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Graduate Program

Admission to the Graduate Program

The application process and many admissions requirements are set by the Rutgers School of Graduate Studies. The Physics and Astronomy program reviews all applications and makes recommendations on admissions and support packages.

To obtain the necessary application forms for admission to the Rutgers School of Graduate Studies and Physics and Astronomy program, please:

  • Go to the Rutgers School of Graduate Studies applications overview web page. On-line application is strongly recommended!
  • If you cannot access the application materials on-line, you can request them from:

Office of Graduate and Professional Admissions
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
56 College Ave
New Brunswick, New Jersey 08901, U.S.A.

  • If the above methods fail, or if you have questions, you can contact us at:

Graduate Director
Department of Physics and Astronomy
Rutgers University
136 Frelinghuysen Road
Piscataway, New Jersey 08854-8019 USA

Telephone:    (848) 445-8765
Fax:               (732) 445-4343
Email:   (don’t forget to include your return email address!)

The application process is described at Your application fee and materials must be submitted to the Office of Graduate and Professional Admissions. There is a fee waiver program for "for students who possess qualities and experiences that enhance the diversity of the intellectual, cultural, and social environments at Big Ten Academic Alliance universities." See the FreeApp web page. Otherwise, the fee is not normally waived, but can be deferred. Supplementary materials (letters of recommendation, transcripts, etc.) should also be sent to the Office of Graduate and Professional Admissions. Please be sure to ask that supplementary material indicates that you are applying to the Physics and Astronomy program. Most materials, including letters of recommendation, can now be submitted on-line.

Special note for fall 2021 applicants: The paragraph after this describes the usual GRE requirements. Taking the GRE has been complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, both the general and Physics subject GRE exams will be optional for all fall 2021 applicants.

All applicants must take the general Graduate Record Examination (GRE) tests, administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). Generally, the physics subject test is required for physics Ph.D. applicants and M.S. applicants; it is optional for astronomy Ph.D. applicants (starting with Fall 2020 admissions). There is no minimum required GRE score for admission. Applicants whose native language is not English are also required by the Graduate School to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). A score of at least 550 (paper based), 213 (computer based), or, writing-22, speaking-23, reading-21, listening-17 (internet based) on the TOEFL is usually required for admission; a score of at least 600 (paper)/230 (computer) /95 (internet-based combined) is usually expected for candidates for a teaching assistantship appointment. Information is available on the web for the GRE and TOEFL exams, and for the ETS. Or, write to the Educational Testing Service, P.O. Box 6000, Princeton, New Jersey 08541-6000, and request information on the GRE and TOEFL exams. (Some summary information about the GRE is provided here.) To ensure that the GRE scores are promptly reported to our Admissions Committee, we recommend that applicants for September admissions should take the GRE tests in the previous October, although scores from the previous December tests can also be considered. For January admissions, we recommend that applicants take the August GRE tests.

A cumulative grade-point average of 3.0 or better in undergraduate courses is normally required for admission. Admissions decisions are based on the undergraduate record, GRE examination scores, personal statement, and letters of recommendation. The review process generally starts by mid January with the first admissions offers being made about the end of January. Generally final decisions are made before April 15 on all completed applications received by February. While late applications may be considered, admission and financial support depend on availability of positions. In order to receive full consideration for financial aid, applicants should submit all materials (application, transcripts, and letters of recommendation) before January 1 for fall admission and before November 1 for spring admission.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How important is undergraduate research?
    Very important. The Ph.D. is a research based degree - you will spend most of your time as a Ph.D. student engaged in research. Letters from faculty who supervised your undergraduate research are important for estimating your abilities here.
  • How important is the GRE?
    Many schools are re-evaluating the importance of the GRE. For students admitted to our program there is little correlation between GRE scores and probability of getting a Ph.D., but students admitted mostly have around average or higher physics GRE scores. Different subfields place different amounts of emphasis on the physics and general GREs - almost none in some cases - so try talking to faculty in your areas of interest.
  • Is there a minimum GPA for admission?
    You must have a 3.0 GPA - an average grade of B or better. For students whose GPAs are closer to 3 than to 4, you are a stronger applicant if your advanced undergraduate physics / astronomy / math course GPA is closer to 4 than 3.
  • I was not an undergraduate physics major. Can I be admitted?
    Yes. But we want to be confident that you can succeed, so it is important that you have taken advanced undergraduate physics courses. It is very difficult to succeed at the graduate level if you have not.
  • Is is easier to apply for an MS degree?
    Since we do not offer or guarantee support to MS students, and research is not required to the same degree as for Ph.D. students, we do not evaluate M.S. applicants as strictly as Ph.D. candidates. We do want to be confident that M.S. candidates are able to handle the graduate course work, since courses form the bulk of their degree requirements.
  • What support is available to students?
    Ph.D. students are supported as TAs (~40%), as GAs funded by research grants (~40%), and by a variety of external or internal Fellowship funds and other university funded positions (~15%). The unsupported students are typically senior students who have not quite finished their Ph.D.s but have despite this started a potentially permanent (non-academic) position or they are partially supported as PTLs (part time lecturers, paid per course.) M.S. students can also take PTL appointments. TA and GA appointments include tuition, fees, and health insurance. Fellows get a higher stipend, but limited tuition support and different health insurance. PTLs only get a paycheck, and have to cover their tuition, fees, and insurance thenselves.
  • Can I enter as an M.S. student and then change to a Ph.D. student?
    Currently we are generally required to guarantee support to all Ph.D. students for 5 years. Thus we have in recent times been requiring M.S. students who want to become Ph.D. students to go through the Ph.D. admissions process and be compared to other applicants. As an M.S. student, you will have the advantage, or possibly disadvantage, of being well known to the faculty when you become a Ph.D. applicant.
  • Can I enter in January?
    We usually admit for September, since the graduate course sequence starts in the fall term, and we typically do not have available resources for new Ph.D. students starting in January.
  • Can I apply for the Spring semester as an M.S student with no support?
    You can always apply for any admission date. We are more likely to admit M.S. students in January than Ph.D. students, due to the issues of course sequence and support. Starting in January would mainly make sense for an M.S. student who should start by taking some advanced undergraduate courses.
  • What is an acceptable minimum score for the IELTS test (as alternative to the TOEFL test)?
    Information in the IELTS and TOEFL tests, along with other information for international students, can be found at
  • When do I get an adviser?
    You are free to make arrangements to work with faculty with mutual interests at any point, starting from the summer before you begin graduate school. New students are expected to find an adviser by the end of their first year.

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Last revised November 21, 2019