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Graduate Admissions

Admissions Information for Prospective Graduate Students

Thank you for considering the PhD program in Physics at MIT. Information regarding our graduate program and our application process can be found below and through the following webpages and other links on this page. If your questions are not answered after reviewing this information, please contact us at [email protected] .

Here are some links to pages relevant to prospective students:

Statement regarding admissions process during COVID Pandemic (Updated Summer 2022)

MIT has adopted the following principle: MIT’s admissions committees and offices for graduate and professional schools will take the significant disruptions of the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020 into account when reviewing students’ transcripts and other admissions materials as part of their regular practice of performing individualized, holistic reviews of each applicant.

In particular, as we review applications now and in the future, we will respect decisions regarding the adoption of Pass/No Record (or Credit/No Credit or Pass/Fail) and other grading options during the unprecedented period of COVID-19 disruptions, whether those decisions were made by institutions or by individual students. We also expect that the individual experiences of applicants will richly inform applications and, as such, they will be considered with the entirety of a student’s record.

Ultimately, even in these challenging times, our goal remains to form graduate student cohorts that are collectively excellent and composed of outstanding individuals who will challenge and support one another.

Questions or concerns about this statement should be directed to the Physics Department ( [email protected] ).

Also, to stay up-to-date on the latest information on MIT and the COVID-19 pandemic at now.mit.edu .

Applying to the MIT Department of Physics

We know that the application process can be time-consuming, stressful, and costly. We are committed to reducing these barriers and to helping all applicants receive a full and fair assessment by our faculty reviewers. Help is available from the Physics Graduate Admissions Office at [email protected] and additional assistance from current students is offered during the admissions season. Further details are described at the end of this page in our Assistance for Prospective Applicants section.

The list below describes the important elements of a complete application. Please reach out to us at [email protected] if you have a concern or logistical difficulty that could prevent you from providing your strongest application.

Required for a Complete Application

1. online application and application fee.

2. University Transcript(s)

Unofficial transcripts are sufficient for our initial review, with final transcripts required as a condition of matriculation for successful applicants. Applicants should include a scan of their transcript(s) and, if a degree is in progress, should include a list of the class subjects being taken in the current semester. The GradApply portal will allow applicants to log back into the application after the deadline to add their Fall term grades when they are available.

Note: We will respect decisions regarding the adoption of Pass/No Record (or Credit/No Credit or Pass/Fail) and other grading options during the unprecedented period of COVID-19 disruptions, whether those decisions were made by institutions or by individual students.

3. Standardized Test Results

4. Letters of Recommendation

Letters should include any individual work applicants have done and/or areas where they have special strengths. It is possible to submit up to 6 total letters, but 3 are sufficient for a complete application and committee members may evaluate applications based on the first three letters that they read.

5. Statement of Objectives

Research is central to graduate study in physics. The Statement of Objectives/Purpose should include descriptions of research projects, aptitude and achievements as completely as possible. This important part of the application provides an opportunity to describe any interests, skills, and background relative to the research areas selected on the application form. Applicants should share anything that prepares them for graduate studies and describe their proudest achievements.

Additional Application Materials

When/How to Apply

When : Applications can be submitted between September 15 and December 15 by 11:59pm EST for the following year.

How : The application is online at gradapply.mit.edu/physics .

Application Assistance

Faculty, students, and staff have collaborated to provide extensive guidance to prospective applicants to our graduate degree program. Resources include several department webpages to inform prospective applicants about our PhD degree requirements and to help applicants as they assemble and submit their materials. In addition to staff responses to emails, current graduate students will answer specific individual questions, give one admissions-related webinar, and provide a mentorship program for selected prospective applicants.

During the application season, prospective students may request additional information from current students about the admissions process, graduate student life, or department culture, either as a response to a specific individual email question or for more in-depth assistance. Applicants will benefit most from contacting us early in the process, when current students and staff will be available to respond to questions and mentor selected applicants. After mid-November, department staff will continue to field questions through the admission process.

