University of Minnesota
School of Physics & Astronomy

Graduate Program Frequently Asked Questions

Questions about applications

What term of entry should I apply for?

Late applications will not be considered.

What is the deadline?

December 15, 2017 is the deadline for international applications. Early application is advisable.

I missed the deadline for application. May I still apply?

Please email grad@physics.umn.edu to inquire if late applications are being accepted.

I have a degree related to physics. What courses will I need to take before admission?

All four of the core physics courses at the junior or senior undergraduate level are required for full preparation for admission: analytical mechanics, electrodynamics, quantum mechanics, and thermodynamics & statistical physics. Some applicants with unique backgrounds may be allowed to take missing classes after they matriculate.

Is it possible to obtain a degree in Physics at night and on weekends?

No. We do not offer courses at night or on weekends.

What supporting materials are required for application?

Please submit the following materials through our online application system, ApplyYourself:
  1. Unofficial transcripts**
  2. GRE scores
  3. TOEFL score (required for international students)**
  4. Three letters of recommendation
**Official transcripts and TOEFL scores are not required until admission has been offered and accepted by the applicant.

Do you also need to receive official transcript by December 15th?

No, official transcripts are not required for this deadline. Scanned copies are acceptable for the application. If you are accepted to the program and decide to matriculate at the University of Minnesota, official transcripts will be required by the Graduate School before registration.

I have already applied. I just received my GRE and/or TOEFL scores. How do I submit my scores to update my application?

Test scores must be sent directly to the Graduate School from the respective testing centers.

I am an international applicant. I can not send electronic copies of my supporting materials.

Paper copies can be sent directly to the Graduate School. Please note that paper copies will delay the processing of your application.

How can I check the status of my application or application materials?

To check your application status, log into your application through ApplyYourself. You will see the Application for Admission section, which contains updates about the status of your application materials, including letters of recommendation, standardized test scores (like GRE or TOEFL), and transcripts.

Can I change my application after it has been submitted?

Please try to complete your application carefully before you submit. If absolutely necessary, changes to your application can be considered by sending your request to grad@physics.umn.edu. Updated test scores are automatically reflected in the ApplyYourself application system upon receipt of new scores by the Graduate School.

When will I hear if I have been accepted?

A decision regarding your application will be made late February to early April through Apply Yourself.

How many students were admitted to your program last year?

We aim to have 25 to 30 entering students every year.

Can I have an advisor outside of Physics?

Yes, as long as he/she does physics-related research. Please see the list of our graduate faculty members here.

Does everyone who gets admitted have their tuition waived?

We only offer financial support to those applicants admitted to our PhD program. We offer no financial support (tuition benefit, stipend, etc.) to those applicants applying to our Master's Degree program. Please contact grad@physics.umn.edu with any questions.

Application Fee

What is the application fee?

There is a non-refundable $75.00 application fee for U.S. Citizens/Permanent residents and a $95.00 fee for international students.

Can I receive a waiver for the application fee?

No, the Graduate School and the Department will not waive the fee.

Can I defer payment of the application fee until the Department makes a decision?

No, the application fee cannot be deferred. All offers of financial support are pending completion of the application.

Applying for related programs

I want to apply to the Physics program and another graduate program outside of physics. Can I apply to both programs?

Yes, you can apply to both programs but you will need to complete and submit two different applications through ApplyYourself. Please note that this means you will also have to pay two application fees if the other program requires one. You will also have to check with the other program(s) on their admission application requirements. Please see this page for more information.

I am interested in Astrophysics. Do I apply to Physics or Astronomy?

We suggest if your main interest is in cosmology then apply to Physics. If you are interested in astronomy then apply to the Astrophysics program. You can apply to both programs. Please see this page for the Graduate School's policy on applying to more than one program. More information about the Astrophysics program can be found here.

Questions about GPA

I am an international student. The university in our country does not issue grades or GPA. They issue percentage points. How do I translate these numbers in to grades or GPA?

There is no need to translate these numbers in to grades or GPA. You will have the opportunity to specify the grading scale in the online application.

What is the minimum GPA for admission?

While there is no minimum GPA, if your GPA is less than 3.3 the possibility of acceptance is low.

