How to Apply

The Department of Astronomy offers the Ph.D. in astronomy. Although a master's degree is offered, students generally are not admitted for a terminal master's degree.  Students typically begin graduate work in the fall semester.  Undergraduate preparation typically includes at least three years of college physics, and mathematics through differential equations.

As the Astronomy Ph.D. Program comes with a guarantee of financial support, our admissions process is highly competitive. Typically, the Department of Astronomy admits a small number of applicants annually, on average 4, with year-to-year fluctuations.

Please Note:  Admission to the doctoral program requires admission to both the Department of Astronomy and the Graduate School.

Application Information:

  1. Complete the UW-Madison Graduate School application
  2. Refer to "Frequently Asked Questions" at the bottom of the page for any questions regarding the application form or the application process.
  3. Information about general UW-Madison application fee waivers.
  4. We also have a small amount of Department specific waiviers. The form to apply is here.
  5. The Graduate School's Requirements for Admission website provides information on Grade and Degree Requirements, International Student requirements, Application Fee Grants, and more.
  6. Review the information below to insure that all materials required by the Department and the Graduate School have been submitted.

I. Apply Using the UW-Madison Graduate School Electronic Application:

  • Complete the online application: Graduate School Electronic Application
  • Allow 30 to 60 minutes to complete the application. Prepare all materials to be uploaded beforehand (see II and III below).
  • Submit the application and fee.
  • If an unsubmitted application is not accessed in a 120 day time period, it will be disabled.

II. Submit the Following Application Materials:

  • Scanned unofficial transcripts from all institutions attended.
  • Astronomy courses for Fall and Spring, if not listed in the transcript.
  • Statement on 'Reasons for Graduate Study in Astronomy'.
  • Three letters of recommendation from those well acquainted with your academic work (email addresses are required for all recommenders).
  • Résumé can also be submitted within the Graduate School Electronic Application.

Note that we no longer require or consider general or subject-specific Graduate Record Exam (GRE) test scores.

Advice for Statement Submission:

Pursuing a PhD is a major life decision. Therefore it should be a well-thought-out decision rather than a default choice. The personal statement is an important component of your application. It is your opportunity to highlight your preparation and motivation for graduate school in astronomy and what unique strengths you would bring to our program. Below is some advice for things to address in your personal statement. You are encouraged to find reference letter writers who can speak to these things as well.

  • Motivation (e.g., What motivates you to  earn a PhD in astronomy? What excites you the most about studying astronomy?)
  • Academic merit (what physics and astrophysics courses have you taken?  and writing skills)
  • Leadership (resilience, initiative, and community enrichment)
  • Involvement (research experiences, posters/publications, and outreach activities)
  • A good match to our program: (e.g.,  Why do you consider the astronomy program of UW-Madison as a good match for your goals ? Why Madison as a city?)

An effective personal statement is typically 2-3 pages long.

Please note, neither general GRE nor physics GRE scores are required and, if submitted, will not be considered in our evaluation of the applicant.


III. International Applicants Must Also Submit The Following Materials:
*If your degree granting institution was NOT primarily taught in English*

  • Scanned official documentation of all courses taken and grades received, with an English translation.
  • Scanned official certification of degrees and dates granted, with an English translation.
  • Official TOEFL score
  • For more questions:

Please Note:  All components of the application are essential for consideration of your application for admission.  If you are unable to submit any of these items electronically, please contact the Graduate Coordinator for assistance.


The application deadline for Fall 2021 admission is December 15, 2021.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our Graduate Admissions Coordinator, Heather Sauer

Mailing address for the Graduate School

Office of Graduate Admissions
228 Bascom Hall, 500 Lincoln Drive
Madison WI 53706

Mailing address for the Department of Astronomy

Graduate Coordinator
Department of Astronomy
University of Wisconsin-Madison
475 N. Charter St
Madison WI 53706-1582

UW-Madison Astronomy Home