Admission to the Doctoral Program

For admission to the doctoral program, students must have completed a bachelor's degree or the equivalent in a related disciplinary field. Students with interdisciplinary degrees such as environmental studies should have disciplinary course work equivalent to a double major, or a master's degree in an appropriate field.

Superior scholarship, capacity to carry out independent research, and commitment to disciplinary integration must be demonstrated in the statement of purpose, course work, GRE General Test, and letters of recommendation. The GRE Subject Test (in a disciplinary field of the student's choice) is not required, but can be useful for students with a physical science research focus. Questions about the GRE requirement should be sent to the ENVS Graduate Program Coordinator at

Prospective students must contact faculty directly to inquire about specific course requirements and sponsorship. Students are rarely accepted into the program without significant, early communications with potential faculty sponsors. See faculty links for contact information

Other considerations for admission include grades, evaluations, publications, professional or extramural experience, and more than one degree (second bachelor's or master's). Students are required to have completed coursework or equivalent practical experience in ecology, statistics, sociology/political science, and economics. Limited deficiencies in these areas can be remedied during the first year of graduate study. In addition to the application materials, students are strongly encouraged to submit a substantial written project (undergraduate or master’s research products).

Establishing a good "fit" with a particular professor is as important as academic achievements in being selected for admission. Students are admitted into our program directly under the sponsorship of a particular faculty member. This means that you must establish a relationship with an appropriate faculty member (or members) willing to serve as your major professor. Note that most students who are successfully admitted to our program have had several substantive interactions by email, telephone, or in person with their major professors before applying to the program, and most come to visit the department. If you are planning a visit to the department, we suggest visiting for a day or so in fall (September through December) before admissions decisions need to be made.

Many of our faculty have open letters to prospective graduate students on their personal web pages (click here for a list of faculty and their interests, as well as links to their research or laboratory web pages). In general, you should provide a curriculum vitae or other clear statement of your background, as well as a thoughtful statement of your goals for graduate study, specifying why you want to work with a particular professor. We strongly suggest that you read the professor's web page and some of their publications to see how your research interests would fit with theirs. 

Environmental Studies is an explicitly interdisciplinary department, including faculty and students with backgrounds and interests in a wide range of social and natural sciences. We expect all of our students to embrace scholarship in both the social and natural sciences, in their coursework and by including both natural and social scientists on their advisory committees.

To ensure timely completion of coursework and adequate progression towards the pre-qualifying and qualifying exams, students are required to be in residence for their first full year and most of their second year. The next several years are dedicated to dissertation research. Most of our students complete their Ph.D. by the sixth year of their program.

Admission is only considered for the fall quarter. Completed applications are due by December 11th of the previous academic year. Every applicant is urged to be certain that all parts of the application are submitted in complete form well before the December 10 deadline. If a file is incomplete, it may not be considered.

You will be notified by electronic mail whether or not you have been admitted for graduate study at UCSC after all reviews are complete. Under no circumstances will UCSC give out this information over the phone. By a general agreement to which UC Santa Cruz and most graduate schools in the United States are signatories, admitted applicants have until April 15 to reply with their acceptance of fellowship offers.

Admissions information and the online graduate application can be found at the Web site for the UCSC Division of Graduate Studies.

International Applicants:

Applicants from countries where English is not the primary language must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). A minimum score of 550 on the paper-based TOEFL or 83 on the computer-based test is required for admission. Scores are valid for two years only. Please be advised that UCSC greatly values the participation of scholars from diverse nations and cultures in our various graduate programs, and we therefore actively solicit applications for admission from foreign applicants. Unfortunately, it is very difficult for us to offer much financial support to foreign applicants. It is strongly recommended that international applicants seek scholarship support from their own governments or foundations.

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