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Thank you for your interest in applying for graduate study in the Department of Geosciences at Penn State. Before applying, check out the following resources below designed to help you throughout the application process.

Students are expected to have a bachelor's degree in some branch of the natural or physical sciences, engineering, or mathematics by the start of their graduate program. A student also is expected to have completed standard introductory courses in geosciences, chemistry, physics, and mathematics through integral calculus, plus an equivalent of 15 credits of intermediate-level work in one or a combination of these subjects. Students who are admitted but have less than the minimum preparation in these subjects may be asked to address their deficiencies prior to entry to the program. They may take courses concurrently with their graduate studies, but this is not encouraged. Students with special backgrounds, abilities, and interests whose undergraduate grade-point average in courses pertinent to geosciences is below a 3.00 (on a 4.00 scale) will be considered for admission only when there are strong indications that a 3.00 average can be maintained at the graduate level.

Students are admitted either to the M.S. or Ph.D. degree program. A student may work toward a Ph.D. degree without first earning a M.S. degree.

For more information about Penn State Graduate School requirements, please visit

The Department of Geosciences graduate application is available through the Penn State Graduate School. The application includes:

  • an online form to provide personal, contact, and other applicant information, including a list of prospective graduate advisers
  • a course summary to provide information on academic preparation (this is a department-specific requirement that must be uploaded to the Graduate School application portal)
  • official transcripts for all undergraduate college and universities
  • response to five prompts (see below)
  • contact information for three reference letters
  • a fee of $65

The Penn State application does not require a single personal statement or statement of purpose but rather five short responses to prompts (250 words maximum per response) in which applicants can describe their;
(1) problem-solving abilities,
(2) resilience and adaptability,
(3) motivation and future goals,
(4) respect for diversity and inclusion, and
(5) describe additional relevant experiences and self-awareness.

Our application utilizes these prompts to provide a holistic picture of applicants and to highlight aspects of applicants’ experiences and background that are not always included within the traditional single statement.

The deadline to apply to start a graduate program in the fall semester is December 15 of the preceding year. Please note that applications will still be considered after December 15, although the selection process and considerations for support generally begin at the end of calendar year. Decisions will be made in the spring through an Admissions Committee.


December 15 Applications due to the Graduate School
Late December – Early January Geosciences Admissions Committee begins review of applications
Late January-February Acceptance letters sent
February-March Campus visits scheduled
April 1 Deadline to accept a graduate student offer


While all accepted graduate students are guaranteed funding for their stipend and tuition, which can come from a combination of different sources, support that is tied to a specific research grant generally means that the graduate student under that grant will work on a research project closely related to the proposed work. Therefore, obtaining external funding can be highly desired because it provides students with the freedom to determine their own project regardless of the projects that are funded by their graduate adviser. We encourage all applicants to consider applying for external fellowships and to discuss the possibility of these opportunities to their prospective Penn State adviser, such as the ones listed below (please confirm your eligibility):

TOEFL Code:   2660 (Institution Code)

As part of the online application process, you are required to upload electronic copies of transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended (or equivalent documents for institutions outside the U.S., e.g. degree/study certificates, diplomas, etc.) in the language of instruction, as well as copies of an official English translation, if English is not the language of instruction.  (If you are offered admission, Penn State's Graduate School will request official transcripts by postal mail.  Note: Offers of admission will be revoked if original, official documents do not arrive by specified deadlines, or if official documents do not match electronic copies provided prior to the offer of admission.

You will also be required to provide official TOEFL scores to Penn State. You do not need to send a copy by mail if official scores are reported electronically in this manner. TOEFL or IELTS scores, can be submitted electronically to Penn State by the administering agency. All international applicants whose first language is not English or who have not received baccalaureate or master's degrees from an institution based in the U.S. or other countries (see full list here ), must take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) examination. A TOEFL score of 550 on the paper test is required for admission.  If you take the iBT (internet-based TOEFL test), the minimums are 80 (total score) and 19 (speaking). Please contact the Graduate School for more information about language requirements and other information relevant for international students.

Note that your application will not be considered complete until you have filed your online application AND we have received the TOEFL (if required), by official electronic submission to Penn State from the administering agency.

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Visit the Graduate School at Penn State to apply for graduate studies in the Department of Geosciences.