Applying to Graduate School

A Checklist for Undergraduate Seniors

  1. Take the GRE examination.
    1. Surf to the ETS GRE site - a great deal of useful information is available.
    2. You should plan on spending some time preparing for this test, taking sample tests, etc.
    3. Exams are all computer-based (on-line) and offered year round at selected locations – see website for those closest to UCSB.
    4. You are only allowed to repeat the test after a 60 day waiting period. It’s a good idea to take the tests early - if you do not do as well as hoped, re-take them prior to the application deadline.
  2. Line up letters of recommendation.
    1. One of the advantages of being in a small department is that you get to know the faculty. Come and talk to us. We want you to succeed!
    2. Most graduate schools require at least 3 letters of recommendation – two or more of these should come from your professors in Earth Science. Generally one comes from an undergraduate advisor.
    3. Try to pick faculty recommenders who are most closely related to the general field you want to go into. Get advice from them!!
  3. Check the application deadlines for the schools you are interested in and submit your application on time.
    1. Different schools have different deadlines (Dec 10th-Feb 1st).
    2. Think about whether you are in interested in an MS or Ph.D.
    3. Put some thought into your statement of purpose -- why do you want to go to graduate school.
    4. Remind your recommenders to get their letters in on time.
  4. Additional steps you should take.
    1. Research the schools/departments you are interested in by browsing their websites and scrutinizing the faculty.
    2. Contact by email or phone the faculty that you might want to work with. This is important! Find out if they are looking for new students, what types of projects they have, and let them know something about you.
    3. Try to visit some of the schools or meet with potential faculty advisors at upcoming conferences (e.g. GSA meetings, AGU, etc).
  5. Some final thoughts.
    1. Even if you are not sure you want to go to graduate school, there is no harm in applying and increasing your options.
    2. Should you get accepted but decide that you want to defer for a year (e.g. to work or travel), that is usually OK.
    3. Try to get involved in some research experience while you are an undergraduate (e.g. senior honors thesis, Earth 199RA, etc).
    4. Set your sights high! You are leaving here with an excellent background.