FAQ's

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Frequently Asked Questions

*Please note that the department is undergoing major changes to its graduate program. The information below will be updated as soon as it becomes available, but to avoid confusion, please contact our graduate secretary via phone: 801-581-6861, or email:

What kind of academic background is required?
What are you really looking for in an applicant?
What is the GPA cutoff?
Is the GRE required?
Is there a GRE cutoff?
Do I need to take the Physics subject GRE? What if I have already taken the GRE?
What is the residency requirement?
What is the Common Exam?
Is there a TOEFL cutoff?
What is the Versant Spoken Language Test and do I need to take it?
What application materials do I need to submit?
How do I apply?
When is the best time to start the application process?
Will I be able to get funding?
How do I get health insurance?
Can I mail my application?
How will I know if I was accepted?
When will offer letters be mailed out?
Do you accept applications for Spring semesters?
Do I have to have my reference letters submitted online?
Do I need to submit financial support documentation?
What is the application fee?
Can the application fee be waved?
How can I get information on the department or copies of the admissions forms electronically?
Do I have to contact a faculty member to support my admission?
I haven't received a decision yet. How can I learn my status?
I received an offer letter. How do I accept? How do I decline?
I've been put on a waiting list by the department. Now what?
How do I become a Teaching Assistant or Research Assistant?
What is a Tuition Benefit?
I'm on a tuition waver. How many credits do I sign up for?
How long will my application take to process?
What is the application deadline?
Who can I ask if I can't find my question answered here?

 

Q. What kind of academic background is required?

A. First and foremost, applicants must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited institute, college, or university, beyond that, no single field of undergraduate specialization is required. However, applicants must have a thorough undergraduate background in the Sciences, and are have mastered basic material in the following areas: Mathematics (calculus through differential equations), Physics (college physics with calculus, including mechanics), Chemistry (inorganic), and Biology.

Q. What are you really looking for in an applicant?

A. Besides what is listed above, the admissions committee appreciates specifics. If you have a particular field of study, or a specific career which you would like to go into, be sure to state it in your letter of intent. Also, it never hurts to contact professor(s) in our department who do research that you are interested in, and asking for more information, as a way of establishing a connection and introducing yourself.

Q. What is the GPA cutoff?

A. All applicants must have a 3.0 on a 4-point scale.

Q. Is the GRE required?

A. The requirements have changed recently. For the most up-to-date information, please contact our graduate secretary via phone: 801-581-6861, or email:

Q. Is there a GRE cutoff?

A. Again, the rules have changed recently. For the most up-to-date information, please contact our graduate secretary via phone: 801-581-6861, or email:

Q. Do I need to take the Physics subject GRE? What if I have already taken the GRE?

A. We know it is old hat at this point, but the GRE requirements have changed recently. For the most up-to-date information, please contact our graduate secretary via phone: 801-581-6861, or email:

Q. What is the residency requirement?

A. After 45 credit hours, usually residency is established.

Q. What is the Common Exam?

A. The Common Examination is used to determine whether a student is officially allowed to become a candidate for a Ph.D degree, and is an important indication that the student is progressing. Before passing this exam, a student cannot form a Ph.D supervisory committee. Candidates for the M.S. Degree are not required to take the Common Examination, although the exam is very useful as a diagnostic in determining which courses should be taken upon entering the program. The result of the test is also taken into account in the renewal of teaching assistantships and in nominations for fellowships.

There are major changes happening to the Common Exam policy as well. For further details, please contact our graduate secretary via phone: 801-581-6861, or email:

Q. Is there a TOEFL cutoff?

A TOEFL (Test of English as Foreign Language) is for International students only. All international applicants should have a minimum TOEFL score of 575 on the paper-based test, or 232 on the computer-based test.

Q. What is the Versant Spoken Language Test and do I need to take it?

A. The Versant Spoken Language Test is required for all International students, after they have been accepted into the graduate program. All International students must attend the International Teaching Assistant Workshop (ITA). More information is available here.

Q. What application materials do I need to submit?

  1. Completed ApplyYourself Application: Read the application carefully. Omitted information can delay the processing of your application. Allow processing time of four to six weeks in the Admissions Office. Please state the Physics & Astronomy department on the appropriate line of your application.
  2. Transcripts: Official copies of transcripts from all colleges and universities attended should be sent directly by the institution. The transcripts may also be included with the other application materials if they are in a sealed envelope. For foreign institutions, include official transcripts in the original language and official English translations if the original language is not English.
  3. Letters of Recommendation: The Physics & Astronomy Department requires at least three letters of personal reference from course instructors, research supervisors, or employers who are familiar with your abilities and performance. The reference should use Recommendation Form #1 in ApplyYourself.
  4. Personal Statement: A two-page personal statement (approximately 500 words) outlining your background, research interests (including possible faculty research advisors), goals, and reasons for applying to our graduate program.
  5. Financial Assistance: If you are applying for financial assistance, please indicate this on the ApplyYourself application form.
  6. GRE Scores: All applicants should arrange to take the General GRE and Physics subject GRE tests and have the results sent to the Physics & Astronomy Department. Official scores must be submitted before an applicant can be accepted by the University of Utah. If you desire any additional information concerning GRE tests, visit the GRE website.
  7. For International Applicants Only: TOEFL scores: An official report of scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) will be necessary.

