Admission to our graduate programs is done through the Graduate Recruitment and Admissions Committee which is  made up of several faculty representing the departmental research areas. All candidates are evaluated on:

  1. Academic Preparation – GPA, TOEFl or IELTS scores when needed, rigorous preparation for graduate-level coursework, academic letters of recommendation
  2. Scholarship and Research – original research contributions, scientific communications, and exploring available research opportunities
  3. Engagement and Motivation – evidence of strong work ethic, challenging adversity, working independently
  4. Writing and Presentation – quality of personal statement in explaining research and scientific goals, conference presentations, outreach and public engagement
  5. Career and Academic Plan – alignment of goals with faculty interests, defined career objectives

Candidates are advised to apply directly to the program best suited to their long-term academic goals. Students interested in pursuing research or academic careers should apply to the Ph.D. program even if they intend to get an M.S. degree as an intermediate degree. Those students that seek advance preparation beyond their undergraduate training  for educational or industrial careers should apply to one of the M.S. programs.

Students applying to the Ph.D. program are not expected to have an M.S. degree and typically do not. Ph.D. candidates may opt to receive one of the M.S. degrees enroute towards the Ph.D. as an intermediate degree but there is not a requirement. Students who hold a master's degree upon entering the Ph.D. program may apply for transfer credit of their master’s courses towards the Ph.D. program requirements.

Requirements for Admission

  • Applications are only through the University of Iowa Graduate College website located at Graduate and Professional Admissions. For more information on details on how to apply, see the appropriate "How to Apply" section below.
  • The completion of a four-year undergraduate physics degree (or its equivalent) from an accredited institution. Again, students applying to the Ph.D. program are NOT expected to have an M.S. degree for admission. Students with an M.S. degree may apply for transfer credit of those courses towards the Ph.D. program requirements through the Director of Graduate Studies after being admitted.
  • A minimum 3.00 undergraduate grade point average on a 4.0 scale. The Graduate Admissions Office will convert other academic scales to the 4.0 scale before being sent to the admissions committee.
  • The GRE General Test and the GRE Physics subject test are not required. However, strong grades in the GRE Physics test may be reported to support the application
  • The Graduate College requires a minimum TOEFL score of 81 for Internet-based testing or a minimum IELTS score of 7.0 (with no section score lower than 6.0) for international applicants whose native language is not English. However, students with TOEFL scores below 100 on Internet-based testing are generally not admitted to Physics graduate programs. Exceeding these scores does not guarantee admission, and average scores of students who are awarded financial aid are significantly higher. All students submitting IELTS scores must also take an on-campus English Proficiency Evaluation prior to registration. For Fall 2021 applicants, the Graduate College has approved the use of DuoLingo as a temporary additional testing option, as an alternative to TOEFL and IELTS. UI Graduate Admissions will use an official minimum requirement of 105 for admission and all students admitted on the DuoLingo English Test (DET) scores will be required to take the on-campus English Proficiency Exam when they arrive.
  • Undergraduate and graduate transcripts, showing performance in upper level courses of classical mechanics, quantum mechanics (preferably two semesters), classical electrodynamics (preferably two semesters), and statistical mechanics.
  • Three letters of recommendation and/or a recommendation form. Recommendations should be completed by science faculty and/or research science professional that have terminal degrees and who have a direct knowledge of the applicants ability to succeed in graduate school. The letters can address performance in courses, the applicant’s intellectual ability and motivation to study astronomy and/or physics, their preparation for graduate school, their creativity in research, their capacity to work independently, and ability to communicate in English.
  • A statement of purpose indicating that the applicant understands the nature of the graduate program for which there are applying. Emphasis should be on research aspirations, any projects or research group participation that demonstrate the applicant’s enthusiasm for physics or astronomy, the pathways taken to achieve their academic goals so far, and the faculty and/or research areas of particular interests in the department.
  • A curriculum vitae or résumé.

NOTE: We regret that we are unable to evaluate any individual’s probability of admission prior to formal application beyond the information already presented here.

Conditional Admission

In exceptional circumstances, a student who does not meet the criteria for regular admission may be granted conditional admission. The Department will specify the conditions a student must meet to achieve regular status and will advise the student accordingly. The student must fulfill the conditions within two sessions of registration in the Graduate College, or face dismissal. Admission in this special category is reserved for cases where there are strong indications for success in the program, despite weaknesses in certain parts of the application.

How to Apply

To apply online, go to the UI Graduate and Professional Admissions website.

After you submit your application, you will receive email instructions on how to establish your HawkID and password in order to access your Admissions Profile on MyUI, our online portal for students. All supporting materials can and should be uploaded through your Admissions Profile. If your academic program requires letters of recommendation, you will be asked to provide the contact information of your recommenders on your Profile. The recommender will then receive an email from the Office of Admissions instructing them on how to upload a recommendation letter and/or recommendation form.

Applicants for admission to the graduate program must meet the admission requirements of the Graduate College; see the Manual of Rules and Regulations of the Graduate College on the Graduate College website.

Information Regarding Application Fee Waiver


Graduate Student Life at Iowa

What's it like to be a graduate student in Iowa City?  The following link will take you to a page with FAQs and answers, as well as information about Iowa City community and graduate student resources: Graduate Student Life |