where to go for astronomy and astrophysics?

  • This has become our largest and most active forum because the physics GRE is just one aspect of getting accepted into a graduate physics program.
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Joined: Mon Nov 20, 2006 6:16 pm

where to go for astronomy and astrophysics?

Postby alba27 » Wed Feb 14, 2007 8:59 pm

So I sort of went crazy and applied to a lot (I mean a lot) of graduate programs in astronomy/astrophysics. I honestly didn't think I'd get in that many places. Luckily I was wrong. Though I haven't gotten in to all my top choices and I'm still waiting to hear from a few...I do have options. I guess I am posting to see if anybody knows something about the "best" graduate programs in astronomy. By best, I mean in both status and student happiness.

So, does anybody know what is considered to be the top 15 or so astronomy departments? There hasn't been a recent national ranking in a long time (I think 1998 was the last one) so I am just trying to base this on what people have heard. For example I noticed a lot of people on the forum are just as interested in Washington's astro program as they are physics....and I never knew Washington was even known for their astro program!

I'm also really curious as to how many student get made offers at medium sized schools like Washington. While visiting, is it rude to ask the amount of offers made and the amount of people that generally accept those offers? I just think that would be a very important number to know.

Well thanks for the help everyone. I also wanted to congratulate everyone on their acceptances! Sorry for the length of this post. I suppose I make up for posting so infrequently by length.



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Joined: Tue Feb 13, 2007 7:48 am

Postby newscience » Thu Feb 15, 2007 2:14 am

Hi alba27- I think we are in similar situations. I think I can recommend a few resources that would be really helpful in addressing (if not answering) the questions that you have. In terms of the "top places" to go in astronomy, I think that a helpful website for you to visit would be


I recommend that one particularly because you asked about where students are happiest, and phds.org lets you rank school based on lots of different factors (not just which places have the most Nobel Laureates). For example, I had heard that UW has the "happiest" astro grad students in the country, but they don't have the telescope access that you would get at a place like, say, the University of Hawaii. A balancing act, right?

As far as the number of people that get offers versus the number that accept, I would recommend this site (which I think I found on this forum)


Each listed school gives a ton a information for a given year, like the number they admitted versus the number that applied. Also, sometimes there are other interesting things listed, like the number of people that accepted, or the average GRE scores of the applicant pool.

Good luck with your decision-making! Congratulations on having options.

Posts: 17
Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2007 2:15 am

Postby dbl » Thu Feb 15, 2007 5:28 pm

I think where you want to go depends heavily on what you want to do. Different departments have different strengths. From what I've heard, rankings don't matter as much as who you work with. You can work with a great person in a small university and get a postdoc at the most prestigious department. There are great people in many departments that you wouldn't expect to have great people.

How did you pick out your schools initially? If you're interesting in doing one specific type of research, visit as many schools as you can and talk to the people who work in that field. Talk to the professors where you are right now about whom they thick you should work with. Don't just go by rankings, but see which school is the best fit for you.

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