Elements of a Strong Application

We find that the best applicants to the MS program show evidence of undergraduate research in geography or other fields. We strongly encourage PhD applicants to show evidence of having a thesis completed or in progress in geography or related discipline. In addition, we have specific advice on the following elements of your application:

GRE Scores and Grades

We do not admit or deny applicants on the basis of GRE or GPR scores; rather, we aim to consider the applicant as a whole. For guidance, our average GRE score for applicants in the past decade was 1200 combined verbal and quantitative. This translates to approximately 300 combined on the new scale. If your GRE scores are below the 50th percentile, we urge you to consider re-taking the exam to obtain a better score.


The Statement should be an essay describing past experiences relevant to the MS or PhD program and should indicate a proposed topic. Applicants should contact faculty with whom they share research interests, and they should mention these faculty by name in their essay. Strong essays provide an argument for why an applicant seeks graduate study in our Department, making reference to specific faculty. Essays that are generic, focus on personal idiosyncrasies, or elaborate on themes unrelated to the MS or PhD program are neither persuasive nor compelling; similarly, essays that make no mention of previous research experience are weak.

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation should come from academic referees, rather than previous employers; however, in cases where your workplace involved issues relating directly to your planned MS or PhD course of study, then letters from supervisors would be welcomed.