Here are some resources for prospective applicants:

Thank you for your interest in the MIT Physics graduate program! Our department is committed to equity in admissions and we welcome your application to our doctoral program. We are eager to help prospective students submit their best materials, and we recognize that some talented applicants may appreciate further guidance as they compile their credentials into a strong application package.

Under the umbrella of the Physics Graduate Application Assistance Program (PhysGAAP), our current physics graduate students provide three forms of assistance during the admissions process:

Student-led Q&A Service

A team of our current graduate students is available to share their experience and perspectives in response to individual questions which may fall under any of the following categories:

To request a response from the current students, please send an email to [email protected] and indicate clearly in the subject line or first sentence that you would like your email forwarded to the PhysGAAP student team. Depending on the scope of your question, department staff will send your email to current students.

We encourage you to reach out as early as you can to maximize the benefit that this help can provide to you. While the admissions office staff will continue to field your questions throughout the admissions season, current students may not be available to respond to questions sent after November 15.

This student email resource is designed for individual basic questions. More in-depth guidance, especially about the application itself, will be available through the PhysGAAP Webinars and/or PhysGAAP Mentorship Program described below.

Student-led Webinar

physics phd acceptance rate

A panel of our current graduate students will be hosting a 2-hour long Zoom webinar in late October to present information about the application and admissions processes, and to respond to questions on these topics. The webinar will address general questions about preparing, completing, and submitting the application; what the Admissions Committee is looking for; and the general timeline for the admissions process.

Please register for the webinar  if you intend to participate. The webinar will be recorded and will be made available from this website once complete. Registration is required to attend the webinar in real-time.

The webinar will begin with a short discussion of frequently asked questions, after which the graduate student panel will begin answering questions submitted in advance to Slido by the registrants. The registrants can also ask their questions in real time on Slido, though we cannot guarantee that we will be able to answer all questions in the allotted two hours.

All registered participants will receive the Zoom link, along with a Slido link to submit questions both prior to and during the session(s). If you cannot attend but would still like to get your question answered, we invite you to register and submit your question via Slido prior to the webinar, or directly reach out to [email protected] .

Note: We have  compiled a document  containing supplementary material for previous PhysGAAP webinars.

Webinar Recordings

Please note that the two webinars below are from 2021 and may contain outdated information about some topics, such as GRE requirements.

Mentorship for Prospective Applicants

physics phd acceptance rate

In addition to the materials available through this website, answers to emails sent to the department, or from our graduate student webinars, we also offer one-on-one mentoring for students who desire more in-depth individual assistance. Prospective applicants may apply to the PhysGAAP Mentoring program ,, which pairs prospective graduate school applicants with current graduate students who can assist them through the application process, provide feedback on their application materials and insight into graduate school and the MIT Physics Department.

We welcome interest in the PhysGAAP Mentorship program and mentorship applications are open to any prospective applicant. However, our capacity is limited, so we will give preferential consideration to PhysGAAP Mentorship applicants who would most benefit from the program and can demonstrate that they are a good fit.

PhysGAAP Mentoring may a good fit for you if you

PhysGAAP Mentoring may not be a good fit for you if you

To apply, please fill out this survey ( https://tinyurl.com/physgaap22 ). Applications will open October 26, 2022.

Please note that:

Admissions/Application FAQs

Our Frequently Asked Questions provide further information about degree requirements, funding, educational background, application deadlines, English language proficiency, program duration, start dates and deferrals, and fee waiver requests.

The MOST Frequently Asked Question…

What is included in a strong graduate application for physics at mit.

Applications are assessed holistically and many variables are considered in the application review process. The following four main factors are required for a complete application.

In addition, any past research experience, publications, awards, and honors are extremely helpful, particularly if they are in the area(s) of the applicant’s interest(s). Applicants may also include a personal statement in their application to provide context as the materials are assessed.

Applications are routed to admission committee members and other faculty readers using the “areas of interest” and any faculty names selected from the menu as well as based on the research interests included in the statement of objectives. Please select the areas of interest that best reflect your goals.

Instructions are available in the GradApply application itself, with further guidance on our webpage for Prospective Students . The Physics Admissions Office will respond to questions sent to [email protected] .

