Department of Physics & Astronomy

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Prospective Graduate FAQ

Applicants | Admitted Students | Incoming Students


Applicants FAQ

  1. What are the application requirements?
  2. What are the application deadlines?
  3. How much is the application fee?
  4. DO I need to provide recommendation letters with my application?
  5. How can I find out if my application is complete?
  6. What level of undergraduate preparation is necessary for admission?
  7. Can I receive a degree in Astronomy?
  8. What are my chances of being admitted?
  9. When will I know if I’ve been accepted to Texas A&M?
  10. If I am not accepted, is it possible to apply the following year?
  11. What can I do to improve my application?
  12. Is the GRE offered internationally?
  13. My GRE scores/letters/transcripts/TOEFL may not arrive before the deadline, what should I do?
  14. What is the cutoff scores for the GRE/TOEFL? What is the cutoff GPA?
  15. Is the TOEFL required of all internation applicants?
  16. How can I find out about research at Texas A&M?
  17. How can I contact the admissions committee about my latest research project?
  18. What is applied physics?
  19. What kind of financial aid is available?
  20. Do I need to reapply for financial aid in subsequent years?
  21. What is the ELPE? What is the ELI?
  22. Where can I find more information for international students?
1. What are the application requirements?
  • Complete and submit the ApplyTexas Application
  • Application fee (see question 3)
  • GRE General and Subject Test scores
  • TOEFL or IELTS Test for international applicants
  • At least 3 letters of recommendation
  • At least a Bachelor’s degree, with official academic transcripts
  • Resume or CV, and any other supporting materials you wish to submit

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2. What are the application deadlines?

Domestic students should submit their application by December 1.
International students should submit their application by December 15.

Applications (and supplemental documents) will still be accepted after the deadline; however, please note that applications received by the deadlines above will be processed first. To ensure full consideration for both admission and assistantships, prospective students are encouraged to have all their materials submitted either through AIS (preferred) or directly to the department well ahead of the appropriate deadline.

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3. How much is the application fee?

Applicants for Fall 2016:

U.S. Citizens and permanent residents: $50.00
International Applicants: $90.00

Limited financial assistance is available for low-income applicants. Please contact admissions@physics.tamu.edu to request assistance.

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4. Do I need recommendation letters with my application?

At least three letters of recommendation are required. These letters may be mailed directly to the department or, preferably, submitted online through AIS by following the steps below.

Once you receive your UIN, you must activate your Net ID in the Applicant Information System (AIS). In AIS you can request your letters of recommendation under the “My Documents” tab. Once you fill out the from, an email will be sent to your recommender with instructions on how to upload their letter. Please note that you MUST request your letter of recommendation through AIS – no letters will be requested from your application.

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5. How can I find out if my application is complete?

Email admissions@physics.tamu.edu

Please note that while you will be able to check your application status online through the Office of Admissions, this status may not reflect documents sent directly to the department. The Office of Admissions receives all applications for the university, and this high volume of applications often creates a delay in reporting the status of received documents.

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6. What level of undergraduate preparation is necessary for admission?

Most successful candidates majored in physics as undergraduates, or have similar backgrounds. We particularly value core physics classes, such as quantum mechanics, electricity and magnetism, and classical mechanics.

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7. Can I receive a degree in Astronomy?

Yes. The PhD in Astronomy has its own course requirements and a separate application form. Please refer to the Admissions and Graduate Curriculum pages for further detail.

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8. What are my chances of being admitted?

Admissions decisions are based both on the merit of the applicants and the needs of individual research groups within the department. All applications are weighed against the others, so your odds of acceptance are based upon how the strength of your fellow applicants, especially those interested in the same field.

The department does not employ “cut offs” for test scores or undergraduate GPAs, but evaluates each application as a whole. Thus weakness in one area of consideration (e.g. GRE scores or grades) can be offset by strength in another area (e.g. publications or research experience). *Please see question 14 for new English language requirements set by the University.

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9. When will I know if I’ve been accepted to Texas A&M?

