Frequently Asked Questions
General Application Questions
Access the application through the following link: https://gradcas.liaisoncas.org/apply/
The Physics and Astronomy department only accepts applications for the upcoming Fall Term.
Both domestic and international applicants apply through the same link.
Due to the structure of our core courses, we only admit for the Fall Term. Consideration for Spring admission is given to students under exceptional circumstances.
The admission committee makes every effort to make decisions for completed application files as soon as possible. Students can be admitted any time before the April 15 decision deadline, although almost all offers go out well before this deadline.
Filling out the Application
A complete application includes:
- Online application
- Personal statement as part of the online application form
Legible English copies of unofficial transcripts of all college-level institutions attended with or without degrees conferred at the time of submitting application and updated upon conferring degrees.Certified “official” English transcripts are required if you are selected for admissions for enrollment.
- Curriculum Vitae (CV). This should include a list of relevant textbooks used and chapters covered.
- 3 Letters of Recommendation
- INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS: TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo scores (if applicable)
- INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS: Review Office of International Services (OIS) document, International Graduate Student Financial Information for 2022-23 when available.
- OPTIONAL: General GRE, Physics GRE.
GradCAS.org has your accurate application status. Because only parts of your application from GradCAS are uploaded to Peoplesoft, Peoplesoft may incorrectly display that your application is incomplete. We hope to have this resolved shortly!
If GradCAS also states that your application is incomplete, then you may be missing some information.
We cannot pre-screen applicants. However, you are welcome to ask our faculty if your qualifications would meet their standards, but this would not guarantee an offer.
Hard copies are not available for our application forms. Online application submission is the only acceptable method of applying.
We do not require standard forms for recommendations. Recommendation letters must be submitted through the online application.
At least one research interest is required, up to three possible interests. It is extremely helpful to identify the areas of research that interest you.
- Astrophysics/Cosmology Observational
- Astrophysics/Cosmology Theory
- Biological Physics Experiment
- Condensed Matter Experimental
- Condensed Matter Theory
- Nanoscience Experimental
- Nanoscience Theory
- Particle Physics Experiment
- Particle Physics Theory
- Physics Education Research
- Quantum Information Experimental
- Quantum Information Theory
No, but it is helpful. If you speak with a faculty member who expresses interest in working with you, it may be helpful to mention them in your application.
Everything should be uploaded via the online application process. If you want to update your transcripts after receiving grades or a degree it will also be uploaded in the online application.
Uploaded unofficial copies of your undergraduate (and, if applicable, graduate transcripts) are sufficient for the admission review process. Official transcripts and translations will be required as soon as degrees are awarded or no later than the time of enrollment if you are selected for admission. If your institution(s) provide final official E-Transcripts, these are acceptable at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Official transcripts are sent directly from your university to us. You will need to request through your institution that official copies be sent to our office via email or mail. If your institution offers electronic transcript delivery service, that is the preferred method. Official transcripts can be emailed to email@example.com.
Also note: Official academic documents from institutions outside of the U.S. must include academic records from each academic institution attended such as a grade report, mark sheet, examination results, etc. Official, original academic credentials that are issued in a language other than English must be accompanied by a certified English translation. Additionally, in cases where the grade report, academic record, examination results, or transcript does not attest to the awarding of a degree or other academic qualification, a certified copy of the original certificate or diploma awarding the degree or qualification must be submitted. Certificates or diplomas that are issued in a language other than English must be accompanied by a certified English translation.
Scans or copies of transcripts delivered from students are considered "unofficial" and are acceptable only at the time of the application. If you are selected for admission, we will require an official transcript before you are able to be matriculated/enrolled.
At the time of the application, we accept unofficial copies of transcripts. If you are selected for admission and only have one original official copy of your transcript, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with a brief summary of your situation and include an unofficial copy of your transcript. Typically, we can matriculate you temporarily using this unofficial copy. Once you arrive on campus, you would be required to bring your single original transcript to our office so that we can make copies for our records. At that point, we will clear your transcript contingency.
The minimum acceptable GPA is 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.
I am an international applicant and my college does not use the US 4.0 GPA grading scale. How do I report my GPA?
If your college does not use a 4.0 GPA scale, you can estimate your GPA with the following table:
|100 Point Scale
If it seems like your GPA matches up well, you can simply use that translation.
If your institution uses a grading system that doesn't translate well into the above table or you feel that the above measurements do not reflect your achievements accurately, please review the next question, "My institution uses a scale that is not easily translated to a 4.0 scale..."
