Before You Apply

13 things to know before applying to Ohio State BME graduate programs.

  1. The Ohio State University Graduate School absolutely requires a minimum 3.0 GPA in all undergraduate work to be admitted to the traditional MS or PhD programs and a 3.5 for Ohio State students participating in BS/MS programs; however, the minimum GPA required for some University Fellowship & Funding Competitions is as high as 3.6. The Department posts no required minimum GPA and considers applicant fit with recruiting faculty lab and funding; likelihood of academic success based on academic background; and potential contribution to the field based on research experience, problem-solving skills, collaborative spirit, response to hardship or challenges, and recommendations. We are happy to share the admission rubric tool that helps us our Biomedical Engineering Graduate Studies Committee (BMEGSC) make decisions.  
  2. The GRE requirement has been eliminated as of 2020. A GRE score is no longer required for applicants to any BME graduate program. International applicants can find guidance on the university's required English test scores and policies from the Office of Graduate and Professional Admissions.   
  3. Most applicants to the BME graduate program have majored in a traditional branch of engineering (e.g., ChE, ME, MSE, ECE, etc.) or in BME. Preparation in biology or physiology can be helpful to those with engineering backgrounds. Those with life science undergraduate degrees or with non-engineering backgrounds are required to complete additional coursework to develop competence in engineering before applying. Please see our required background course list for details.  
  4. In order to maximize chances of admission, PhD applicants are encouraged to contact specific faculty of interest directly in order to establish a connection that might lead to a funded position. Typically this funding comes in the form of a Graduate Research Associateship (GRA): a position which requires 20 hours of work in a specific faculty member's lab weekly in exchange for covering the cost of tuition and health insurance, as well as a monthly stipend. (The faculty supervisor for this position also serves as a student's research advisor.) This step also is helpful to thesis-MS applicants who hope to do research in a specific area, but it is not required. (Non-thesis MS applicants may wait to choose faculty members to consult with after they are admitted, as the non-thesis MS program is largely course-based rather than research-focused.)  Use our matrix to explore research areas and learn about the many faculty who are conducting biomedical engineering research and advising graduate student projects. As well, it is helpful to review our list of faculty currently seeking GRAs.     

  5. The MS (including BS/MS) is a self-funded degree. This means no funding is available from our program for admitted MS students. However, opportunities to finance an MS degree are sometimes found by applicants who inquire to external departments on their own. Both thesis-MS and non-thesis MS students in our program have found Graduate Teaching Associateship (GTA) positions in Chemistry, Math, Biology, Engineering Education, etc. These typically require 20 hours of work weekly in exchange for covering the cost of tuition and health insurance, and they provide a monthly stipend. Information on personal loans can be found at the Office of Student Financial Aid. 

  6. Application fee waivers are not available from our program. However, there are resources available for domestic applicants who have attended the October Ohio State Graduate Engineering Open House or participated in SROP, McNair Scholars, or Buckeye REU programs. Applicants are encouraged to explore the Big Ten Academic Alliance FreeApp fee waiver program. In rare cases, a faculty member you meet at a conference such as the October Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) Annual Meeting may be able to assist with your application fee: it never hurts to ask faculty directly.          

  7. Research experience can help a PhD applicant gain admission. Applicants are encouraged to do research rotations or volunteer work on projects during their undergraduate years and to strike up conversations with faculty at places like BMES or the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minoritized Scientists (ABRCMS): a conference for historically excluded community college and undergraduate students in STEM. Programs such as the Buckeye REU can provide summer research opportunities that blossom into opportunities to pursue a doctoral degree in graduate school. 

  8. We typically host a visit for admitted students who are being recruited in late Februay or early March. Interested prospective applicants who wish to visit us are welcome to apply to the invitation-only October Ohio State Graduate Engineering Open House run in collaboration with the College of Engineering Office of Graduate Education -- or you may contact faculty directly to set up a meeting if you find yourself passing through Columbus. Be sure to provide as much advance notice as possible as faculty and graduate student schedules are busy and get booked far in advance. There also will be a zoom session held in November for applicants seeking to learn more about applying to the graduate program. More details about the November Zoom will be posted here in the coming weeks.  

  9. Graduate school application goals and processes differ from undergraduate ones. Some applicants think of admission as guaranteed if their background and credentials are strong enough; in graduate school, background and credentials are only part of the equation. Here, our BMEGSC members know we need to be able to accommodate a student's educational needs and interests; if we feel we are not the best fit for an MS applicant, or if we cannot find openings in a funded lab for a potentially strong doctoral student, we may not be able to offer admission. For these reasons, results can feel surprising when an application is denied admission. Elements beyond an applicant's control such as the timing of grant awards, vacancies in particular labs, or even delayed graduations here in the program can factor into a program's ability to recruit specific applicants. We want applicants to feel reassured that the Graduate Studies Coordinator and BMEGSC Chair are working with our faculty to make sure our program is able to admit as many graduate students as we can. For these reasons, the number of applicants we admit is fluid throughout a recruitment season; we set no limits ahead of time.      

  10. We admit only those PhD applicants we can fund. All applicants to the PhD program are considered for possible funding through GRA appointments and Fellowship competitions. Fellowships are scholarships that allow students to hit the ground running in a specific faculty lab, or that can provide space and time for research rotations. Typically, when a fellowship is awarded, it comes with a chance to be funded in future years in the lab of a highly interested faculty member. Students who are admitted with a fellowship and choose to do lab rotations must work closely with the Graduate Studies Coordinator and BMEGSC Chair to ensure that continued funding can be arranged. Students recruited to a specific lab with a GRA are essentially being offered a job with a given supervisor; the position itself is connected to the faculty member and cannot be taken to a different lab. We practice what is known as a faculty- or mentor-admit admission model. Other programs may offer a departmental or committee-admit, where funding is not connected to a sole faculty member. It is good to remember the pros and cons of each as you explore graduate programs. 

  11.  BS/MS applicants should contact Ashlynn Fisher to learn all about combined program application details and tips. Traditional MS and PhD applicants are encouraged to apply for Autumn semester start: this is when our introductory graduate courses are offered and the only time to attend a new graduate student orientation featuring many welcome week activities. Incoming new students are more readily able to form bonds and build community in Autumn. That said, if a graduation delay or a special case requires Spring admission for a January start, it is doable -- just less common and less ideal.   

  12. How long does it take to hear of an admission decision? We review files on a rolling basis starting in December all the way through February and March, keeping some PhD applications open until May in case new, unexpected grants or funding sources result in a faculty member's ability to recruit a new student. (Most MS application decisions are made by March, unless there are incomplete items keeping us from posting.) This means some PhD applications are admitted early and others remain on a frequently reviewed "hold" list; unfortunately, the alternative to holding would be a deny decision. What feels like a long and stressful period of waiting can turn into a chance at late admission or an unexpected funding award. This trade-off can work out for PhD applicants. However, all applicants who have received funding and admission offers from another program or school definitely should accept those offers by April 15 rather than waiting for a slim chance here after April 15.   

  13. The graduate application process is managed collaboratively by the Graduate Studies Office within BME and the Office of Graduate and Professional Admissions at the University level. The tips above are aimed at making our admission process more transparent; easier to navigate; and worth your time, money, and energy. None of the things mentioned here are designed to discourage interested applicants. We hope we have provided helpful ideas and a more clear sense of all the moving parts behind the scenes of graduate program application. We welcome additional questions, and your patience is always appreciated during the busy recruitment season.

Learn more about the structure and curriculum requirements for each graduate degree program. 

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