Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions Regarding the Ph.D. Program in Physics

Must I have a degree in physics in order to apply to this graduate program?

Usually applicants have a B.A. in physics, or the equivalent, with no specified requirements of content when they apply to this program. However, if you have an undergraduate degree in an area other than physics, you may still apply.

What are the requirements to complete a PhD?

The requirements of the Graduate School are a two-year residency, doctoral examination, and thesis. In addition, the Physics Department requires that you take two physics-related courses in fields that are not your specialty, plus two specified graduate courses in your field of specialization. In consultation with your advisor, you will decide how to best prepare for the doctoral examination, which consists of two written and one oral examination. The exams are given twice a year and nearly every student passes.

Can I take courses at other schools nearby?

Yes, free cross-registrations are available with Harvard University and Wellesley College.

How many years does it take to complete the PhD requirements?

From 3 to 7 years, averaging 5.6 years.

Is there a fixed period of financial support?

We have always been able to support students who enter with MIT support or external fellowships, throughout their program, provided that their progress is satisfactory.

How many applications are submitted each year? How many students are accepted?

Although the number varies each year, the Department of Physics usually receives approximately 650 applications. The number of students in the incoming class for the last few years has averaged between 30-40.

What are the minimum GRE, GPA, and English language exam scores for admitted applicants?

Because many variables are considered in the application review process, there are no minimum standards for GRE scores or grade point averages.

Our minimum required scores for English language testing is as follows:

  • IELTS - 7
  • TOEFL (standard) - 600
  • TOEFL (computer based) - 200
  • TOEFL (iBT) - 100

What factors are considered in the application review process?

The four main factors that are reviewed in the application process are GRE scores (both general and Physics subject scores), transcripts of past grades, the statement of purpose, and letters of reference. In addition, any past research experiences are extremely helpful, particularly if they are in the area(s) of the applicant's interest(s).

The Application Process

How can I arrange a visit to the Physics Department?

If you will be visiting the Boston area and/or MIT, you are welcome to visit the Physics Department. Click here for additional information.

When is the deadline for applying to the Ph.D. program in Physics?

The deadline for September admission is December 15th. The deadline for February admission is November 1st.

What is the difference between September and February admission?

The Department primarily accepts graduate students for September admission. We can accept applications for February admission. However, since these are considered after financial commitments for the year have been made, the likelihood of admission is significantly less than that for September admission.

My GRE and/or English language exam test scores will not be reported before the application deadline-- can I still apply?

Applications will not be considered complete and will not be reviewed until all materials have been received. However, candidates are encouraged to submit the written application, statement of objectives, and financial information by November 1 for February admission and December 15 for September admission. In some cases, test scores and/or letters of recommendation may arrive after these deadlines. In these cases, applications will be reviewed as they are completed.

Does the Department of Physics provide application fee waivers?

In fairness to all applicants, the Department of Physics does not waive the $75 application fee. Applications without the fee will be considered incomplete and will not be reviewed.

Does the Department of Physics provide English language exam score waivers?

An English language exam (IELTS, TOEFL, TOEFL iBT, or the C2 Cambridge English Proficiency exam) is required of all applicants who are citizens of a country in which English is not the primary language. Exceptions to this policy will be considered for candidates who have been in the US or in a country whose official language is English for four years or longer and have received a degree from a college or university in the US or a native English speaking country. In these cases, candidates are asked to provide a letter from a faculty member attesting to their English proficiency.

Can I receive an update on the status of my application?

Due to the online system, candidates will only receive e-mail correspondence from the Physics Graduate Office if their application is complete, missing materials or if further information is needed. Unfortunately, due to the high volume of applications that are received, no additional e-mails or telephone inquiries can be answered. It is the applicant's responsibility to assure that all items are sent.

When will I be notified of a final decision?

To check your admission result, you can log into your online account around the end of February. In most cases, the results will be posted rather than mailed. For privacy and security reasons, we cannot notify applicants of final decisions via email or telephone.