Graduate school Chemical Engineering

Hi! I am planning to apply to a grad school from Washington State University. I am a rising senior in Chemical Engineering, minoring in mathematics. My GPA is currently 3.91 out of 4 and I have done two separate types of research from two different schools. I’m not planning on taking the GRE exam. Would you mind telling me what grad schools I can apply to? For example, what are my chances of getting into the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign? Or what other schools do I have a better chance of being accepted? A couple of examples would be greatly appreciated!

PhD or terminal MS?

GRE is required in most programs.

I’m more focused on terminal MS but I also consider PhD

I know University of Illinois does not require GRE exam

Most programs will require the GRE so you will be limiting yourself by not taking it.

Have you talked to your advisor and PIs from your research projects? You will need LoRs from them anyway, but they are also one of your best sources of information. Talk to them about your research/career (PhD) or career (MSc or MEng) interests. Ask them what programs they rate, and/or think would suit you. Start thinking of yourself as a proto-professional, talking to other people in your field- people you may be in touch with for years to come.

UIUC is a great program- but don’t get too fixated on any one program- you will need to apply to several, and they will all have +/-. Build a list of programs (including cost & likelihood of financial aid if you go MSc/MEng), and then look to see if it’s worth prepping for the GRE or not.


For terminal MS you need to decide course based or thesis based. Course based is like a BS on steroids and a bit like vetting undergraduate programs. Thesis I’d VERY different.

If you want to do a thesis, and I would highly recommend that route, you don’t pick the school per se. You pick the people doing the research that interests you, ideally that you’ve done some work in. This is what matters to them and what should matter to you. After all you’ll be there 2-6 years. What you do will pigeonhole you into something that hopefully you are passionate about. You better like your advisor too. They’ll control you for 2-6 years.

Talk to the professor that is running the research that most interested you and get their advice. People hiring PhDs don’t care about the school name. They care about what you did and who you worked with.

UIUC could very well be a good program, but there’s a chance no one is doing what interests you there.

Lastly, take the GRE. You’ll limit your choices if you don’t unless they are temporarily waiving the need to take it due to COVID.

Congrats on your accomplishments. Good luck!

It isn’t like vetting undergraduate schools at all. Good luck with the quest.


Thank you for your response! What else can I do to make my application stand out? I have done a lot of research into the GRE exams required by different colleges, and most of them, in particular chemical engineering colleges, do not require the GRE exams.

Thank you for your response! Your advice is really helpful. What else can I do to make my application stand out? I have done a lot of research into the GRE exams required by different colleges, and most of them, in particular chemical engineering colleges, do not require the GRE exams.

Your GPA, previous research and letters are all you need in the absence of GRE. Now it’s really up to you and talking with your professors you’ve done research with to find programs that fit your interests. Illinois has a great engineering program, but they might not have a thing that aligns with what you want to do. Especially at the PhD level, the professor and not the school is what matters.

…and where you fit their interests. That is the hardest part: go through the program descriptions thoroughly. Read the research interests of the departments. Read the profiles of profs whose research interests you. Figure out what end of ChemE you are interested. If you are going MSc or MEng, look at who hires from the program (many programs will post their biggest employers). Focus on the programs that have the most in common with your actual interests. The better you know what you want and what a given program offers the better you can target your applications to programs where you are a good fit.

Once upon a time I was on a committee that vetted Masters & PhD applications. The applications that got cut first were those where the person clearly didn’t know enough about our program to know that it wasn’t a good match with what they were looking for.


They were waived for the 21-22 at most schools, but I think they’re coming back for 2022-23. The websites may not be updated yet.