Robotics Master's FAQs

Below is a compilation of frequently asked questions by students. If you have any additional questions, please email Joy McManus at joymc@seas.upenn.edu.

Prospective Students | Submatriculants | Transfer Students | Current Students | Alumni


Prospective Students:

  • What advantages does the Robotics Master’s program offer compared to other majors in the School of Engineering? 

ROBO offers you the unique advantage and benefits associated with the GRASP Lab, with interdisciplinary curriculum, while being housed under the CIS department. As a ROBO student, you will receive all of the announcements of GRASP academic and industry related events, as well as the job and internship opportunities that are passed through our email lists from our industry connections and alumni network. The opportunity to do research under the amazing GRASP lab faculty in our lab is in high demand by all, and at your fingertips as a ROBO student as well. I hope this gives you a little bit of an idea and helps answer your question.  

  • Requirements for the personal statement (*also required for internal Accelerated Master's, Master’s transfer and dual Master’s requests)?

External Applicants: Please reference the personal statement recommended guidelines here and copied below.  

Personal Statement – we recommend the following guidelines for the personal statement:

  • No more than two pages in a readable font/size:
  • Use answers to the following questions to guide your writing; please provide detailed and specific examples from academia, industry or research when possible:
    • Why are you interested in this program?
    • What have you done that makes you a great candidate?
    • How will you benefit from the program?
    • How do you plan to contribute to the student community in SEAS while you’re here?
    • Why will you succeed in the program?
    • What will you do/accomplish once you have completed the program?

*For Internal Applicants (Accelerated Masters, Internal Transfers or Dual Master's) - please keep your personal statement to 1 page or less. In addition, feel free to describe your background, why you're interested in the program, if you have any research experience, and what you plan to do with the ROBO degree after graduation.

  • Is there any Financial Aid for the Robotics Master‘s Program?

There is no departmental funding for Master's students. A link to alternative funding sources can be found at - www.cis.upenn.edu/grad/funding.shtml and here for employment opportunities, http://www.cis.upenn.edu/grad/employment.shtml.

  • Is there a “Potential Student” visit day?

After admission decisions have been released in late March/early April, there will be a prospective student visit day for admitted students only.

  • Is the MSE program based on coursework or research?

The Robotics M.S.E. requirements consist of a total of ten courses–at least three foundational courses, five technical elective courses, and at most two general elective courses. The thesis project is optional.

  • Can my TOEFL/IELTS score be waived?

Please reference detailed information on TOEFL/IELTS requirements here and copied below.  

The TOEFL/IELTS requirement is not required for US Citizens/Permanent Residents that reside in the US and for whom English is their native language. It can be waived if an applicant has completed at least three (3) years of academic work on a full-time basis by the time of matriculation at a school where English is the language of instruction or The academic work can be at a university-level institution in the United States, in a country in which English is recognized as the official language or where the medium of instruction is English. If you have less than three (3) years, it will not be waived. If you have questions about this, please email gradstudies@seas.upenn.edu.

For those that attended school outside of the US, the transcript must note that the medium of instruction was in English in order for you to have the test waived. If this information is not noted on the transcript then your school will have to send official verification to our office.

  • How long is the program?

The Robotics MSE program is usually 2 years and requires 10 course units. 

  • Can I transfer courses from other schools to count towards my Master’s degree?

Transferring in a course requires a petition process. Please complete the Graduate Transfer of Credit Petition form, and obtain all related documents. If approved, a maximum of two courses may be transferred to a Master’s program, and credit will only be awarded for courses earning a grade of ‘B’ or higher. A final transcript is required as well and a statement (either on the transcript or in a letter from your undergraduate department) that the course(s) was not counted towards your undergraduate degree. The paper petition form to transfer and additional documents may be submitted to Joy McManus in Levine 459, to start the review process.


Submatriculation and Accelerated Master's Degree Program

  • When should I apply?

You may apply for submatriculation at any point before the start of your senior year at Penn. 

  • Additional Application Requirements for Submatriculants:

In addition to the Penn Engineering requirements, undergraduate applicants must 1) include a personal statement (1 page or less) along with their application; 2) have a minimum cumulative STEM GPA of 3.2 in order to apply. Your application form and personal statement may then be submitted to Joy McManus, in Levine 459, to start the review process

Students that entered Penn as an undergraduate in Fall 2017 or earlier fall under all submatriculation rules. Students who entered undergraduate in Fall 2018 or later, adhere to accelerated master’s rules. Please review our FAQ page for more information.

For students completing their undergraduate degree at Penn and enrolled in a master’s degree as a submatriculant or accelerated master’s student, please note undergraduate status supersedes graduate status. All courses will appear on the student’s undergraduate transcript while still enrolled as an undergraduate.  The graduate degree cannot be conferred until all coursework for the undergraduate degree is complete. Additionally, all coursework for the master’s degree must be completed at Penn – no transfer credit, advanced standing, study abroad, or study away courses will be accepted.  Undergraduate coursework should be completed in eight semesters as a submatriculant; it must be completed in eight semesters under the accelerated master’s. The only exception is for coordinated dual-degree students in M&T and VIPER where students must complete and graduate with both undergraduate degrees in their first ten semesters.

Full information on Submatriculation and the Accelerated Master’s (Fall 2018 and later) can be found on the Engineering Undergraduate Submatriculation page.

Students external to Penn: Students at Bryn Mawr College and Haverford College may apply to the Accelerated Master’s 4+1 program. Full information on this program can be found here.


Internal Transfers & Dual Degree Students

  • I was accepted to another MS program at Penn, could I transfer to the Robotic’s Master Program/can I apply for a dual master's degree?

