Graduate Admissions Tips

Assuming that you have a decent undergraduate GPA (above 3.3), there are four steps you can take to enhance the likelihood of getting admitted to our department.

  1. Get good GREs. The department tends to favor applicants with a GRE of 1100+ (old scale) and 300+ (new scale). However a score slightly lower than this will be accepted if the SOP is a good match for the potential advisor.  If you are an international applicant whose native language is not English, we need to see satisfactory TOEFL scores – you cannot be admitted without meeting the minimum scores on this test.  If your native language is English and you get substandard GREs, the University may not admit you.
  2. Write a focused Statement of  Purpose.  Tell us those aspects of your background that are relevant to a graduate career in Geography and specifically, tell us what research questions interest you, what background you have in those interests, and where you would like to do your research.  The SOP is also a vehicle for you to demonstrate your articulate writing skills. Focus on your specific research interests, not on your generic fascination with the environment, at what age you discovered maps, the beauty of the world or society, or the glories of Geography. Our faculty are most interested in what you hope to do as a graduate student. You must include potential faculty advisor’s names in your SOP.
  3. Relate your interests to the interests  of our faculty.   Go to the faculty link on the department web page and learn about the research interests of our faculty.  No matter how high your GREs or how brilliant your statement of purpose, you will not be admitted unless at least one faculty member agrees to be the chair of your committee at least preliminarily, until you officially choose an actual advisor.  Faculty look for students whose research interests match their own.  Applicants whose interests are alien to those of the faculty will not be admitted.
  4. Contact faculty before applying.  You are required to contact faculty with whom you are interested in working to ascertain whether your research interests are compatible and whether they will be taking on new students. However, do not mistake their encouragement of your application as a signal that you will definitely be accepted.


  • Generally we receive over 60 applications.  About 35% are admitted.  About 70% of those enroll.
  • Last year, the average GRE of students that applied to our program under the old scale was: 500 verbal and 730 quantitative. Under the new scale, scores averaged 152 V and 157 Q.
  • Scores in the 1100’s (old scale) or 300+ (new scale) may secure admission (if the statement of purpose interests faculty) but not a fellowship.
  • Last year, scores for admitted students averaged 530 V/760 Q under the old scale, and 155 V/160 Q for the new scale.
  • Please do not contact us before you apply to ask if your materials will be strong enough to qualify for admission. Several people have to approve before a student can be admitted, including the Admissions Committee, their potential faculty advisor(s), and the Office of Admissions.