Admission decisions are sent on a rolling basis, so there are no definite dates. Domestic applications are reviewed first (beginning in January), followed by international applications (beginning in February). Typically, offer letters for early applicants usually begin around February.

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10. If I am not accepted, is it possible to apply the following year?

If you are not admitted and you would like to apply for the next year, you may contact admissions@physics.tamu.edu and request that your application be deferred for one year. If you are not admitted in the second year and still wish to apply, you must fill out a new ApplyTexas Application.

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11. What can I do to improve my application?

The best thing you can do is to apply early, which will narrow the pool of applicants with which the department compares your credentials. In addition to applying early, any of the following will help improve your application:

  • Clear research preferences
  • Both general and subject GRE scores (latter only applies to Physics/Applied Physics, not required for Astronomy)
  • Research experience
  • Academic awards and prizes
  • High GPA
  • Scholarly presentations and publications

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12. Is the GRE offered internationally?

The GRE is offered internationally in some areas. Information on the General and Physics Subject GRE can be found on the Educational Testing Services (ETS) website.

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13. My GRE scores/letters/transcripts/TOEFL may not arrive before the deadline. What should I do?

Send the department whatever information you have by email ( admissions@physics.tamu.edu) even unofficial information/documents. This can include your personal score report from ETS and your unofficial grade report from your current university. If you receive and accepted an offer from the Department of Physics and Astronomy, your official documents (scores, transcripts, etc.) will be verified by the Office of Admissions. If your official scores and grades do not match the documents that you submitted, your application may be subject to rejection.

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14. What is the cutoff scores for the GRE/TOEFL? What is the cutoff GPA?

All international graduate students whose native language is not English must fulfill an English proficiency requirement through either English Proficiency Verification or English Proficiency Certification. This proficiency requirement should be met early in a student’s program, and it must be completed before scheduling either the final examination for the master’s degree or the preliminary examination for the doctoral degree.

Two levels of English Proficiency Status for a graduate student include: English Proficiency Verified and English Proficiency Certified. English Proficiency Certification is required by the State of Texas, before a graduate student is eligible to serve as a Graduate Assistant-Teaching, or any other position considered to be a teaching position (e.g., instructor, lecturer, etc.). All other students must be either English Proficiency Verified or English Proficiency Certified.

English Proficiency Verification can be achieved by presenting one of the following:

  • A TOEFL score of at least 80 on TOEFL iBT (550 paper-based)
  • An IELTS score of at least 6.0
  • A GRE Verbal Reasoning score of at least 146 (400 on the old scale)
  • A GMAT Verbal score of at least 22
  • A PTE Academic score of at least 53
  • Acquiring alternative verification from the Office of Graduate and Professional Studies via a departmental request. An international graduate student holding a master’s degree from an accredited U.S. institution qualifies for alternative verification.

English Proficiency Certification can be achieved by:

  • Scoring at least 80 on each of the sections (reading, listening, written composition and oral skills) of the English Language Proficiency Examination (ELPE)
  • Obtaining grades of A or B in English Language Institute (ELI) courses (reading, listening, written composition and oral skills) at the 300-level or higher
  • Acquiring alternative certification from the Office of Graduate and Professional Studies via a departmental request.

A student who has received a baccalaureate degree following four years of study at an accredited U.S. institution or institutions qualifies for alternative certification. All other requests for alternative certification require strong department justification and review in compliance with Office of Graduate and Professional Studies policies and guidelines.

An international student who has completed an equivalent English training program at an institution other than Texas A&M may request English Proficiency Verification or Certification.

The department does not employ “cut offs” for test scores or undergraduate GPAs, but evaluates each application as a whole. Thus weakness in one area of consideration (e.g. GRE scores or grades) can be offset by strength in another area (e.g. publications or research experience). For this reason, it is important to submit all relevant documents and physics-related experience (research experience, publications, etc.) to the department in addition to your application.

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15. Is the TOEFL required of all international applicants?

Yes, the TOEFL is required. For more information about taking the TOEFL, please visit the ETS website.

