Leslie takes a picture of herself in the mirror of a telescope

Grad student Leslie Taylor snaps quite the mirror selfie in the mirrors of a telescope she helped build in Arizona

a group of students standing in front of trees at an apple orchard

Students from the entering class of 2019 went apple picking together their first fall in Madison

PhD — Prospective Students

How to Apply

Fall 2025 Physics PhD Application Deadline: December 15, 2024

Fall 2025 prospective students should apply for admissions through the Graduate School. Applicants must satisfy the Graduate School requirements for undergraduate grade-point average, bachelor’s degree, and English proficiency and submit:

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3 Letters of Recommendation

A complete application requires 3 (no more than 4) letters of recommendation. The most impactful letters come from current or past research advisors, or other individuals who know you well and can speak to your strengths, prior experiences, and accomplishments and how they have prepared you to pursue a PhD in Physics.

Official Transcripts

No official transcripts are required as part of the application. The Graduate School will send an instructional email request after the program has recommended admission.  Please submit transcripts for all post-secondary coursework.


It’s helpful to submit a resume/CV that details your experiences that are relevant to your interests in Physics.

Statement of Purpose

Please describe your relevant experiences and future research interests and goals. Strong applicants will clearly communicate their motivations for pursuing a PhD in Physics, and how their research interests and experiences align with the strengths of the UW-Madison Physics PhD program.

This statement is also an opportunity to provide any other personal information you would like the admissions committee to know that is not clear from the other submitted materials.


The Department of Physics does not require the subject GRE for admission.  However, if students submit the score, the admissions committee will review it as part of the application.

The general GRE will not be considered even if submitted. The subject GRE is recommended in these circumstances:

  • Your transcript does not accurately reflect your academic strengths
  • If including the score would significantly strengthen your application
  • You are particularly interested in pursuing Physics Theory as a research focus

Application Fee Waivers

The UW-Madison Physics Ph.D. program has now distributed the limited number of application fee waivers available for the Fall 2024 application season.   The Department has no additional waivers to provide, but we encourage you to apply for a fee grant from the Graduate School if you qualify.

Admission is competitive. All eligible applicants with complete files are considered for teaching or research assistantships and fellowships. To be considered for admission, students must submit all application materials via the Graduate School electronic application site by December 15.

Contact us with questions!


All admitted PhD students are provided with a guarantee of five years of financial support. Typically, a graduate student is first appointed as a teaching assistant. Teaching assistants assist faculty members in the introductory physics courses, generally by teaching discussion and laboratory sections. Later, as a research assistant, the student works with a major professor on a mutually agreed research project.

Tuition is remitted for teaching assistant and research assistant appointments one-third time or greater.  Most graduate assistant appointments are also eligible for a comprehensive health insurance package.  All students are responsible for their own segregated fees, which are about $600 per semester for full-time students, and any additional university fees.  Further information about the various types of assistantships at UW-Madison can be found on the Graduate School website.


infographic with facts and figures about PhD program


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Can I apply to more than one graduate program at UW-Madison?

Yes!  With one application to UW-Madison, you can apply to 3 different graduate programs.  Please keep in mind that you can only submit your application once and will need to submit by the earliest deadline for the 3 programs that you choose.  For example, the Physics Ph.D. program application deadline is December 15th.  If another program that you apply to has a January 1st deadline, you must submit your application by December 15th to ensure it is received by the earlier deadline.

What is the application deadline?

The Physics Ph.D. application deadline is December 15th.  All application materials must be received by this time to ensure consideration.  Test scores and letters of recommendation should be submitted by the deadline.

Where should I send my GRE & TOEFL scores?

The Physics Ph.D. program requires the official test scores (GRE and TOEFL) to be sent directly from ETS to UW-Madison.  The UW-Madison institution code is 1846.  Please be sure your test score report shows that your scores were sent directly to UW-Madison.  Test scores are loaded every few days during the peak admissions season by the UW-Madison Graduate School.  You can check your Graduate School application status to see if your test scores have been received.

When will admissions committee decisions be made?

All completed applications are made available to the Physics Ph.D. Admissions Committee after the December 15th deadline.  The program receives over 550 applications each year and all completed applications are fully reviewed by the Admissions Committee.   All applicants will be informed of the admissions decision by the end of January.  All applicants who are accepted will be invited to prospective student visit weekend to be held in February/March each year.

FAQs from Virtual Sessions (Dec 5-6, 2023)

You can find questions and answers that were discussed in virtual sessions on 5-6 December 2023 on this page.  Feel free to add questions through the admissions deadline on 15 December, but if you need immediate answers, please reach out to Physics Graduate Coordinator..