Questions about the GRE

What is the institution code for the GRE?

Our institution code is 6874.

What is the deadline for GRE scores to be considered as part of my application?

GRE scores should be submitted by January 3rd. The unofficial, self-reported score is sufficient for the Physics program to consider your application until the Graduate School receives your official scores.

Do I need to take the GRE if I am only applying to the Master's program in Physics?

Students are admitted for a terminal Master's degree only if they do not need financial support of any kind, including teaching assistantships.

I have taken my GRE, but have not been notified of the score. Can I still apply?

Yes. You can indicate the date of your most recent exam on the Test Information page in the online application. Official GRE scores must be sent directly to the institution from the testing center. Your application will automatically reflect any updated test scores.

Can I be admitted without the GRE?

Yes, the GRE is not an absolute requirement; however, not having the GRE may put you at a slight disadvantage. If the other parts of your application - GPA, research experience and publications, and letters of recommendation - are strong, it will help compensate for not taking the GRE.

What are the average GRE scores of the program's admitted applicants?

The percentile averages for all admitted applicants between 2006-2014 are:
    Verbal average: 68% (standard deviation: 24)
    Quantitative average: 89% (standard deviation: 9)
    Writing average: 46% (standard deviation: 28)
    Physics subject Average: 69% (standard deviation: 21)

Questions about TOEFL

What is the institution code for TOEFL?

Our institution code is 6874.

What is the department code for TOEFL?

The department code is 76.

What are the minimum TOEFL score that you accept?

Your total TOEFL score must be 79. The writing section must be at least 21. The reading section must be at least 19. More information on this University policy can be found here.

How long is my TOEFL score valid?

Your TOEFL score must not be less than two years old from the semester you are accepted. (For instance, if accepted for September 2015. TOEFL must be no older than September 2013.)

By what day do I need to take the TOEFL?

TOEFL results are due by January 2, 2017.

The TOEFL score that I submitted is not high enough for your program. I would like to take the TOEFL again. Will you accept my new scores?

Yes, the results must arrive by January 3rd.

What is your University's policy on TOEFL?

Please see here.

Will you accept copies of my GRE and TOEFL scores for evaluation purposes?

No. GRE and TOEFL scores must be sent directly to the Graduate School from the GRE and TOEFL testing centers.

I do not have my TOEFL scorein time for the application deadline. Can I still submit my application?

Yes. You should note in the "comments section" that your TOEFL score is forthcoming.

I am from an international but English speaking country, do I really need to take the TOEFL?

Exceptions to the English language requirement are made for students who have completed one academic year (nine months) in residence as a full-time student (16 semester credits, 24 quarter credits) in the last 24 months at an institution within the United States or other English-speaking countries. These students are not required to present English language scores for admission, but will be assessed for English proficiency on arrival at the University. The policy can be found here.

Based on the score received on the local test, as many as two English language courses may be assigned in the first semester of enrollment. Contact Laurie Hoppe, assistant to the dean and member of The Graduate School admissions staff, at , or (612)-625-8570, for more information about the countries which require only that students be assessed on arrival.

Questions about letters of recommendation

What is the deadline to submit recommendation letters?


Your application will not be reviewed until at least two letters of recommendation are received. Recommendation letters must be submitted by January 2, 2017 for full consideration of your application.

My references would prefer to send paper letters. How do they get the letters in to the on-line application?

We prefer that your references upload their recommendation letters to the online application system using the log-in information provided to them in their email notification.

How do I know whether or not my references have submitted their letters of recommendation?

Once your recommender has submitted their letter you will automatically receive an email notification from ApplyYourself that the recommendation has been received. You can also check the status of your application and send email reminders to your recommenders through ApplyYourself. Please see here for more information regarding renotifying recommendation letter providers.

Can I submit my application before all of my recommendation letters have been submitted?

Yes. You do not need to wait for your recommendation letters to be submitted before completing your application.

Is it possible to change one of my references after I have submitted my application?
Please check with your references before submitting your application. Choose your references carefully. If you need to make a change, please contact grad@physics.umn.edu.

I am concerned that one of my references will not submit the reference letter on time. Should I add a fourth reference?

No. Please choose your references carefully.