The University of Utah
Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Utah

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 coordinator 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?
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 formally. However, applicants must have a thorough undergraduate background in the Sciences, in particular in Physics and/or Astronomy in order to have a good preparation for the graduate studies that they intend to begin. This means that applicants must have mastered basic material in the following areas: Mathematics (calculus through differential equations), Physics (college physics with calculus, including mechanics), Chemistry (inorganic), and, if needed for their particular fields of interest, Astronomy or Biology. Demonstrating a good preparation for the planned graduate studies is a crucial admissions requirement.

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. Yes, the General GRE is expected. The Physics Subject GRE(PGRE) is optional.

Q. Is there a GRE cutoff?

A. No.

Q. Do I need to take the Physics subject GRE?

A. No. The Physics Subject GRE(PGRE) is optional.

Q. What is the residency requirement?

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

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 iBT minimum score of 80 or an IELTS overall minimum band score of 6.5.

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 will review at least three but not more than five 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. ALL official transcripts must be sent to: Office of Admissions, The University of Utah, 201 South 1460 East, Room 250s, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA.
  4. Personal Statement: The personal Statement must include three parts, two pertaining to the applicants' Statement of Purpose in which the applicants are asked to (1) Tell something related to physics or astronomy that they find exciting (500 words maximum); (2) Discuss their goals for graduate school and their future careers, and how these goals match the opportunities offered by the research programs in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. If possible, applicants should identify specific faculty contacts and/or research programs of interest within the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Applicants should also address in this part of the personal statement how their backgrounds and life experiences have contributed to  their decision to pursue a graduate degree (500 words maximum). Part (3) of the personal statement should contain a table listing courses that the applicants have takes in their previous undergraduate or studies which have prepared them for the graduate studies at the University of Utah's Department of Physics and Astronomy. Please list for each course, the course title, the grade as well as the name of the institution where it was taken. List these course in a table, ordered into three categories: (i) Lower division undergraduate studies; (ii) Upper division and/or graduate level general physics courses; (iii) Upper division and/or graduate level physics courses of specialization (e.g. condensed matter physics, atomic and molecular physics, high energy physics, biophysics, etc.) if applicants have taken such courses. Do not list courses in this table which have not directly prepared you for your intended physics graduate studies such as general education course.
  5. Financial Assistance: If you are applying for financial assistance, please indicate this on the ApplyYourself application form. The Department of Physics and Astronomy intends to be able to provide research or teaching assistantships for all qualifying applicants. During the first 10 semesters of graduate study, The University of Utah Graduate School or the Department of Physics and Astronomy will provide a tuition waiver for semesters when a graduate student receives one of these assistantships.
  6. GRE Scores: All applicants should arrange to take the General GRE 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. Submission of the Physics Subject GRE (PGRE) is optional.
  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 November, but the normal time frame is December through the end of January.

Q. Will I be able to get funding?

A. 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. No. 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 will have received 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 should happen during your first year) 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 on or before February 1.

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

A. Send an email to our graduate secretary:

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