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Graduate Program

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Due to COVID-19, GRE scores will not be accepted for consideration in graduate applications for the fall of 2021. Our admissions committee recognizes the disruptive effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on coursework and research during 2020 and will account for it in the review process.

All applicants to the graduate program must have a Bachelor's degree in Physics, Astronomy, or a related area upon their arrival, and a minimum Junior-Senior GPA of 3.0. The graduate admission FAQ describes the typical GRE and TOEFL scores that are required for admission. Be sure to read the requirements for admission to the Graduate School before preparing your application. To begin the application process, go to the admissions site for the Graduate School. Complete the on-line application form for the Ph.D. program of the Dept of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University Park campus of Penn State University. This form will ask you for:

  • Your biographical information.
  • Your educational background.
  • Your work experience.
  • A PDF version of your curriculum vitae.
  • Your scores from the Graduate Record Examinations. You must take the GRE general test, GRE physics subject test, and have the official scores transmitted to Penn State University. Minimum thresholds for GRE scores are not applied during the review of applications. These normal GRE requirements do not apply to applications for fall of 2021, as indicated at the top of this page.
  • The names and addresses of three people familiar with your qualifications for graduate school.
  • Separate statements in response to each of the following prompts:
    • Please describe your research interests and experience. When possible, include examples of your initiative, creativity, perseverance, and ability to work independently in the description of your previous research.
    • Please describe your career goals (e.g., teaching, research, science writing, industry) and why you wish to pursue your graduate studies at Penn State.
    • If you wish, you are welcome to describe any additional aspects of your background or interests that are relevant to your application, such as life events that have affected your career path, obstacles or challenges that you have overcome, or causes about which you are passionate (e.g., diversity, outreach). Feel free to discuss any challenges that you have faced from COVID-19.
  • Scores from the TOEFL (Test Of English as a Foreign Language) examination for international students (with the exceptions noted below). A score of at least 620 on the paper test, 260 on the computer based test, or 105 on the internet-based (iBT) test are viewed most favorably, but a lower score does not exclude consideration. In addition, Penn State University also requires a minimum of 19 points on the new speaking portion of the iBT test. Applicants with iBT speaking scores between 15 and 18 may still be considered for provisional admission. Provisional admission requires an institutional test of English proficiency upon first enrollment and, if necessary, remedial course work. The minimum composite score for the IELTS is 6.5. Students who have received a baccalaureate or a masters degree from a college/university/institution in Australia, Belize, British Caribbean and British West Indies, Canada (except Quebec), England, Guyana, Republic of Ireland, Liberia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Scotland, the United States or Wales are excepted from this requirement.
  • Electronic copies of transcripts (or equivalent documents for institutions outside the U.S.) from all post-secondary institutions attended, in the language of instruction (and official English translation if the language of instruction is not English). Applicants who accept an offer of admission will be notified by the Graduate School that official/original transcripts and documents must be sent from the originating institutions in the official language of the institution(s) attended (and if the language of instruction is not English, an official English translation must also be sent). The Graduate School will review all official documents to finalize the offer of admission.  An offer of admission will be revoked if official/original documents are not received by the Graduate School within specified deadlines, or if official/original documents differ from the copies uploaded by the applicant prior to the offer of admission.  For applicants whose degree conferral is in progress at the time of uploading copies, the deadline specified for receipt of official/original documents will allow for the passage of the reported date of degree conferral, and that conferral must be confirmed on the official/original documents received by the Graduate School, in order for the offer of admission to be finalized.
  • Temporary provisions for English proficiency due to COVID-19

In order for an application to be given fullest consideration, all application materials must arrive by January 6. Late applications may also be considered, but first consideration for admission and financial aid will be given to those which arrive by the deadline. Typically, first year students are awarded teaching assistantships and full tuition is waived. The strongest applicants may receive fellowships, either in place of a teaching assistantship, or in addition to it.

The application fee is $65. If it presents a financial hardship, you are welcome to apply for a fee waiver by contacting the chair of graduate admissions, Kevin Luhman. Please include your CV.