My institution uses a scale that is not easily translated to a 4.0 scale. How should I report my GPA?
Please include a “Transcript Guide” document in your application. This is simply a written document that states your GPA in its original scale, how it might compare in your university, and any additional information that might help us understand your GPA accurately. This can be just a few sentences, but please feel free to include any information you feel will reflect your achievements accurately.
You can convert your grade to a 4.0 scale using any resource you prefer, so long as you mention it via a link on your transcript guide. Some applicants have used the document at this link to convert their GPA: if you choose to use this, compare your grade to the USA scale at the bottom of page 2. For universities with a 10-point GPA scale, we recomend NOT converting your GPA to a 4.0 scale. Instead, you may simply describe it in its original format.
Please upload your Transcript Guide with your application materials, OR send the file to the Graduate Administrator at email@example.com. Include your full name as it appears on your application.
Applicants could be admitted with provisional status with a GPA of 2.75-2.99. However, funding would not be available while on Provisional status.
When must I send my “official” undergraduate and, if applicable, graduate transcripts with evidence of my degree(s)?
After being selected for admission and accepting our offer, you would need to submit your official undergraduate/graduate transcripts before receiving your Pitt computer account.
For those of you who are still finishing and/or waiting for your final grades and for the degree to be posted or awarded, please have materials submitted as soon as they are available.
If you cannont upload your transcript to the online application, you want to contact the application portal support. They are the only service that can assist with application tech problems.
The Registrar's office at my school has an electronic method available to send official transcripts. Is this acceptable?
Yes! This is preferred whenever possible. Please have them sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You would need a 3-year Bachelor’s Degree and a 2-year Master’s Degree for the equivalent of a U.S. Bachelor’s. A 3-year Bachelor’s degree alone would not meet our requirements for admission.
No,the GRE tests are optional. If you believe that your score will strengthen your application, you are invited to provide it. Conversely, the absence of your score will not adversely impact your materials for the review process.
No. If you elect to submit scores (which is entirely optional), you simply indicate to ETS that our department (code 0808) at the University of Pittsburgh (school code 2927) is one of your schools of choice, the score information is downloaded from ETS and received at the University.
The University downloads this information nightly and your official ETS scores are verified with your self-reported scores in your downloaded application materials.
0808 - Physics. This code is sufficient to reach our department.
If I am applying to two different programs in two different graduate schools within the University of Pittsburgh, do I have to send my scores twice?
Typically no. Scores submitted to the University of Pittsburgh are exported into our application system, which would be viewable by any school in which you applied.
English Proficiency Tests
Applicants outside of the U.S. typically need to submit an English Proficiency test. Specific exceptions from English test requirements are listed on the University’s Admissions Page, under "Exceptions."
No, you would not need to submit TOEFL/IELTS/Duolingo scores if you have a degree from an accredited U.S. institution (or if you are planning on receiving a degree from an accredited US institution before the first day of the semester in which you are applying for).
Any non-native English speaker, whether a U.S. permanent resident or with refugee status, who has been in the U.S. less than 2 years is required to submit English Fluency Test Scores with acceptable scores, unless he/she has a degree from an accredited U.S. Institution.
The minimum TOEFL score is 90 (with at least a score of 22 in all of the four sections of speaking, reading, listening, and writing). Students admitted to the University with scores below 100 are required to take an English Language Proficiency Test during orientation. The scores will not be reported to any institution outside the University of Pittsburg. Scores must not be more than 2 years old.
The IELTS minimum score is 7, with at least a 6.5 score in each of its four sections. Students admitted to the University with scores below Band 7 are required to take an English Language Proficiency Test during orientation. The scores will not be reported to any institution outside the University of Pittsburgh. Scores must not be more than 2 years old.
A minimum Duolingo total score of 110 is required.
Duolingo typically provides a PDF document containing your official test results, which can then be uploaded into our online application.
Personal copies of test scores are not acceptable, nor are "attested" or notarized copies.
We don’t accept “MyBest” TOEFL scores. However, applicants can submit two sets of TOEFL scores. Typically, the more recent results should show some improvement. The requirement for a single set of TOEFL scores is at least 90 total (no exceptions) with at least 22 on each component.
76 and/or 61
The Educational Testing Service introduced an Internet-based TOEFL (iBT) to replace the historically used paper-based and computer-based TOEFL exams. iBT = TOEFL.
