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 mathematics through differential equations and at least three years of college physics.

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 four, with year-to-year fluctuations.

Please Note: Admission to the doctoral program requires admission to both the Department of Astronomy and UW-Madison’s Graduate School.

  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 waivers. The form to apply is here. Application closes 11/13/2023. You will be notified by 11/27/2023 if you receive a department specific fee waiver.
  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.
  • 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.

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.

General Process: Apply using the UW-Madison Graduate School Electronic Application. Allow 30 to 60 minutes to complete the application. Prepare all materials to be uploaded beforehand. If an unsubmitted application is not accessed in a 120 day time period, it will be disabled. You may wish to consult the graduate admissions FAQ and application guide.

Navigate to Graduate School Electronic Application to start and complete your application

  • Create a user profile
  • Enter/update all relevant personal information
  • Submit application fee of $75 or apply a fee waiver code at the end of the application process

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 (transcripts), 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.

Mailing address for UW-Astronomy

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

Mailing address for the UW-Madison Graduate School

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

The application deadline for Fall 2024 admission is December 3, 2023. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our Graduate Admissions Coordinator, Heather Sauer,

To learn more about UW-Madison’s Graduate schools, please visit: