FAQ: How to Apply

Application Process

Question: May I apply for the Spring Term (January)?
A: Due to the structure of our core courses, we only admit for the Fall Term. Consideration for January admission is given to students under exceptional circumstances.

Question: What do I need for a completed application?
A: Complete files include: 

  • Online application
  • Personal statement as part of the online application form 
  • Uploaded clear copies of your undergraduate (UG) and,  if applicable, your graduate (G) transcripts. Include translations if applicable. [Note: Certified transcripts (with degrees posted) of all UG and G study are required no later than time of enrollment.
  • Curriculum Vitae (CV)
  • 3 letters of recommendation
  • General GRE, SUBJECT GRE (optional), and TOEFL or IELTS scores (if applicable)
  • International Graduate Student Applicants review OIS document, International Graduate Student Financial Information for 2018-19.

Question: 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 the 4.0 GPA scale, estimate your GPA with the following table.

GPA Letter Grade 100 Point Scale 10 Point Scale
3.75-4.0 A 90–100 9-10
2.75-3.25 B 80–89 8-8.9
1.75-2.25 C 70–79 7-7.9
0.75-1.25 D 60–69 6-6.9
0 E/F 0–59 0-59

For instance, if your cumulative grade is a 90 on a 100 point scale, your GPA would be 3.75. If your college uses another grading system, or if the percentile scores are different from those shown above, please attempt to compute the corresponding US GPA as best as possible.

Question: I cannot find a form for letter of recommendation.
A: We do not require standard forms for recommendations. However, one is generated in the on-line application process and may or may not be used along with your recommender's letter. 

Question: Must I identify a research area, individual faculty person, or research group?
A: It is not required, but it is helpful to be sure that we have the areas of research that interest you.

Question: Your instructions indicate that the application fee is waived for applicants from the US, but this does not seem to be an option in the online application. How do I complete that section of the online application?
A: When you are filling out the online application, you will be given the option of either paying the fee online or paying the fee by check. You should simply indicate that you will pay by check; however, you do not need to send a check. We are unable to refund your application fee if you pay by mistake.  Additionally, application fees are waived for all graduate programs in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences for the following:

  • Gates Millennium Scholars Program
  • McNair Scholars
  • Society for Advancement of Chicanos & Native Americans
  • Veterans

Question: I am an international student applying for a transfer to your Department from another US institution. Is the University of Pittsburgh, Office of International Services Supplemental Application Packet still necessary?
A: The Supplemental Application Packet is no longer necessary for any international student, as the Office of International Services has now moved to a completely online, paperless system.  As with all incoming international students, once the Office of International Services receives your Admission Information from your Academic Department (Physics/Astronomy), we will contact you directly regarding information for how to log in to our online portal and what is required for your I-20 document and transfer process for your current SEVIS record.  

Question: Will you send me hard copies of your application materials?
A: Hard copies are not available for our application forms. Online application submission is the only acceptable method of applying.

Question: Should I send my supporting application material to the department or the University's graduate admissions office?
A: EVERYTHING should be uploaded via the on-line application process.  If, after you have submitted what you believe to be all of your materials, you discover that you wish to send an updated fall transcript indicating final grades or information about your mid-term Spring grades, you will need to send these materials to the Graduate Administrator at pagrad@pitt.edu.  Indicate in the email subject line to "ADD TO MY Fall 2018 APPLICATION.

Here is our address, if needed:
Graduate Admissions
University of Pittsburgh
Department of Physics and Astronomy
3941 O'Hara Street, Rm 100 Allen Hall
Pittsburgh, PA 15260

Question: Must I send original transcripts or will you accept copies until I am admitted?
A: Effective for 2014-15 admissions, original transcripts containing degrees posted will be required no later than prior to enrollment at the University of Pittsburgh. Uploaded copies of your undergraduate and, if applicable, graduate transcripts are sufficient for the admission review process.   Formal admission letters from the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences will include a "transcript contingency".

Question: How will I know if my file is complete?
A: You are able to view the status of your application through GATS (Graduate Admissions Tracking System).

Question: When will decisions be made?
A: The admission committee makes every effort to make decisions for completed application files as soon as possible.  However, all complete on-line application files are reviewed, decided upon and offers made until we have a full class for the coming Fall Term. 

Minimum Acceptable GPA

Question: What is the minimum acceptable GPA for admission with full status?
A: The mimimum acceptable GPA is 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.

Question: Is there any consideration for a GPA below 3.0 on a 4.0 scale?
A: 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.


