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

Physics Graduate Application FAQ's

1. 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
2. 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.

3. Will you accept electronic transcripts? Do I need to send a paper copy too?

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. This is all that is needed. Do not submit a paper copy. If you are accepted and decide to attend graduate school at CU, then an official transcript (electronic or paper) will be required before you can attend.

4. 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?


5. 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.

6. Will you accept photocopies of my ETS (e.g. GRE or TOEFL) scores?

No. You must have ETS send GRE/TOEFL scores directly to CU (institution code is 4841 and no department code is needed). We will not accept scores submitted by the student.

7. The application says the Physics subject GRE is required. I didn't take it. May I apply without it?

We require the physics subject GRE for all physics applicants (other than Geophysics). You may submit your application without the physics GRE but your chance of admission is reduced.

8. Is the Physics GRE Subject test required if I am applying to the Geophysics Program?


9. The application asks me for my test scores but I don't have them yet. What should I do?

You don't need to enter test scores that you don't have.  Just make sure to have the official test results sent from ETS.  The CU institution code is 4841 (no department code is needed).

10. Are there "minimum scores' for my GPA, GREs and TOEFLs? How are admission decisions made?

There are no minimum scores. Admission decisions are made by a committee. 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.

11. How many students do you accept each year? Do you admit specific numbers of domestic and international students?

We generally admit about 180 students per year from an applicant pool of about 800, leading to an incoming class size of about 45. We do not have quotas for domestic or international students. We are interested in admitting qualified students regardless of where they are from.

12. I don't know whether I need to submit a TOEFL score.

If your native language is not English then you must submit a TOEFL score unless you attended an English language school in an English speaking country for at least 1 academic year within 2 years of applying. In addition, the TOEFL test must be taken within 2 years of the application date.

13. May I substitute the IELTS exam for my TOEFL score?

No. We need to evaluate all international applicants' language skills using the same standard.

14. 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.

15. 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.

16. 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.

17. Are there fee waivers available?

If you are a McNair Scholar, a Project 1000 participant, or an active volunteer for the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps, there is a fee waiver available by contacting gradadm@colorado.edu before completing your application.

In very exceptional cases, other fee waivers may be granted.  To request a waiver, send email to the Graduate Program Assistant Jeanne Nijhowne at jeanne.nijhowne@colorado.edu with an explanation of why a fee waiver should be granted in your case.

18. 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.

19. 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.

20. Do you accept transfer students?

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

21. 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.   In extremely rare circumstances, it may be possible to apply for a terminal Masters degree. 

22. Do you offer "conditional admission"?


23. Will you admit students for the spring semester?


24. 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.
25. 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