Graduate Admissions FAQ
This page contains questions that the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering often receives from MS and PhD applicants. If you have a question that is not answered here, please contact the department at (312) 996-2423 for assistance.
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We offer an MS and PhD in electrical and computer engineering, but applicants do need to choose between electrical engineering and computer engineering when they apply. You may want to select the discipline that matches your previous educational background, but it is possible to switch your focus for your graduate work. In either case, please be sure that you have the adequate preparation—especially in terms of required coursework—to pursue graduate-level work in the field you choose. Your chances of being admitted will be reduced if you do not have the appropriate preparation.
The most important answer to this question lies in what you envision for your future. If you are seeking to pursue original research that will prepare you for academia or high-level research positions in industry, a PhD will lay the groundwork that you need. If you do not envision yourself doing research or want to move on to a position in industry more quickly, a master’s degree may be the right choice for you.
Another consideration is your GPA. Applicants to the PhD program should have a GPA of at least 3.5 on a scale of 4.0, whereas MS applicants may be considered with a GPA of 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale. In evaluating your GPA, remember that UIC will only consider the GPA you earned based on your last 60 credit hours of undergraduate coursework. A higher GPA will give you stronger consideration for financial aid.
GPA (grade point average) is calculated as your total quality points divided by the total credit (semester) hours.
Here is an example. Assume that you have taken the following courses:
- Course 1: 3 credit hours, grade of C (pass)
- Course 2: 2 credit hours, grade of B (good)
- Course 3: 3 credit hours, grade of B (good)
- Course 4: 3 credit hours, grade of A (excellent)
- Course 5: 4 credit hours, grade of A (excellent)
- Course 6: 5 credit hours, grade of A (excellent)
Note: Some schools may add a plus or minus to course grades.
In this example, your total number of credit hours is 20.
To calculate the “quality points,” multiply the credit hours for each course times the numerical value assigned to the grade you received. Here at UIC, an A has a numerical value of 4, a B has a numerical value of 3, a C has a numerical value of 2, and a D has a numerical value of 1. Therefore, in the example above you have:
- Course 1: 6 quality points
- Course 2: 6 quality points
- Course 3: 9 quality points
- Course 4: 12 quality points
- Course 5: 16 quality points
- Course 6: 20 quality points
Now, to determine the GPA, you divide the quality points by the number of credit hours. For the example above, 69 quality points divided by 20 credit hours yields a GPA of 3.45 out of 4.0.
The system that UIC uses for numerical grades received from universities in China is as follows:
- 85 to 100 = A
- 75 to 84 = B
- 60 to 74 = C
- 0 to 59 = F
The system that UIC uses for numerical grades received from universities in India is as follows:
- 73 to 100 = A
- 53 to 72 = B
- 33 to 52 = C
- 0 to 32 = F
The factors we consider include:
- Class rank
- Strength of the program and institution from which you received your degree(s)
- Academic publication record (if available)
- GRE and TOEFL scores (if required, or for the GRE, if electively submitted)
- Letters of recommendation, personal statement, and résumé (for PhD applicants)
- Last week in January: PhD fellowship nominations
- February 1 through May 10: PhD research assistantship awards
- First week in March: PhD teaching assistantship awards
- March 1 through March 31: MS admissions
Note: It is very important that we have your correct email address so that we can contact you for financial aid offers and for your I-20 form.
The department’s policy is to only offer financial aid to full-time PhD students, but in a few exceptional cases, financial aid will be offered to MS students. Your chances of getting financial aid are higher if you show strong research potential, such as through a record of academic excellence at a well-regarded university or through academic publications. Remember that it is very important that we have your correct email address so that we can contact you regarding any financial aid offers.
The answer to this question depends on which form of financial aid you receive. (See our financial aid page for a description of each type.) Students who receive fellowship awards and students who receive tuition and fee waivers are not expected to do any work in exchange for their financial aid. Teaching assistantship, research assistantship, and graduate assistantship recipients are required to work for 10 to 20 hours per week in their assigned position. All financial aid recipients must register for a defined minimum number of credit hours per semester.
Department data show that our PhD students typically finish the program in four to five years. Financial aid for PhD students who receive it is typically guaranteed for those four or five years, provided that students perform well academically and produce satisfactory research results. The form of financial aid provided over the course of the PhD program may vary from year or year or from semester to semester, utilizing some combination of fellowship awards and teaching, research, or graduate assistantships.
If an applicant is promising but does not meet all the requirements for full admission, the admissions committee may choose to offer entry to the program on “limited standing” status. One example of when this might happen is if an applicant earned his or her prior degree(s) in a scientific area other than electrical and computer engineering, such as physics or mathematics. Students in this situation may be given limited standing so that they have an opportunity to demonstrate to us that they can succeed in our ECE graduate program. These applicants may be asked to take specific UIC courses outside of the typical degree requirements to make up for knowledge and skills that their peers will already have. (Students who feel they may be in this situation are encouraged to explore the Computer Engineering Major and Electrical Engineering Major pages in this website’s Undergraduate menu.) Limited-standing cases of this nature are usually reserved for applicants who are missing at most two or three of the courses that would be part of a typical undergraduate program in CE or EE.
Students admitted with limited standing are notified of how many semesters they have to make up any missed coursework and obtain full standing: usually by the end of the first year of the graduate program. To continue in the program, students must receive a grade of A or B in any courses assigned to resolve their limited standing.
Other examples of limited standing include cases in which applicants have a GPA or a TOEFL score that is below the standards of the ECE department or UIC’s Graduate College. Students in this situation will be notified of their limited standing in their admission letter, which will explain the criteria for reaching full standing.
Any students admitted on limited standing must, upon fulfillment of the standards set forth to gain full standing, fill out a petition for a status change from limited to full standing. This status change does not happen automatically; it is the student’s responsibility to submit the petition to the ECE student affairs office.
U.S.-based applicants who are not ready for graduate study in electrical and computer engineering at UIC but have a dedication to preparing themselves for our MS or PhD programs may want to consider applying for non-degree status at UIC and using that opportunity to enroll in the undergraduate coursework needed to prepare adequately for graduate study. Find out more about non-degree admission here. Please note that being admitted to non-degree study at UIC does not represent any future guarantee of admission to the UIC Graduate College or the ECE department for a degree program.