What is the procedure to send IELTS scores to the University of Pittsburgh and the Department of Physics and Astronomy?
International English Language Testing System (IELTS): Official results must be sent electronically to the University of Pittsburgh by the University of Cambridge. Our School code for the University of Pittsburgh is 2927 and if there is a way to list/add Physics, this will help to direct it to our department.
Typically, yes. After you receive your Offer of Admission letter, you will have until April 15th to accept unless otherwise stated. If you accept or do not plan to accept, please let us know as soon as possible.
Sometimes, offers will be made after the April 15th decision deadline based on the decisions of earlier-selected applicants. In these cases, selected applicants will have two weeks to submit their decision before it is recognized as an automatic decline. The specific details and deadlines will be explained in your Offer of Admission letter. The two-week deadline also applies to any student who receives an offer after April 1st.
There is no advantage to applying earlier so long as you submit your application before the deadline. Late applications after the deadline are at a disadvantage due to less time available to review your application.
Students can be admitted any time before the April 15 decision deadline, although almost all offers go out well before this deadline. The earliest possibility is the second half of January.
If you are accepted into the PhD program, the Department of Physics and Astronomy is committed to the success of our graduate students and therefore, our financial support package generally covers five consecutive years of graduate study. This is provided that a student remains in good academic standing and is in residence, either in the Department or at an appropriate research facility. Below are just a few fellowship opportunities. Additional information is available about department, University, and external funding. Accepted MS students will not recieve any financial support and are self-funded.
Note that the department does not offer financial support for students admitted into the Physics MS program.
In the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, McNair students who apply for admission are eligible to be nominated by departments for multi-year fellowships that generally carry a stipend and tuition coverage. Graduate application fees are waived for all graduate programs in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. In addition, in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, Graduate Studies will pay for any McNair scholar who is admitted into one of the School's graduate programs to visit the campus. Applicants should direct all inquiries to their Arts and Sciences Department.
View fellowships and awards.
Support in the form of Teaching Assistantships, Teaching Fellowships (described as funding for graduate students with a MS or equivalent degree and excellent teaching scores), as well as Graduate Research Assistantships. Details may be found on the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences website.
The university requires a 3.00 GPA (from a 4.0 scale) or higher in the most recently earned degree for you to be awarded a Teaching Assistantship or Teaching Fellowship. (A Teaching Fellowship is defined in our department as a student with a Master's Degree or equivalent, and excellent teaching evaluations.
No, the tuition and fee merit scholarship (with the exception of your $30 per term activity fee) is a separate scholarship.
Master’s students are nearly always self-supported. We don’t guarantee or provide any support for Master’s students, whereas students, maintaining satisfactoral progress, in the Ph.D. program are guaranteed 5 years of support through teaching assistantship, research, etc.
Office of International Services (OIS)
What information will the Office of International Services (OIS) provide me before I arrive to Pitt?
Upon learning of your decision to our offer, we will forward your information to the Office of International Services (OIS). At that point, you will be contacted by OIS directly on how to submit your financial documentation. More information on the financial requirements can be found here.
If I am transferring to your department from another US Institution, do I still need to submit documents to the Office of International Services?
Yes, once an applicant is accepted to the program, they will need to provide financial documentation and other biographical information to the Office of International Services. More information on this process will be provided to those once accepted, and questions about funding amounts can refer to the International Graduate Student Financial Information Fact Sheet.
General Program Questions
Unfortunately the University of Pittsburgh does not offer graduate student housing. Graduate students live in Oakland and surrounding areas close to campus. There are several sources to help you find housing, such as the Office of Off-Campus Living, the classifieds section of The Pitt News, and asking your department graduate student mentor or other graduate students.
Typically, the summer semester is devoted to research. Sometimes students will teach classes as a Teaching Assistant or Teaching Fellow for one or both 6-week summer sessions as well.
Not only is the campus walkable, your Pitt ID card is your bus pass for campus, city, and county transportation!
Visit Cool Pittsburgh
Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) campus is located next to the University of Pittsburgh. To what extent does the Physics and Astronomy department share resources?
Pitt Physics and Astronomy students are able to take CMU courses by following PCHE Cross Registration Instructions, available in both fall and spring terms. Likewise, CMU students are able to take Pitt courses as well.
In addition, the two universities share selected events and seminars on our Weekly Events Calendar.
We typically maintain over 130 graduate students in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.
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