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Common Questions Asked by Graduate Students

prospective students

No. You should have the necessary prerequisites.

No, but you’ll have to pass the QE for a Ph.D. program. This requires extensive knowledge of the basics of the Ph.D. field - so it helps to study up this info from the start especially if your undergraduate degree isn’t in this area.

  • Advisor-student relationship
  • Prospective advisor's current grad students
  • Location
  • Health insurance
  • Support for graduate students (graduate student union, graduate student organizations, etc.)
  • TAing opportunities
  • Research facilities
  • Opportunities for jobs after graduation
  • Connections to industry/national labs/internships/ etc.

program requirements

  • MSE: Within a couple of weeks before the dissertation proposal, which is submitted to the registrar’s office, not graduate school. If submitting all together it should be 3 documents.
  • The plan of study also requires advisor/co-advisor signatures, so plan on reaching out to these people and get the necessary signatures before you have to submit it
  • See the road maps page for more information pertaining to your department
  • MSE: January of your first year. No paperwork is necessary. The department will contact you if you have qualified to sit for the qualifying exam. You must have a minimum 3.0 GPA at the end of the fall semester. You must take 3-3 credit courses, two of which must be core courses.
  • BME: You take the qualifying exams after two years in the Ph.D. program.
  • ENVE: You take the qualifying exam usually in your second year after you've taken the 4 core classes that are covered in the exam. It's usually offered in January and in May. You have two opportunities to pass. 
  • See the road maps page for more information pertaining to your department
  • Nothing is set in stone, the Ph.D. gives you a way to stand out amongst other applicants in jobs within your field (industry or academia). For industry, it’s helpful to tailor your resume/CV to the job and broaden your experience at UConn (join SoE organizations, try to help with other projects, etc.). 
  • No. 
  • I highly recommend teaching if you want to become a professor.
  • Many students end up going into industry or work in national labs 
  • At least 6 months before your desired graduation/dissertation defense.
  • MSE: I recommend sooner rather than later but highly dependent on your advisor.
  • ENVE: You should do it in your 3rd or 4th year. The purpose is to get feedback from your committee ahead of time and talk through your timeline for finishing. Doing this early avoids surprises with the committee disagreeing with your final thesis/dissertation and ensures that you are on track to complete your program.
  • See the road maps page for more information pertaining to your department
  • Yes and no. This is dependent on your department’s requirements in the year in which you started. Check those to be sure. 
  • BME: Requires 2 publications before graduation 
  • Usually depends on your work and your advisor, but MSE encourages at least one publication before the final defense 
  • The school of engineering requires 3 published papers for all Ph.D. students. They however do not all need to be published by the time you graduate. You need (at a minimum): 1 published paper, 1 paper submitted and soon to be published, and 1 paper under review


  • At the completion of your proposal, you have technically finished a masters. You can request your masters be awarded by requesting this on your dissertation proposal paperwork. I also know students who were working on their MBA at the same time as their Ph.D.
  • Based on coursework, you can often take a couple of extra classes to get a graduate certificate. The requirements for these can be found online ( - they are for specific areas in engineering and often cross different disciplines. Typically they are a 12 credit requirement (4 classes) which can be done in conjunction with Ph.D./MS coursework.
  • It’s good to build a network - you can start by joining a graduate student org. or talking with people in your own field. This can usually lead to connections in other fields, which can help in the long run with your project or goals for post-graduation. 
  • Sometimes by asking questions outside your advisor's expertise for your dissertation can give you the opportunity to reach out and collaborate with other faculty. Knowing their research ahead of time can help with targeting those collaborations and making them happen. UConn faculty are fairly responsive and open to collaborating.
It can be very useful - a Ph.D. project requires a lot of problem-solving in a particular area of the engineering field. Receiving outside perspectives and knowledge can help a lot in a deeper understanding. Simultaneously, you can make use of all facilities UConn has to offer through collaboration.
Opportunities to mentor exist all over the place. Some will be mentioned in the daily digest emails or engineering digest emails, sometimes organizations will reach out asking for mentors, and sometimes you can allow undergrads to work in your lab. McNair and many other undergrad organizations(SWE, LSAMP, SHPE, NSBE) are great programs that are always looking for.
  • This is typically done via your advisor, who (in conjunction with the right departments) has the ultimate say in hiring. It may be encouraged to promote your lab/research opportunities to undergrads in any classes you teach/TA. You can discuss this with your advisor since there are factors involved (is there payroll room, how can they assist and mutually benefit from the work, etc.) 
  • You can offer class credit or payment to compensate undergrad students who work in the lab. Under non-COVID situations, the credit option can be a great way to get undergrad students opportunities to work in your lab if your advisor does not have money to support them. Many undergraduate students are looking for opportunities to get research experience so it's not usually too difficult to find students looking for the opportunity.
It depends on your funding source if you can work an additional job. There is the option to get supplemental work approved but your advisor must approve it if it's an on-campus job. The rules are different over the summer and there are many campus programs that hire grad students to help with their programs (Explore Engineering, Joule Fellows Program, Da vinci Program, etc.).