Question: Is the GRE subject test score required?
A: The GRE Subject test is strongly recommended. 

Question: What is an acceptable TOEFL score?
A: University policy, effective for 2013-14 applicants, required a TOEFL score of 90 (with at least a score of 22 in all of the four sections of speaking, reading, listening, writing.  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 these scores 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.

TOEFL EXCEPTIONS may be found here.  In addition, the department has made exceptions for applicants with one component below the minimum required.

*International English Language Testing System (IELTS): Official results must be sent electronically to the University of Pittsburgh by the University of Cambridge.  The IELTS website is www.ielts.org.  IELTS and TOEFL scores submitted must not be more than two years old.  Personal copies of test scores are not acceptable, nor are "attested" or notarized copies.

Question: What is the iBT? What is an acceptable iBT score?
A: The Educational Testing Service introduced a new Internet-based TOEFL (iBT) to replace the historically used paper-based and computer-based TOEFL exams.

Question: Do I really need the GRE General scores if I have the GRE Subject Test score?
A: Yes, the general GRE scores are required.

Question: Will you accept copies of my scores for the GRE and TOEFL?
A: No. When you 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 verfied with your self-reported scores in your downloaded application materials.

Question: What is the University of Pittsburgh's school code for GRE score reports?
A: 2927.

Question: 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?
A: The applicant should select University of Pittsburgh. The GRE (or if applicable, TOEFL) scores will be submitted to the University of Pittsburgh via ETS. Once the online applications are submitted to both schools and the application is exported to PeopleSoft, the GREs or TOEFL should map to APPL in each area and each will be able to view test results.

Question: What is the department code for GRE score reports?
A: 0808 -- Physics. This code is sufficient to reach our department.

Question: How long are GRE scores valid?
A: Five years.

Question: What is the department code for TOEFL score reports?
A: 76 or 61.

Question: How long are TOEFL scores valid?
A: Two years.

Question: Must I have a TOEFL test score report if I get a degree from a U.S. institution?
A: No, you will not need a TOEFL if you have a Bachelors or Masters degree from a U.S. school.

Question: What are the minimum GRE, subject GRE and TOEFL requirements?
A: We do not have a minimum score requirement for the GRE and subject GRE, however, for those applicants "offered" admission for August 2017, the average scores were 156 for the GRE Verbal exam, 164 for the GRE Quantitative exam, and 785 for the GRE Physics exam. We do, however, have a School and Departmental minimum score of 90 for non-native English speakers on the iBT (TOEFL). The IELTS minimum score  is 7, with at least a 6.5 score in each of its four sections. Consideration may be given if one component of the TOEFL is slightly below 22.

Question: What are the acceptable scores for the TOEFL Internet-based test (iBT)?
A: A score of 90 (the maximum is 120) with a minimum score of 22 in each of the components of the test (speaking, reading, listening, writing).  The IELTS minimum score  is 7, with at least a 6.5 score in each of its four sections.  Updates about the TOEFL are available at www.ets.org/toefl. Total score comparisons between the current test and the new test are available at Educational Testing Service website.

Question: Must I have a TOEFL test score report if I am a permanent resident?
A: Any non-native speaker of English who is a U.S. permanent resident or with refugee status, and has been in the U.S. less than 2 years, is required to take the TOEFL or IELTS with acceptable scores, unless he/she has a degree from a U.S. Institution. 

IELTS score

Question: What is the minimum acceptable IELTS score?
A: The minimum IELTS score is 7.0 (with at least 6.5 in each of its four sections).

Question: What is the procedure to send IELTS scores to University of Pittsburgh and specifically, the Department of Physics and Astronomy?
A: Ideally, the IELTS results should be sent electronically.  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.  However, it has been our experience that they often are not sent (or do not find their way to us).  At the current time, it is acceptable to forward to pagrad@pitt.edu a copy of the results you receive.  Please put PER YOUR REQUEST –IELTS Results in the subject line of the email.)

Financial Assistance

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

Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate 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.

Question: Where can I find information about processing a federal loan?
A: At the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid.

Question: What fellowships are available to me?
A: View fellowships and awards.

Question: In addition to Fellowships, what support is available to me?  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.
A: Details may be found on the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences website.

Question: What is the GPA requirement to be considered for a Teaching Assistantship?
A: The university requires a 3.00 GPA or higher in the most recently earned degree for you to be awarded and maintain a Teaching Assistantship or Teaching Fellowship.

PhD Timeline

View departmental policies on expected progress towards degree »

Veteran Services

View the Office of Veterans Services »