Advice for Graduate School Applicants

(Answers to Frequently Asked Questions) ver 2020.10.01

This document has been compiled to answer questions we are frequently asked about our program and to demystify the process of evaluating your applications.

We have no set number of students for the incoming class. Typically it is the range of 15-20. Typically about half are international.

Fall applications: February 1.  Late applications can still be submitted; however, they run the risk that we may have filled all the program slots for that year.
Spring applications: The application deadline for spring is 01 September. Students are admitted for spring only under special circumstances.

Our graduate college sets a minimum GPA of 3.0/4.0 over the last 60 hrs of graded course work. Typically the students we accept have higher GPA’s. In addition, qualified applicants should have a minimum US equivalent of a BS in Physics or in a closely related field. The applicant should have upper division physics courses on their academic transcript with US equivalent grades of B or higher (e.g. Classical Mechanics, Electricity and Magnetism, Quantum Mechanics, Thermodynamics, Statistical Mechanics). Most successfull applicants have more As than Bs in these upper division physics courses.

We will NOT be requiring the general or physics GRE scores this year for graduate admissions, due to impacts from COVID-19.  

The graduate school requires a minimum TOEFL score of 550/213/79 for paper/computer/IB or IELTS 6.5. However, our department prefers applicants who demonstrate a higher level of English proficiency, 600/250/100 or 7.0. We have flexibility for candidates in the “gray area” between these two levels who are exceptional in other aspects. A copy of your official score from ETS will work for your initial application. If you are accepted, we will need the **official** copy from ETS for the Graduate College to complete processing of your application. For the TOEFL our institution name and code is: University of Oklahoma (6879). Select the Department and major Field Code as appropriate to your interest: Astronomy (61) or Physics (76).

Your transcripts are important. It is your academic history, showing the courses you have taken and a measure of your performance in each of them. It helps us determine how well you are prepared for our graduate program and your likely hood to succeed in our courses.

Research experience is excellent, but not everyone has had the opportunity. Research is a major part of your PhD. Demonstration that you have an aptitude for research is a strong positive.

Limit to 1-2 pages. Your statement of purpose should address your past academic and research experiences and how they have prepared you for graduate study. Undergraduate research projects are often determined by the opportunities available at the time. We are particularly interested in more detail of what research you would like to do, beyond what you have already accomplished. We specifically ask that you discuss why you are interested in attending graduate school, what are your professional goals after obtaining a PhD, and why is OU's physics and astronomy department in particular a good fit for you.  We welcome applications from people who have taken a nontraditional career or educational path, and encourage such applicants to use the statement of purpose to describe your experiences.

Letters of recommendation are an important component of your application. The strongest letters will be from those persons, typically faculty, with whom you have worked most closely. For example, a faculty member with whom you have been involved in research or other project where you have had close personal interaction. Please ask your letter writers to be as specific as possible. The numerical portion of the recommendation form is not very helpful without the context of a detailed letter.

All admitted students are offered financial support. Typically in your first year, you will be supported on a TA. If you join a research group after that, you have the opportunity to switch from a TA to an RA, depending on that group’s funding.

Students choose their thesis advisor by mutual agreement (typically within the first year or two).

Thanks again for your interest in our graduate program.  Should you have any questions about our program or the application process, please feel to contact us at PA-Grad@ou.edu

Prof John Wisniewski
Graduate Recruiting and Selection Committee Chair
Homer L. Dodge Department of Physics and Astronomy
The University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK 73019 USA