General Questions Regarding the PhD Program in Physics

Must i have a degree in physics in order to apply to this graduate program.

Our successful applicants generally hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics, or have taken many Physics classes if they have majored in another discipline. The most common other majors are astronomy, engineering, mathematics, and chemistry. Bachelor of Science degrees may be 3-year or 4-year degrees, depending on the education structure of the country in which they are earned.

What are the requirements to complete a PhD?

The requirements for a PhD in Physics at MIT are the doctoral examination, a few required subject classes, and a research-based thesis. The doctoral examination consists of a written and an oral examination. The written component may be satisfied either by passing the 4 subject exams or by passing designated classes related to each topic with a qualifying grade; the oral exam will be given in a student’s chosen research area. The Physics Department also requires that each student take two classes in the field of specialization and two physics-related courses in fields outside the specialty. Research for the thesis is conducted throughout the student’s time in the program, culminating in a thesis defense and submission of the final thesis.

Can I take courses at other schools nearby?

Yes. Cross-registration is available at Harvard University and Wellesley College.

How many years does it take to complete the PhD requirements?

From 3 to 7 years, averaging 5.6 years.

How will I pay for my studies?

Our students are fully supported financially throughout the duration of their program, provided that they make satisfactory progress. Funding is provided from Fellowships (internal and external) and/or Assistantships (research and teaching) and covers tuition, health insurance, and a living stipend. Read more about funding .

How many applications are submitted each year? How many students are accepted?

Although the number varies each year, the Department of Physics usually receives more than 1,000 applications and admits around 90 applicants. The incoming class in recent years has averaged around 45 students. Last year was unusual and we received more than 1,500 applications. We admitted just over 100 applicants and the 2021 incoming class has 65 students.

What are the minimum grades and exam scores for admitted applicants?

There are no minimum standards for overall grade point averages/GPAs. Grades from physics and other related classes will be carefully assessed. Under a special COVID-19 policy, MIT will accept transcripts with a variety of grading conventions, including any special grading given during the COVID-19 pandemic. GRE results are not accepted for Physics applications in 2020 under a special Physics Department COVID-19 policy.

Our program is conducted in English and all applicants must demonstrate their English language proficiency. Non-native English speakers should review our policy carefully before waiving the TOEFL/IELTS requirements. We do not set a minimum requirement on TOEFL/IELTS scores; however, students who are admitted to our program typically score above the following values:

The Application Process

When is the deadline for applying to the phd program in physics.

Applications for enrollment in the fall are due each year by 11:59pm EST on December 15 of the preceding year. There is no admission cycle for spring-term enrollment.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for me to take tests in person. Can I still apply?

Graduate applications received in 2022 for the 2023 start year do not require results from the General GRE and the Physics GRE is optional this year.  Non-native English speakers who are not eligible for a test waiver should include their results from either an in-person or online version of the TOEFL or IELTS test.

Does the Department of Physics provide waivers for the English language exam (TOEFL/IELTS)?

An English language exam (IELTS, TOEFL, TOEFL iBT, or the C2 Cambridge English Proficiency exam) is required of all applicants who are from a country in which English is not the primary language. Exceptions to this policy will be considered for candidates who, at the start of their graduate studies in 2022, will have been in the US or in a country whose official language is English for three years or longer and who will have received a degree from a college or university in a country where the language of education instruction is English. An interview via telephone, Zoom, or Skype may be arranged at the discretion of the Admissions Committee. More information on a possible English Language Waiver Decision (PDF).

Does the Department of Physics provide application fee waivers?

We do not want the MIT application fee to be a barrier to admission. Applicants who have participated in the MIT Summer Research Program (MSRP), Converge, or another MIT program or an official MIT recruiting visit are eligible for a fee waiver from the MIT Office of Graduate Education (OGE). Please check  MIT Graduate Diversity Programs  for further details. Other under-represented or under-resourced applicants may request a fee waiver from the OGE and, if denied, may reach out to us at  [email protected]  to request a second review of the decision. Please allow time for this process because applications lacking the paid fee or a fee waiver by 11:59pm EST on December 15 will not be reviewed.

Can I arrange a visit to the Physics Department or a specific research area?

