Application Requirements

A completed application includes the following:

  • Personal information section
  • At least 3 letters of recommendation (can be submitted online)
  • TOEFL or IELTS scores (see below)
  • Transcripts from all colleges/universities attended (uploaded via the online application). Admitted students will need to provide official copies of all transcripts prior to matriculation.
  • Statement of academic purpose

Your statement is an important part of your application. It should be clear, concise, and well crafted. This is your chance to go beyond your grades and to demonstrate the creativity, determination, and other qualities that you bring to your studies. The application does not require you to request a particular PhD advisor, but students do typically identify one or more faculty they are interested in working with.

The format is flexible, and you should include whatever information you think relevant. However, some points you may wish to touch on include:

  • A description of the research you hope to pursue in graduate school and why this interests you.
  • Why the Department of the Geophysical Sciences specifically, and the University of Chicago more generally, aligns well with your interests.
  • What experiences have prepared you for graduate school (e.g. research projects, other training).
  • What do you consider to be your main strengths, and how do they relate to your pursuit of science?
  • Are there particular skills / subject areas that you would like to build on during graduate school? (e.g., increased mathematics or statistics training, learning interdisciplinary communication, laboratory skills).
  • Any specific experiences or accomplishments, academic or non-academic, that you see as especially meaningful for your future education and research (and why).


The Department no longer accepts GRE scores. Please do not include GRE scores anywhere in your application materials.

English Language Requirement

Applicants who do not meet the waiver criteria here must submit proof of English language proficiency through official TOEFL or IELTS score reports. For more information, please refer to UChicago GRAD.

The minimum required TOEFL score is a 90 overall.  To send your TOEFL scores to the Department, please use institution code 1832 and department code 71.

The minimum required IELTS score is a 7 overall.

For more information on the TOEFL, please see their site.
For more information on the IELTS, please see their site.

Application Fee Waiver

Your application fee will be waived if you meet one of the following criteria:

  • You are a University of Chicago student or alumnus.
  • You are a Fulbright Scholar.
  • You are currently serving in or are a veteran of the U.S. Military.
  • You have successfully completed and submitted a BTAA Free App request.
  • You have participated in one of the following programs:  AmeriCorps/Vista, Gates Millennium Scholars, National GEM Consortium, Institute for the Recruitment of Teachers, Leadership Alliance, McNair Scholars, Mellon Mays, Peace Corps, Project 1000, Teach for America.

If you meet one of the above criteria, check the appropriate box in the application and provide documentation when/if required.

The Physical Sciences Division provides fee waivers for applicants with financial hardship. If you would like to request a fee waiver, please complete and submit your application first. You will then be able to access the fee waiver request form. Please note that you may be required to provide documentation of your hardship. This can include:

  • A copy of your most recent FAFSA application
  • A letter from your Financial Aid office confirming you have been awarded need-based aid
  • Documentation that you have received a Pell Grant
  • Documentation of public assistance that is less than one year old