CU:Home | Search | A to Z | Map  

Information for Prospective Graduate Students

Apply Online Now!
With one of the most successful graduate programs in the nation, the Department of Geological Sciences has enjoyed a reputation of excellence for more than 100 years. Our doctoral program is ranked among the top 10 percent of U.S. geology programs by the National Research Council and is ranked 9th by the U.S. News and World Report.

Graduate students have an opportunity to work with approximately 30 tenure and tenure-track faculty who support a wide range of interdisciplinary research programs in biochemistry, economic resources, geodynamics, geophysics, glaciology, global climate change, hydrogeology, paleontology, and surficial processes.

The graduate degrees offered include Master of Science (MS) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).

Below you will find information on the faculty and the research areas they represent, a brief overview of the admissions process, and a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section.

Opportunity for Underrepresented Students

The Colorado Advantage Graduate Preview Weekend provides an opportunity for underrepresented students to visit campus and preview doctoral programs in science, math, and engineering departments at CU-Boulder.

The Colorado Advantage website is:

Research Areas:

The department’s research areas are categorized into four broad research interest groups, which are described in more detail at the links below.

Economic Resources / Stratigraphic Sciences / Paleontology
Geodynamics / Geophysics / Geochemistry / Mineral Physics / Petrology
Global Change / Surficial Processes / Quaternary Science

It is highly recommended that you locate a faculty member whose research interests most closely match your own. Contact information is provided so you can discuss your graduate school interests directly with faculty members.

Applying to the Graduate Program::

The online application for Fall 2018 admission will open in August 2017.

Application Deadlines
Domestic Applicants –December 1, 2017

International Applicants – December 1, 2017

Because competition for admission is keen, we strongly recommend that you apply weeks, even months, before the stated application deadline to ensure that all application materials arrive by the deadline.

Note: Recommenders will receive information on submitting letters only after you submit your application online.

Late applications will be considered only at the discretion of the department and are unlikely to be competitive for financial aid consideration.

For additional information, please refer to the FAQ section.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What are the graduate program application requirements and minimum admission standards for the Department of Geological Sciences?

All applicants must take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test. Results of this examination are used both for determining admittance and for initial academic advising.

Admissions Requirements:
  1. Hold a baccalaureate degree or its equivalent from an accredited college or university.
  2. Have an undergraduate grade point average of at least 3.00.
  3. Complete the online application.
  4. Submit GRE General Test scores (verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing) from exam taken within the last 5 years, scoring on average in the upper 50th percentile. Institution code: 4841
  5. Provide three letters of recommendation for U.S. applicants, or four letters of recommendation for international applicants.
  6. Complete Science Study Summary, and upload it with the online application.
  7. Provide a statement of purpose in essay form providing background information, research focus, and academic and professional goals, uploaded with the online application.
  8. Submit one official transcript from each post-secondary institution attended.
  9. International applicants must submit financial statements showing proof of support and TOEFL scores from exam taken within the last 2 years. Minimum TOEFL scores: 537 (paper based)/75 (internet based). Institution code: 4841. The TOEFL requirement may be waived for applicants whose native language is English or for applicants who have completed at least one year of full-time academic study at a U.S. institution (or at an institution in a country where English is the native language) within 2 years of the desired admission term. The department does not accept IELTS in lieu of TOEFL scores.
  10. Pay the nonrefundable application fee - $50 for U.S. applicants; $70 for international applicants.
How do I apply to the graduate program in the Department of Geological Sciences?

Complete the online application, including a completed Science Study Summary and personal statement (in essay form). Arrange for transcripts to be sent directly from each college and university attended (see Transcripts section below).

Online Application

Our department accepts only online applications. You can apply at the following website:

Initially, an applicant registers for the online application by creating a user account. Once you submit your information, you will receive e-mail notifications within three business days with your username and password for accessing the application. Please do not re-enter information during this time as this may delay the application process.

Once you have submitted your application successfully, you will be notified by e-mail with instructions on accessing the MyCUBoulder Portal, where you can track the progress of your application.

Personal Statement

This should be uploaded with the online application in essay form.

In your personal statement, please provide insight into the type of research you would like to pursue, what kind of research experience you have had, and what you expect from graduate school.

Recommendation Letters

When you apply online, you will be asked to enter an e-mail address for each recommender. Letters should be from individuals you know in a professional capacity (as a student and/or in the workplace).

Recommenders are notified by e-mail regarding submission of letters only after the online application is submitted. It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that recommendation letters are submitted by the application deadline.

Science Study Summary

The Science Study Summary should be uploaded with the online application. Your application will not be considered complete and eligible for consideration until a completed Science Study Summary is submitted.

Please follow the instructions provided on the link to Science Study Summary when completing the form and save the resulting document to your computer using the following format: Last Name_ScienceStudySummary.pdf. Then, upload it to your application in Box B. Please note that this is an Adobe Acrobat file, and a free download is available at


One original transcript must be submitted for each college and university attended.

U.S. Applicants Only

For standard international mail or mail within the US, including USPS Priority and Express:

Graduate Admissions
University of Colorado Boulder
3100 Marine St., Suite A122
553 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309-0553 USA

For overnight or express mail (DHL, FEDEX, UPS):

Graduate Admissions
University of Colorado Boulder
3100 Marine St., Bldg. RL3, Suite A122
553 UCB
Boulder, CO 80303-1058 USA

Phone: 303-492-6301

International Applicants Only

For standard international mail or mail within the US, including USPS Priority and Express:

Office of Admissions/International
University of Colorado Boulder
3100 Marine St., Suite A122
65 UCB Boulder, CO 80309-0065 USA

For overnight or express mail (DHL, FEDEX, UPS):

Office of Admissions/International
University of Colorado Boulder
3100 Marine St., Bldg. RL3, Suite A122
65 UCB
Boulder, CO 80303-1058 USA

Phone: 303-492-6301

How do I check the status of my application?