Update as of September 23, 2021: In an effort to keep our community safe and healthy, we are not currently hosting or meeting with outside visitors in person, nor are we facilitating visits to our classrooms. Current graduate students and prospective applicants should direct any questions by email to [email protected] .

Applicants are invited to send specific questions to the Physics Admissions Office and some questions may be forwarded to current students for further information.

Can I receive an update on the status of my application?

Candidates will receive email acknowledgments from the Physics Academic Programs Office informing them whether their application is complete, is missing materials, or if further information is needed. Due to the high volume of applications that are received, no additional emails or telephone inquiries can be answered. It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure that all items are sent.

When will I be notified of a final decision?

Applicants will be notified via email of decisions by the end of February. If you have not heard from us by March 1, please send email to [email protected] .

We do not provide results by phone.

Can admitted students start in a term other than the next Fall semester?

Applications submitted between September 15 and December 15 by 11:59pm EST are assessed for the following Fall semester. We do not provide a separate admission review cycle for the Spring semester. Individual research supervisors may invite incoming students to start their research during the summer term a few months earlier than their studies would normally begin. All other incoming students start their studies in late August for the Fall term.

Once admitted, applicants may request a one-year deferral to attend a specific academic program or for another approved reason, with single semester deferrals for the following Spring term granted only rarely.

Graduate Admissions

The selection of the Ph.D. students admitted to the Department of Physics is based on an individualized, holistic review of each application, including (but not limited to) the student's academic record, the letters of recommendation, the statement of purpose, past accomplishments, and talent for research in physics. Applicants should keep in mind that attributes such as persistence, enthusiasm, and intellectual creativity can play a significant role in the evaluation of the aptitude of a candidate to graduate school. 

For the 2023-24 application cycle, the General GRE or Physics GRE scores will be accepted but are not a required part of a complete application.  

Applications must be submitted by the middle of December to be considered for the following Autumn Quarter. In January and February of each year, the Physics Department Graduate Admission Committee reviews each application. All applicants will be notified of their admission status by March 1st. The Department does not offer a separate program for the M.S. degree, but this degree may be awarded for a portion of the Ph.D. degree work with approval from the Department. Graduate students have opportunities for research in theoretical physics, AMO physics, ultra-fast lasers, particle and nuclear physics, condensed matter physics, quantum information and control, cosmology, astrophysics, and gravitation. Opportunities for research are also available with the faculty at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in the areas of theoretical and experimental particle physics, cosmology and astrophysics, accelerator design, and photon science. In Applied Physics there are opportunities in the areas of theoretical and experimental condensed matter physics, materials research, quantum electronics, and novel imaging technology.

The application deadline for this academic year 2022-23 (2023-24 admissions cycle) is  11:59pm Pacific Standard Time, Thursday, December 15, 2022 . The application submission deadline is a hard deadline and no late applications are accepted, no exceptions.  We strongly suggest you do not wait until the last day to submit in case you encounter any difficulties.

We encourage applicants with diverse backgrounds to apply to our program. We recognize that there are many different aspects to identity, including culture, socioeconomic and educational background, race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical ability, life experiences, hobbies, and interests. Providing this information in the application assists the admissions committee in its goal of creating a diverse class. 

The department is interested in understanding and mitigating barriers to access to all of our programs, including barriers based on citizenship status, accessibility, or financial or logistical challenges.  If you are interested in our graduate program but there are barriers that limit your ability to apply given our current procedures, we would appreciate hearing from you.  Please fill out this brief form .  

Not all students have equal access to information on the graduate admission process. The department is interested in helping those who may need additional guidance in applying to graduate programs in Physics. If you are interested in attending a Q&A panel to hear from current graduate students about applying to graduate programs please fill out this form .



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Physics: PhD Admissions and Enrollment Statistics


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Even the most qualified and confident applicants worry about getting into grad school. But don’t panic! Graduate school acceptance rates, which give the percentage of applicants that were admitted to a particular school or program in an academic year, can help you determine how likely you are to get into a given program.  But where can you find grad school admissions statistics?

