Top 10 Colleges for Astronomy
Why should I apply to the University of Texas Department of Astronomy?
The Department of Astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin is ranked in the top 10 in the nation. Faculty members have, over the years, won nearly every prize offered by the American Astronomical Society. The Hobby*Eberly Telescope located at McDonald Observatory gives Texas astronomers direct access to one of the generation of 9 m+ telescopes, one of the few that serves only a small community of collaborating universities rather than a national or multi-national community.
Other facilities located at the University of Texas McDonald Observatory include the 2.7 m Harlan J. Smith Telescope, the 2.1 m Otto Struve Telescope, and the 0.8 m telescope, including advanced instrumentation. All these facilities are available to graduate students.
The department offers strengths in many areas and the advantage of a diversity of fields in which to work. Graduate instruction and research are conducted in observational and theoretical astronomy and astrophysics and in associated astronomical instrumentation. Observational and instrumental opportunities are available in optical photometry, polarimetry, fast photometry, spectroscopy, spectrophotometry, and spectropolarimetry as well as in infrared and millimeter astronomy, in radio astronomy, and in space astronomy. These topics are applied to the study of asteroids, comets, planets, interstellar matter, star formation, nebulae, stars in all stages of their evolution, white dwarfs, neutron stars, black holes, supernovae, the chemical and physical evolution of galaxies, quasars, and intergalactic matter. There are also instruction and research opportunities in theoretical astrophysics including interstellar material and star formation, stellar structure and evolution in single and binary stars, accretion disks, supernovae and nucleosynthesis, the formation and evolution of galaxies and quasars, the formation of large scale structure, and cosmology.
The University of Texas offers the rewards of a first-class university. Austin, a growing high tech center, continues to offer its unique and varied heritage of live music as well as sports, theater, film, and outdoor entertainment.
Generations of astronomy graduate students have found the department a stimulating and nurturing place to live and work.
We welcome you to join us.
What are the admissions requirements?
Prerequisites for graduate work in astronomy are at least fifteen to eighteen semester hours of upper-division course work in astronomy and physics, which may include courses in mechanics, electricity and magnetism, statistical physics, and quantum mechanics. As per the requirements of the UT Graduate School, we also require applicants submit scores for the general Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Effective in the Fall of 2016, applicants’ scores on the Physics GRE subject test are no longer considered for admission to our program.
What does the Admissions Committee look for on an application?
First, the Admissions Committee will check that you have the basic background in physics and mathematics that is needed for graduate level study in astronomy. Everything you send is important. One thing which benefits an applicant is undergraduate research experience. This does not have to be in astronomy (we frequently admit physics students who have taken few or no astronomy courses), but any research experience does boost your chances of admission. Good reference letters and a well-written personal statement are also important. Less important are GRE scores. Statistical analysis has shown that there is little correlation between GRE scores and success in graduate school. As a result, while GRE scores are considered as just one factor among many, they are not the deciding factor in any decision.
When will I hear from the Department about an admission decision?
The Admissions Committee usually reviews applications around the end of January or beginning of February. Your application file must be complete in order for the Admissions Committee to consider your application. Once they have made a decision to admit, the Department makes a recommendation to the Graduate School via the Graduate and International Admissions Center. If the Graduate School application (see Part 1 above) is complete, a letter of admission will be mailed within a couple of days. If the Graduate School application is incomplete and the Department wishes to admit you, you will be contacted about completing your Graduate School application. The Astronomy Department will also send decision letters via email to all applicants notifying them of the Department's recommendation, whether positive or negative. These letters usually go out mid to late February.
How can I tell if my application is complete?
When should I take the GRE General Test?
Take any GRE tests in early fall of the year before you desire to begin your studies. It can sometimes take up to six weeks for the official scores from GRE tests to be reported to the University. This should be taken into account so that you take the tests early enough for the scores to be reported before the December 15 application deadline.
How do I finance my graduate education?
The Astronomy Department makes an effort to provide support to all of its students through Teaching Assistantships and Graduate Research Assistantships. Both assistantships provide a salary and at least partial (in some cases full) reimbursement of tuition and fees. An attempt is made to keep salaries competitive with other graduate schools in astronomy, accounting for cost of living in various areas. All of our current students are employed in the department, as has been the rule throughout the Department's history: 19 of our students work as Graduate Research Assistants, 14 work as Teaching Assistants, and 3 have full fellowships. The Department regularly nominates its outstanding students for University Fellowships and encourages and supports applications for outside fellowships. See also information on Financing Your Graduate Education available from the Graduate Outreach Office.