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Graduate Students

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions about our graduate program

Yes. Although most of our graduate students have undergraduate degrees in either physics or astronomy, we also accept students with engineering and math backgrounds. But a strong foundation in physics is strongly preferred.

No, you can and should apply directly to the Ph.D. program.

No. We only accept students into the Ph.D. program. Students may obtain a Masters Degree en route to the Ph.D., but the ultimate goal of our training is a doctoral degree.

Most of our courses have Astro 501 (Fundamental Astronomy) and Astro 502 (Fundamental Astrophysics) as pre-requisites. Those courses are only taught in the fall. Thus, it is usually not possible to admit students for the spring semester.

All international applicants whose native language is not English or who have not received a baccalaureate or masters degree from an institution in which the language of instruction is English must provide official scores of the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) exam.

Our institutional code is 2660, the Penn State University Park campus. The major field code for Astrophysics is 802. The 801 code (for Astronomy) will also work. You can find these codes on the GRE web site at

Penn State University requires a minimum TOEFL score of 550 on the paper test, 213 on the computer-based test, or 80 on the internet-based (iBT) test. In addition, the University requires a minimum of 19 points on the new speaking portion of the iBT test. (Note, however, that scores between 15 and 18 may still be considered for provisional admission.) The Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics views scores of at least 620 on the paper test, 260 on the computer test, and 105 on the iBT most favorably, but lower scores do not exclude an application from consideration.

In order for an application to be given fullest consideration, all materials must arrive by January 6. Late applications may be considered, but first consideration for admission and financial aid will be given to those which arrive by the deadline.

In general, the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics will support students that are in good academic standing with either a teaching assistantship, a research assistantship, or a fellowship. All entering students are guaranteed support.

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, Jason Wright. Please include your CV.