How do I apply for admission?
Please visit the GSAS Application Resource Center, which includes a step-by-step instructional guide and FAQ pages. We recommend that you look over this site carefully before contacting the Graduate School or the Department, as you will likely find answers to your questions here: GSAS Application Resource Center.
Did you receive my application materials?
Applicants can check the status of their application materials by going to their Application Status Page and looking at their Application Checklist. Please do not contact the Department directly to verify if your materials were received.
Can you tell me if I should apply to your graduate program given my qualifications?
Please do not send pre-application materials to our Department by email (e.g., resumes, statements, test scores, and grades). Many factors are considered in determining your eligibility for admission. We cannot adequately address all the nuances specific to each applicant based on incomplete and unofficial information.
Here are some suggestions on how to strengthen your application:
obtain strong letters from recommenders, preferably academics who have worked with you on a personal level and can attest to the quality of your work and your accomplishments. We especially appreciate research experience.
your personal statement should be equally strong, balanced with a clear and confident message as to your interests, experience, and goals.
you will be competing with a pool of candidates. We look for strong quantitative skills in our applicants. But we know that scores and grades alone do not give a full picture of an applicant’s qualifications. Very supportive letters of recommendation and a strong statement can compensate for other factors.
Do you have a minimum score requirement?
There is no minimum score requirement for admission. High scores do not guarantee admission, just as lower scores do not render applicants ineligible.
Do you offer a tour of the Department? Can I meet with faculty to discuss my research interests before applying?
We cannot accommodate individual requests for tours of our department. Applicants are always welcome to schedule a meeting with our Graduate Program Administrator (EvetteMa@nyu.edu) to discuss our program. Individual faculty members can on occasion meet with potential applicants to discuss research opportunities. Because graduate students must complete required elements of the doctoral program before being inducted to a research group, such meetings do not influence the admissions process, nor do they imply a future commitment on either side.
How many students apply to your program, and how many do you offer admission to?
The graduate program in Physics receives over 400 PhD applications per year and typically makes approximately 50 offers of admission.
What is the status of my application and when will I receive an admission decision?
Admission decisions are made on a rolling basis and continue through to the end of March – early April. Please do not contact the Department for a status update. Also note that admission decisions are never discussed over the phone.
Do you accept applications for the spring term?
No. We only accept students for the Fall.
Do I have to have an undergraduate degree in Physics in order to apply?
It is important for students to have a strong background in Physics before entering the graduate program. However, it is not a requirement to hold an undergraduate degree in Physics. The department decides on a case-by-case basis whether an applicant is likely to succeed in required core courses based on prior preparation. A successful candidate must demonstrate an understanding of subjects such as Electricity & Magnetism, Classical & Quantum Mechanics and Statistical Physics.
Does being accepted to the Masters program increase my chances of being accepted into the PhD program?
You should not consider entering our Masters Program as a “back-door” route to our PhD program. Masters students who wish to pursue a PhD with us would have to apply to our PhD program and have their application considered alongside our entire applicant pool.
Is financial aid available to students in the Masters program?
Financial support for Masters students come in the form of adjunct teaching positions and research assistantships. These positions are not guaranteed, but are based on availability and qualifications of the student. In general, MS students can expect to finance their studies through federal financial aid, loans, and/or external awards.
Please visit the GSAS Financial Aid webpage for more information on how to finance your graduate education and for a list of tuition and fees.
Do I qualify for an application fee waiver due to financial hardship?
The Department cannot waive application fees. GSAS does offer a waiver for the admissions application fee under certain limited conditions to applicants who participate in certain programs. You can find additional information on fee waivers by visiting the GSAS Application Policies page.
Can I be waived from required graduate courses if I've already taken the same courses at another institution?
A student who has already taken a course elsewhere equivalent to one of our core courses may satisfy that portion of the core course requirement in one of two ways:
by achieving a grade of B or better in the relevant preliminary examination given just before the start of the fall and spring terms. The Classical & Quantum Mechanics 1 exam is offered late August – early September, and Classical & Quantum Mechanics 2, Statistical Physics, and Electromagnetism exams are offered in late January. Each examination covers the material of the corresponding course at the level of the midterm and final examinations. The format of the examination in Computation Physics will be determined by the course instructor. It may involve take-home projects as well as an explanation of computer codes developed.
Students holding an MS degree or equivalent degree who cannot attend the fall semester preliminary exams can ask the Director of Graduate Studies to be excused from some or all of the fall semester core courses. Such students must submit transcripts and syllabi from their institution of origin, proving that they have successfully completed courses analog to our core courses. The Graduate Studies Committee will evaluate those documents and the teachers of fall semester core courses shall interview the students. The Graduate Studies Committee may elect also to further test the student by an oral exam.
I have completed graduate credits from another school. Do I have to submit a special transfer application? What is the process to transfer graduate credits?
We do not have a separate transfer program. All students seeking PhD admission would have to apply to our PhD program and have their application considered alongside our entire applicant pool.
If admitted, students may request transfer credits by following the instructions on the GSAS Request for Approval of Transfer Credit Form.
One or more of my required application materials (score report, letters) will arrive after the submission deadline. Will my application still be considered?
Yes, we can review incomplete applications, but we can only make admission offers to students with complete applications. Since offers are limited and time-sensitive, it is in the applicant's best interest to submit a complete application as soon as possible.
