I am someone who did plenty of self-study in physics and has learned pretty much the entire undergraduate physics curriculum by himself. I have plenty of evidence to prove this (including a physics stack exchange profile), a researchgate profile, plenty of written study notes in paper and the fact that I have tutored seniors in undergrad. I want to get admitted into Oxbridge or Ivy League schools, preferably. Besides, I want to use this to get out of my doomed country, as staying here 4 or 5 years more because of a bachelor's is something that horrifies me. I am even also well aware of both my strenghts and weaknesses. What do you guys think? Do I have any chance?

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    Related: Applying for grad school without undergraduate background (though OP of that question had an undergraduate degree in a different field), Is it possible to obtain a Master's degree without Bachelor's degree? and questions linked therein.
    – Anyon
    Feb 23 at 2:46
  • I guess there is still a GRE subject test in physics. Would that result be significant enough to make a difference to Ivy League physics programs?
    – GEdgar
    Feb 23 at 2:47
  • @GDEdgar I think so, but I am not completely sure.
    – Don Al
    Feb 23 at 2:57
  • Who are you planning to ask for recommendation letters?
    – Allure
    Feb 23 at 2:58
  • This is a tough situation. One thing you may want to consider is getting a Masters first and then from there transitioning into a PhD program.
    – JoshuaZ
    Feb 23 at 19:29

2 Answers 2


I suggest your chances are non-zero but so small as to be inconsequential. As a physicist you will appreciate the fact that even events with an a priori probability of zero can nonetheless occur.

You face several difficulties, by far the most serious of which is that you would be competing for admission with applicants who do have a proven academic track-record, either in physics or a related discipline. So why would a graduate program choose to admit you, rather than someone who ticks all the expected boxes?


To apply and be accepted into a top physics program, you will need research experience (your chances increase if it's in the field you are applying to and if you have publications), a strong academic record in related subjects, recommendation letters from researchers in the field, and proof that you have sufficient understanding of "the core four", which are electricity and magnetism, statistical mechanics, quantum mechanics, and mechanics. Even having all of these boxes checked off, getting into these schools is a long shot.

I do not see how you would be able to satisfy these criteria given your situation, so it does not seem likely. Many U.S. universities do not consider GRE scores any more, so that might not even be an option (depending on the university).

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