The university also accepts the IELTS. For more information about taking the IELTS, please visit the IELTS website.

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16. How can I find out about research at Texas A&M?

You can find out about the wide variety of research in the Department of Physics and Astronomy by exploring our Research Groups and Research Institutes.

If you discover a particular research group that catches your interest, you can let the department know in your Personal Statement or by sending an email to admissions@physics.tamu.edu. Please refrain from sending solicitous emails to multiple faculty members. The Graduate Admissions Committee will happily pass on your inquiries to the appropriate research group.

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17. How can I contact the admissions committee about my latest research project?

If you have information to add to your application after it has been submitted, such as a new project, publication or accolade, send any relevant documentation to admissions@physics.tamu.edu and indicate the faculty to whom it should be forwarded (if applicable).

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18. What is Applied Physics?

The Department has created a Ph.D. in Applied Physics, to provide curriculum and research opportunities for students who wish to use physics in the development of new technology. A number of faculty conduct projects in applied physics that are related to their basic research interests, , including those listed here.

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19. What kind of financial aid is available?

The stipend amount for a Teaching Assistant, effective the end of August 2016, will be $1,850 per month. Most admitted students will also receive either full or partial tuition remission from the department.

In addition to Teaching Assistantships, Texas A&M University offers a number of Merit fellowships (for outstanding academic records) and Diversity fellowships (for minority students in science, as determined by the university) for domestic graduate students.

If you believe you may be eligible for a Diversity fellowship, please briefly include your reasoning in an email to admissions@physics.tamu.edu.

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20. Do I need to reapply for financial aid in subsequent years?

All students are eligible for Teaching Assistantships and Research Assistantships after their first year; however, Teaching Assistantships are limited and are awarded based on various criteria. Students are encouraged to begin building relationships with faculty in their field of interest in their first year in order to secure a Research Assistantship by the end of their second year.

The department strives to support all of the graduate students it admits, which is why students are admitted based largely on the needs of individual research groups. The vast majority receive support.

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21. What is ELPE? What is ELI?

The English Language Proficiency Examination (ELPE) is an exam given by the university. International students with low TOEFL scores and who have not obtained English Proficiency Verification or Certification by other means (GRE/GMAT scores, U.S. master’s degree or higher) are required to pass this exam before they are allowed to serve as a Teaching Assistant in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. For more information, please visit the Office of Graduate and Professional Studies.

Students who do not pass the ELPE on their first try will be required to take English Language Proficiency courses through the English Language Institute (ELI), and will be placed in these courses based on their ELPE scores. Students must complete these courses and be certified by the ELI to teach in English before serving as a Teaching Assistant.

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22. Where can I find more information for international students?

To find out more information pertaining to international students at Texas A&M, please visit the International Student Services (ISS) website.

Admitted Students FAQ

  1. Can I visit Texas A&M?
  2. If I accept admission to Texas A&M, will a research advisor be appointed for me?
  3. If I am unable to respond to Texas A&M’s offer by the deadline, will I lose my admission?
  4. What will happen to my offer of admission if I want to defer for a year?
  5. Will I be able to get housing on campus my first year?
  6. Where can I find information about courses?
  7. What is the deadline to accept or decline admission?
1. Can I visit Texas A&M?

Applicants are encouraged to visit campus. Please contact us at admissions@physics.tamu.edu to inquire about a visit and make arrangements. A limited amount of financial assistance for visits may be available.

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2. If I accept admission to Texas A&M, will a research advisor be appointed for me?

No. Students are encouraged to begin building relationships with faculty in their field of interest their first year in order to secure a Research Assistantship by the end of their second year.

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3. If I am unable to respond to Texas A&M’s offer by the deadline in my offer letter, will I lose my admission?

You will forfeit your spot in our incoming class if you fail to accept your offer of admission before April 15. Requests for extensions are occasionally granted for extenuating circumstances.

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4. What will happen to my offer of admission if I want to defer for a year?

Requests for extensions are considered, but generally students are not encouraged to defer their admission. If you have been awarded a fellowship from the university, your fellowship may not be deferred, and you will need to reapply for admission and your fellowship the next year if you choose not to enroll this year.

