Frequently Asked Questions

What are the English Proficiency exam requirements?

To demonstrate English proficiency, international applicants may take:

UNM International Admissions will automatically reject an applicant with a score not meeting the minimum score requirement. Minimum scores for graduate applicants: TOEFL - 79 // IELTS - 6.5 // Duolingo - 105// PTE - 53 / Cambridge - C2

English Language Requirements regarding minimal scores and language requirement exceptions can be found at the Global Education Office site.

Official test results must be sent directly to the University of New Mexico from the testing service. The Educational Testing Service (ETS) school code for the University of New Mexico is 4845. You must have taken the test within the past 2 years.

You can enter your score on your application as a part of the graduate committee review; if the department offers you admission and you accept, then UNM International Admissions will require ETS to submit the official scoring document in order to be admitted to UNM.

What types of transcripts are accepted?

Upload your transcripts in the application for the Physics graduate committee to review. You may submit an "unofficial" electronic transcript that your institution sends directly to you, rather than to UNM Admissions. However, if you are admitted and accept the department's offer of admission, you must have your previous institution(s) send the original electronic transcript(s) directly to Admissions.

If you are sending a foreign language transcript, you must submit it in both the original language form and in English and it must be verified by your university registrar, if you accept the committee's offer of admission. UNM does not have a preference of agencies that translate but you must make sure that the translations are stamped by the university registrar and not just stamped by the translator. Both native language and English transcripts must be stamped or verified by the university registrar.

If you are unable to send your one original degree, you may take it to your university registrar to copy; have them sign the copy, verifying that it is a copy of the original. Admissions will accept the copy of the original with the registrar's signature.

I got an email saying that I need to upload official transcripts--what should I do?

The UNM Admissions office automatically sends a letter to all applicants requesting official transcripts and scores. To apply to the Department of Physics & Astronomy, the committee can review your unofficial documents and decide whether to make an offer of admission. If you receive an offer of admission and accept it, then you must submit original scores and transcripts.

Can I transfer course credits from my previous institution(s)?

Students who have completed graduate-level course work at an accredited institution other than the UNM, whether they were in graduate or non-degree status, may request that these credit hours be used toward their degree program. Once you are accepted and enrolled in our program, you can submit a written request of transfer of credits in consultation with your academic advisor. The syllabi of the relevant courses should accompany your request, in order to evaluate if they satisfy our course requirements. Additionally:

  • You must have earned a grade of "B" or better in any courses for which transfer credit hours are requested
  • Courses taken on a Pass/Fail basis and/or courses taken as extension credit at other universities are not accepted for graduate credit at the University of New Mexico
  • The number of transfer and/or applied (including non-degree) credit hours used toward a program may not exceed fifty percent of the required coursework for the degree
  • Coursework that has been counted toward a previous degree may not be counted again toward any other degree except Master's coursework for a doctoral degree.
  • If a course was shared across the BS/MS as part of a dual degree program at a previous institution then it cannot be transferred toward the PhD program at UNM. However courses taken as part of a stand-alone MS program may be accepted as transfer credits
  • In most cases, transfer credits cannot be used to waive the "3 core courses with grade B and above" (see Graduate Handbook)

May I apply for Spring admission? When is the deadline?

The department accepts applicants for admission beginning in the Spring semester. The deadline for applications is December 21 for Fall or August 1st for Spring admission

It's after the December 21 deadline, but I'd like to apply -- will my application be reviewed?

Although it is important that the submission of your application is completed before December 21 in order to be fully reviewed by the graduate committee, you might take a chance on a late submission if the delay is modest. This should be done at your discretion, the department will not provide status updates on whether late applications are being considered.

My application was submitted on time but my reference letter(s) was submitted late, will my application still be reviewed?

Most likely, yes. While there are no guarantees, if we receive all of your letters within a few weeks of the deadline then we can review your application.

What are the application fees? Can I get them waived?

The application fee is $60 for domestic students and $70 for international students.

The University's graduate application fee may be waived for domestic applicants who are affiliated with certain programs or in limited cases of financial hardship. Check the Office of Graduate Studies for information on the OGS Fee Waiver Request.

What are the typical assistantship offers for PhD applicants?

Depending upon budgetary restrictions, we provide Teaching Assistantships (TAs) for up to two years pending continued satisfactory performance of teaching/grading duties. After the first two years, students typically find employment as Research Assistants (RAs) with one of our faculty. The department's Graduate Committee makes the ultimate decisions regarding admission offers and financial aid (in the form of Teaching/Research Assistantships).