In this article, we’ll first investigate the trends and factors associated with graduate school acceptance rates. Then, we’ll take a look at some of the current acceptance rates and give you expert tips on how to find acceptance rates for your programs. Finally, we’ll show you how to determine your odds of getting into grad school.

Graduate School Acceptance Rates: Factors and Trends

Grad school acceptance rates are the same as any other acceptance rate: the lower the acceptance rate, the more selective the school or program is. Similarly, the higher the acceptance rate, the less selective the school or program is. As with undergrad acceptance rates, grad school acceptance rates vary widely, from extraordinarily selective (less than 5 percent) to incredibly lenient (nearly 100 percent).

Unlike undergrad rates, though, grad school acceptance rates are usually calculated for specific programs or departments and  not for entire universities. This is because with grad school, you are essentially applying to an individual program rather than an overall institution (as you did for undergrad).

Now that we’ve covered all of the basics, let’s look at a few key trends. Our research indicates there are three major factors that help determine grad school acceptance rates:

Let’s look at how each of these factors influences grad school acceptance rates.

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#1: School or Program Prestige

How prestigious a particular grad school or program is can affect its overall competitiveness and selectivity. In general, the more prestigious a program is, the more competitive it’ll be and thus the lower acceptance rate it’ll have.

An easy way to determine school or program prestige is to consult official rankings, such as those listed on  U.S. News . (Grad schools are typically ranked by field or program and   not by overall institution.)

For example, a 2017  U.S. News  list of the best political science grad programs  ranked Duke’s political science program at #7 and Northwestern’s at #23. Because both of the programs have fairly high rankings, it’s safe to assume they’re probably quite selective.

And this is true: in 2016,  Duke  reported a mere 10 percent acceptance rate to its political science doctoral program, while  Northwestern  reported a 12 percent acceptance rate.


#2: Degree Type

Another major factor is degree type. Generally,  doctoral programs tend to be more selective than master’s programs (though this isn’t always the case as I’ll explain in a moment). This trend is likely due to the fact that doctoral programs often look for higher-quality applicants with proven academic track records and more relevant experience in their fields.

For example, in 2016  University of Michigan’s math doctoral program  had a 17.2 percent acceptance rate, whereas its master’s program  had a much higher 31.8 percent rate. In this case, the doctoral program is clearly tougher to get into than the master’s program.

Still,   master’s programs can have lower acceptance rates than doctoral programs. If we were to take the University of Michigan’s grad programs in computer science and engineering, we’d find that the doctoral program has  a 15 percent acceptance rate  and the master’s  an even lower 8 percent acceptance rate .

Additionally, M.F.A. programs are particularly cutthroat. In 2015, the creative writing M.F.A. program at UT Austin’s James A. Michener Center for Writers only admitted 12 out of 678 applicants — that’s a mere 1.8 percent acceptance rate !

#3: Amount of Funding

Funding, too, plays a big role in how selective a grad program is.

Well-funded  programs typically receive more applications than those offering little to no aid, thereby raising their selectivity. Competition is especially fierce for fully funded programs — possibly because fewer people are willing to go into debt for grad school.

Compared to fully funded doctoral programs, fully funded master’s programs are somewhat rare and thus pretty competitive. UT Austin’s Creative Writing M.F.A. program, for instance, is not only a prestigious program but also one of the most well-funded Creative Writing M.F.A. programs in the country: it  offers full tuition remission and a $27,500 stipend per academic year . It’s no wonder, then, that its acceptance rate is below 2 percent!


What Are the Current Graduate School Acceptance Rates?

For this section, we’ve scoured the internet to bring you a robust assortment of acceptance rates for popular U.S. grad schools.

Before we dive in, note that not all institutions calculate grad school acceptance rates using the same methodologies. Some offer only a single acceptance rate for all of their grad schools put together, while others offer individual rates by school, field, or program.

Now, let’s see how selective these schools really are!

*Statistics for NYU are based on the number of enrolled students and not the number of admitted students. Therefore, expect actual acceptance rates to be slightly higher.


