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Guide for International Applicants

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Applying to graduate school in the U.S. can be a very different experience from the application process in your home country! How will you fund your studies? How will you obtain the proper visas for studying in the U.S.? What tests and scores are required? The below guide will walk you through applying to graduate school at Rice
University. For our full application and admissions FAQ, see the page here.

EducationUSA - your partners in education

Should you want in-depth guidance, please don't be afraid to reach out to your country's EducationUSA Advising Center! There more than 400 EducationUSA advising centers worldwide. These centers share a common goal: assisting students in accessing U.S. higher education opportunities. Advising centers are staffed by EducationUSA advisers, many of whom have first-hand experience studying in the United States.

Application Overview

The application

In the United States, there are several components to the graduate school application. First is the application itself: you will complete a multi-page application that will ask you about your academic and personal background. Generally, students will need a 3.0 GPA (Grade Point Average) in the scale of 4.0 or equivalent. You will be able to input your GPA and/or your average grade with the scale used by each institution you attended. For example, you can input your GPA as 90/100 if your university evaluates students by class rank; make sure to outline this information in your application. Please note that all of the application components are important; no individual component outweighs another.

The application for graduate school at Rice typically opens on or around September 1 for the next year’s spring and fall admissions. There is a deadline for applications, and at Rice it varies by program and term of entry. Generally, you can expect spring applications to be due in October, and fall applications to be due in December or January.

C.V. or Resume

Many programs will ask you to submit a C.V. or resume as part of your application. These documents are a little bit different from each other. Tips on how to approach the C.V. can be found here.

The Statement of Purpose

As a part of the application, you will typically be asked to provide a Statement of Purpose (also called a Personal Statement).The Statement of Purpose or SoP is a document that you will write that will outline your reason for applying to this particular program, your aspirations, and why you feel you will be a good match for the
program. Good things to highlight are: service and involvement in your community, undergraduate research you participated in, awards or honors you received. Tips on approaching the Statement of Purpose can be found here.

Letters of Recommendation

You will also be asked to submit three (sometimes more) Letters of Recommendation (LoR). These letters should be written by people who know you well and can speak to your academic and/or professional strengths - typically faculty members and academic advisers, but sometimes employers or other types of advisers or mentors. These letters are submitted directly by the writer to the application portal. The student does not submit the letters on behalf of their writer. A graduate student perspective on asking for Letters of Recommendation can be found here.

Letters of Recommendation - FERPA Waiver

FERPA grants applicants the right to review their educational records, which include letters written on their behalf. When you enter your recommenders in the application, you must indicate if you wish to waive your FERPA rights (Waiver of Rights to Access) or wish to retain these rights. If you waive your rights, this means you will not be granted access to review your recommendation letters. If you do not waive this right, you will be able to view your recommendation letters, but only once you are admitted and you formally matriculate into your program. If you do not matriculate, you will not be able to view your letters.

Once you send the form to your recommenders via the application and indicate your waiver status, you will not be able to change your decision. Consult with your advisors, peers and program of application on what decision is best for you.


GRE: Some graduate programs will require you to take the Graduate Record Examination, or GRE. This is a test that is common in the U.S. and will test your general aptitude for graduate school. Information on the GRE can be found here. It is administered by ETS, the Educational Testing Service. ETS has testing services around the world, and due to the COVID-19 pandemic has offered online testing options.

For 2022 admissions, Rice generally is not requiring the GRE. However, individual degree programs have the option of recommending, strongly recommending, or requiring the general GRE. Prospective students should check with their program of application for details. Business schools will often ask you to take either the GRE or
GMAT as part of the requirements to apply to their programs. This is common specifically with MBA programs. Rice does not have a minimum score requirement for the GRE or GMAT.

Language Testing Requirements: Language Testing Requirements: Rice's full language proficiency policy can be found here. International applicants at Rice are required to submit English Language Proficiency Scores. At Rice, applicants are able to take the TOEFL, IELTS or Duolingo. The TOEFL IBT Home and the IELTS Indicator are accepted. The ITP Plus is not accepted. The minimum scores are as follows:

Duolingo: 115

These tests are offered all over the world at various testing centers, and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many offer online testing options. For tips on preparing for standardized tests from a current Rice grad student, click here.

Connections with potential faculty advisers

In the U.S., it is common and sometimes necessary to make connections and secure an adviser while completing the application. Specifically, research-based degree programs will sometimes require you to match with an adviser while completing the application. Emailing faculty and making those connections early can be essential to obtaining a spot in a graduate program. However, if you do not hear back from a faculty member, do not be discouraged from applying! You can reach out to current graduate students at Rice in the lab you are interested in joining, or you can direct questions to one of our Graduate Student Ambassadors.

Some programs are cohort-based, meaning they accept a cohort of students and you are not tied to a specific adviser right away. In your Statement of Purpose it is still a good idea to outline a number of faculty you would be interested in working with, and why. For tips from grad student Rosa Guerra Resendez on reaching out to faculty,
click here.


Ph.D. or Doctoral Degree

The doctoral degree is the terminal degree offered at Rice. This is a research-based degree in which a thesis is required. In the U.S., you do not need a master’s degree to apply to a Ph.D. program. Students can apply directly from a bachelor’s program (three-year bachelor’s degrees are accepted). These programs are typically fully-funded, and take 4-6 years to complete.