What is expected in the TA letter?

Provide a very brief statement to request a Teaching Assistantship. If you have a different source of funding (e.g. a fellowship or an expected research appointment), please describe this. Otherwise, one sentence stating "I request a TA" or "I do not request a TA" is sufficient.

What is required for the Relevant Coursework section of the application?

You must enter the course titles and grades (converted to the 4.0 scale) of all physics, astronomy, and math courses you have taken at the upper-division and graduate level. Here 'upper division' refers to advanced courses typically taken in the 3rd or 4th year of a 4-year Bachelor's program. If you have taken graduate (Master's-level) courses in physics, astronomy, and Math, use both upper-division undergraduate and graduate-level grades in the GPA calculation. 

If your previous institution used a letter grade system or another numeric scale, and it does not provide a method for converting to the 4.0 scale, then you may report in the original scale. Note that the system may limit the number of courses you can enter to 16. If the number of upper division/grad physics, astronomy, and math courses you have taken exceeds 16, then enter the 16 most recent ones.

I would like to get a PhD in Physics. Should I first apply to the MS program or apply directly for PhD?

It's usually best to apply for the PhD program because you usually receive up to 2 years of a teaching assistantship. If you apply to the MS program you will most likely not be awarded an assistantship.

Is Optical Science and Engineering a separate program?

The Optical Science and Engineering PhD and MS Programs are separate degree programs from the Physics & Astronomy degree programs, but a number of Physics & Astronomy faculty participate in both programs. Please visit the OSE site for more details.

I am interested in doing graduate studies in Astronomy. Will my degree be in Physics or Astronomy?

The Department of Physics and Astronomy offers a graduate degree, either MS or PhD, in Physics. However, you can take a concentration of Astronomy courses and complete your dissertation or thesis in the field of Astronomy. The degree then awarded is Physics (MS or PhD) with a concentration in Astrophysics. Find out more about the Astrophysics Concentration.

Where can I get information about the Concentration in Quantum Information Science?

Read about the Concentration in Quantum Information Science, which is available to students in the PhD program.

What are the tuition and fees?

A complete and current table of resident and non-resident tuition rates and fees is available here. Teaching and Research Assistantships include tuition, so students who hold Assistantships generally do not pay tuition out of pocket.

What is the expected educational background?

You must have an undergraduate degree in physics or a related field to enter the MS or the PhD programs in Physics. Your undergraduate curriculum should typically have included courses in statistical mechanics, thermodynamics, electricity and magnetism, quantum mechanics, and classical mechanics. Students must have earned a minimum of a 3.0 GPA (on a U.S. 4.0 scale) or comparable grade point average in upper-division (junior and senior level) work and in any graduate work already completed.

In all cases, your undergraduate degree should be equivalent to a U.S. Bachelor degree. Please note that some bachelor degrees are based on a three-year program and are not considered equivalent to the U.S. bachelor degree. Should you have questions regarding your prospective or earned degree, please contact the Office of International Admissions.

If I am admitted, will I immediately be assigned an advisor?

On your first days in the program, you will be assigned an academic advisor. This is a regular Physics & Astronomy Dept. faculty member who will advise you on graduate curriculum and program requirements, provide guidance on how to petition for any transfer credits, and generally serve as your advisor and advocate until you complete the Candidacy Exam.

However you are not expected to find a research advisor on your first day. We encourage students to meet with several faculty and make an informed mutual decision. Often students will select a research advisor and start doing research in the summer after their first two semesters.

Do I have to TA for two years if I received a 2-year TA in my offer letter?

No. Your offer letter provides a guarantee for funding, but you are encouraged to switch to a Research Assistantship once you have found a suitable research group. Often students will transition to a Research Assistantship in the summer after their first two semesters and continue in this role until degree completion.

How long should the Letter of Interest be and what should be included?

There is no restriction on the length of the Letter of Interest, but typically it is approximately 2 pages. The Letter of Interest is your opportunity to tell the program faculty about yourself. It does not need to be extremely detailed, but should provide information about your areas of research interest, previous experience, and your goals. The Letter of Interest should clearly identify your area of research interest and if you are inclined towards theoretical or experimental research. Visit the department research page and list a few Physics & Astronomy Dept. faculty you are interested in working with. This list is helpful to process your application, but if admitted, you are free to pursue work with any department faculty member.