FAQs - Max Planck School of Photonics

General information
Application process
Life in Germany

General information

Why should I apply?

The Max Planck School of Photonics supports and educates excellent students within a novel program in the form of a postgraduate school, which stands out through its German wide network of excellent Fellows. The Fellows are scientists in the field of photonics and practice at institutes from universities, Max Planck Institutes, Fraunhofer Institutes, Leibniz Institutes und Helmholtz Research centers. Next to the professional training, a goal is the interconnection of students and excellent researchers. With this, the participants of the School are integrated actively into the photonic network in Germany.

How many students are in the school?

Yearly, we accept 20 students for the program in the first phase (Master’s studies) and 40 students for the second phase (PhD project). In total and in the steady state, MPSP will comprise approximately 40 students in the first phase and 120 the second phase.

Can I choose at which university I will perform the Master's studies?

Yes, please inform yourself on the three different study courses at the universities in Erlangen, Jena and Karlsruhe before you apply. During the application process you can indicate your preferences. You may either choose one university only, apply a ranking of your preferences, or indicate if you have no preferences at all. We will consider your preferences in the application process very seriously. However, after submission of your application, you cannot influence the final decision.

Can I choose at which university I will perform my PhD research?

Potential PhD research topics offered by our Fellows can be found here. Please inform yourself about the topics and the working groups. During the application process you can indicate up to five research topics, that you are interested in. Your choices will be considered in the application process and the matching between Fellow and PhD student is one of the most important steps in the application process. If you start the program in the first phase, you will have many chances to figure out your research interests and get in contact with our Fellows to identify potential topics.


Who can apply for the MPSP program?

By the time of admission into the program, applicants must have completed a Bachelor and/or Master's degree (B.Sc., B.Eng., or B.Tech. and M.Sc., M.Eng. or M.Tech.) with significant exposure to physics, engineering or a related subject depending on the program you apply for. More information on the required documents is available here.

Can I apply although I have not (yet) finished my current academic degree?

Yes, you can apply with a Transcript of Records (ToR) including the marks of all completed courses so far. However, if you are offered a place at the school you will have to provide the original final transcript and you academic degree certificates (as well as certified translations if necessary) with the start of the program at the latest.

Am I required to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) general test and the GRE subject test?

Your application will be much stronger if you provide either a Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) general test or a GRE subject test (either in mathematics or physics). Thus, we recommend including such a test in your application. However, if you are unable to do a GRE test in time before the application deadline, but you can proof your excellent skills in a different way, the GRE test is not mandatory and your application will also be considered without it.

Is there a minimum GRE scores?

We consider the GRE score among other criteria based on the student full application. Therefore, there is no hard limit.

Am I required to submit a certificate of proficiency in English?

Yes, solid knowledge of the English language is necessary for success in the program which will be conducted entirely in English. A proof of English proficiency is given by

  • TOEFL, or an equivalent English test (minimum points/grades): TOEFL PBT (550), TOEFL CBT (215), TOEFL IBT (85), IELTS (6.5), or
  • Cambridge English Proficiency (CPE) exam or Cambridge English Advanced (CAE) exam, or
  • German "Abitur" with comprehensive coverage of the English language.
  • Language exemptions: The following students are exempted from providing the proof of English proficiency: nationals from the USA, U.K., Ireland, Australia, New Zealand or Canada; or B.Sc. or M.Sc. graduates who obtained their qualification in one of these countries.

Application process

When and where can I apply?

The application process will be possible via an online platform, and the link is published on the same website. Admission for the academic year 2019/2020 will start on November, 1 and closes on December, 15 2019. There, applicants have to fill in their personal information and submit relevant documents including school leaving certificates, certificates of Bachelor’s and Master’s degree studies, a comprehensive curriculum vitae, a letter of motivation, two letters of recommendation, a proof of English language proficiency, and, if available, GRE score (general test or mathematics/physics subject test).
The application portal has two tracks. One track is for applicants with Bachelor’s degree that want to enter the first phase (Master’s degree) of the program. During the application process, preferences for the teaching university can be indicated. The second track is for applicants with Master’s degree that want to enter the second phase (PhD project) of the program. Here, students apply directly for up to five research topics provided by the MPSP-Fellows.
Applications via email cannot be considered.

How do I apply to the school?

Applying to the Max Planck School of Photonics is a two-step process. In the first step, you will have to complete the registration form. After completing the registration form, you will receive an email confirmation. This email will contain your MPSP registration ID, which is required in the second step of the application process where you will upload your application files.

What are the required documents to apply?

The list of all documents required in the application process can be found here.

Can I save the data of my application completing it later?

Once you have started the online registration form with your personal data, this form has to be completed in one run. Before entering your data, make sure that you have all necessary information available. The upload of your documents does not necessarily have to be completed in one step, but you may login at any date before the deadline to upload remaining documents. Note, once you have submitted the application including all uploads, no further changes can be made. Note also that unfinished applications cannot be completed after the application deadline and will not be considered.

What should I include in the curriculum vitae (CV)?

Please list all stages of your education in chronological order. The CV must contain a clear statement about your current status and/or occupation including information on current employment, unemployment, or parental leave. Any prizes, scholarships, extraordinary social, cultural or sportive activities may also be part of your CV.

What is the "school leaving certificate"?

It is the school certificate with which you gained qualification for admission to a university or another higher academic institution (e.g. the Abitur in Germany, International Baccalaureate, the graduation of a high school in the USA, the A-Levels of a British Grammar School, etc.).

Do I need to upload transcripts from my Bachelor and/or Master studies?

Please upload transcripts from all your degree-level studies. In fact, these documents are highly important to support you application.

How should I provide my letters of recommendation?

A template for this will be available in the here; however, it is not mandatory to be used by the referees. Please make sure that each letter of recommendation is signed. If one or both referees rather prefer personalized, free-style recommendation letters, they should contain a date and an official headline/stamp from the higher education institution the referee is affiliated with.

What if one of my recommenders does not provide a letter?

You need two letters of recommendation for you application. We cannot make any exceptions, please ask another person for the letter of recommendation.

How many potential supervisors or research topics from the school should I mention in the application?

During the application process applicants for the PhD phase of the MPSP can identify up to five different research topics from five supervisors. For the qualification phase (Master program) you will be supported to find a supervisor for internships and Master thesis at a given time of your personal study program.

How many students will be accepted per year?

Admission to the school is highly competitive. We will accept 20 students for the first phase (Master studies) and about 30 for the second phase (PhD Research) in the academic year 2019-2020.     

When will I get feetback on my application?

You will receive automatic feedback after completion of your applications confirming receipt. Applicants will further be notified continuously via email on the status of their application. Shortlist applicants will be contacted personally in February 2019 and informed on further steps of the application process, e.g. phone interviews. The final decision will be announced prospectively until end of March 2019.

Life in Germany

What is the funding for students?

During the first phase of the program, Master’s degree students receive stipends of 1365 Euro plus 100 Euro for health insurance (if applicable) and additional 200 Euro bonus per month from the Max Planck Society. During the second phase (PhD project) of the program, the students are employed by the university or research institute of the respective MPSP-Fellow with a full position (TV-L/TVöD E13, 100%).

Where will students live during the duration of the program?

Students are expected to arrange for their own housing during the duration of the program. We provide help with finding appropriate accommodation in dormitories and finding apartments or shared flats. 

Who can I contact if I have any questions?

Please feel free to contact our coordination team at any time via email .

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