Q. How do I apply?

A. All applications and materials must be submitted through the ApplyYourself portal.

Q. When is the best time to start the application process?

A. The sooner the better if you are hoping to get funding. Applications are sent in as early as October, but the normal time frame is December through the end of January.

Q. Will I be able to get funding?

A. Funding is given out on a first-come first-served basis. Accepted students who included the Financial Aid Application with their application materials receive an offer letter from our department outlining the funding options available. They have until April 15 to either accept or decline the offer. Those who accept the offer early will have a better chance at receiving funding (although if no answer is given by April 15, all funding offers expire).

Q. How do I get health insurance?

A. Subsidized health insurance is offered to Teaching Assistants (TAs) and Research Assistants (RAs). More information is available here.

Q. Can I mail my application?

A. Nope. All applications and materials must be submitted online through the ApplyYourself portal.

Q. How will I know if I was accepted?

A. You will receive 2 letters of acceptance, one from the department, and one from the Admissions Office that will contain your Student ID number and important registration information. Your accepted status is not official until you receive *both* letters.

Q. When will offer letters be mailed out?

A. Offer letters are usually mailed out in the middle of February.

Q. Do you accept applications for Spring semesters?

A. No, we only accept applications for the Fall semesters.

Q. Do I have to have my reference letters submitted online?

A. No. You just need to submit it with your other application materials via the postal service.

Q. Do I need to submit financial support documentation?

A. Only international students must submit documentation of financial support.

Q. What is the application fee?

A. $55 for Domestic applicants, $65 for International applicants on a visa or in need of a visa. Past deadline applications are subject to an additional $30 fee.

Q. Can the application fee be waved?

A. Under certain circumstances, it is possible to waive the application fee. However this is evaluated on a case by case basis. Contact the graduate secretary for more information.

Q. How can I get information on the department or copies of the admissions forms electronically?

A. All forms are available on the Department's website here.

Q. Do I have to contact a faculty member to support my admission?

A. No. However, if you have a specific area of research you would like to study, please put that in your letter of intent.

Q. I haven't received a decision yet. How can I learn my status?

A. If you are anxious about your admission status, you can contact the Graduate Advisor via email at

Q. I received an offer letter. How do I accept? How do I decline?

A. We ask that all applicants who receive an offer letter, inform us of their decision to accept or decline the offer by April 15 so we can ensure as many people as possible are awarded funding.

Q. I've been put on a waiting list by the department. Now what?

A. Our program is fairly competitive, and because of this, we have a lot of highly qualified students who send in their applications. Unfortunately we aren't able to accept all of them. However, a lot can happen between February and July, most often, students get accepted to other graduate schools, or we receive more funding to accept more applicants. Therefore, we place applicants on a waiting list and when a spot opens up, we fill that spot with someone from the waiting list.

Q. How do I become a Teaching Assistant or Research Assistant?

A. Applicants who are accepted with funding normally start out as Teaching Assistants (TA) or Grading Assistants (GA). Only those who are affiliated with a research group (which happens a year or so from your first semester) are eligible to become Research Assistants (RA).

Q. What is a Tuition Benefit?

A. Tuition Benefit covers tuition costs for accepted applicants who have been given funding. However Tuition Benefit does not cover tuition for labs or special fees.

Q. I'm on a tuition waver. How many credits do I sign up for?

A. 9 to 12 credit hours per semester.

Q. How long will my application take to process?

A. Because your application is reviewed in both the Admissions Office and the academic department, it is difficult to estimate the exact amount of time before you receive a final admission decision. Your application and transcripts will be summarized by the Admissions Office and sent to the academic department for consideration. If the department recommends you for admission, they will send a graduate referral form to the Admissions Office. Then, you will be sent an official letter of acceptance from the Admissions Office.

Q. What is the application deadline?

A. All applications and materials must be postmarked by February 1.

Q. Who can I ask if I can't find my question answered here?

A. Send an email to our graduate secretary:

  • Department of Physics & Astronomy • 201 James Fletcher Bldg. 115 South 1400 East, Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0830
  • PHONE 801-581-6901
  • Fax 801-581-4801
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