 GPA to be eligible for TA consideration. Almost all ECSE PhD students in good standing receive financial support (stipend and tuition) throughout their doctoral study. 

The amount of the financial aid can vary depending on the type of award, but all are full awards. TA's are awarded on an academic year basis and include a minimum stipend of $23,500 and full tuition. RA's may be awarded on a calendar year basis (academic year plus summer) and include a minimum stipend of $23,500 and full tuition. TA's and RA's are expected to work up to 20 hours per week. The stipends for Fellowship winners can vary widely depending on the fellowship but are usually at least $30,000 for the year with full tuition, plus all fees.

MS-only students should inquire about tuition scholarship which offers substantial tuition discounts.

Students who enroll without aid may apply for support in future semesters but should be aware that funding opportunities are extremely limited and in no way guaranteed. They should plan to finance their entire education on their own. International students who are admitted without aid must provide official bank documents showing they have enough funds to support their educational expenses (tuition, books, fees and personal living expenses) before an I-20 can be issued. 

Students who are awarded financial aid with their admission can expect to continue receiving aid in some form, provided they meet all the department and Institute guidelines for continuing aid and based on the availability of funding. Decisions on applications requesting aid consideration will be made after the application deadline so that all applications that are complete as of the deadline will compete as a group for whatever aid is available. Students who apply for aid will be notified by email as the decisions are made. Students may be informed the aid decision is pending and may remain pending until all potential for aid is exhausted.

There is no final deadline date for notification of aid awards. Rensselaer and the ECSE department abide by the April 15 deadline for a response by the student on all first round aid awards. Awards made after that will have a deadline response date set by the department.

Graduate Admissions FAQs

What is the application deadline?

The application deadline for fall admission is January 1st and the deadline for spring admission is August 15th. Applications are reviewed by the ECSE Admissions Committee on a rolling basis but your application will not be reviewed until it is complete and we are in receipt of all required documents. You can find the list of requirements at

Applications submitted or completed after the deadline will be reviewed as long as space is still available in the program but will not receive priority for financial aid .

How do I apply for financial aid?

There is no separate application for financial aid. The application for admission includes a section that allows you to indicate your desire for financial aid and your preference for the type of aid you seek. Financial aid is available in the form of Teaching Assistantships (TA), Research Assistantships (RA), and Rensselaer Graduate Fellowships (RGF). Financial aid offers are merit-based and are extended to the strongest applicants. For non-RPI aid, such as external fellowships and federal student loans, please contact the institution offering the aid to apply. For example, if you wish to apply for federal student loans (available to US citizens and permanent residents), go to The Office of Graduate Education also maintains information on external fellowships.

Teaching Assistantships

For incoming students, the Graduate Teaching Assistantship is the most common form of aid. The Department deems this role a very important one. It is invaluable preparation for any career, for the departmental qualifying examination, and for mastering the subject matter. The Teaching Assistantship consists of a stipend and full tuition.

Research Assistantships

Research Assistantships, another form of aid available to many of our graduate students, include a stipend and cover the full cost of tuition. The availability of Research Assistantships depends upon the research needs of individual professors' research programs. It is governed by contract requirements. Research Assistantships are normally extended for the academic year, and in many cases, summer support is also available. It is expected that during the course of a PhD, students admitted with a TA will eventually transition to an RA with their doctoral research advisor.


The admissions committee will automatically consider applicants for the Rensselaer Graduate Fellowships, which are funded by the Institute. Students are encouraged to seek their own external fellowship funding as well.

How do I keep my financial aid?

The continuation of your award is contingent upon your successful academic performance and your teaching work in the case of a TA. Graduate students at Rensselaer are expected to maintain a grade point average of 3.0 or better.

Is summer support available?

The majority of our students are supported via research or teaching assistantships, summer internships, or employment outside of Rensselaer during the summer.

If I wish to pursue a PhD but do not hold a Master’s degree, can I apply directly to the PhD program or would I need to apply for the Master’s program first?

You may apply directly to the PhD program if you hold a Bachelor’s degree. If you are interested in earning both the MS and the PhD within our program, you should apply for the PhD program. Do not indicate MS on your application form.You will have the opportunity to add the Master’s degree once you are enrolled as a student.

My undergraduate program was abroad and I am uncertain if it is equivalent to a four-year U.S. bachelor’s degree. How would I assess this?

If an applicant is uncertain of the U.S. bachelor’s degree equivalency of his/her degree, he/she may wish to obtain an academic credential evaluation from a U.S. based credential evaluation agency (e.g., WES).

What are the chances I'll be admitted? What are the chances I will be granted financial aid?

For the fall 2018 admissions cycle, out of 371 applicants, 36 new graduate students enrolled. Our highest priority is to support our PhD students, so most of our Master's students are self-funded.

Is there a minimum GRE requirement?

There isn’t an official minimum GRE requirement or cut-off. Applications are reviewed and considered in their entirety. 

  • Strong scores and grades do not guarantee admission. Applicants must also demonstrate research potential.
  • An application is reviewed in its entirety. Having research experience, published work, and presentation experience strengthens one’s application and should be indicated on the resume that is uploaded with your application. These are a few factors that make your application very attractive and can make up for what may appear as a less than desirable GRE score. Often what distinguishes admitted applicants from other highly qualified applicants is their research accomplishments. Applicants should be sure to include on their resume all published papers and all presentations given in workshops and at conferences.

Is there a minimum TOEFL requirement?

The minimum TOEFL score is 89. If you are required to take the TOEFL and you submit a score that is below 89, your application will be considered incomplete until you re-take the TOEFL and earn a score of at least 89.

Can I visit the Department?

Yes. In fact, we encourage you to visit Rensselaer! Please contact our Graduate Program Administrator, Ms. Kelley Kritz, at to coordinate a visit. She will see to it that you are able to meet with faculty who work within your area of research interest(s), in addition to meeting current students. Regional information, maps, and directions can be found on the Office of Graduate Admissions' website.

Contact Us

For more information, please send an email to:

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