Graduate Student Admissions

Welcome!

We are pleased that you are interested in the graduate program in Earth Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The Department of Earth Science offers master's and Ph.D. degrees in Earth Science. Admission is not restricted to persons with an undergraduate degree in earth science — individuals with degrees in physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, mathematics and other science-based disciplines are encouraged to apply. In fact, so are exceptional individuals with degrees in arts or the humanities who can demonstrate extraordinary motivation and a compelling argument behind wanting to pursue the study of earth science.

The deadline to submit applications
for the 2016-17 Academic Year is
Sunday Jan. 8, 2017

Apply Now!

Contents

For assistance with your graduate school application, please contact:
Yann Ricard, Graduate Program Assistant, via email or telephone (805) 893-3329.


SCtrip
Grad Students Santa Cruz Island trip
(photo credit: Adam Ginsburg)


Application Requirements

Our Department requirements coincide with the UCSB Graduate Division requirements:
- GRE Scores no older than five years
- Three letters of recommendation
- Statement of Purpose, Personal Achievements/Contributions, and Resume/CV
- Transcripts from all academic institutions attended

We suggest you take the GRE as soon as possible in order to receive scores by the deadline; no decision can be made on an incomplete application. For information on the GRE exam, contact Educational Testing Service at 1-800-473-2255 or check with your campus Counseling and Career Center for brochures. GRE scores up to 5 years old can be accepted for application.


Adam Ginsburg collects rutilefor U-Pb dating in Western Gneiss Region in Norway
Adam Ginsburg collects rutile for U-Pb dating in the Western Gneiss Region in Norway
(photo credit: Brad Hacker)


Admission Criteria

We use the following five criteria to judge applicants, but none of the criteria are absolute. Admittance depends upon the total profile:

  1. One year of chemistry, calculus, and physics with a letter grade of "B" or better.  Applicants that do not meet this criteria may counterbalance for this deficiency with other criteria such as a competitive GPA, a quantitative GRE score in the 80th percentile or above, exceptional letters of recommendation or submission of research publication(s).
     
  2. Willingness of a faculty member to sponsor a student. Sponsorship is motivated by potential and/or match in research interests. You should contact one or more faculty with whom you may be interested in working.
     
  3. An overall GPA of 3.0 is the university requirement.  However, a competitive overall GPA of 3.4 or above is preferred. The upper-division major GPA will be  also taken into consideration.
     
  4. GRE verbal, quantitative and writing scores in the 70th percentile. A writing score of four (4.0) or higher is desired.The quantitative score is examined in conjunction with grades in basic courses in mathematics, physics and chemistry. The verbal score is important because scientists must have good communication skills. Weak GRE scores may be counterbalanced by superior letters of recommendation and/or proven productivity of performance.
     
  5. Superior letters of recommendation from other professionals who have high standards. Letters of recommendation are essential for evaluation of an applicant.These letters are one of the few means that portray an applicant in a manner other than a collection of numbers. Intangible and qualitative aspects such as dedication, inquisitiveness, and persistence can only be elucidated by letters, and many times the letters of recommendation can override every other aspect of an application. Be sure to seek recommendation letters from people who know you well and can evaluate your scholastic performance.
     

The Admissions and Fellowship Committee and the Graduate Advisor review all applications. Applications may fall within one of the three categories below: 

  1. Admit- Exceptional applicants are recommended for admission, nominated for campus based fellowships, and contacted by faculty in the applicant's areas of interest;

     

  2. Reject-Weak applicants are recommended for immediate rejection;

     

  3. Requires further review-The rest of the applicants that fall in neither of the categories above.  The applicant files are then circulated to faculty members and researchers whose interests are similar to those of the individual applicant. These persons are best able to judge the student's background and potential, and commonly know the persons who write the letters of recommendation. They review the files in detail, and recommend admission (with or without sponsorship and possible financial support) or rejection.  Based on the faculty evaluations, the AFC and Graduate Advisor rank the students for admission and financial support.

