Flatirons from Duane tower

Our graduate program successfully integrates astrophysics, planetary science, solar physics, space physics, and space instrumentation, with strong observational and theoretical components. These assets facilitate interaction and collaboration between the disciplines and enable students to explore a wide variety of research areas. In addition, the Sommers-Bausch Observatory on campus provides excellent hands-on experience with telescopes and observing, and the Department supports the world-class Fiske Planetarium, which offers a unique opportunity for public outreach. These campus resources are complemented by other affiliated research organizations in Boulder. The Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences values contributions from scientists of diverse backgrounds and aims to promote an inclusive environment for all people.

Interested in a campus visit? Check the tour schedule here or contact Troy Latta.

Admissions Information

Opportunity for Underrepresented Students
The Colorado Advantage Graduate Preview Weekend gives underrepresented students a chance to visit campus, meet faculty, and preview doctoral programs in science, math, and engineering departments at CU-Boulder, including ours.

We understand that the COVID-19 pandemic has been disruptive to all and that student experiences in the wake of this have not been equitable. In response to these events, we recognize that some applicants will have concerns about the impacts these events could have on admissions. The graduate programs at the University of Colorado Boulder are dedicated to recruiting and supporting diverse, talented students, employing holistic application review processes and supporting students when they arrive on campus. 

We want to be clear that we understand 

  • students have been facing and will face unprecedented challenges during this time. 
  • testing centers have suspended operations, or moved to remote testing.
  • many students and institutions have chosen to adopt the Pass/Fail (or Credit/No Credit) option due to these events.
  • due to this disruption students may not have performed to their usual abilities during times of remote study or challenging classroom adjustments. 
  • some research projects will have been interrupted or will be incomplete as a result of university and facility closures. 
  • many students will be unable to take on internships and summer research programs or other professional development initiatives.
  • there are myriad other challenging circumstances that have arisen in individuals’ experiences.

We will take this all into consideration as we review applications holistically, understanding that our goal continues to be a graduate student cohort of future leaders, full of diverse life experiences and perspectives that will add new dimensions to our existing graduate community. If you have any questions about your specific circumstances, please contact Troy Latta or cugrad@colorado.edu

We receive over 300 applications to our graduate program, and will make offers to approximately 30. Only students intending to earn their Ph.D. will be considered for admission. Admitted students are invited to visit Boulder for one of our "Prospective Weekends" held in the first half of March.

The goal of the APS graduate program is to train the next generation of scientists through both coursework and research. Before applying, we encourage you to view our graduate Program Information page to learn about the components of a PhD at CU and the typical timeline for graduate student careers. While enrolled, graduate students in the APS department are financially supported through a combination of Teaching and Research Assistantships, covering all tuition and a personal stipend that is sufficient to live in the Boulder area.

Application Deadline: Applications are due December 1st. All letters of recommendation must be submitted by December 15th or they might not be evaluated with the rest of your application.

We do not offer Spring nor Summer admission. The admissions committee may in very rare cases review late applications at their discretion. Click here for more information.

We can provide a small number of fee waivers to cover the cost of the University of Colorado application fee, at the discretion of the chair of the admissions committee. If the application fee represents a significant financial burden that would otherwise prevent you from applying to our program, please send a brief statement explaining this need to the our Graduate Program Assistant, Troy Latta.

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Admissions Requirements

Undergraduate Study

A thorough undergraduate preparation in physics and mathematics is necessary for graduate study. Courses should include thermodynamics, mechanics, electricity and magnetism, atomic physics (including quantum mechanics), and mathematics at least through complex variables and differential equations. Click here for a more concise list. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of planetary science, a broader range of undergraduate preparation is considered.


Many applicants have completed undergraduate research (e.g., an REU program or in-depth senior thesis, publication or conference poster). Evidence of such successful research is highly regarded. Be sure to include a clear description of what part of the project you were responsible for.


The Graduate Record Examination general aptitude tests are not required for applications to the Fall 2021 start term. Submission of general or physics GRE scores is optional and will only be considered in the context of your complete application.

Foreign Students

The TOEFL or IELTS exam is required for students whose native language is not English. For students whose undergraduate study was completed outside the US, information on your program (e.g. course descriptions or textbook titles) that allows a better comparison with the US system is appreciated. Exact requirements for English language proficiency can be found here.

CU also has a department of International Student and Scholar Services who can be very helpful in acclimating to the US in general and our campus in particular. They also have experts in most of the paperwork you'll need to fill out as a new resident scholar.

Domestic Application

Domestic application and instructions

You are also required to provide:

  • Personal statement.
  • One unofficial copy of your transcript. If admitted, you will need to provide an official transcript.
  • 3 letters of recommendation.

Foreign Application

International application and instructions

You are also required to provide:

  • Personal statement.
  • One unofficial copy of your transcript. If admitted, you will need to provide an official transcript.
  • Official TOEFL or IELTS score report from ETS (if from non-English speaking country).
  • 3 letters of recommendation.
  • Financial Statement.

Additional Information

Unless submitted online, the above materials should be sent to CU Boulder Graduate Admissions at the following addresses:

Domestic Applicants: Transcripts and other supporting materials required by your department should be sent directly to:

Graduate Admissions
University of Colorado Boulder
553 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309-0553

For overnight or express mail send to:

Graduate Admissions
University of Colorado Boulder
3100 Marine St Bldg RL3
Ste A122
Boulder, CO 80303-1058
(303) 492-6301

All International Applicants: Transcripts and other supporting materials required by your department should be sent directly to:

Office of Admissions
University of Colorado Boulder
3100 Marine Street
65 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309-0065

Questions and inquiries about the application and admissions process should be directed to Troy Latta.


Application decisions will begin to be made as soon as applications are complete. Offers of admission are generally made between mid-January and mid-February.


Most admitted students choose to visit for two weekdays and part of a weekend in early March. We have two separate visitations available, a Monday-Tuesday and a Thursday-Friday. Prospective students are usually housed with current graduate students to encourage communication about the department and to get a personal sense of the average Boulder graduate student's life. We arrange opportunities to talk with faculty in research areas of your interest and give a taste of life in Boulder.

Even though formal APS department-planned events are scheduled for two week days, we encourage prospective students to plan to stay at least one additional day because the current graduate students plan extra activities and events such as hiking, skiing, and exploring downtown Boulder (e.g., fly in on Saturday to stay Sunday-Wednesday, or fly out Sunday for your visit Thursday-Saturday).

The visit dates for spring 2021 are not yet decided.

Preliminary Interview

Matriculating students are given an oral preliminary interview prior to the beginning of the fall semester of their first year. Students review their background with their academic advisor and other faculty whose research is related to the student's interests. Courses and possible research advisors are suggested to the student.

Additional Information

For further information concerning graduate studies, feel free to call or email:

Troy Latta
Graduate Program Assistant
Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences
UCB 391
University of Colorado, Boulder
Boulder, CO 80309-0391