How to Find Graduate School Acceptance Rates: 4 Methods

Unfortunately, grad school admissions statistics tend to be more difficult to find than undergrad acceptance rates.  But there are ways to search for them — you just have to do a lot of digging and possibly a little reaching out.

Below are our top four methods for finding grad school acceptance rates for the programs you’re applying to.

#1: Consult School Websites

By far the most reliable resources for grad school admissions statistics are  school websites.

Start your search by consulting program and departmental pages, particularly admissions and FAQ pages. Look out for any statistics-related keywords or phrases, such as “admission(s) rates,” “acceptance rates,” “enrollment,” “facts and figures,” etc. Use ctrl+F to move swiftly through large chunks of text.

Not all schools publish grad admissions information online, and those that do don’t always report it in the same way as others. For example, Princeton offers a handy PDF  containing acceptance rates for all academic fields of study. On the other hand,  Notre Dame  gives separate admissions charts for each of its grad programs (which you can access by selecting a program and then clicking “Admissions Statistics”).

Additionally, many schools release admissions statistics without explicitly publishing acceptance rates.  In this case, it’s your job to take the statistics provided and use them to calculate an acceptance rate. To find the acceptance rate of a school or program, you’ll need the following information:

The acceptance rate equals the total number of applicants offered admission divided by the total number of applicants and then multiplied by 100, or:

$$\acceptance \rate = {\number \of \applicants \offered \admission}/{\total \number \of \applicants}100$$

Be sure to  avoid conflating the number of students who were  offered admission   with the number of students who accepted their offers of admission. These two concepts sound alike but are actually different. What you’re looking for is the first statistic — that is, the number of admitted students (regardless of whether they decided to enroll).

If you’re having trouble finding admissions statistics by browsing school websites, search on Google for “[Your School] graduate acceptance rate” and see if any relevant school pages appear. While searching for acceptance rates to use in the table above, I consistently swapped “acceptance rate” with similar phrases, such as “admission(s) rate,” “facts and figures,” “student statistics,” “admittance rates,” and “admission(s) statistics.”

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Don’t be afraid to get creative! You can also use phrases like “Ph.D. admissions statistics” or “master’s admissions statistics” to narrow your search even further. Try to think outside the box as you do your research. What are other ways people talk about acceptance rates?

#2: Check  U.S. News

If your school or program doesn’t offer any admissions statistics on its website, go to  U.S. News . This website offers official rankings of grad programs as well as lists of the most (and least) selective programs in various fields.

For example, I found a 2016 list of the most competitive online M.B.A. programs  and a 2015 list of the most competitive online graduate engineering programs .

If U.S. News doesn’t offer any relevant lists for you to use, try skimming the current grad school rankings to gauge how competitive your program is compared with others in the same field.


#3: Search Other Websites

One less reliable method for looking up grad school admissions statistics is to  look for (unofficial) websites discussing acceptance rates for your school or program.

The Grad Cafe’s  admissions results  section is a solid place to start. Here, applicants post whether they’ve been accepted, rejected, or waitlisted for grad programs.

Search for your program to get a rough feel for how many acceptances and rejections go out each year. You might notice that certain types of applicants are more active than others. Creative Writing M.F.A. applicants, for example, are prolific posters in winter and spring (during admissions season).

Occasionally, Google itself will provide you with grad school acceptance rates, but this only appears to work consistently for well-known law schools, medical schools, and business schools.

Additionally, while using Google, don’t assume that any acceptance rates that pop up are directly connected to your search terms. For example, when I searched “stanford graduate acceptance rate,” Google gave me this result:


This 4.8 percent acceptance rate is  not  the acceptance rate for Stanford’s grad programs (what I searched for) but rather the acceptance rate for undergrads. So always cross-check any statistics Google gives you.

You can also consult grad school data websites such as  Peterson’s and StartClass . Take their grad school acceptance rates with a grain of salt, though — their data isn’t always verifiable online. If possible, try to compare any data you find on these types of websites with the school websites themselves or U.S. News .

#4: Contact Schools

If the internet isn’t giving you the help you need, call or email your schools. Be polite but upfront: ask whether the school calculates acceptance rates for grad programs and where you can find this information online (if available).

