Frequently Asked Questions

Our application deadline is usually December 1 (for international students) and January 1 (for domestic students) for the entering class arriving the following fall. However, since our goal is to admit the strongest possible set of students into our program, we try to remain flexible about these deadlines and will often consider applications which arrive later. Therefore, even though it is to your advantage to ensure that your application arrives as early as possible, you should not refrain from applying simply because the deadline may have passed. Please note that we do not admit students to begin in the spring semester, except in extremely rare circumstances. If in doubt, please contact us directly.

Yes.  The general GRE exam is optional and the Physics GRE will not be accepted.  Therefore, you can complete the application without a GRE score.

Yes.  Please submit (online!) all other materials by the deadline date and indicate when you took the exam(s) and expect to get the results.  If necessary, we can hold your application until the scores arrive.

Yes.  Copies of these scores are fine for initial review.  If you are accepted into our program, we will require official (original) TOEFL scores.

Since the application fee is collected by our Graduate College which oversees the graduate admissions process, the Department of Physics is unfortunately not in a position to waive the application fee. The Graduate College will not process your application, or issue a final offer of admission, without the fee.

Just fill out the personal information at the top of the form, and sign the bottom.

Email addresses of recommenders need to be submitted online as part of the application. The recommenders will be contacted to submit their letter online.

No. Admissions decisions are made for our department as a whole, and are not specifically connected to any particular research group. A committee of faculty members drawn from all branches of physics will consider your application. If you are admitted, you are free to work with any faculty member in our department (and even with Arizona faculty members elsewhere on our campus working in related disciplines). You are never admitted for the sole purpose of working with any particular faculty member. Therefore, while you are always free to contact individual faculty members about their research interests and opportunities, you should not feel compelled to do so in order to gain admission to our program.

All students admitted to our Ph.D. program are guaranteed funding in their first years, either in the form of a Teaching Assistantship (TA) or a Research Assistantship (RA). Our department also strives to ensure that this funding continues as long as you are making progress towards the Ph.D.; however, we cannot guarantee funding beyond your second year.

Students in our Medical Physics Master's program are not guaranteed funding. In this respect, our Medical Physics Master's program is similar to other professional programs such as those in law or business. However, there are often funding opportunities available for Medical Physics Master's students, whether through our department or elsewhere on campus (or even off-campus). Therefore, if you are interested in our Medical Physics Master's program but require financial assistance, our best advice is to send us an application and contact us for more information.

Unfortunately, we are not able to do this. We typically receive hundreds of such inquiries, and we do not have the personnel to consider each one. Moreover, since our admissions decisions are based on many factors, it would be potentially misleading to provide an estimate on the basis of only partial information. As a rough guide, however, we can say that the typical student who is admitted to our Ph.D. graduate program has the following characteristics:

  • undergraduate research experience, if possible 
  • enthusiastic letters of recommendation from research advisors or undergraduate professors 
  • and a strong, compelling Statement of Research Interests which shows both scientific maturity and a strong rationale for pursuing graduate physics research at the University of Arizona.

However, we stress that our admissions process is quite flexible, and our admissions committee takes great pains to examine the strengths of each applicant as an individual. Therefore, even if you lack one or more of the above, you should still not be discouraged from applying to our program, particularly if you have an exceptional or unusual background. As always, we are looking for the strongest students who will be in the best position to take advantage of the opportunities that our graduate program has to offer. If you think that's you, please don't hesitate to apply.

Please note that you do not need to have a particular research interest in mind when you apply. Many of our admitted students are unsure of their specific research interests, and many students who declare a research interest often find that their research interests change once they arrive. That's fine - it's an expected part of your growth as a professional physicist. However, during the admissions process, it helps if you can describe your interests as fully as you can.

In keeping with the different purpose and structure of our Medical Physics program, the admissions criteria for that program are somewhat different. We are interested in students with genuine interest in a career in Medical Physics. Please feel free to contact us directly if you have questions about admission to our Medical Physics Master's program.

Absolutely! A sizable fraction of our entering class each year consists of students from foreign countries. In recent years, we have had large numbers of graduate students from Asia as well as Western and Eastern Europe. We welcome applicants from all countries, and we do not have specific quotas for applicants from any particular country or region.

We do require that all foreign students submit a TOEFL score. Typically, students must achieve a TOEFL score of 550 in order to be admitted.

Upon arrival, foreign students in our Ph.D. program take the TBEST. This test is designed to measure your ability to engage in colloquial English, as would be needed to help teach a physics laboratory for American undergraduates. Many of our foreign students pass this test with no difficulties. However, even if you do not pass this test on your first try, you can still be employed in our department as a grader (which does not require any spoken English). Therefore, your funding is independent of your spoken English ability, and students in our Ph.D. program receive full funding regardless of their ability to pass the TBEST.

Unfortunately, the TOEFL is required. You must have a minimum TOEFL score of 550 (or a computer-based score of 213) as a precondition for admission. The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) can be submitted in lieu of the TOEFL. The minimum acceptable IELTS score is 7. Either test must be dated within two years of the date of enrollment. Although a minimum score has not yet been determined for the new TOEFL iBT, preliminary studies suggest that it will be 80. If the TOEFL, TOEFL iBT, or IELTS is not offered in your country, you will need to travel to another country where one of these tests is offered. We are unfortunately unable to offer phone interviews.

Yes, we often accept students into our Ph.D. program who have begun graduate studies in physics elsewhere. However, as part of your application, you should be very clear about your reasons for wanting to transfer from your current graduate physics program. We will require your current (graduate) transcript as part of your application, as well as a copy of your Physics GRE score (either a current one, or the one you used when you originally applied to graduate school, if not too old). Moreover, if you have taken any of the standardized program-wide examinations in your current graduate program (such as a Qualifying Exam, a Comprehensive Exam, or a Preliminary Exam), you should be sure to describe and document your performance on that exam. Finally, we particularly appreciate receiving letters of recommendation from faculty members at your current institution, but we understand that this may not always be possible.

We recognize that there are many good reasons for seeking to transfer between graduate physics programs, and many of our best students have been transfer students from other programs. Therefore, it is to your advantage to describe your current situation as fully as possible within your application.

In general, we strongly believe that it is to your advantage to begin graduate work as soon as possible after admission. Once you are admitted, we are looking forward to having your start your new life here, get involved in research here, start taking courses here, keep your momentum going, not fall behind your peers in the same entering class, and to start building the research connections and collaborations that you will eventually need to have the most successful experience possible. Therefore, we generally discourage deferments. However, we have occasionally granted deferments to students who are able to explain their goals and reasons for deferring. In general, this is best decided on a case-by-case basis after you are admitted.

Please note that our department has teamed up with Teach for America, a national corps of outstanding recent college graduates of all academic majors who commit two years to teach in urban and rural secondary public schools in order to expand educational opportunity and eliminate educational inequality. Therefore, if you are admitted to our graduate program as well as Teach for America, we will grant you an automatic two-year deferment so that you can accept both admissions offers simultaneously.

Absolutely! We are always happy to welcome visitors and show them around. If you tell us when you are coming, we can even try to arrange individual appointments with professors of your choosing. Please contact our Graduate Coordinator for further information.