Hi, I'm interested in what a couple of researchers do at MIT and Caltech and I would love the idea of doing a PhD there (theoretical physics). But I don't really know anything about the application process for a US PhD program, so here's a list of questions: How long would a PhD take (typically)? Would it be research + teaching assistant? Would I typically begin by contacting the professors I am interested in? And afterwards (if they like me) go through an application process involving IELTS/TOEFL and GRE? Would I have to hand in a kind of exposé of my planned PhD project (exposé on the basis of which my application will be partly judged)? How selective are PhD programs at MIT or Caltech? Can you give a comparison with e.g. Oxbridge? What about finance? Suppose I get a PhD position: Could I, then, automatically afford actually doing that PhD? Or could I possibly get the position but then have to go home because I can't afford it (I don't have much money saved)? When are deadlines for the PhD programs? Are application processes somewhat transparent/straightforward (again, compared, say, with Oxbridge)?