Application Review & Selection Process

What is the admissions procedure for the physics graduate program?

All applications are submitted online and monitored by the Dean of Graduate Studies Office. The physics applications are available only to the physics department. The Physics Graduate Admissions Committee reviews the applications as they are completed and then reviews the incomplete applications that may be missing recommendations, GRE scores, transcripts or other documents. Beginning in mid February, recommendations for admission are sent to the Dean of Graduate Studies Office and admitted students are sent an email from the department notifying them of our intent to recommend admission as well as information concerning the financial aid award. The official offer of admission comes from the Dean of Graduate Studies via email through the online application system. Students must respond to our offer by April 15. It would be appreciated if a follow-up email response is sent to the Physics Graduate Office in addition to the online Admission Decision form. If you plan to begin summer research earlier than September, please provide the physics department with your expected arrival date and the name of your faculty research supervisor.  Note that incoming graduate students may not regester for summer research until after Commencement in early June, which is the end of the academic year. 

What are my chances of being admitted?

The Physics Graduate Admissions Committee receives several hundred applications each year from highly qualified students. As an example, out of 500 applicants, 70 may be admitted based on current need, and 30 may accept. Caltech is a small private university and admission is highly competitive. It is impossible to precalculate an applicant's chances for admission.

What things will improve my application?

The Committee looks for a strong performance on the GRE, especially the Physics Subject Test. In addition, top grades and excellent letters of recommendation from your professors citing research and general academic ability are highly regarded. A strong statement of purpose outlining past and present research, publications and future aspirations is also advisable. The Physics Department accepts applications from students at universities all over the world. There is no pre-selection process based on the undergraduate degree institution. The Committee is unable to give detailed individual information concerning selection criteria. Be sure the contact information on your application including post office address, phone and email are current and accurate.

How can I contact the admissions committee about my latest research project?

Unsolicited email to members of the Physics Graduate Admissions Committee will not work to your advantage in the admissions process.

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 making advance offers of admission via email 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 receive the Dean's admission offer letter and have not received the physics department email, please contact the Physics Graduate Office right away. Please be sure your email address is correct on the front of your application, as it is very important that we have your current email address at the time of application review. Students who are not accepted will be notified via email through the online application system from the Dean of Graduate Studies Office by late March. If you have not received some form of official notification by the end of March, please contact the Dean of Graduate Studies Office directly.

Why was I not accepted?

The Physics Graduate Admissions Committee is unable to give detailed individual information concerning selection criteria.

If I am not accepted, is it possible to apply the following year?

Since we are limited as to the amount of students we can accommodate each year, we must regretably turn away many excellent students. Due to the high rate of acceptance we do not have a waiting list. This in no way reflects on the ability of these students to excel elsewhere. Incomplete applications with missing letters of recommendation and the absence of GRE scores, especially the physics subject test, do hinder the applicant's chances. Students who are not offered admission are welcome to reapply, however, unless a good deal of the materials requested were not received, or there is a substantial improvement in GRE scores, reapplying is usually not successful.