Graduate studies in Geography
Applying for Graduate School: A Primer
The purpose of this primer is to provide an overview of how to apply for acceptance into the
Master of Science (M.S.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) graduate degree programs in the
geography area of specialization in the Department of Earth Sciences at Montana State
University. In addition, it answers some of the most commonly asked questions concerning
application and admission to the Earth Sciences graduate program in the geography
The most important step in the application process is to determine, prior to applying, the
faculty member whose research interests most closely match the research area you would
like to pursue in graduate school. Because final acceptance is determined by the individual
faculty advisors, it is important that you establish contact with your potential advisor to
determine if they are accepting new graduate students for the year you wish to enter the
program and to discuss mutual research interests prior to applying. More information about
the Department of Earth Sciences geography faculty and their research programs is available
on the Department website at: http://www.montana.edu/wwwes/facstaff/index.htm .
What are the minimum acceptance requirements?
Acceptance requirements of the Graduate College include a minimum undergraduate GPA of
3.0. A minimum Verbal GRE score of 480 is required to be eligible for an in-class Teaching
Assistantship. For foreign students, a minimum TOEFL score of 550 (paper) or 213
(computer-based) is required.
Because final acceptance is up to the prospective graduate student's faculty advisor,
the Department places strong emphasis on the applicant statement of intent and letters of
recommendation. Letters from faculty who can assess your academic potential for success
in graduate school are weighed most heavily. Letters from former employers, friends,
landlords, or relatives carry essentially no weight in this regard.
Acceptance involves a two-step process comprising acceptance by the College of
Graduate Studies and acceptance by the Department of Earth Sciences. The Department
first evaluates your application and makes a recommendation to the College of Graduate
Studies. Final acceptance is made by the Graduate College. It is important to keep in mind
that acceptance by the Department is ultimately decided by the prospective faculty advisor.
Will I be accepted if I do not have a degree in geography or a closely related field?
The geography program does allow students with some course deficiencies to be
provisionally admitted with the understanding that the student will complete necessary
background coursework within their first year of the graduate program. Another course of
action is to seek admission to the College of Graduate Studies as a non-degree candidate,
and then make up all undergraduate course deficiencies prior to apply for acceptance to the
Graduate College and Department as a degree candidate. Application for non-degree
graduate student status does not require acceptance by the Department, only the Graduate
I want to do snow-related research in geography, so do I have the same requirements?
Yes you do. The Department does not make any distinction within geographical
specializations in terms of requirements for acceptance into the graduate program.
Substantial undergraduate training in a geography (or closely related) curriculum is required
of all successful applicants. Snow-related research in the Department is strongly field-based
and requires a strong foundation of geographical knowledge.
Does the Department require a preliminary application?
No, the Department of Earth Sciences does not require a preliminary application. We do
however strongly suggest that you contact the faculty member(s) with whom you would like to
work prior to applying.
When is my application due?
In order to be considered for either a Teaching or Research Assistantship, it is imperative that
the Department receive all of your required application materials by February 1st.
What are the required components of the application?
As described on the College of Graduate Studies Web Page, the application for admission to
the Graduate College includes a completed application form, official transcripts from all
undergraduate institutions attended, GRE scores, a statement of intent, and three letters of
recommendation from persons qualified to assess your potential for success in graduate
school. All applicants are required to submit GRE scores. A detailed checklist of required
application items may be found at: http://www.montana.edu/wwwdg/pdf_files/AppInstr.pdf .
Do I have to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE)?
Yes, all applicants are required to take the GRE. As this is Board of Regents policy, no
exceptions can be made to this requirement under any circumstances. It is imperative that
you take the GRE at a time such as to ensure that your scores arrive by the February 1st
How do I apply?
You may apply by visiting the application web page for the College of Graduate Studies found
at http://www.montana.edu/wwwdg/apply.shtml . Contact the Department of Earth Sciences
at the contact address below if you can not access the on-line application and would like to
request that a paper application be mailed to you.
What are the application requirements for foreign students?
The application process for foreign students is the same as it is for domestic students.
Foreign students are required to submit TOEFL scores and a financial statement in addition
to the standard application. Details concerning Graduate College requirements for foreign
student applications may be found at:
What can I do to strengthen my application?
Acceptance into the geography component of the Earth Sciences graduate program is highly
competitive. The strongest applications have a relatively high GPA (above 3.0), good GRE
scores, and strongly supportive letters of recommendation. In addition, a clearly articulated
statement of intent focused on career goals and research interests rather than recreational
opportunities afforded by living in southwest Montana is highly recommended.
Where do I send my application materials?
All of your application materials must be sent to the Department of Earth Sciences. If you
apply on-line, your application form will be sent to the Department. However, you must
ensure that all other materials including GRE scores and letters of recommendation also be
sent to the Department. The mailing address for the Department is:
Geography Graduate Coordinator
Department of Earth Sciences
Room 226, Traphagen Hall
Montana State University
Bozeman, MT 59717
Who do I contact with questions concerning the application process?
In addition to the information provided in this primer, you will find a detailed description of the
application process at the College of Graduate Studies web site
http://www.montana.edu/wwwdg/index.shtml and the Department of Earth Sciences web
page for prospective students http://www.montana.edu/wwwes/programs/graduate.htm . It is
strongly recommended that you review the information provided at these sites in detail. If you
have questions concerning the receipt of your application materials, you may contact the
Department via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (406) 994-3331.