Final decisions on admission and financial support are made sometime in mid-March/early-April. These decisions are based primarily on quality, but also involve an element of balance within the Department's wide range of interest.

Our program only admits for fall quarter and applications are processed in the prior winter quarter.  A few exceptions have been made for those students who desire to begin in the winter quarter.  These applicants are generally financially self-supported students.  Regardless of the quarter of admission, all applications are due and processed in the prior winter quarter. 

Note To Prospective Applicants:  When you submit your application, please be sure to indicate courses that you expect to complete before entering the graduate program if you have not yet completed all requirements for your degree. This will be helpful to the persons evaluating your application. Also please submit what field emphasis you would like to study.

The UCSB application is available on-line at www.graddiv.ucsb.edu/eapp
Additional Admission information is available from the Graduate Division.

Andy Wyss
Chair
Department of Earth Science


Admission Timeline

Admissions Timeline


Admission FAQ

Please be sure to read all of the FAQs before contacting the Department.

Graduate Division FAQ

The Graduate Division maintains its own list of Frequently Asked Questions, which covers general issues. The following addresses issues specific to the Department of Earth Science.

Application Deadline

Materials & Processes

GRE/TOEFL/IELTS

Financial Support

Statistics

Other Questions

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Application Deadline

Q: When is the application deadline?

A: Our application deadline is January 8. All application materials and scores must be received by this date in order for you  to be considered for admission as well as for campus-wide fellowships and departmental financial support. We will consider granting a two-week extension for the GRE test and/or letters of recommendation, if approved. If you wish to request an extension, please contact grad@geol.ucsb.edu.

Q: Can I apply for Spring or early admission?

A: Admission is for Fall Quarter. Early or late admissions have historically been granted, but only in truly exceptional circumstances.

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Materials & Processes

Q: On the application, it asks for my Research Interests. How specific should I be?

A: You may have many interests in Earth Science. But listing every specialty will make you look scattered and not yet ready for graduate research. Conversely, only listing a single interest may convey that you are sharply focused, but may narrow your opportunities within the Department. In other words, it may make you a better candidate for fewer slots. We recommend you choose no more than three Research Interests, and will assume your research interests are listed in order of importance. Please email grad@geol.ucsb.edu if you have any questions about your Research Interests.

Q: On the application, it asks for Faculty Interests. Is this important? Whom should I select?

We strongly encourage you to give careful consideration to your choices of Faculty Interests, as they will inform how your application is routed. We strongly recommend you examine our web site, become familiar with the research activities of our faculty, and ponder which are a good match for your own curiosity. As with Research Interests, we recommend you choose no more than three faculty.

Q: Can I contact the Faculty?

A: Yes! Once you have narrowed your interests to one or two of our faculty, and have familiarized yourself with their recent research, we strongly encourage you to contact them by email, introduce yourself, and ask pertinent questions. In some cases, the faculty may share with you their plans for future projects, which will further inform your decision.

Q: Can I submit more than three letters of recommendation online?

A: Yes, you may submit up to four letters of recommendation. If you are confident you have four strong recommenders, this can be particularly helpful when applying very close to the deadline. A fourth recommender can help ensure we get the minimum three letters in due time. Alternately, choosing a fourth recommender who knows you from a different perspective (perhaps an employer from outside academia) can complete the picture. However, recommenders should all be people who are professional references.

Q: Does applying early help?

A: A little. Applications are forwarded to the faculty for review as soon as they are complete. So people who apply earlier get "in front of" faculty earlier.

Q: How will I know if you have received all of my application materials?

A: After you have completed your online application, you may return and view your application status. To view your status, use the same login and password as when you created the online application. The application status pages provide a live glimpse at the status of your application, including when your application fee, GRE and TOEFL/IELTS scores, and supplemental materials were received.

Please keep in mind that it is your responsibility to confirm your application is complete before the deadline.

Q: When will I know if I have been accepted to UCSB?

A: Applications will be reviewed on an ongoing basis beginning in mid-December. Some applicants will be notified as early as February. Most will be notified during in March. Some late decisions are made in April.