  • MSE: Determined when ready for dissertation proposal
  • You need to have your committee by your proposal defense. It can change between your proposal defense and your dissertation defense but you must submit paperwork to approve the change. 
  • The final committee must have 5 people but only 3 of them need to be core to your project. One will be your advisor, another will likely be a collaborator(within your department), and another must be from an outside department.
  • MSE: Advisor and 4 others. Had a discussion with my advisor about who would be good options based on their research and our relationship. 
  • As often as you feel is necessary. It is helpful to meet with them individually or as a group to talk through your project before you start it and talk through your data as you get it. Definitely talk to them before your proposal defense and before your final dissertation/thesis defense. More is better than less.

student life

  • Cut to the Chase in Storrs center is great - clean, good value, and everyone there is incredibly friendly. Miranda is awesome!  
  • I go to Headliners and have always had a great experience. It's about average salon prices and has stylists that can cut different hair (i.e curly thick hair).
  • North Campus Barber. Standard hair cut is less than $20 for men's hair cut.
  • Members of SoE (graduate students) have written a proposal to develop counter spaces for BIPOC students/visitors, guidelines for faculty/staff/student behavior (consequences and accountability), and a system to encourage anti-racist behavior 
    • An Inclusive Excellence Program was established from this proposal and aims to train faculty and staff on diversity training and learning how to incorporate inclusive teaching practices.
  • A new SOE Anti-racist book club has been formed. Contact Dianna Hyland to get involved
  • Engineering Diversity and Outreach Center offers many workshops and community conversations on race-related topics.
  • Many departments have started their own programs such as ENVE has an Action Team dedicated to evaluating diversity in the department
  • A task force was established to determine how UConn represents BIPOC students across media
  • EDOC created a Collaborative Action Network (CAN) for undergrad and grad students to come together with the SOE deans to create change on race-related issues.
  • John Lof Leadership Academy created an anti-racist book club
  • An effort to establish environmental representation and counter spaces for BIPOC students is underway.
  • See COVID Guidelines for Graduate Students
  • Most of the protocol and guidelines are determined at a university level rather than school level but many faculty are being more considerate of the mental health of their students during this time and have been offering leniency in assignments.
  • Graduate NSBE Chapter
  • EDOC Center
  • Bridge+ Program (Coming Soon)
  • Cultural Centers
  • Student Association for Graduate Engineers (SAGE)
  • Graduate Student Senate (GSS) holds graduate student events and has opportunities for E-board positions that come with benefits
  • The specific department you are applying to might have a Graduate Student Association (GSA)
  • John Lof Leadership Academy (JLLA)
  • National Society of Black Engineers Graduate Chapter (NSBE)
  • Excel spreadsheet your budget to determine cash flow in/out. Meal planning is tough if you don’t like to cook, but it’s rewarding in the end since you make your own healthy meals and can make a week’s worth with one grocery store trip. You’ll save money in the end and it’s a great way to eat healthier
  • BUDGET, BUDGET, BUDGET!  Also, consider investing in a ROTH IRA if you can afford it  
  • Check out @thelatinainvestor on Instagram. She is a UConn alumna who gives free investing and budgeting advice

funding and fellowship

  • This is the Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) run by the National Science Foundation (NSF)
  • Advisor
  • Other graduate students
  • Rowena Grainger at Office of National Scholarships & Fellowships (
  • Check your emails, there are often many opportunities for fellowship app writing help.

filing taxes

  • School of Business Tax Help
  • H&R Block
  • Turbotax
  • Check out workshops by Personal Finance for PhDs to get a better idea of who to do taxes as a grad student: 
  • There are accountants that help UConn students with their taxes but I have always found that TurboTax is fair intuitive and walks you through all the steps. Tax Hawk is also a good site and usually has a lower charge for filing state and federal than TurboTax does. It's also important to note that if you are on a fellowship or grant, UConn is not required to give you a 1098T form. This is the tax form you need to file for money received via the fellowship. Therefore it's up to you to use your fee bill and records to file your taxes. I think it's a good skill to learn how to file taxes yourself if you can.