Can I submit my application now and send additional materials later? My fall grades have not arrived yet.
We do not update documents for changes in content or for errors in typing, formatting or other matters of presentation. We also do not append supplemental materials such as new publications or fall semester grades. Our submission deadline is set to end of December to allow for fall grades to be available in most cases.
What does the MacCracken Fellowship guarantee?
The MacCracken Fellowship includes a full tuition scholarship, remission of registration and services fees, and full coverage of the premiums for mandatory NYU student health insurance for six years. It also includes academic year stipends for four years. The guaranteed stipend can come from various sources, including research assistantships, internal awards, external awards, and an annual stipend allowance given to us by the University, known as the Block Grant.
How does the department decide which funds to allocate to each student?
The Block Grant only covers a portion of stipend costs. The department must therefore, maximize the use of available funds in order to meet financial commitments to all students guaranteed a stipend. In general, Block funding is allocated to first and second-year students. Others will receive their stipend through research assistantships and internal awards.
Are there any disadvantages to receiving a research assistantship or internal award?
Full-time research assistants may not teach (see Q4 below). Half-time research assistants may teach only one section of either lab or recitation plus grading. Internal award fellows (JAGAs and Kesslers) may only teach with research center director and advisor approval. This limitation on teaching restricts a student’s ability to earn extra wage. However, there are important advantages to receiving an RAship or internal award (see Q5 below).
In addition to teaching restrictions, full-time Research Assistants would not qualify for Local 2110 union benefits, which are summarized on the Local 2110 union contract page.
Under U.S. Internal Revenue Service regulations, the University is not required to report taxable scholarship or fellowship awards as income (taxes are not withheld on your stipend payments), except for foreign students who are covered under separate tax regulations.
However, any portion of a scholarship or fellowship you applied for non-educational expenses, including room, board, other living expenses, and travel, should be included in your U.S. federal taxable income for the year. Therefore, you may have to pay U.S. federal income taxes on the portion of a scholarship or fellowship on such items. It is the student’s responsibility to determine whether some or all of any scholarship or fellowship is taxable and to report any taxable amounts on his or her applicable tax returns and to maintain records to support expenditures for books, equipment, and other course related supplies that are exempt from tax. You will want to retain relevant records, such as those showing the amount of scholarships, fellowships, and similar grants and stipends received (e.g., copies of financial aid award letters) and evidence of the extent to which the amounts were expended on expenses that are exempt from tax (e.g., bursar statements showing payment of required tuition and fees, receipts for course-required books and supplies).
While most U.S. states follow U.S. federal tax rules, individual states and localities may take a different tax position. Students who are citizens or residents of other countries also need to consider the tax laws applicable to them. As individual tax liability depends on each individual’s circumstances, you should contact your personal tax advisor with any questions or concerns.
Why can’t full-time research assistants teach?
The federal government requires a report on time-and-effort when an individual is compensated by or has agreed to contribute time to a federally sponsored project. All faculty serving as principal investigators (PI) on sponsored agreements (grants) are responsible for certifying the amount of effort that they and their employees spend on sponsored activities. Failing to comply has serious consequences, including loss of funding to the PI.
Why should I accept an RA or internal award if it limits my ability to earn extra wage through teaching?
Students are not required to accept an RAship or award, but declining one can be tantamount to declining working with a particular advisor. Being selected to receive external funding indicates that the research is competitive, highly regarded by the community, and leads to greater opportunities in research and your career. When a faculty member chooses you for an RA, it reflects their confidence in your abilities and affirms their dedication to your research career. RAships also often support travel with funding allocations budgeted to cover RA travel expenses.
What funds are available to Post-MacCrackens, when we are no longer guaranteed an academic year stipend?
Most students who receive a research assistantship during their MacCracken term (Years 1-4) continue to receive RA funds through to graduation (which is another advantage to accepting an RAship). Others receive internal awards through the department or GSAS. About 20% of our Post-MacCrackens receive funds solely through teaching.
How much can a teaching salary provide if no other sources of funding are available?
Teaching provides a fraction of the base stipend rate and is contingent on contact hours and assignment. Salary ranges from ~$3600 - $12,000/semester, with most receiving about $9000-12,000/semester.
As funding is not guaranteed after Year 4, all students should consider saving funds as early as possible in the program. One option is to teach in your earlier years and set aside a portion of your stipend for future use.
The MacCracken Reserve program is meant to help you save funds in this way by offering students a prevailing-rate at time of withdrawal. It is important to note that this is a use- or-lose program. This means that you must withdraw reserved funds before your anticipated graduation date, eg. since you cannot receive both a GSAS Dissertation Fellowship and Reserve funds at the same time, you would lose the reserve funds if you did not withdraw them before completing your final year on the Dissertation Fellowship. You might consider just setting aside funds for future use in a personal savings account to avoid the risk of losing MacCracken Reserve funds. There are some high-yield accounts that offer rates comparable to the reserve program.
Besides teaching and saving, students can apply for GSAS dissertation fellowships and external awards. Dissertation fellowship opportunities are announced every year. We also strongly encourage students to be proactive in finding external award opportunities for themselves. Students who are interested in receiving up-to-date information regarding fellowships and awards are encouraged to join the GSAS Fellowships Listserv. This listserv ensures that you receive information on available award opportunities as they arise, as well as campus awards-information sessions, and more. To sign up, please complete this GSAS Fellowships Listserv form.