Q: If I am an international applicant, can I apply for an application fee waiver?

A: UCSB does not provide application fee waivers for international students.

Q: If I am an international applicant, do I need to complete the preapplication?

A: While applying to graduate school is costly for all applicants, it can be a particular hardship on international students who are not eligible for application fee waivers or Federal Student Aid. To help ensure you only invest in an application with a fair chance of admission, we can offer a preliminary assessment of your chances. If you send abbreviated application information to grad@geol.ucsb.edu, we will do our best to give you our recommendation based on your requirements and opportunities available. Please send us test scores, unofficial transcripts, faculty interests, research interests, and a few sentences on the type of research you would like to engage in.

Q: I am an international student. Should I include an English translation of my transcripts when I upload my transcripts?

A: Yes, an English translation is required. English translations may be obtained from the Registrar's Office of your home institution. There are also organizations such as International Education Research Foundation, Inc., Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc., and World Education Services that will provide an official translation for a fee.
 

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GRE/TOEFL/IELTS

Q: How can I get the TOEFL/IELTS waived? 

A: Exceptions to TOEFL or IELTS testing may only be considered for those students who have completed an undergraduate or graduate education at an institution whose primary language of instruction is English. Please contact us well ahead of the deadline if you would like confirmation that you qualify for such an exception.

Q: When should I take the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE)?

A: Plan to take the GRE no later than November 30 to ensure receipt of your scores by the January application deadline. When you receive your scores, be sure to follow the instructions from Graduate Division on updating your GRE scores.

Q: I am an international student... What if I missed the GRE registration deadline? The exam isn't offered until January or April in my country.

A: Unfortunately, exams taken in January or later are much too late to be applied toward the upcoming Fall admissions cycle. Some decisions are made by the committee in January and February, with the remaining decisions being made in early March. GRE scores are required for an application to be considered complete, and admissions decisions are only made on complete applications. Therefore, a decision will not be made without the receipt of these scores.

Q: Does UCSB require a department code for sending the GRE scores?

A: No, a department code for sending the GRE/TOEFL scores is not necessary and could, in fact, delay certification of your results. Simply use UCSB's school code: 4835; the department code should be left blank. If you did however enter a department code, you can verify if UCSB has received your scores by updating your online application.

Q: What if my scores for the GRE are not available until after the January application deadline?

A: If you take the GRE in December, we probably won't receive your official scores by the application deadline. Provided the rest of your application (including the application fee) is complete and received by the January deadline, we will grant a two-week extension to allow for receipt of your GRE scores from Educational Testing Service (ETS). However, please keep in mind that we will begin to review complete applications beginning on the January deadline.

Q: What are your minimum GRE score requirements? Are my scores competitive?

A: The Earth Science Department does not require a minimum GRE score. But we admit less than 20% of qualified applicants, so if your scores fall below the 70th percentile, excellent grades and outstanding letters of recommendation will be needed to keep your application competitive.
 

Q: I have taken the GRE exams more than once. Can I mix and match the results?

A: GRE scores can not be mixed and matched. We will review only the most recent scores, regardless of the outcome.

Q: I took the GRE/TOEFL/IELTS exam/s a few years ago. Have they expired?

A: The GRE test date must be no more than 5 years old at the time of application, or ETS will not release them. The TOEFL/IELTS test date/s must be no more than 2 years old at the time of application.

Q: My GRE scores don't reflect my ability. How important are they?

A: When reviewing applications, we consider all of your application materials as a whole. GRE scores are important and if they are well below the above stated guidelines, you may wish to consider retaking the exams. However, your overall academic record reflected in your transcripts, letters of recommendation, prior research experience, and statement of purpose carry significant weight when considering applications to graduate school as these are reflections of your overall achievements.

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Financial Support

 

Q: If I am accepted to UCSB, what sort of financial package can I expect to receive?