Once you have submitted your application successfully, you will receive confirmation by e-mail with instructions on accessing the MyCUBoulder Portal, where you can track the progress of your application using the same login credentials used for the online application.

You will be able to check the status of your application 24 hours after receiving the e-mail confirming submission of your application. Please allow two to three weeks for checklist items to be updated. During peak processing times, application materials may require several days to reach the Office of Admissions and additional time for processing.

If you have difficulties logging in to MyCUBoulder, please contact Graduate Admissions ( for assistance.

Who do I contact if I have any questions?

If you have questions, please contact our Graduate Program Assistant at:

Department of Geological Sciences
University of Colorado at Boulder
Campus Box 399
Boulder, CO 80309-0399
Phone: (303) 492-2607

What are other sources of Graduate Fellowships?

We recommend that applicants consider applying for external fellowships when appropriate. The Department will advance the names of qualified individuals for certain university fellowships, but applying for most fellowships is the responsibility of the applicant. Please note that the deadline for most external fellowships is usually before our application deadline (e.g., in October and November).

The NSF Graduate Fellowship program deadline in November.
The National Physical Science Consortium Graduate Fellowship Program is an exceptional opportunity for support (to the tune of $150,000 - 200,000) for a Ph.D. in the physical sciences with an emphasis on minorities and women. Deadline is November 5, annually.

for more information on external fellowships click here

How are the various research institutes at the University of Colorado (e.g. CIRES, INSTAAR, LASP) related to the Department of Geological Sciences?

This Department has an unusual structure with many faculty holding joint appointments between the Department and various on-campus research institutes. The institutes exist to facilitate interdisciplinary research but do not admit graduate students or grant graduate degrees. These functions reside solely with the Department. However, should you be admitted to the Department to work with an institute-related faculty advisor, you may be housed in an institute and not in the Benson Earth Sciences Building, the latter being the Department home.

How is the Department of Geological Sciences related to the University of Colorado Geophysics Program?

Entry to the Geophysics Program is through admission to one of the participating departments; Geological Sciences is one of the principal departments for geophysics. Once admitted to Geological Sciences under the supervision of a faculty member aligned with the Geophysics Program, a Ph.D. candidate can apply to enter the Geophysics Program.

newgrad_amanda.jpg (59241 bytes)

Graduate Degree Programs

The Department of Geological Sciences offers Master of Science (MS) and doctoral (Ph.D.) degree programs.

Students interested in graduate work in the geological sciences should carefully read the detailed information regarding admission, degree requirements and registration, available on the departmental website. A brief summary follows.

Typically, entering students have completed at least 24 semester hours of basic courses in geological sciences and two semesters each of chemistry, physics, and calculus. These are intended as recommendations, rather than strictly enforced requirements for admission.

This is a research-oriented department affiliated with a number of research institutes and research centers, including the Cooperative Institute for Environmental Research (CIRES), the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR), the Center for Astrobiology, the Energy and Minerals Applied Research Center (EMARC), and the University Museum. Related areas of study are geography, astrophysical and planetary sciences, atmospheric and oceanic sciences, chemistry, physics, geophysics, microbiology, ecology and evolutionary biology. Degree programs for incoming graduate students are individually designed according to research efforts of the faculty. Because competition for admission is keen, meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee admission.

Each incoming graduate student acquires a primary advisor and an advisory committee that provides guidance throughout the student’s time in the degree program. Most incoming graduate students have already determined who their faculty advisor will be prior to admittance. The faculty advisor assists in planning a degree program and choosing an appropriate advisory committee during the first semester in the graduate program.

Master's Degree

The minimum requirement for the master’s degree is 30 credit hours. A candidate for the master’s degree in geological sciences may complete a Plan I (thesis) option, or a Plan II (course work) option. At least 24 credit hours must be completed at the 5000 level or above. For students completing the Plan I degree, the 30 required credit hours may include a minimum of 4 but not more than 6 hours of thesis credit. The Plan II program requires at least 3 credit hours of GEOL 6960 (Plan II Master’s Research) under the supervision of the advisory committee. At least 12 credit hours of course work (Plan I) and 16 credit hours of course work (Plan II) must be at the 5000 level. A maximum of 6 credit hours may be completed at the 3000 or 4000 level at the discretion of the department. Independent study course work cannot exceed 25 percent of the course work required for the master’s degree.

Doctoral Degree

Candidates for the doctoral degree must complete at least 30 credit hours of course work at or above the 5000 level, of which at least 20 must be taken at CU-Boulder. In addition to course work, doctoral candidates must complete a minimum of 30 credit hours of dissertation work (GEOL 8990), with not more than 10 of these in any one semester and not more than 10 completed in semesters leading up to the semester during which the comprehensive examination is passed.

Interdisciplinary Certificate Programs

Graduate students in the Department of Geological Sciences may participate in interdisciplinary certificate programs in the areas of geophysics, hydrologic sciences, and remote sensing. Participation must coincide with the pursuit of a master’s degree or a doctoral degree. For more information about these programs, consult the Graduate School section of the University of Colorado Catalog.

Graduate Degree Program | Current Grad Course Offerings | Graduate Fellowships

Important Forms

Graduate Student Forms (ALL) | PhD Deadline Sheet | MS Deadline Sheet | Candidacy Application | Doctoral Defense Leaflet | Request for Transfer of Credit | Apply For Leave Of Absence | Letter of Completion

Geological Sciences
University of Colorado Boulder
UCB 399
Boulder, CO 80309-0399