The Application Process
How can I get an application to the Physics Department at Caltech?
Application instructions are available on the Dean of Graduate Studies website. Applications must be submitted online. If you have questions, please contact the Dean of Graduate Studies Office via the online contact form or by phone at (626)395-6346 during regular business hours.
What materials are required for applying?
Students wishing to apply to this program must submit a complete application that includes three letters of recommendation, transcripts, GRE general and subject scores, and a statement of purpose. An application checklist is available to assist you. Please see the information concerning required tests before applying. Note that the physics department will review ALL applications, regardless of missing test scores or supporting documents.
What is the procedure for transferring from another graduate program?
Students wishing to transfer from another graduate school program must submit the same complete application as undergraduate applicants. This includes three letters of recommendation, transcripts, GRE general and subject scores, and a statement of purpose. It is not possible to transfer course credits to Caltech, as Physics graduate students do not accumulate credits towards the Ph.D. Students are not admitted to work toward a Master's degree, however, one may be awarded upon satisfactory completion of 135 units of approved coursework. A Master's degree is not required to enter the Physics Ph.D. program.
What are the application deadlines?
Applications for Fall admission must be received by December 15th. Admission is for Fall term only.
What is the application fee? Is it possible to request a fee waiver?
The application fee is $100. In the case of extreme financial hardship, a fee waiver may be requested from the Dean of Graduate Studies by completing the fee waiver application form through the online application system.
All applications are reviewed as they become complete until approximately mid-February. GREs and TOEFL exams taken in December or January should be available to us in time. In the interim, a copy of your GRE or TOEFL report will suffice. GRE and TOEFL scores are usually available to us electronically approximately two weeks after the test date, provided Caltech has been listed as an official recipient of the score report. All applications, whether complete or not, will be reviewed by the Committee before final decisions are made. Do not send material to support your application to the Physics Department as this will delay the process. Please upload all supplemental documents, with your application before the application deadline of December 15.
I have applied for or received a fellowship from outside the US, who do I notify?
International students often apply for fellowships outside the US that are awarded during the application review process. It is extremely important that you notify the Physics Graduate Office and the Dean of Graduate Studies Office right away when you receive outside funding so we can modify our admission award to meet the terms and conditions of your fellowship.
Should I apply to Physics or Astronomy?
There is a considerable amount of research in astrophysics carried out in the Physics Department. It is not unusual for faculty in Astronomy to supervise Physics students or for Astronomy students to find astrophysics advisors in the Physics Department. Students who are not sure whether they want to work in astrophysics or in other areas of physics should apply to the Physics Department. Students wishing to do observational astronomy should apply to the Astronomy Department. Students who already know they want to work in nuclear and particle astrophysics, gravitational-wave astrophysics, or on space-based projects in cosmic-ray, gamma-ray, X-ray or infrared astronomy, should apply to the Physics Department. Research on ground-based submillimeter, infrared and radio astronomy (including instrumentation) goes on in both departments. There are students in theoretical astrophysics from both Physics and Astronomy, although most come from Physics.
Should I apply to Physics or Applied Physics?
The Applied Physics Department is part of the Division of Engineering and Applied Science. The Physics Department is part of the Division of Physics, Math and Astronomy. There is some overlap between the activities in Physics and those in Applied Physics. Research in Physics is aimed more toward the understanding of fundamental principles, as opposed to direct applications. Since there is overlap, sometimes Physics students work with Applied Physics professors to attain a Ph.D. in Physics.
How can I find out if my application is complete?
The Dean's Office has provided an application checklist to assist you. Applicants are able to track their application materials online through the online application system. You may check online at any time to see if supporting materials have been entered, or you may write to the Dean of Graduate Studies Office directly by using the contact form. Note that an official transcript documenting the award of an undergraduate degree is required prior to enrollment in the graduate program at Caltech.
How will I know if I've been accepted?
The Physics Graduate Admissions Committee reviews applications to the Physics Graduate Program as they are complete. Therefore, we will begin submitting applicants to the Dean recommending admission around the middle of February. Students will be notified by the Physics Department via email of our intention to recommend you for admission to the Dean of Graduate Studies. The official letter of admission will be sent from the Dean of Graduate Studies Office. If you have not received some form of official notification by the end of March, please contact the Dean of Graduate Studies Office directly.