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Graduate Programs

Applying

Each of the degree programs offered by the Institute of Optics provides a broad education in the entire range of optics, from fundamental optical physics to applied optical engineering. Admission to the graduate programs in optics is highly selective. Learn more about applying to the Institute through the links below.

Ready to join to the Institute of Optics? Apply online today! 

Admission Process 

Admission is decided by the Graduate Admissions Committee rather than by a potential research supervisor. Only after being admitted and then completing two semesters of courses, do you join a research group.  Therefore, applications should not be directed to individual faculty members, but submitted according to the instructions below.

The Graduate Admissions Committee considers many factors in their decision: GPA, GRE, TOEFL/IELTS scores, letters of recommendation, statement of purpose, classes taken and grades of those classes. An applicant that may be marginal in one area may excel in another. This is taken into account.

Financial Information

Internal Fellowships 

There are numerous internal fellowships available to both PhD and MS students. All applications will be considered for these opportunities. Financial offers can vary depending upon specific circumstances and will be specified in a letter sent to each student at the time that an admission offer is made.

PhD students typically receive a stipend and a full tuition waiver. During the first two semesters of study, the stipend support comes in the form of a department fellowship. After the first two semesters, students are expected to perform research in return for their stipend.

External Fellowships

Applicants are not required to apply for external fellowships, but are strongly encouraged to do so. For PhD students who normally receive funding, external fellowships can still be helpful for a number of reason including:

  • Receiving or even just applying to an external fellowship is seen favorably by the Graduate Admissions Committee.
  • Having an external fellowship increases the student's chances of joining their desired research group.
  • Once in a research group, an external fellowship gives the student and advisor more freedom to pursue a project of their choice, without the constraints of grant funding.

Check out the optics external fellowship opportunities (PDF) to learn more about specific opportunities.

Academic Requirements

Degree: A bachelor's degree in optics, physics, engineering, or a related technical field is required. A MS degree is not required for admission into the PhD program.

Grade Point Average (GPA): Minimum undergraduate GPA is 3.0 out of 4.0. In previous years, the average GPA of incoming PhD students was 3.7/4.0 and for incoming MS it was 3.4/4.0.

Graduate Record Examination (GRE): The GRE is required for the PhD program.  It is strongly encouraged for MS applicants. A good optics candidate has GRE scores in the 80th percentile in all categories. A Physics Subject Test is not required but a score can be submitted for consideration.

  • GRE general and subject codes: institution code - 2928; department code - 0805.

English Language Proficiency: One of the two English proficiency examinations described below is required for all graduates of universities for which English is not the official language. The proficiency requirement is waived if the applicant received their undergraduate degree from an institution where the instruction was in English. International students currently studying in the US must still provide an English proficiency test score.

  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL; http://www.toefl.org): A minimum TOEFL score of 620 (paper-based test), 260 (computer-based test), or 105 (Internet test) is required for admittance.

    • TOEFL Codes: Institution Code - 7267; Department Code - 69.
  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS; http://www.ielts.org): A minimum IELTS score of 7.2 is required for admittance.
    • Send the test score to: Graduate Admissions / Optics, University of Rochester, 275 Hutchison Road, Rochester, NY 14627, USA.
  • While a test score below the minimum requirement would not entirely exclude an applicant from receiving an offer, it is strongly taken into account.

Application Instructions

Deadline: The application deadline for fall entry for both MS program applicants and PhD program applicants is January 15, 2018.

Application Fee: 60 US dollars.

Application Materials:

  • Transcripts—Upload a copy of your transcripts and have a sealed copy of your transcript sent to the mailing address below. Transcripts in a non-English language must be accompanied by a certified English translation.
  • Standardized Tests – GRE/TOEFL/IELTS—Have the testing institution send the original paper score sheets to the Institute.
  • Recommendations—Submit three (3) letters of recommendation.
  • Statement of Purpose—Typically one to three pages long with a three-page limit. Your name and date of birth should appear at the top of each page; also include page numbers (1/3, 2/3, 3/3).
  • Resume/CV/other documents—No specific format or instructions.

Address for Postal Delivery:

Graduate Admissions

The Institute of Optics

University of Rochester

275 Hutchison Road
Rochester, NY 14627-0186


International Students: Applicants who are neither citizens nor permanent residents of the US should visit the pages of the International Student Office for additional information.

Policy: The University of Rochester values diversity and is committed to equal opportunity for persons regardless of age, color, disability, ethnicity, gender identity or expression, genetic information, marital status, military/veteran status, national origin, race, religion/creed, sex, sexual orientation or any other status protected by law. Further, the University complies with all applicable non-discrimination laws in the administration of its policies, admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in University programs and activities. 


If you have any further questions regarding the admissions program, please check out the Graduate Frequently Asked Questions.