Due to the high demand we are unable to automatically accept transfer or dual masters requests from students in other Masters programs at Penn. Students who are interested in applying to the Robotics Master's Program from other programs at Penn will be afforded an opportunity to be considered as part of the regular admission process with the deadline of February 1st. Please note that acceptance to the robotics program is highly competitive, and that there are typically many more applicants than places available. Applications will only be accepted after 1 semester is completed in your current program at Penn.

For those that wish to apply:  1) The paper petition form to transfer signed by your current program and personal statement of 1 page or less are required; additional documents including resume, letters of recommendation, etc. are optional. 2) Submitting your transfer application serves as permission to access your original graduate application to Penn; GRE scores are required. 3) All documents must be submitted to Joy McManus in Levine 459 by February 1st. Decisions will be released 6-8 weeks after the deadline.

Additional Information for Internal Transfer Students:

After completing at least one semester in the original program for which you were accepted and matriculated, Penn Engineering master’s students may request to be considered for a transfer to another Engineering Master’s Program by submitting the Transfer to Another Graduate Group form. Completed applications should be submitted to the RAS office no later than the add/drop deadline of the student’s third semester. As with the request to be considered for a dual degree, candidates are expected to have the appropriate background for the second master’s program. They will be evaluated by both their original program and the new program to which they wish to transfer. Each on-campus student is only allowed to submit one transfer application during their studies at Penn Engineering. Incomplete applications or those submitted after the deadline noted above will not be reviewed.

Please note program transfers are for on campus programs only.

Additional Information for Dual Master's Students:

Students interested in pursuing dual master degrees in Penn Engineering should submit an Application for the Dual Master’s Degree in Penn Engineering after completing at least one semester with a minimum GPA of 3.50. Completed applications should be submitted to the RAS Office no later than the add/drop deadline of third semester. Approval and signatures of the Program Directors from both departments along with a personal statement explaining why they wish to pursue the dual degree is required.  Students must complete a minimum of sixteen (16) course units including up to four (4) course units that satisfy both degree requirements as indicated on the application. Each on-campus student is only allowed to submit one dual master’s degree application during their studies at Penn Engineering. If a student who has been approved for a dual degree decides to graduate with just one of the two degrees, the student can only drop the later program but not the original program that the student was admitted into. Incomplete applications or those submitted after the deadline noted above will not be reviewed.

Please note dual degrees are only approved for on campus programs.

  • How do I submit a recommendation letter?

Please have your letter writer email their letter directly to the ROBO Graduate Coordinator, joymc@seas.upenn.edu.


Current Students:

  • How do I select an advisor?

A welcome email will be sent to all admitted students that accepted their admission after June 1st with details on course selection and advisor preferences. There is no need to reach out to an advisor ahead of time since we will be assigning the students to our faculty members.

  • How do I request a permit to enroll in a class or to be added to a waitlist? 

For CIS, you may use this form: https://forms.cis.upenn.edu/waitlist/index.php

Other Departments: you may email the faculty member directly. 

  • I would like a course to be counted as a technical elective, how can I do that?

Students are welcome to petition for a course to be counted as a technical elective with valid reasoning, but it is not a guaranteed approval. Here is the form that you will need to fill out and have signed by your ROBO faculty advisor. Once complete, please submit the form to Joy McManus in Levine 459 or in the plastic sleeve on the door. 

https://grad.seas.upenn.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Petition-for-Action-form_Oct-2018.pdf

  • Are there any TA/RA positions available in your department?

TA positions are provided through the departments. RA positions through the GRASP Lab are limited and setup directly with the faculty. Students may inquire about these opportunities towards the end or after their first semester on campus.

  • A new course is available but not on the Robotics master’s list, can I count it towards my degree?

Any graduate level course (500 level or above) in Mathematics, MCIT, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering or Mechanical Engineering, will automatically count as a general elective. If you feel you have good reasoning, you may petition for it to count as a technical elective, but it is not a guaranteed approval: https://grad.seas.upenn.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Petition-for-Action-form_Oct-2018.pdf

  • (International Students) If I plan to graduate with ten courses taken, do I have to take three courses for two semesters and four courses for one semester? 

Many ROBO students decide to take courses with these splits 3-3-2-2 or 3-2-3-2 in the Fall and Spring Semesters. Some have also split up their courses 3-3-3-1. Summers are usually set aside for internships (CPT for International students) and research opportunities. The program is very flexible in that way! In all cases, international students must apply for a Reduced Course Load (RCL) during any semester they take under 3 courses. 

F-1/J-1 students are required to maintain full-time enrollment during the academic year.  If you cannot/will not meet the requirement, complete a Request for Reduced Course Load (RCL) and, if you have any questions, meet with an ISSS advisor to discuss your request. Details on the process for applying for a RCL may be found here.

  • Is it possible to transfer to another MSE program in SEAS?

Yes, you may apply to transfer to another Master's Program after the completion of your first semester. Please see corresponding MSE program requirements. 

  • I need a letter to (examples listed): (1) verify my Full-time status, (2) verify that I am in good academic standing, (3) verify my expected date of graduation, (4) verify my dates of enrollment, (5) verify my degree awarded, (6) confirm that Penn does not rank students, or (7) invitation letter for graduation ceremony? 

Use the “Request a Letter” Form here: https://grad.seas.upenn.edu/student-handbook/forms/


Alumni:

  • How do I get my Alumni email? 

Here are instructions for receiving your alumni email: https://www.alumni.upenn.edu/s/1587/gid2/16/interior.aspx?sid=1587&gid=2&pgid=15207

  • How do I request a letter:

Email rasforms@seas.upenn.edu with your specific request.

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