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Frequently Asked Questions

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My undergraduate degree is not in astronomy. Can I still be considered for admission?

Answer: Yes. Although most of our graduate students have undergraduate degrees in either physics or astronomy, we also accept students with engineering and math backgrounds. But a strong foundation in physics is strongly preferred.

Do I already need a Masters Degree to apply for a doctoral degree?

No, you can and should apply directly to the Ph.D. program.

Does the Dep't of Astronomy & Astrophysics of Penn State University accept applications solely for a Masters Degree?

No. We only accept students into the Ph.D. program. Students may obtain a Masters Degree en route to the Ph.D., but the ultimate goal of our training is a doctoral degree.

Can I apply to enter your program in the Spring semester?

Most of our courses have Astro 501 (Fundamental Astronomy) and Astro 502 (Fundamental Astrophysics) as pre-requisites. Those courses are only taught in the fall. Thus, it is usually not possible to admit students for the spring semester.

Do I need to take the TOEFL exam?

All international applicants whose native language is not English or who have not received a baccalaureate or masters degree from an institution in which the language of instruction is English must provide official scores of the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) exam.

What is your department's institutional code and major field code for reporting GRE and TOEFL scores?

Our institutional code is 2660, the Penn State University Park campus. The major field code for Astrophysics is 802. The 801 code (for Astronomy) will also work. You can find these codes on the GRE web site at http://www.ets.org/Media/Tests/GRE/pdf/gre_0809_tclist.pdf .

What TOEFL score do I need to be considered for admission to the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics?

Penn State University requires a minimum TOEFL score of 550 on the paper test, 213 on the computer-based test, or 80 on the internet-based (iBT) test. In addition, the University requires a minimum of 19 points on the new speaking portion of the iBT test. (Note, however, that scores between 15 and 18 may still be considered for provisional admission.) The Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics views scores of at least 620 on the paper test, 260 on the computer test, and 105 on the iBT most favorably, but lower scores do not exclude an application from consideration.

What is the application deadline and do you accept late applications?

In order for an application to be given fullest consideration, all materials must arrive by January 6. Late applications may be considered, but first consideration for admission and financial aid will be given to those which arrive by the deadline.

What about financial aid?

In general, the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics will support students that are in good academic standing with either a teaching assistantship, a research assistantship, or a fellowship. All entering students are guaranteed support.