Prospective Graduate Students

Graduate Physics Research

The Virginia Tech Department of Physics was established in 1872 and has since guided hundreds of graduate students to successful careers. The department consists of over 30 core faculty dedicated to research in a broad array of areas including Condensed Matter, High Energy Nuclear and Particle Physics, Astronomical Sciences, and Biophysics.  Specific areas of concentration include Soft Condensed Matter, Neutrinos, String Theory, and Quantum Information.  Our graduate students have gone onto to establish distinguished careers at academic institutions, companies, and as independent entrepreneurs in the United States and abroad. 

We are dedicated to making the application process described below straightforward and affordable.  For more information on our Ph.D. and Masters programs contact our Graduate Program Coordinator, Betty Wilkins.

 

On a typical year, we receive about 125 applications and make about 40 offers, for a cohort of 12-15 students.

Shortly after the January 5th deadline, our Graduate Committee begins thoroughly reviewing all application materials before making offers. Typically, we start sending out offers during the first or second week in February.

All U.S. students who are offered admission will receive information about setting up a campus visit. Instead of one graduate weekend, we have several dates for students to choose from based on their schedules.

Admitted students have until April 15th to accept their offer of admission.

For instructions on the application process, see How to Apply.

To apply online, go to the Virginia Tech Graduate School's application system.

You will be asked to enter or upload the following:

  • A statement of purpose
  • Your GRE scores (and TOEFL scores, if applicable)
  • Undergraduate transcripts
  • Names and email addresses of at least three references
  • CV/Resume

 

Applications are due on January 5th. Your application will be reviewed by our department’s Graduate Committee, which is comprised of faculty members representing all areas of physics research. The Graduate Committee will begin reviewing applications in mid-January, and continue doing so through the first few weeks of February. We typically begin notifying students of admission by early February, and will continue doing so through March. If we have to wait on reference letters and test scores, then there will be a delay in a decision until later in the admission cycle.

 

Can I send my transcripts and test scores to the department to see whether or not I should apply to the program?

Please don’t. There is no way to evaluate the strength of your application without having data from the rest of the applicant pool, which varies from year to year. If you really like our program and meet all of the requirements, go ahead and apply.

My overall GPA is low due to a rough semester, but I have really improved since then. Should I apply?

It is common for students to have a rough start and then really hit their stride during their sophomore and junior years. Don’t let that discourage you from applying. Your GPA is just one of many data points we look at when reviewing your application.

When is the application deadline?

January 5th at 11:59 PM EST.

Are there fee waivers available?

The Department of Physics generally does not grant fee waivers. However, the Graduate School has designated fee waivers for students who have participated in certain programs. For more information, go to: https://graduateschool.vt.edu/admissions/Getting-ready-to-apply.html

I just missed the deadline for submission, and now I cannot select the Fall term. Can I still apply?

Yes, as long as you do so within a day or so past the deadline. You will need to select the next term available. Afterward, send an email to gradphys@vt.edu, explaining that you need to have your application transferred to the Fall application cycle.

What is a statement of purpose?

A statement of purpose is a brief essay that gives our graduate committee more insight into who you are as a person and why you want to pursue a Ph.D. in Physics. It answers the questions:

1.)   Why did you apply to our program specifically?

2.)   What type of research do you see yourself doing in our program?

3.)   What do you see yourself doing with a Ph.D. in Physics?

Think of your statement of purpose as future thinking; you can focus more on past accomplishments in other parts of your application.

Who should write my letters of recommendations?

The best letters of recommendations come from faculty members and researchers with whom you have a personal connection. This should include anyone with whom you have done undergraduate research, including summer research programs at other universities and labs. It is fine to have one of your professors write a letter for you, just so long as they know you well enough to speak to your character and abilities as a future graduate student.

Do I need to submit a hard copy of my transcripts when I apply?

No. However, the transcript you upload should be an official copy from your university’s registrar, not an unofficial Web copy. If you are admitted and accept our offer, you will then need to supply our Graduate School with a copy of your final official transcript that shows degree conferral; these are usually sent directly from your undergraduate university.

Do you have a minimum GRE requirement?

No, we do not have a cutoff score. However, we do require both the general and Physics subject GRE scores.

What is your minimum TOEFL score requirement?

We expect a minimum TOEFL score of 90 (IBT) or IELTS score of 6.5 for admission. Further, TOEFL scores of 20 or greater in Listening, Writing, Speaking, and Reading subsections are required.

My TOEFL score is just below the minimum requirement. Can I still apply?

Yes. If you have an otherwise solid application, we can ask for an exception to be made for the Graduate School’s TOEFL score requirement.

Do I need to have ETS submit my GRE and/or TOEFL scores?

Yes. You will need to use Virginia Tech’s institution code, which is 5859.

I am an international student, but I received my undergraduate degree from a university where the language of instruction is English. Do I need to submit a TOEFL score?

No. You can indicate that you need a TOEFL score waiver.

Who will actually review my application?

Your application will be reviewed by our department’s Graduate Committee, which is comprised of faculty members representing all areas of physics research.

When will I be informed of my application decision?

The Graduate Committee will begin reviewing applications in mid-January, and continue doing so through the first few weeks of February. We typically begin notifying students of admission by early February, and will continue doing so through March. If we have to wait on reference letters and test scores, then there will be a delay in a decision until later in the admission cycle.

I just submitted my application on January 5th. Will that hurt my chances of getting admitted into your program?

It should not. Our committee does not begin reviewing applications until after the deadline has passed. However, make sure that your letter writers get their reference letters in as soon as possible, as that can delay the review process.

What is included in an offer of admission from your program?

All of our offers include at least five years of support, typically starting with a teaching assistantship. All assistantships include a monthly stipend, full tuition, and a health insurance subsidy of 90% if you are enrolled in the university plan.

Do you host an open house weekend for admitted students?

We invite all students from U.S. institutions who have been admitted an opportunity to visit campus, meet with faculty, and engage with current students. Instead of just one weekend, we offer several date options and try to group visits according to research interests.

I have been admitted to your program. When should I let you know my decision?

You have until April 15th (or shortly thereafter) to let us know your decision. International students still have until April 15th to accept our offer; however, to start the visa process, it may be beneficial to let us know sooner.

I have accepted your offer of admission. Now what?

You have made a great choice! Follow all instructions in your admission letter from the Graduate School, as you should create your Virginia Tech PID and set up your email account as soon as possible. From there, the department will start sending out announcements in late spring regarding important dates, housing information, and the formation of the incoming class’ Google group.