Frequently Asked Questions

Application Deadlines

At what time of year can I begin a graduate program?

Physics MSc Students typically begin in September. Beginning the MSc program off-cycle in Spring (January) or Summer (May) terms is only possible with departmental permission and with strong support of a prospective supervisor.  

Physics PhD Students may begin in September, January, or May. 

How long will it take me to obtain a student visa?

A: Our department has no control over the student visa process, which is the jurisdiction of the Canadian federal government. It is the applicant's responsibility to contact the closest Canadian Consulate/Embassy to inquire about waiting times and required documentation for student visa applications. More information on work and study permits for international students is available from the Dean of Graduate Studies website.

Academic Requirements

What are the academic admission requirement equivalents for international students?

Information on equivalent academic requirements for international students is available here.

My CGPA is below the minimum required for admission. Can I still apply to a graduate program?

Yes. If a student's application package as a whole is sufficiently strong, the department may consider recommending conditional admission or admission as a qualifying student. Detailed information about these options is available here.

Can BSc degree-holders apply for direct entry to the PhD program?

No. BSc degree-holders apply to the MSc program, but may apply for transfer to the PhD program without completing an MSc degree.

I have a Bachelor of Science degree in another subject (chemistry, mathematics, engineering). Can I apply to the MSc program in Physics?

Yes, applicants holding degrees in other disciplines must have a very strong background in Physics. In particular, the Admissions Committee will want to see strong performance in upper level undergraduate Physics courses including Quantum Mechanics, Statistical Mechanics, and Electromagnetic Theory.

Other Admission Requirements

Am I required to have a supervisor before I apply?

It is not necessary to find a supervisor prior to applying. Students preparing applications are encouraged to read faculty research profiles, identify potential supervisors, and make contact with them as early as possible.

Students confirm their senior supervisors by the end of their first term in the graduate program.

Can I send a reference letter from someone who is not a physicist?

Yes, we will accept reference letters from scholars in other relevantly related fields such as chemistry, engineering and mathematics.

Applicants working in industry may use industry referees as well as academic referees. Referees should be people who can speak to how well you will perform in graduate courses as well as research.

Do I have to submit English proficiency exam scores?

A: If English is not your first language, the University requires proof of English proficiency, see SFU's English Language Requirements for University minimum requirements. If you have completed a degree in a country where English is the primary language (see list of Countries from which an English language proficiency test is not required here) you are not required to write an English language proficiency test.

Do I have to write the GRE (Graduate Records Examination)?

SFU Physics does not require GRE results. Applicants who have written the test may include results in their application packages if they wish.

Can I submit unofficial copies of documents (e.g. transcripts, test scores)?

Yes, applicants may send copies for use in the department's initial application review stage. However, if an offer of admission is made, official documents must be submitted to SFU by the time of enrollment. 

Financial Support Frequently Asked Questions

I do not have the money to pay the application fee. Can it be waived?

A: We are unable to waive application fees.

Do International students pay higher tuition fees at SFU?

A: No. All graduate students pay the same tuition fees.

Does the financial support you provide cover tuition fees and overall living expenses in Canada?

A: Yes. More information on graduate fees and costs of living is available here

Graduate Program Frequently Asked Questions

Can I transfer from the MSc program to the PhD program without completing a Master's degree?

Yes. To transfer to the PhD program, MSc students must have completed at least 75% of their MSc course work, with a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.5; all requirements mentioned above must be completed within the student's first 6 semesters at SFU. Support from the student's senior supervisor, thesis supervisory committee and Graduate Program Chair are required before a PhD transfer request will be considered.

How long is the MSc program and how many courses am I required to take?

A: The target for completing the MSc program is two years. Students are required to successfully complete 15 units of graduate coursework as detailed here.

How long is the PhD program and how many courses am I required to take?

A: The target for completing the PhD program is 4 years after the MSc. Students are required to successfully complete 21 units of graduate coursework (during MSc and PhD) as detailed here.

Will I be required to write a Qualifying Exam during my program?

A: No, our department does not require students to write a qualifying exam. Our students' success will be gauged on the basis of their coursework and the quality of their theses.

FAQ last updated: February 2024