Frequently Asked Questions


If I email my resume, can you tell me about my chances for admission?
We are unable to review your resume to determine the likelihood of admission. To be considered for admission, you must complete the full application. Please do not email your resume to the department, as it will not be reviewed.

I would like to seek a master’s degree but not a Ph.D. May I apply to your program?
The Chemistry Department does not have a stand-alone master’s program. A list of MA programs offered at Columbia can be found on the GSAS website: MA Programs | Columbia | Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

How do I get an application?
The full application process is conducted online through the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, where you can view and submit an application. Information on the application and application materials, including a very useful FAQ can be found on the GSAS website.

Are the GRE General and Subject Tests required for admission?
The Chemistry Department will not accept the GRE General or subject tests in the 2021-2022 admissions cycle.

If I have taken the GRE, may I upload it with my application or email it?
We will not accept any uploaded or emailed GRE scores. Please do not arrange to have your GRE scores sent alongside your application, as they will not be accepted or viewed.

Is a test of English proficiency such as TOEFL required for international students?
The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences requires that certain international applicants demonstrate proficiency in the English language. Please see:

What is Columbia’s institution code for the TOEFL?
Columbia University GSAS’s Institution Code is 2162.

If I have a Master’s degree from an American university, do I have to submit scores for the TOEFL exam?
Yes. In order to be exempt from submitting a TOEFL or IELTS score, you must receive a Bachelor’s degree from an institution in the U.S. or an English-speaking country.

I have a non-traditional chemistry background. Can I still be accepted by Columbia?
Yes. We consider every application individually. If we feel that you have shown the potential to undertake graduate chemistry studies at Columbia, then you have every chance of being admitted.

When are admissions decisions made?
Decisions are made on an ongoing basis beginning early January and going up until the first week of April.

I cannot afford to pay my application fee. How do I apply for a fee waiver?
All requests for fee waivers must be submitted through the online application. See the Application Fee Waivers ( page on the GSAS website for specific instructions.

Is funding available for graduate students?
All students who are accepted and matriculate into the program are fully funded with a tuition waiver, living stipend, subsidized housing and health insurance for five years.

What should I write in my statement of purpose?
The Statement of Academic Purpose is an important component of your application. The admissions committee will use your statement to understand: 

  1. Your previous experience with research or science-related activities (note: previous experience in a research group is not required for admission into the program). 
  2. Components that are not reflected in your CV, including any extenuating circumstances that you feel the admissions committee should be aware of.
  3. What research areas you would like to focus on during your graduate studies, and which professors you would like to work with.
  4. How your graduate studies will help you achieve your career goals.

You should aim for 2 pages maximum. General guidelines on how to write a Statement of Academic Purpose can be found here.


The Graduate Chemistry Program

What are the requirements for a PhD in Chemistry or Chemical Physics?
The PhD program requires passing entrance exams in chemistry, completing five graduate courses, and serving as a teaching assistant for three semesters. Students must present their research progress and plans in the second year, propose an original research project in their fourth year, and defend their dissertation at the end of their fifth year.

What is the typical length of time for a Ph.D.?
The Department of Chemistry has a 5 year rule for the PhD degree with the vast majority of students defending their thesis before the end of the fifth year in residence. Exceptions can be made on a case by case basis, for extenuating circumstances.

How many applications do you receive each year and how many applicants do you admit?
The program receives approximately 400 applications each year and admits 60-90 students, 20-30 of whom matriculate.

What are the fields of Chemistry research available to me at Columbia? And how do I get involved in research?
The Columbia Chemistry Department has on-going research in the following sub-fields: biological chemistry, experimental physical chemistry, inorganic chemistry, materials chemistry, organic chemistry, and theoretical chemistry. Information on the research at Columbia Chemistry can be found on our website, and on individual lab websites.

Can I carry out my thesis research in another Department?
Certainly. Although your thesis adviser may be in a different department, your degree will be conferred by the Chemistry Department of the Columbia Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.