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Application Process

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Admission to the graduate program is quite competitive. All applicants must have a Bachelor's degree in Physics, Astronomy, or a related area upon their arrival, and a minimum Junior-Senior GPA of 3.0. The graduate admission FAQ describes the typical GRE and TOEFL scores that are required for admission. Be sure to read the requirements for admission to the Graduate School before preparing your application. To begin the application process, go to the admissions site for the Graduate School. Complete the on-line application form for the Ph.D. program of the Dept of Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University Park campus of Penn State University. This form will ask you for

  • your biographical information.

  • your educational background.

  • your work experience.

  • your scores from the Graduate Record Examinations. You must take the GRE general test, and an Advanced test in Physics or a related discipline, and have the official scores transmitted to Penn State University. Strict minimum thresholds for GRE scores are not applied during the review of applications. Admission is based on the overall strength of the student's application.

  • the names and addresses of three people familiar with your qualifications for graduate school.

  • a brief (one or two page) narrative statement explaining your interest and/or background in astronomy, and how graduate study at Penn State fits into your career plans. If you believe your grades or standardized test scores are not an accurate measure of your ability or achievement, you may wish to include that in your statement.

  • scores from the TOEFL (Test Of English as a Foreign Language) examination for international students (with the exceptions noted below). A score of at least 620 on the paper test, 260 on the computer based test, or 105 on the internet-based (iBT) test are viewed most favorably, but a lower score does not exclude consideration. In addition, Penn State University also requires a minimum of 19 points on the new speaking portion of the iBT test. Applicants with iBT speaking scores between 15 and 18 may still be considered for provisional admission. Provisional admission requires an institutional test of English proficiency upon first enrollment and, if necessary, remedial course work. The minimum composite score for the IELTS is 6.5. Students who have received a baccalaureate or a masters degree from a college/university/institution in Australia, Belize, British Caribbean and British West Indies, Canada (except Quebec), England, Guyana, Republic of Ireland, Liberia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Scotland, the United States or Wales are excepted from this requirement.

  • electronic copies of transcripts (or equivalent documents for institutions outside the U.S.) from all post-secondary institutions attended, in the language of instruction (and official English translation if the language of instruction is not English). Applicants who accept an offer of admission will be notified by the Graduate School that official/original transcripts and documents must be sent from the originating institutions in the official language of the institution(s) attended (and if the language of instruction is not English, an official English translation must also be sent). The Graduate School will review all official documents to finalize the offer of admission.  An offer of admission will be revoked if official/original documents are not received by the Graduate School within specified deadlines, or if official/original documents differ from the copies uploaded by the applicant prior to the offer of admission.  For applicants whose degree conferral is in progress at the time of uploading copies, the deadline specified for receipt of official/original documents will allow for the passage of the reported date of degree conferral, and that conferral must be confirmed on the official/original documents received by the Graduate School, in order for the offer of admission to be finalized.

In order for an application to be given fullest consideration, all application materials must arrive by January 6. Late applications may also be considered, but first consideration for admission and financial aid will be given to those which arrive by the deadline. Typically, first year students are awarded teaching assistantships and full tuition is waived. The strongest applicants may receive fellowships, either in place of a teaching assistantship, or in addition to it.

For more information about our graduate program or our application procedures, please contact:

Kevin Luhman, Chair, Graduate Admissions
Nina Bumgarner, Graduate Staff Assistant