If a school refuses to divulge admissions statistics or simply doesn’t report acceptance rates, see if they can give you estimates for how many applications they receive each year, or for how many acceptances they usually extend to applicants in your program.


Graduate School Acceptance: What Are Your Odds?

By this point, you might be wondering how likely it is you’ll actually get into the grad program you wish to attend. After all, acceptance rates are pretty broad — they tell you what everyone’s odds are but not your odds specifically.

Below are three easy steps for determining your odds of getting into grad school, including advice on when it’s better to go for it or choose another program.

Step 1: Check Program Requirements

First, go to your program’s website and pinpoint the admissions requirements page. Now, ask yourself:  do you meet all of the program’s basic requirements? If not, you’ll likely wind up with a rejection (and might not even be able to apply).

However, if you’re still interested in applying, contact the program and ask if they’ll make an exception for you. Your chance of getting accepted is still low, but you’ll at least have your application considered.

If your program strongly recommends qualities you lack, don’t interpret this as an automatic rejection. Sometimes, applicants can make up for deficiencies in other ways. For example, if your undergrad GPA is 3.1 and your program recommends applicants have a minimum 3.2, don’t write off the program — you might still have a shot at getting in as long as the rest of your application is solid.

On the other hand, even if you meet all of a program’s requirements, you’re not necessarily a shoo-in. Remember, all other applicants have met these requirements, too, so you’ll need to find a unique way to make your application stand out.


Step 2: Find Average GRE Scores and GPAs

Your next step is to look up your program’s average GRE scores and GPA  to see how your own scores and GPA compare with those of previously admitted applicants.

You can usually find GRE score information on admissions requirements or FAQ pages. You can also search on Google for “[Your School] [Your Program] average GRE scores.” For step-by-step instructions on how to find average GRE scores, check out  my article on average GRE scores by school .

For GPAs, you can use the same basic methodology. Check admissions requirements and FAQ pages and use ctrl+F to search for “GPA.” If GPA information is available, you’ll most likely come across minimum GPAs or average GPAs (or both). For more tips on how to find GPA information for your grad schools, read our guide .

Now, compare your own GRE scores and GPA with the averages you’ve found. Below are all possible scenarios and what they mean for you and your odds of getting into the program:

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Step 3: Decide Whether to Apply

Now, we get to the final question: do you apply to the program or not?  This is a vague question that’s difficult to answer as is. The real questions you should be asking yourself are as follows:

Although acceptance rates and GRE/GPA comparisons are helpful, don’t base your decision to apply solely on how difficult the program is to get into. We can’t know for sure what kind of applicant a grad program is looking for or who they’re willing to make an exception for.

Take a moment to think deeply about how interested you are in this particular program. Be realistic about your chances of getting in — but don’t cross the line into pessimism. If you don’t meet most or all of a program’s expectations and you’re not super invested in it, consider applying elsewhere.

But if you meet some, most, or all of a program’s expectations and you’re extremely interested in enrolling, give the application a go. Remember, it’s totally normal (and even encouraged) to have a few reach schools. Plus, you’ll never get in if you don’t apply!


Key Takeaways: Graduate School Acceptance Rates

Grad school acceptance rates quantify for us the selectivity of grad schools and programs. More specifically, acceptance rates tell us  what percentage of applicants were offered admission to a particular grad school or program. 

With grad school, acceptance rates are often reported for individual schools or programs,  not  entire universities. Acceptance rates can vary widely depending on program prestige, the type of degree you’re seeking, and how much (or how little) funding a program offers.

Unlike undergrad acceptance rates, grad school acceptance rates are somewhat difficult to locate online. You can look for them using any of the following four methods:

When trying to determine your  odds of getting into a program, look at your program’s requirements as well as the average GPA and GRE scores of previously admitted applicants to your program. If your GRE scores and GPA are comparable to those of your program, you have a decent shot at getting accepted. If one or both are lower than your program’s averages, however, you can always try to  raise your GRE score  with a retake or address your GPA in your statement of purpose.

At the end of the day, what ultimately matters isn’t that you get accepted to a highly competitive grad program but that you make the right decision for you and you alone!

