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Information for Prospective Graduate Applicants

Applications and Deadlines

Normal application to our program is via the UVa Graduate School of Arts and Sciences online admission web pages. You application will be forwarded automatically to us. Currently, the deadline for our application is Jan 15, with entry into our program the following September. We do not admit students at other times.

If you are not planning to seek admission for other than the next year, then you should wait to request new application material in the fall semester preceding the year in which you wish admission.


  1. Completed application forms (please include your e-mail address if you have one)
  2. Transcripts of all college-level work
  3. Three letters of recommendation (one more than normal for the Graduate School)
  4. TOEFL scores, for applicants whose native language is not English

The Department no longer accepts, nor considers, the Physics or General GRE as part of our application process. Related to this, we affirm that we will not view CR/NCR or equivalent grades in the 2020-21 academic year negatively in graduate applications in future years. The decision to take classes for CR/NC will not be held against applicants in our graduate admissions process, and this applies to all courses, including those that count for the Astronomy or Physics major.

To receive fullest consideration, application materials should be complete in the Astronomy Department by 15 January. Since processing by the Graduate School office takes some time, it is best to upload all materials to them well in advance of the 15 January deadline. 

We generally are able to establish an admissions list and a waiting list by 15 March, and normally you will have heard from us by that time. The admissions process is usually completed by 15 April.

The fee to apply to the graduate program can be waived for students that demonstrate a financial hardship, students that are serving or have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, students that are earning or have earned a degree from an eligible minority serving institution, or students that have participated in specific organizations. For more details, and the list of qualifying organizations, see the Application Fee Waiver page.

If it is convenient, you are encouraged to visit Charlottesville for an interview and firsthand inspection of our facilities and program.


Correspondence concerning applications for our graduate program or requests for more information should be addressed to:

Graduate Admissions
Department of Astronomy
University of Virginia
P. O. Box 400325
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4325

Our telephone number is (434) 924-7494.

One of the most efficient ways to communicate with us is by e-mail. If you have an e-mail address, you should include that with any correspondence. The current co-Chairs of the Graduate Admissions Committee are Nitya Kallivayalil and Shane Davis, who can be contacted via email at


Preparation for Graduate School

Students entering our program need a good background in undergraduate physics (preferably a physics major or an astronomy major with a strong physics component). This is the best preparation for graduate school in astronomy. We do not expect incoming students necessarily to be familiar with astronomy, though we do expect them to have acquired a comprehensive understanding of basic astronomy by the time of their Ph.D. qualifying exams (the middle of their second year). Physics students without much exposure to astronomy might find a text like The Physical Universe by Frank Shu to be useful in preparing them for their first year of astronomy courses.

We no longer accept the Physics GRE in our application process. Additionally, due to continued disruptions posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have opted not to accept the General GRE for this coming year (2023). Related to this, we affirm that we will not view CR/NCR or equivalent grades in the 2020-21 academic year negatively in graduate applications in future years. The decision to take classes for CR/NC will not be held against applicants in our graduate admissions process, and this applies to all courses, including those that count for the Astronomy or Physics major. If applicants have further questions regarding these aspects of the application, we encourage them to email

The ability to perform independent research is at the core of every successful PhD candidate. As such, we carefully consider a student's research history and their ability to articulate their research. Good examples of this include posters and presentations at academic conferences, publications, and Honor's Theses, among others.

Financial Aid

Financial support is available in the form of fellowships, teaching assistantships, and research assistantships, all of which are either awarded or administered by the Department. These are often awarded in combination. No separate application is required for these types of financial aid; any applicant is automatically considered for this aid as part of the normal application process. The deadline for consideration for this financial aid from the Astronomy Department is the normal 15 January application deadline.

At the present time, the department does not admit students without offering them full financial support.
The Department of Astronomy normally has full support available for about 4 - 6 students a year. "Full" support implies sufficient funds paid out during the academic year (September - May) to cover all tuition and fees and to provide an adequate after-tax stipend for living expenses.

Limited supplementary income is available in forms such as graderships. Some senior students can supplement their income by teaching at nearby colleges. Department support during the summer months is usually available for most of our students in the form of either research or summer teaching appointments. This normally amounts to 25 - 30% of the academic year stipend. Note that while most students are primarily supported through the financial aid from the Astronomy Department described above, the Graduate School independently administers programs of financial aid, primarily in the form of loans, which are based on need. Information on these programs is contained in the Admissions Catalog for the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. Note that to be considered for these sources of financial aid from the Graduate School, applications must be received at the Graduate School by 3 December. Though most astronomy graduate students are supported by departmental sources of financial aid, we encourage students to look for scholarship opportunities offered by the Graduate School.

One should note that there is a very considerable advantage to being a "Virginian." Some fellowship money is designated for Virginia residents only, and the tuition which must be paid is reduced by over half. There are stringent rules which determine eligibility for in-state status. Please address residency questions to the department BEFORE application.

Financial aid is usually allocated one year at a time. We cannot ordinarily guarantee support for more than one year because we do not know how much money will be available. However, we do recognize an obligation to support continuing students in preference to recruiting new students. To the best of our ability we will do so, as long as satisfactory progress towards a degree is being made.

Because admissions and Astronomy Department financial aid decisions are considered simultaneously, application materials must be complete in our office by 15 January for fullest consideration for admission in the following academic year. Consideration for financial aid administered by the Graduate School requires application materials to be received by the Graduate School no later than 3 December.