The UCSC Physics Department is committed to providing an excellent education to a diverse population of graduate students and we encourage candidates from all backgrounds to apply.  We employ a holistic process to assess candidates’ knowledge and passion for physics, as well as whether or not they have the perseverance and tenacity required to complete the doctoral program.  Of particular importance is the alignment between the research interests of the candidate and those of the department.  While taking into consideration a candidate's undergraduate GPA, letters of recommendation, student statements, and GRE scores (if provided), we do not disqualify applicants based on any single factor.  In particular, the department recognizes the documented limitations of the GRE as an equitable predictor of success in graduate studies and research. 

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Our Fall 2023 graduate program application window is from October 1, 2022 until January 4, 2023. 

The Graduate Division offers Fee Waivers for students who are experiencing financial hardships. You can find more information  here. Please note that you must obtain approval prior to paying the applicaiton fee.  

The Graduate Division also offers Fee Exemptions to U.S. military veterans or students who have participated in any of a number of career development programs or organizations, which can be found here.

Applicants who have attended an HBCU can apply for a Departmental Fee Waiver. 

Students who were admitted to the program in the previous application cycle for the current academic year and who were in communication with the department about postponing their enrollment for a year to pursue related academic activities need to reapply for the program.  They may request a Department Fee Waiver.

There are unfortunately no other circumstances for application Fee Waivers or Exemptions. Students not covered by one of the cases described above will have to pay the application fee.

Please contact our Graduate Program Coordinator ( for directions on how to apply for a Departmental Fee Waiver.  In order to receive this waiver applicants must make a request prior to submitting their application.

Please contact the Graduate Program Coordinator if you have any questions.
(831) 459-4122

Required application materials:

  • GRE Scores (ETS offers a fee reduction program)
    Please note that the we have recently changed our policy concerning application materials and the GRE. 
    • General Exam- Optional 
      We no longer require that you submit GRE scores for the general exam. 
    • Physics Subject Exam- Optional
    • The GRE Physics exam is not required by our department.  Furthermore, in light of the reduced opportunities to take the GRE Physics exam in 2021 and other challenges facing the student community, students are not expected to submit GRE Physics exam scores this year.  Students who have already taken the exam and wish to submit their scores may do so.
  • Recommendations
    Three letters of recommendation are required. Additional letters, up to five total recommendations, will be reviewed but will not help or hurt your application.
  • Statement of Purpose
    Please describe your plans for graduate study or research and for your future occupation or profession. Include any information that may aid the selection committee in evaluating your preparation and qualifications for graduate study at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Recommended length is a concise 1-2 pages.
  • Personal History Statement
    This statement will be used in conjunction with your application for graduate admission and financial support. Note that the Personal History Statement should not duplicate the Statement of Purpose. Recommended length is a concise 1-2 pages.
    UC Santa Cruz is interested in a diverse and inclusive graduate student population. In an essay, discuss how your personal background informs your decision to pursue a graduate degree. Include any educational, familial, cultural, economic, or social experiences, challenges, or opportunities relevant to your academic journey; how you might contribute to social or cultural diversity within your chosen field; and/or how you might serve educationally underrepresented segments of society with your degree.
  • Resume
    Upload your resume in PDF format.
  • Research Interests
    Please indicate the three research areas you are interested in studying. This information will be used to ensure that the faculty in your areas of interest have an opportunity to review your application. If you feel none of the areas listed match your interests, please use the "other" field. Be sure to describe your interests and background in detail in your statement of purpose.
    Please provide your research interests in ranked order, with #1 being your highest-order preference.  You will be able to select form the following list:
    • Applied Physics
    • Astrophysics and cosmology experiment
    • Astrophysics and cosmology theory
    • Biophysics
    • Condensed matter experiment
    • Condensed matter theory
    • Material Science
    • Particle physics experiment
    • Particle physics theory
  • English Language Competence
    • TOEFL Exams
      For those choosing to take the TOEFL, a minimum score on the paper-based TOEFL of 550, or 220 on the computer-based test, or 83 on the internet-based test is required for admission.
      Any international students who wish to be considered for Teaching Assistant opportunities must score a 26 or higher on the Spoken Word portion of the internet-based test.
    • IELTS Exams
      For those choosing to take the IELTS, a minimum overall score of 7 from the IELTS test is required for admission. A speaking portion score of 8 from the IELTS test is required for all new international students who may serve as a Teaching Assistant at any time during their graduate career.
  • Grade Point Average
    • Undergraduate GPA & Scale
    • Upper-division GPA- calculate your GPA in your junior and senior level physics and mathematics courses. 
    • Graduate GPA & Scale (if applicable)
  • Transcripts 
    Unofficial transcripts must be uploaded to the application before you can submit this application . You must upload at least one transcript to your application. For review and decision purposes we accept electronic versions (PDF) of your academic records, which we consider to be "unofficial." If an offer of admission is made, you will be required to send us official paper documents for verification. Admission offers will not be considered final until we have received the official documents that match the uploaded record.
  • Academic Information (publications, teaching experience, etc.)
    • List articles, books, or any other materials published, with dates of publication. Provide URLs to publications where possible.
    • List name, approximate dates, and location of any institution at which you have taught.
    • Present occupation or position
    • Describe degree of proficiency (reading and speaking) in languages other than your first language.
    • List relevant advanced or research work that you have completed in your chosen field of study.
  • Diversity Fellowships
    This page is optional. 
    The Santa Cruz campus of the University of California has a long-standing goal of achieving a graduate student population that reflects the diversity of the state. Applicants who have excellent potential as future faculty and researchers, and whose enrollment would contribute to the diversity of our graduate student population, are invited to apply for these fellowships. You should complete this form if you believe that you meet both criteria and wish to be considered for one of these awards.

Please visit the Division of Graduate Studies website for more information about the application process.