What’s Next?

Need help with your grad school application?  Learn about the most common grad school requirements  and get tips on how to write a grad school CV or resume !

Is your GPA good enough for grad school ?  Read our in-depth guide to learn how you can make up for a less-than-stellar GPA and ultimately raise your chances of getting into the school of your dreams.

Do you have to take the GRE for grad school ? When are grad school deadlines ?  Check out our guides for answers to these questions and more.

Ready to improve your GRE score by 7 points?

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Author: Hannah Muniz

Hannah graduated summa cum laude from the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in English and East Asian languages and cultures. After graduation, she taught English in Japan for two years via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel. View all posts by Hannah Muniz

physics phd acceptance rate

Ph.D. in Physics

Program information.

No student may become a candidate for the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree without first fulfilling the requirements for the Master of Arts (M.A.) and Master of Philosophy (M.Phil.) degrees at Columbia.  A satisfactory rate of progress is required at all times.  A student whose progress is insufficient may at any time be requested to withdraw. 

The following represents the obligation and requirements for students who wish to obtain the Ph.D. degree at Columbia.  Please retain these guidelines for reference throughout your program of studies.

Applying to Columbia Physics Graduate Program

Three years of fundamental undergraduate physics courses, individual laboratories, and a working knowledge of ordinary differential equations are generally required for admission. Columbia's Graduate School of Arts & Sciences provides an online teaching manual that is organized around the diverse teaching roles filled by graduate students and offers practical advice concerning issues that arise from instructing students. A manual for those serving as teaching assistants is available at the  Teaching Program's Website .

The online application for the Columbia Graduate School of Arts and Sciences can be found  here . When filing an application form, the student should specify the department or doctoral program subcommittee under which he or she wishes to study. In any given term, a student may apply for study under only one department or subcommittee. A nonrefundable fee of $120 must accompany the completed form.

A complete application includes transcripts of all previous post-secondary education, a personal statement, three letters of recommendation, scores from the GRE (if the applicant chooses to) and, if applicable, the TOEFL examination. Students denied admission may reapply in a subsequent year if further training or experience is presented to strengthen the application


All admitted students are supported for the PhD program. Typically, students are supported by a Faculty Teaching Fellowship in the first two years followed by a Research Assistantship in subsequent years as students work for a research group.

The fellowship support amount increases on average 2.5-3% per year. Some students supplement their Fellowship by tutoring, teaching recitation sections, or by grading homework.

Please check the GSAS website for current fellowship support.

Yearly Support

Outside Support and Fellowships

Some students enter graduate school with outside fellowships or awards, or receive such fellowships or awards during their PhD. In this case, support will be supplemented with details dependent on the amount of the outside fellowship.

A number of such funding opportunities are available, and a selected list of resources are available under the External Funding page.

Supplementing Your Income

Students can supplement their income by:

Interested graduate students should contact the undergraduate secretary if they are interested in any of these possibilities for supplemental income.


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  1. Graduate Admissions » MIT Physics

    Under the umbrella of the Physics Graduate Application Assistance Program (PhysGAAP), our current physics graduate students provide three forms of assistance during the admissions process: Answers to specific questions about culture, student life, and research areas.

  2. Graduate Admissions

    Applications must be submitted by the middle of December to be considered for the following Autumn Quarter. In January and February of each year, the Physics Department Graduate Admission Committee reviews each application. All applicants will be notified of their admission status by March 1st.

  3. Physics: PhD Admissions and Enrollment Statistics

    The Graduate School 2127 Campus Drive Durham, NC 27708 (919) 681-3257

  4. Graduate School Acceptance Rates: Can You Get In

    acceptance rate = number of applicants offered admission total number of applicants 100 Be sure to avoid conflating the number of students who were offered admission with the number of students who accepted their offers of admission. These two concepts sound alike but are actually different.

  5. Ph.D. in Physics

    All admitted students are supported for the PhD program. Typically, students are supported by a Faculty Teaching Fellowship in the first two years followed by a Research Assistantship in subsequent years as students work for a research group. The fellowship support amount increases on average 2.5-3% per year.