Frequently Asked Questions

Thank you for your interest in the Physics and Astronomy PH.D., Graduate Program at the University of Pennsylvania.

To submit your application and supporting documents beginning October 1, 2024, go to  Among the many features, you will have the ability to access your application anytime up until the time you submit it.  You will be able to monitor the receipt of documentation over the web.

Applications should be submitted by December 15, 2024 for full consideration by the Admissions Committee. Applications submitted after this deadline will be reviewed on a rolling basis, and qualified applicants will be offered admissions to the program as space permits.

The Application fee is $90.00.


Unfortunately, we are unable to grant fee waivers to international applicants. A fee waiver may be considered for U.S. citizens or permanent residents only.


GRE exams are not required for Fall 2024 admissions.

We require three (3) letters of recommendation, an undergraduate transcript, and a graduate transcript if applicable.  The TOEFL exam is required for international students. A personal statement is required, for direction see



What is the application deadline?

  • December 15, 2024, 11:59 P.S.T.

Do you offer spring admissions? 

  • Physics and Astronomy only enrolls new students for the Fall semester only.

Do you admit students pursing an MS degree?

  • We do not offer a terminal master’s program.

What should I do to transfer from another institution/program?

  • Follow all of the regular admission procedures.

Can I apply to multiple programs?

  • Yes.

Do I have to take the TOEFL exam?

  • International applicants whose native language is not English must submit proof of English proficiency (TOEFL).
  • The TOEFL scores should be computer base at least 100. TOEFL scores are good for 2 years.

Do you accept IELTS scores?

  • We will accept IELTS scores.

Do you accept the Duolingo?

  • The Duolingo exam is not accepted in Physics and Astronomy.

I am an international student with a degree from a US Institution, do I have to submit the TOEFL exam scores?

  • You do not have to submit a TOEFL exam if you received a degree from a US institution.

Can I submit 4 recommendation letters?

  • We only require 3, you are welcome to submit 4.

Do I submit writing samples?

  • We do not require writing samples.  Do not mail writing samples, they are NOT required.

Do I send transcripts to the Graduate Office or the Department? Do I scan official copies?

  • Do not send transcripts by mail.  Unofficial transcripts should be uploaded in the system along with the application. We will request official copies at a later.  DO NOT SEND COPIES BY MAIL.

Do I send my transcript after completing the fall semester of my program?

  • NO.  If you are still in school during Fall/Spring 2023-2024, we are aware that your fall grades will not be recorded on your transcript when the application is submitted.  We will ask for an official transcript at a later date if you are recommended for admission. 

Is it acceptable to have obtained a bachelor’s degree in 3 years instead of 4 years?

  • YES.

How do I obtain a fellowship?

  • Essentially all graduate students in Physics and Astronomy at Penn in the first year of study receive an annual stipend and tuition provided they remain in good academic standing. Although we will make every effort to help students secure a research slot in their field of choice, however, offers of admission and financial aid in the first year of study does not guarantee a future slot in any one particular field or financial aid.

How are new students matched with a research advisor?

  • We have a weekly research seminar where faculty present their research, and potential PhD projects to 1st year students to help with deciding on what type of research would be of interest.

How easy or difficult is it to switch between research groups?

  • Only a small fraction of students switch between research groups.  Switching early on is easier than switching later. 

When are students expected to have chosen a research advisor?

  • Typically, by the end of March in Year 1.

Are there different tracks students are assigned to (i.e., theory/experiment)? I've heard of schools with a rotation program where students work in several labs their first year--does Physics and Astronomy have anything like that?

  • No. However, there are more required courses for Astro students, meaning they have less time for electives.

Do I have to pay for health insurance? Is dental coverage included? Is my family covered?

  • Currently, we pay health insurance for the students only.  Dental coverage is available at a discount cost to you.  We do not cover family health insurance, it is offered at a cost to families.

When should I expect to hear a decision on my application?

  • The committee will begin to make decisions beginning in January. All decisions will be noted in the application system.  You should continue to check your status on-line starting in February through April.  If you are recommended for admission, a committee member will contact you by phone and/or email and it will also be noted in the application system along with an official letter from the Graduate Dean’s office.

I am applying from abroad—what form of payment should I use for my application fee?

  • The application fee must be paid by a credit card.  All major credit cards are accepted.

I am not a United States citizen—how do I get a visa?

  • If admission is recommended, the Graduate Division of the School of Arts and Sciences along with the International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) will send you the necessary documents for obtaining a visa.

Can I visit and tour Penn’s campus?

  • You are welcome to visit the campus.  For schedules see:  We cannot accommodate the many requests we receive to visit the department during the semester.  If recommended for admission, you will be invited to join us for a scheduled visiting day.

We look forward to reviewing your application and supporting documents.

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