If you do not find your question about the application process here, please check the Graduate School FAQ page

General Application Questions

1. What are the recommended academic qualifications for admission into the graduate program?

Please review the typical undergraduate preparation document.

A master’s degree is not necessary to apply to the doctoral program. Most first year graduate students enter with a bachelor’s degree.

2. What should a personal statement contain?

The following list provides some guidelines of what you should include:

  • Your previous research experience including details about what you contributed
  • Current research interests including people you are interested in working for at CU
  • Other experience that may be relevant to your experience in physics
  • Your career goals (why do you wish to study physics?)
  • An explanation of any low grades or time gaps in your education
3. Will it help my application if I submit student papers, published papers and/or my master's thesis?

You are required to submit a resume/CV during the application process.  You are welcome to include links in that CV to additional materials like published papers or theses.  Please do not upload these items directly.

4. Are there fee waivers available?

Graduate School fee waivers:
The Graduate School offers application fee waivers for participants in the following programs: AmeriCorps (currently serving), Louis-Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP), McNair Scholars Program, Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) Scholars Program, Peace Corps (currently serving), Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP), Teach for America, and the Leadership Alliance. If you are affiliated with one of these programs, please send proof of your affiliation to gradadm@colorado.edu before you submit your application.

Physics Department fee waivers:

We are aware that the application fee may be an obstacle to applying to our graduate program. For domestic applicants, need-based fee waivers are available. Need may be based on income, personal circumstances, or other need-based circumstances. For international students, need-based fee waivers may be granted in very exceptional circumstances. 

Fee waiver applications are currently open.

The deadline for applying for a fee waiver is December 2nd, 2023. You will be notified via email provided on or before December 6th, 2023. Admission applications can and should be worked on while waiting to hear back about the fee waiver. Neither your request for a fee waiver nor any personal information relating to the reason for requesting a fee waiver will impact the admissions decision.

5. Can I change or update my application once it has been submitted?

No. Please be sure your application is complete and accurate before you submit it.

6. Do I need to send transcripts for college courses that I took while in high school? Do I need to send transcripts for schools even if I did not earn a degree?

The answer to both questions is “yes”. You must submit transcripts for all classes that you used towards your undergraduate degree. You will be asked to upload PDF versions of all transcripts from all post-secondary institutions during the application process. These can be official or unofficial transcripts.

7. I have transfer credits from School 1 listed on my transcripts from School 2. Do I still need to submit a transcript from School 1?


8. The transcript I sent does not have Fall grades on it. It is necessary to send an updated transcript in January?

No. We understand that because of the deadlines, Fall grades don't arrive in time to be included. You do not need to send another transcript in January.

9. My university does not use the 4.0 scale that yours does. How should I make the conversion?

The Graduate Admissions office will convert all grade points to a 4.0 scale.

10. I am an international student. My country only offers a 3 year bachelor's degree. Is that equivalent to a bachelor's degree in the US?

No. In this situation, students generally complete an additional year in a master’s program in the same country where they received their bachelor’s degree.

11. Are there "minimum scores" for my GPA and English proficiency tests? How are admission decisions made?

There are no minimum GPAs. For English proficiency tests, the minimums are:

  • TOEFL: 80
  • IELTS: 6.5
  • Duolingo: 105

The committee considers all aspects of your application, i.e. GPA, standardized test scores, personal statement, and letters of recommendation to arrive at admission decisions.

12. I don't know whether I need to submit an English proficiency test.

Generally, if your native language is not English then you must submit an English proficiency test. An English proficiency test is not required if you attended an English language school in an English speaking country for at least 1 academic year within 2 years of applying. Please note, ALL international applicants will see that an English proficiency score is required on their application. The staff of International Admissions will manually evaluate applications and remove or waive the English proficiency requirement if they determine that the student is exempt. Please be patient. This takes time.  See the graduate school page for more information.

13. When will I know if I have been admitted or not?

Admission decisions will be communicated as soon as they have been made. Traditionally, the earliest you can expect to hear is the end of February. This is due to the volume of applications. The Admissions Committee wants to look at everyone before choosing the most qualified applicants. The Graduate Assistant will not relay acceptance or rejection information over the telephone. You will be formally notified by email after decisions have been made.

14. Do you accept transfer students?

We welcome transfer students.  To transfer from another institution, you need to apply through the regular admission process

15. Do you offer "conditional admission"?


16. Will you admit students for the spring semester?


17. I only want to apply for a master's degree, not a Ph.D. Is that possible?

The physics department only accepts students intending to pursue a Ph.D.

18. Can I apply directly to the Chemical Physics program?

No. To get into the Chemical Physics program, you need to be a graduate student in either the Chemistry and Biochemistry department or the Physics department.  Therefore, you need to apply to one of those two departments.

19. Can I expect to receive financial aid? What are the requirements? When should I apply?

While there are no absolute guarantees, this is the situation as it has existed in the past.

  1. All admitted students, whether domestic or international, receive a full tuition waiver and are guaranteed support as a Teaching Assistant or Research Assistant for the first two years. Each student is still responsible for student fees. (The fee schedule may be found on the CU Bursar’s website.)
  2. All students making satisfactory progress are currently supported through a Teaching Assistantship or Research Assistantship and this is expected to continue.
  3. The university will contribute most of the cost of the Gold Comprehensive Insurance Plan. Additional information is available by calling the Wardenburg Student Health Insurance Office at 303-492-5107 or accessing the Golden Buffalo Student Health Insurance website at http://www.colorado.edu/health/insurance/health-insurance.
  4. All of this is automatically given to you as part of your admission package.
20. Who should I contact if I have questions?

ALL questions should be directed to the Graduate Program Assistant in Physics. This is her contact information: Jeanne Nijhowne Email: jeanne.nijhowne@colorado.edu Phone: 303-735-0519 Office hours: Mon-Fri 7:30-12:00; 12:30-4:00 PM Mountain Time Zone

21. Should I reach out to a research advisor before applying or being accepted to the program?

No, this is not necessary.