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PhD Admission Standards

Prior to commencing graduate study, applicants must have received a bachelor's degree from an accredited institute, college, or university. Although no single field of undergraduate specialization is required, applicants to the Physics PhD program must have a thorough undergraduate background in the Sciences, and are expected to have mastered basic material in Physics and Mathematics (calculus through differential equations). In addition, a background in Astronomy, Biology or Chemistry may be needed in preparation for the focus of the intended graduate studies.

College physics - intermediate level Mechanics, Electricity & Magnetism, Statistical Mechanics, and Quantum Mechanics - will be especially important in determining your preparation for graduate studies. The PhD program of study does not include refresher material and applicants are expected to have completed some advanced physics courses.

All aspects of an application will be thoroughly considered during the holistic evaluation process. Applicants should have a grade point average equivalent to 3 or better on a 4-point scale in their Bachelor or Master degree courses. Subject area course grades above 3.5 and/or a trend of increasing GPA are considered positive indicators for applications.

International applicants should be aware of University requirements for English language proficiency. This link provides more information.

Master's Degree Applicants

Our graduate program is currently structured to support PhD-seeking students. MS-seeking students must communicate with the graduate program coordinator prior to being considered for admission.

Application Requirements

The Department of Physics & Astronomy requires all PhD applicants to submit all application materials including transcripts online through the ApplyYourself system. Following is a list of material that needs to be completed and submitted through ApplyYourself for the review process.

  1. Completed Application: Read the ApplyYourself application carefully. Omitted information can delay the processing of your application. Please select the Physics & Astronomy department on the appropriate line of your application and pick your subfield or subfields of interest.
  2. Transcripts: Unofficial transcripts are acceptable to complete the admissions application and can be scanned or e-mailed directly to graduate@utah.edu. For foreign institutions, include transcripts in the original language and official English translations if the original language is not English.  A GPA of 3.0 or higher is required for admission without a petition. The Admission Committee will take into consideration the impact of COVID-19 on grades including N/NP, C/NC, and withdrawals.
  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.
  4. Personal Statement (3 parts):
    i)Describe something related to physics or astronomy that you find exciting.
    ii)Discuss your goals for graduate school and your future career, and how these goals match the opportunities offered by the research programs in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Note departmental faculty researchers with whom your research interests align or to whom you have reached out. 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.
    In Parts i and ii, limit your narratives to a maximum of 500 words each for a total of 1,000 words.
    iii) Provide a table listing relevant courses that you have taken in your previous studies that have prepared you for graduate studies in Physics and Astronomy at the University of Utah. Please list, for each course, the title, your grade, and the name of the institution. In the table, list separately lower division undergraduate courses, upper division and/or graduate level general physics courses; and upper division and/or graduate level specialized courses (e.g. condensed matter physics, atomic and molecular physics, high energy physics, biophysics, etc). Applicants should use the allotted space in Apply Yourself to address letter grades below B in relevant courses. Below is an example table of courses. 
    Category Course Number Title Grade Institution
    Upper division, specialization PHYS5670 Stellar Astrophysics A- University of Utah
    PHYS5020 Condensed Matter Physics B University of Utah
    Upper division, general Phys3101 Mechanics I B+ University of Utah
    PHYS4500 Quantum Theory B+ University of Utah

    *Table for illustrative purposes only. If you have questions about formatting your personal statement please email admissions@physics.utah.edu

  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 PhD applicants. During the first 10 semesters of PhD study, The University of Utah Graduate School or the Department of Physics and Astronomy will cover tuition and student health insurance premiums for semesters when a graduate student receives one of these assistantships.
  6. GRE Scores: Neither the General GRE nor the Physics GRE are required. The GRE section of the Apply Yourself application is only optional and any submitted scores will not be considered in the evaluation.
  7. CV/Résumé: Do not include pictures. Abstracts or research papers may be included as a supplement along with a brief preface explaining your specific contribution to the research.
  8. For International Applicants Only: An official report of scores from: International English Language Testing System, the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), or Duolingo are mandatory as part of the application. All test dates must be within two years of admission for scores to be valid. Read the full list of requirements from Admissions.
  9. Interview: Applicants may be asked to participate in a brief interview with a small panel of faculty and staff. The interview acts as a supplement to the personal statement and no preparation, planning, or practice is required.

All applications are evaluated for: program specific preparation, academic performance, research potential, persistence and determination, long term goals, scholarly engagement, leadership/community involvement, and communication skills. It’s important to convey how this particular program will aid in achieving your long term goals.

Evaluation

Application review begins January 16th and continues through February. Incomplete or late applications are not considered. The recommendations of the Admissions Committee are sent to the Graduate Admissions Office of the University of Utah. The formal decision on admission is made by the University's Graduate Admissions Office, which will then notify you directly of its decision. Please note that on rare occasions the Graduate Admissions Office may decide against the recommendation of the Physics & Astronomy Department; consequently the letter from the Physics & Astronomy Department does not constitute formal acceptance.

Official TOEFL scores can be sent through ETS using the following codes:

ETS Codes:
TOEFL inst. 4853 - dept. 76 (under "Physical Sciences")
TOEFL is only one of a few ways to show English proficiency. See the entire list here: https://admissions.utah.edu/english-proficiency/ 

Please submit ALL required materials via:

ApplyYourself Online Graduate Application


Upon admission, ALL official transcripts must be sent in a sealed envelope to:

Office of Admissions
The University of Utah
201 South 1460 East, Room 250s
Salt Lake City, UT 84112

or via approved Electronic Transcript Services:

admisstranscripts@utah.edu


For more information about the program, requirements, tuition benefits, etc., see our Graduate Handbook. If you have any questions regarding admissions to the University of Utah, please contact:

admissions@physics.utah.edu

Thank you, and we hope to hear from you soon!

The University of Utah is fully committed to policies of nondiscrimination and equal opportunity, and vigorously pursues affirmative action in all programs, activities, and employment with regard to race, color, national origin, sex, age, and status as a handicapped individual.

Religion, sexual orientation, and status as a disabled veteran or veteran of the Vietnam era also are protected under nondiscrimination and equal opportunity employment policies. Evidence of practices not consistent with this policy should be reported to the Office of the President of the University, 801-581-8365. Any false or misleading information provided in the support of this application may result in dismissal from the Graduate School.