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!

Application Deadlines
ProgramProgram StartDue Date
PhD ProgramFall 2024 (August 28)January 15, 2024
Applications received by February 1, 2023 will still be considered.
MS Program (In-person)Fall 2024 (August 28)January 15, 2024
HOME Program (MS Remote)Fall 2024 (August 28)June 1, 2024
HOME Program (MS Remote) PART-TIME ONLYSpring 2023 (January 11)December 1, 2023

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 not required for the PhD program for fall 2023. It is encouraged, but not required 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— All international students whose native language is not English are required to provide proof of English language proficiency through the submission of official test scores from one of the following exams. Scores more than two years old from the application deadline are not valid.

  • TOEFL or TOEFL iBT Home Edition
  • Duolingo

To send in IELTS scores please use the following address:

University of Rochester
Graduate Studies – AS&E
500 Joseph C. Wilson Blvd
P.O. Box 270401
Rochester NY 14627

TOEFL scores can be submitted using the code 2928 (A department code is not necessary).

Duolingo score can be sent directly to the University of Rochester at no cost.

Qualified applicants have a minimum TOEFL score of 620 (paper-based test), 260 (computer-based test), or 105 (Internet test). For the IELTS, qualified applicants have a minimum score of 7.2. While a test score below the minimum score would not entirely exclude an applicant from receiving an offer, it is strongly taken into account.

MS and PhD applications for a 2024 program start will still be considered without the GRE. Applicants may still submit general GRE and/or GRE subject grades as part of their application.

Application Instructions

Application Fee: $70

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.

HOME program—To apply to the HOME program, apply to the optics MS program, the select the HOME program within the optics MS application.

Non-discrimination 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 additional questions regarding admissions, see our frequently asked questions page.