If you are considering deferring your enrollment, please contact the department to discuss your decision as soon as possible. Waiting too long can limit your options.

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5. Will I be able to get housing on campus my first year?

Both on-campus and off-campus housing is available to incoming graduate students. For more information about on-campus housing, visit the University Apartments website.

When you accept your offer of admission, the department will send you an off-campus housing guide to help you make your housing decision. If have not yet made up your mind to attend Texas A&M and would like more information about off-campus housing, please contact us at admissions@physics.tamu.edu.

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6. Where can I find information about courses?

For more information about graduate courses and graduate degree plans, feel free to explore Degree Plans and Curriculum & Course Descriptions.

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7. What is the deadline to accept or decline admission?

All decisions must be signed and returned by April 15 to be considered valid (mail and email are both acceptable). If you have mailed your decision but fear it may not arrive before April 15, you may send a scanned copy of your form to admissions@physics.tamu.edu.

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Incoming Students FAQ

  1. What should I do when I arrive?
  2. How are physics graduate students paid?
  3. How can I get an Assistantship during the summer of my first year of classes?
  4. Can I switch research groups if I find something else I would rather do?
  5. What courses should I take?
  6. Can graduate level courses I’ve already taken be transferred to Texas A&M for credit?
  7. What are the requirements to graduate?
  8. How long does it usually take to get a Ph.D. in physics?
1. What should I do when I arrive?

U.S. citizens and permanent residents: Please contact the department in July or early August to schedule a mid to late August advising appointment for check-in with one of our Academic Advisors. At this time, you will register for classes (if you haven’t already), and take care of other relevant paperwork. You must have all registration holds cleared before you can register.

International students: The university has an orientation and check-in program you must attend. Additionally, you will need to contact the department to schedule an advising appointment with one of our Academic Advisors. During your departmental check-in, you will register for classes (if you haven’t already), and take care of other relevant paperwork. You must have all registration holds cleared before you can register.

All students (Domestic and International) are required to complete Teaching Assistant (TA) training. You will receive an email from our admissions coordinator with the details.

Department Orientation: The Department of Physics and Astronomy hosts an orientation for all domestic and international incoming graduate students. The event is usually around 2 hours long and is generally held a week or two before classes begin. You will receive an email from our admissions coordinator with the time and location of the orientation.

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2. How are physics graduate students paid?

Most students have a Research Assistantship (RA), Graduate Assistantship – Teaching (GAT), or a Graduate Assistantship – Non-Teaching (GANT). You will receive the details of your payment schedule and set up your payroll preferences (direct deposit, etc.) when you check in.

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3. How can I get an Assistantship during the summer of my first year of classes?

There are a limited number of Teaching Assistantships available which are awarded based on merit. Research Assistantships depend on the funds of the Research Advisor. It is recommended that you start as early as possible to secure support if you wish to work during the summer.

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4. Can I switch research groups if I find something else I would rather do?

Yes, you may switch research groups if you find a project that interests you outside of your group. This arrangement must be worked out between you, your current advisor, and the advisor you wish to work for. However, switching research groups more than once, or switching late in your academic career is strongly discouraged – you do not want to fall behind in your research.

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5. What courses should I take?

You can view general degree requirements on our Degree Plans page. You should also meet with your graduate advisor before registration to map out your personal degree plan.

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6. Can graduate level courses I’ve already taken be transferred to Texas A&M for credit?

Graduate level credits rarely transfer from other institutions. If you have taken a graduate level course, you may petition for permission to take the final exam for the equivalent TAMU class to receive credit for qualifying courses only. Feel free to discuss your options with an advisor when registering for your first semester courses.

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7. What are the requirements to graduate?

Please reference the Graduate Student Policies.

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8. How long does it usually take to get a Ph.D. in physics?

The length of time it takes to get a Ph.D. depends on many factors. Typically, students working in an experimental setting take longer on average than those working in a theory group. Some students take 4 years; most are done before 7 years.

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