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

We receive nearly 200-300 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 required for application to our department. The APS Department does not employ any quantitative cutoff for these scores, and the GRE is only one facet out of many which the admission committee uses to review each student’s application. The Physics subject test may be submitted, but is no longer required.
Data show that Physics GRE scores are biased, and that performance is correlated more strongly with axes of the test-taker's identity such as race and gender than physics knowledge/skill alone.  As a result, submission of your physics GRE scores is optional and will only be considered in the context of your complete application. For example, if you feel your performance in your upper-level physics classes does not accurately reflect your mastery of the material, but your score on the Physics GRE does, you may choose to submit your Physics GRE score to bolster your application. If you feel your physics GRE score does not accurately reflect your mastery of physics, evaluation of your application will not be affected by electing to withhold those scores.

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.
  • Official General GRE score report from ETS.
  • 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 General GRE and TOEFL or IELTS score report from ETS.
  • 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. 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 2019 are Feb 28-Mar 1 and Mar 4-5.

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