A: The Earth Science Department typically provides financial support for two years to students admitted to the MS program, and five years to students admitted to the Ph.D. program, provided they continue to make satisfactory academic progress. Financial support is in the form of a teaching assistant (TA) or a graduate student researcher (GSR) appointment that covers most fees, health insurance and a salary for the 9 month academic year. Some TA and GSR appointments are available during the summer months. In addition, most non-California residents receive a fellowship to cover the Supplemental Nonresident Tuition for the first year, after which they are expected to establish California residence. International students whose first language is not English must pass the oral and written English language evaluation at the start of their first quarter in order to be employed as a TA to receive fee and health insurance fellowships.

Q: Do I need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)?

A: All domestic students who are admitted to UCSB must have completed the FAFSA by the early March deadline. Although you may not know your admission status by early March, it would be to your advantage to have already submitted the FAFSA in the event you are admitted to UCSB or another public university. Only students who have completed the FAFSA are eligible to receive UCSB Graduate Division central fellowships. It is not necessary to have completed your federal and state taxes before filling out the FAFSA as you may use estimates from the previous year. Please consult the FAFSA website for deadline information and application downloads. More general information is available on the UCSB Financial Aid Office's FAFSA section.

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Statistics

 

Q: How many applications do you receive each year?

A: We typically receive about 120 applications and admit about 20. Roughly two thirds of admits accept and enroll. Please keep in mind that these are very rough numbers and are variable over the years.

Q: What are the average GPA and GRE scores of applicants you admitted?

A: Students admitted to our program have an average undergraduate major GPA of 3.8, and GRE averages of 82,73 and 61.

Q: I am an international student... Should I convert my university scores to a 4.0 scale?

A: No, we do not convert international scores to the 4.0 GPA scale used in the US. The average scores for competitive applicants range between B+ (Very good) and A+ (Excellent) scores.

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Other Questions

 

Q: How can I email your Department? I sent an email, but never received a response.

A: Email grad@geol.ucsb.edu. Whenever emailing the Department, make sure that your email contains a related subject heading (i.e. Subject: “Application Question”). Email received with no subjects will be considered spam and will not be read. Although we will do our best to respond promptly, keep in mind that we are handling an inordinately high number of queries during admission season. If it has been more than a week since you sent an email with all of the above qualifications, please do not hesitate to re-send.

Q: Where can I find the UCSB Graduate Division FAQs?

A: You may access frequently-asked questions about UCSB Graduate Admissions here.

Q: Can I transfer to UCSB from another graduate program? What if I already have a Master's degree or a PhD in a different discipline?

A: Yes, you can. The application process is the same for all applicants, whether they have a Bachelor's, Master's or PhD.

Q: How do I visit UCSB?

A: In February, we draft a short list of first prospects, and invite those students to our Graduate Recruitment Event, where they get to visit the Department, speak with the faculty, meet current graduate students and experience life on campus and in the Santa Barbara area.

If you wish to visit UCSB before admission decisions have been made, please contact the Earth Science Department at grad@geol.ucsb.edu for assistance with your visit. We recommend you first browse through our research and faculty pages. If you are interested in a particular faculty, you may want to contact them and make an appointment to meet. However, do not expect faculty to answer questions about application status, or questions pertaining to the admissions process. Once you have arrived on campus, you may want to visit he UCSB Visitor's Center. They have campus tours Monday-Friday at noon and 2:00 PM.
 

Q: I am an international applicant... Is there a UCSB international resource?

A: We strongly recommend that all international applicants review the website of the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) when applying to UCSB. Although the majority of international students admitted to our program in Earth Science receive financial support, you should have a clear understanding of the cost of living in Santa Barbara as well as the cost of your education. On the OISS webpage you will find information regarding finances, visas, English language requirements and English as a Second Language classes, health matters and housing options.

Q: I didn't major in Earth Science, am I eligible to apply?

A: Absolutely. Individuals with degrees in physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, mathematics and other science-based disciplines are encouraged to apply. In fact, so are exceptional individuals with degrees in arts or the humanities who can demonstrate extraordinary motivation and a compelling argument behind wanting to pursue the study of Earth science.