Research Master’s Degree

The research master’s leads to an M.S. or M.A. in the desired discipline. Typically, these are not offered as standalone degrees, but as a step on the path to the Ph.D. Tuition waivers may be available; consult with your program of interest for details. These degrees may generally be completed in 2 years.

Professional Master’s Degree

The professional master’s degree at Rice is a course-work based degree designed to give an edge in industry. No thesis is required for this degree. Funding is generally not available for these programs. These degrees may be completed in 3-4 semesters.

Visa Requirements

At Rice, our Office of International Students and Scholars will work with you once you are admitted. In the U.S., you can only get the type of visa needed for graduate study through a U.S. educational institution. They will contact you after admission to begin your paperwork and will help you obtain your visa to study in the U.S. To determine your eligibility for a specific visa, click here.


In the U.S., funding for graduate school varies widely. Doctoral programs are usually fully-funded in the U.S. Ph.D. students in the U.S. are granted tuition waivers, meaning they pay no tuition fees. Doctoral students are responsible for the cost of their health insurance (after a subsidy) and their student fees. Ph.D. students are also typically provided a stipend ranging from $32,000 - $40,000 per year to support cost of living.

Master’s programs are typically funded by the student. Country of orgin scholarships, company sponsorships and private loans can support tuition costs.

Admissions Committees

At Rice, admissions decisions are made at the program level. This means that in each degree program, a group of the program faculty come together to review applications and decide who will be admitted to the program. They will look at every piece of your application, and may invite you for an interview or a campus visit to get to know you better. Their decision may also take into account which faculty have funding for new students, and which do not. This is why it is important in your Statement of Purpose to discuss several faculty members you would be happy to work with during your studies.

You may not be notified of your admission decision right away. Some programs with earlier deadlines will send offers of admission out in the fall, while others with later deadlines may convene in spring.


Do I need a master's to obtain a PhD?

No! Generally, a master's degree is not needed to apply to Ph.D. programs in the United States. You can apply directly from a bachelor's program.

Do you accept three-year bachelor's degree?


Do I need to reach out to faculty before I apply?

Depending on the program, it is not required but is a good idea to make connections with faculty before or during the application process. Not all graduate programs are cohort-based. For tips from grad student Rosa Guerra Resendez on reaching out to faculty, click here. Please note that if you do not hear back from faculty, do not be discouraged from applying. You can reach out to current graduate students at Rice in the lab you are interested in joining, or you can direct questions to one of our Graduate Student Ambassadors.

If I do not hear back from faculty, what should I do?

Do not be discouraged from applying if you do not hear back from faculty. You can reach out to current graduate students at Rice in the lab you are interested in joining, or you can direct questions to one of our Graduate Student Ambassadors.

Who should write my Letters of Recommendation (LoR)?

Look for letter writers that can speak to your academic and professional strengths. Undergraduate academic advisers, employers, or other mentors are generally good people to start with. A graduate student perspective on this can be found here.

Can I submit my LoR for my recommender?

No - at Rice, you will use the application portal to generate a request for recommendation. The recommender will directly submit their recommendation via an email link they will recieve from the system. You are able to send them reminders through the application portal both before and after you submit your application.

My university’s mode of instruction is English. Do I still need to take the language test?

Generally, no. Consult with your program of application for guidance. More information is here.

Will I need a Rice-sponsored visa?


How can I start the visa application process?

Once you are admitted to Rice, the Office of International Students and Scholars will reach out to begin your paperwork. Please watch your email carefully for instructions on how to begin the process with them.

The department I am applying to does not require GRE, should I still submit scores?

You do not have to submit GRE scores to be a competitive applicant! However, you should note that for 2024 admissions, programs at Rice have the option to recommend, strongly recommend, or require GRE scores. Consult with your program of application for further guidance on what this means for them.

Does external funding help my application?

All applicants will be equally evaluated, regardless of external funding. Do not be discouraged from applying if you do not win external funding. However, external awards are a prestigious mark of academic promise. Applying for external funding can help you solidify what it is you want from a graduate program and research track, and also provide valuable feedback. For Rice grad student CJ Barberan's perspective on this question, click here, or read advice from current Fulbright Scholars Marc-Ansy Laguerre and Santiago Lopez Alvarez. For a database of funding opportunities from Rice, click here.

Are application fee waivers granted?

Requests for fee waivers should be directed to your program of application, as admission is handled at the program level. A list of programs for which application fee waivers are granted can be found on our general application FAQ page. You can also reach out to one of our graduate student ambassadors for more information on how this process works.

If you are applying for a Ph.D., you can check out our Fee Waiver Weeks, held each fall!

Is there a way I can meet faculty and grad students at Rice?

For students in STEM fields, Rice hosts the Gulf Coast Undergraduate Research Symposium (GCURS) each fall. If you have original research or a course project to present, we encourage you to apply. Participating is a good way to polish your presentation skills and receive mentoring and coaching from current faculty and grad students. Additionally, all GCURS presenters are gifted a doctoral application fee waiver from Rice University.

Is there a resource guide for applying to Rice you can share?

Prospective graduate students are encouraged to study the FAQ page here, read our Grad School Tips Grad School Tips blog, explore the GCURS page of resources for applying to grad school, or reach out to one of our Graduate Student Ambassadors.

I have more questions about graduate study in the U.S., who should I contact?

The graduate program administrator of the program to which you are applying will always be the best first contact. You can also reach out to one of our graduate student ambassadors for general questions about life at Rice and to further connect with Rice students!

Updated November 2023