Graduate Application Instructions


Before beginning your application, please read the IMPORTANT submission instructions below.

Personal Statement or Academic Statement: NOT NEEDED

Statement of Purpose

The Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences requires a "Statement of Purpose." This statement needs to include a discussion as to why you want to pursue a degree in geography, your background to do so, your career goals and the research question you would like to answer, if known. It is a CRITICAL part of the application as it provides an indication of your academic focus and writing ability. Your statement must be concise and neatly typed. The statement must be a maximum of two pages.

When uploading your "Statement of Purpose" into the applicant portal, please select "Statement of Purpose" from the menu as the document type.

Be prepared to answer the following questions in the online application:

  • Areas of interest (You may indicate up to 3 choices)
    • Nature-Society (Environmental)
    • Physical
    • Spatial Methods
    • Urban-Economic (Human)
    • Medical
  • Identify Geography faculty with your similar interests
    Find the GEO faculty on our website under the Directory
  • List of all the Geography Courses you have taken
    List course title and the grade received
  • List other geography-related technique courses taken as an undergrad
    List course title and the grade received. For example, geology, biology, economics, sociology, statistics, mathematics, computer programming, and languages.
  • List relevant academic or non-academic professional experiences
    Include all publications and presented papers. Also, include fieldwork, work experience, internships, or other activities.

3 Letters of Recommendation are Required:

Submission of letter of recommendation requests occur directly through the application system. Be prepared with the correct spelling of names and email addresses for the three people you would like to ask to submit a letter of recommendation on your behalf.

Ph.D. Students: One of your recommendations will need to be from your major advisor and/or the chair of your master’s degree department.

Graduate Record Exam (GRE):

The geography programs require submission of official GRE scores. GRE files uploaded into the Applicant Portal are considered unofficial. Official GRE scores must be sent directly from ETS to MSU.


MSU and Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences GRE Test Codes:

Department: 2203
Institution: 1465

At the Master’s level, we like to see a combined verbal and quantitative score of 300 and a written score at the 50% percentile.

At the Ph.D. level, we like to see a combined verbal and quantitative score of 306 and a written score at the 75% percentile.

These scores are not requirements but rather what we hope to see. If your scores are lower, we do look at your entire application.

GRE Waiver Requests: These are only granted if the GRE is not given in your country. 


One official copy of all records of any previous postsecondary schooling (mark sheets, transcripts, diplomas, certificates, etc.) must be submitted as official documents directly from each institution. These records must show courses taken, grades earned, and degree conferred (if not still in progress). Transcripts must be translated into English if the original records are in another language. Translations must be done by the issuing institution, a certified translator in the country of study, or by an American Translator’s Association certified translator in the US.  The original record should also be included (see information on International Transcripts found here:

Transcripts uploaded into the application system by the applicant are considered unofficial. It is the applicant’s responsibility to request undergraduate and if applicable, graduate official transcripts be sent to MSU in one of the following ways:

  1. In sealed institutional envelope(s) mailed directly from the institution to the Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences at the address below.
  2. In sealed institutional envelope(s) mailed directly from the institution to the MSU Office of Admissions, 426 Auditorium Road, Room 250 Administration Building, East Lansing, MI 48824-2604
  3. In a sealed institutional envelope(s) mailed directly from an international institution to a certified translator in the country of study or by an American Translator’s Association certified translator in the U.S. The translated documents must be sent from the translator directly to the MSU Office of Admissions or the Geography Department.
  4. Electronically, directly from a United States institution via email to either or (this is only for U.S. institutions).

If your transcript is from Michigan State University, you do NOT need to submit your official MSU transcript(s), but please upload an unofficial copy for the review process. Unofficial transcripts can be obtained for free:


Optional Video

Domestic applicants do not need to upload a video unless they feel doing so will enhance their application. International applicants can use the optional video to provide evidence of their English Language speaking skills. See below for details in the English Language Proficiency Requirement section.


Start a Graduate Application


Specific to International Applicants

Important information can be found on the Graduate School website:

English Language Proficiency Requirement

Demonstration of English Language Proficiency is a university requirement for admission to Michigan State University.

All international applicants must submit scores directly from one of the university approved testing agencies listed here: Note that the MSU codes for each test are located next to each test name as well as the minimum scores required.

Scores must meet the MSU set minimum for regular admission. The Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences does not admit students as an English language Provisional admit.

English Language Competency Waivers

For those applicants from English-speaking countries, your country must appear in the “List of English-Speaking Countries” found on the above-linked webpage.

Under certain circumstances, an English Language Competency waiver may be possible. Please review the conditions listed by following the link above to the “Procedure to Request a Waiver for English Language Competency.”

To request a waiver for a geography program you must upload a video of you speaking in English so we can do an initial assessment of your speaking skills. You can tell us about yourself or read a document (e.g. your Statement of Purpose), whichever you are most comfortable doing. After submitting your video, reach out to our Graduate Program Director who evaluates language skills and must submit a request on your behalf.

Sandy Marquart-Pyatt

Graduate Program Director


Academic Program Coordinator

Any questions you have about the application process, transcript submission, or the program may be directed to:

Joni Burns
Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences
673 Auditorium Rd.

Rm. 101 Geography Bldg.
East Lansing, MI  48824-1117