Graduate Application Instructions

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

1. CV (Curriculum Vitae) or Resume

Your CV/Resume is required and must be uploaded to the applicant portal to be considered for admission. List relevant academic or non-academic professional experiences; all publications and presented papers; and include fieldwork, work experience, internships, or other activities.

When uploading your Resume or CV into the applicant portal, please select "CV/Resume" from the menu as the document type.

2. 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; and your career goals. For applicants that intend to complete a thesis-based master’s (Plan A) or a Ph.D., it is CRITICAL that you include the research question you would like to answer, if known. A research question provides an indication of your academic focus and writing ability for those who are required to produce a thesis or dissertation to graduate. 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.

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

  • Area(s) of interest (You may indicate up to 3 choices in order of preference, if possible)
    • Geospatial Technologies
    • Nature-Society
    • Physical
    • Urban-Economic
  • Identify Geography faculty with your similar interests
    Find the GEO faculty on our website under the Directory (sort “Type of Staff” by selecting “Faculty.” You can also add the “Area of Study” by selecting your preference, then click on the faculty member’s image to see their bio)
  • 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.
4. Three (3) Letters of Recommendation (References) are Required:

Letter of recommendation requests occur directly through the application system and the recommender will submit their letter directly via an email link. Be prepared with the correct spelling of names, their organization, position, their email addresses, and phone numbers for the three people you would like to ask to submit a letter of recommendation on your behalf.

IMPORTANT: You MUST choose to waive your rights to see each recommendation, or it will not be reviewed by the department.

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

5. Graduate Record Exam (GRE):

The geography programs require submission of official GRE scores from all thesis-based master’s (Plan A) and Ph.D. applicants. Scores entered onto an application or uploaded copies of the Student Report are considered unofficial. They may be used for application review only. Official GRE scores must be sent directly from ETS to MSU by December 15.

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. Reach out to the Academic Program Coordinator if you believe a waiver is acceptable.

6. Transcripts

One official copy of all records from any previous postsecondary schooling must be submitted as official documents directly from each institution. These records must show courses taken, grades earned, and degree conferred (unless degree is still in progress).

Upon completion of incomplete/in-progress degrees, the applicant must have official copies of their transcripts, showing their conferred degree (and international Diploma/Degree Certificate), sent to the MSU Office of Admissions. Please review the section below relevant to the institution you attended.

Domestic Transcripts (from United States institutions):

Transcripts from U.S. institutions can be submitted using an electronic transcript service.

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 at no cost:

International Transcripts

International transcripts must include mark sheets, transcripts, and diplomas/degree certificates.

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 U.S. The original record should also be included (see information on International Transcripts here:

You must also include your diploma or degree certificate (also in original language and English translation). We understand that some international institutions only provide one copy of a transcript or diploma/degree certificate. In this situation, the applicant needs to take their original documents back to the issuing institution. The institution’s transcript issuing office must copy the documents, stamp them with a university seal, put them into a university envelope, and seal the envelope shut. The institution or applicant may mail the documents in one of the below-listed ways for review.

Transcript Submission

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 directly 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).

Unofficial transcripts can be uploaded to the portal by selecting Transcript (Copy) or Transcript (Unofficial) and for unofficial diplomas/certificates please be sure to pick Bachelor or Masters (if you hold a master’s degree).

7. 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.

Specific to International Applicants

Important information can be found on the Graduate School website:

1. English Language Proficiency Requirement

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

All international applicants who did not earn a four-year bachelor’s degree from a U.S. institution or a master’s degree from a U.S. AAU institution (, 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 established minimum for regular admission. The Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences does not admit students as an English language Provisional admit.

For those applicants from English-speaking countries, your country must appear in the “List of English-Speaking Countries” found on the above-linked webpage in the Policy section. If it does not appear, one of the ELP tests must be taken or a waiver must be requested.

English Language Competency Waivers

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 follow the prompts, 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. They must submit a request on your behalf.

Nathan Moore
Interim Graduate Program Director

2. Affidavit of Support and Financial Proof Documents

Applicants who are recommended for admission without funding support must provide both an Affidavit of Support document signed by their financial sponsor and financial proof of available funds. The form and the amount of financial proof required can be found under the Financial Proof heading:

Sponsored Students

Students who will be sponsored by their country, Fulbright, or any other agency who will submit payment directly to MSU, need to reach out to the Graduate School for assistance with setting up the funding agency to make required payments on your behalf.

Academic Program Coordinator

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

Joni Burns (she, her, Ms.)
Academic Program Coordinator

Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences
673 Auditorium Rd.Rm.
101 Geography Bldg. East Lansing, MI  48824-1117

Phone: 517-355-4650
Fax: 517-432-1671