How to apply
All of your application materials must arrive by December 15 to receive full consideration, including for fellowships.
If you have questions about MSU’s graduate program in astronomy, please email the head of admissions for astronomy, Jay Strader (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Step 1: Start your application
Go to https://admissions.msu.edu/gradportal/ and click Apply Now. Under "Online Application", select either "Domestic" or "International", then select "New Application". This will take you to a form in which you'll enter your contact information and choose a password. Leave the entry "MSU PID" blank if you have never been enrolled previously at MSU. After filling out the form, click "I AGREE..." at the bottom.
Step 2: Fill out the application form
After clicking "I AGREE..." you will be taken to the application form. At the top of this page is your Applicant ID. Please make a note of this number: you will need it, along with your password, to access your application.
Fill out the sections of the form. We recommend that you click "Save" periodically. When you get to the entry "First Semester to Enroll", select "Fall"—we will not consider applications for a start in Spring semester. Note that if accepted, you will have the option to start early during the summer. Under the entry "Major Preference", select "3924 - Astrophysics and Astronomy - (Doctoral)". We will not consider applications for a terminal master's degree.
For the entry "Do you want to be considered for a graduate assistantship?" select "Yes"; and likewise for "Do you want to apply for other financial aid?" We provide support to all graduate students, usually in the form of a teaching assistantship; we also consider everyone admitted for recruiting fellowships.
Step 3: Write the academic and personal statements
The application has two essays: an academic statement and a personal statement. Please ensure that you address the following topics in the academic statement.
- Describe research you have done to date.
- Describe your research interests: what are you interested in studying at Michigan State?
- Describe your long-term career goals, and explain how a graduate degree in astrophysics fits into those plans.
- Describe your experience with computation.
Please address the following topics in the personal statement.
- Give an example of a time you hit a serious obstacle or failure, and how you overcame it.
- Describe extracurricular activities in which you've been engaged; in particular, give examples of activities you've led.
- Describe what you do when you find yourself in over your head on research or in coursework. What resources do you use for support or mentorship?
- Give an appraisal of your strengths and weaknesses, as related to graduate study.
You may enter your statements via the form. Alternatively, you will have the opportunity to upload them as separate PDF documents (see below). If you chose to upload the statements as separate documents, please state "see attached" or words to that effect in the form.
Step 4: Report scores and upload documents
We recommend that you report your unofficial GRE scores in the "Miscellaneous" section of the application form, so that there are no delays in reviewing your application. Submission of your score on the physics GRE is optional. (See below for a statement on how we use the scores.)
Once the form is finished, click "submit application". The go back to the graduate portal and log in with your applicant ID and password. On the "control panel" select "Letters of Recommendation" and register the contact information for your three references.
Next, select "File Uploads". Here you may upload PDFs of your academic and personal statements. You should also upload an unofficial copy of your transcript(s). Finally, we strongly recommend that you upload your curriculum vitae/résumé; your vitae should list any publications, talks, or posters given in any professional scientific meetings.
Step 5: Have supporting documents sent to MSU
Have your GRE scores reported to MSU: institution code 1465, department code 0801.
Have your official transcripts mailed toDept. of Physics and Astronomy
Michigan State University
Attn: Kim Crosslan
567 Wilson Rd, Rm 1312
East Lansing, MI 48824
If English is not your first language, you will need to demonstrate proficiency in English via the TOEFL exam or equivalent (see this page for a list of requirements). For the TOEFL, the Institution Code is 1465, department code is 61 (Astronomy). In addition, you will need to pass the MSU SPEAK test before being assigned a teaching position. The SPEAK test is given during orientation before the start of fall semester.
How do we review applications?
Shortly after the deadline for receipt of applications, we begin a holistic review of each application. Our goal is to assess the ability of the applicant to do research and the readiness of the applicant for graduate-level coursework, and we use all the information in the applicant's dossier to make that determination. We do not apply any cuts based on test scores or grades.
Do I need to report a physics GRE score?
No. Submission of your score on the physics GRE is optional.
Part of our criteria for admission is evidence of readiness for graduate coursework in physics and astrophysics. One way to demonstrate this preparation is through your grades in a rigorous curriculum of mathematics and physics (mechanics, statistical physics, quantum mechanics, and electricity and magnetism), in addition to any astrophysics courses.
If you feel your grades in these classes or the number of upper-level classes do not accurately reflect your readiness for graduate coursework, you have the option of submitting your physics GRE score.
Is there any way to waive the application fee?
Domestic applicants can apply for a fee waiver using the FreeApp program. Your chances are best if you apply for the waiver by the priority deadline of November 15. We cannot guarantee that you will receive a waiver, but our experience is that most students who apply and meet the requirements and goals of the program do indeed receive the requested waiver.
To be eligible for this program, you must have a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0 and be a US citizen or permanent resident.
Unfortunately, we cannot offer fee waivers to international applications.