Graduate Admissions

For Prospective Graduate Students:

Welcome and thank you for your interest in the graduate program in physics. When Applying to the Physics program, please proceed directly to Graduate Admissions.  

The deadline for the application is December 15th.

Please consult the Graduate School website to find the list of required materials .

In the evaluation of each applicant, the Physics Department looks not only for the success that the applicant has achieved so far in his or her study of physics, but also for his or her promise as a research scientist. Admissions decisions are made during February by a special committee of physics faculty members. The Admissions Committee seeks all the relevant information it can gather in order to assess each candidate's interest in and potential for advanced research in physics. Admitted students begin their physics study the following September -- they never begin the program in January. Because of the small number of students, typically 20 per class, applicants are admitted only as candidates for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. There is no separate Master of Arts program and no provision for part-time students. However, an M.A. is awarded to those who desire it after they have passed their Generals requirements.

Advice to potential applicants:

We look for people with a strong physics background, reflected in the courses taken at the undergraduate level and in the grades received (GPA).   An undergraduate degree in physics is not required, but your coursework must include the core of an undergrad physics program: mechanics, electricity & magnetism, thermal and statistical physics, quantum mechanics, and experimental (lab) work.   We look at your undergraduate record for breadth, depth, and performance.

We require the GRE General Test and the GRE Subject Test in Physics, and we pay attention to GRE scores. We do not have a minimum GRE score for admission, but we find that almost all of the students admitted to our program have scored highly on the GRE Subject Test in Physics. Performing well on the GRE Subject Test in Physics requires putting some time into it, an investment that reveals discipline and commitment, which are both good indicators of future success. Be sure to list Princeton University as one of the schools to receive your scores. If you have already taken the GRE and Princeton was not among the schools you listed, contact ETS and arrange for your score to be sent to Princeton.

The GREs must be taken no later than November in order for your scores to be considered by the Admissions Committee.

Grades and test scores are important, but do not tell the whole story. We value research experience. Undergraduate theses or research projects in or out of class are of special interest to the Admissions Committee. For experimentalists it is important to have lab experience. If you are a potential experimentalist then in your application please tell us about any "hands-on" experience you may have, including hobbies or jobs involving mechanical work or electronics. Also, computer skills are very valuable both for experimentalists and theorists.

The Statement of Academic Purpose is another important tool that we use in our decision making process. We look for a thoughtful statement of purpose that shows signs of creativity and a potential for research. The statement must be convincing and coherent, based on some familiarity with the proposed area of research. It is often helpful if you can relate your research and interests to the research of specific faculty and groups at Princeton. View our suggestions about the statement.

Finally, we pay much attention to letters of recommendation by people who really know you and can provide relevant information about your potential in physics. Recommendation letters should help us evaluate your capacity for research, a most important criterion for admission. If possible, choose recommenders who are familiar with the graduate physics program at Princeton and can gauge your ability compared to previous Princeton students. Along with the reference form in your application packet, give the advisors the following letter offering guidelines: Letter for Recommenders

And lastly, there are many physicists working on interesting physics problems in other departments at Princeton University. You might want to look at the web pages of the following departments:

Astrophysical Sciences Plasma Physics Electrical Engineering
Chemistry Molecular Biology Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

Advice to foreign students:

We pay attention to TOEFL scores. If you plan to apply to Princeton, please work on improving your spoken English skills. You will need to pass a demanding spoken English test by the end of your first year in Princeton. It is possible that a phone interview will be arranged with foreign candidates before admission to ascertain their spoken English abilities.